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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Football is finished

The NYT reports that Ivy teams will limit themselves to only 2 full-contact practices per week. I was wondering when something like this would happen, given recent research on brain injuries in football.

According to the new rules, teams will be able to hold only two full-contact practices per week during the season, compared with a maximum of five under N.C.A.A. guidelines. On the other days of the week, practices cannot include contact or live tackles, and no player may be “taken to the ground.”

This means the overall skill development of Ivy players will be terrible. A player from a good high school program might actually regress in blocking and tackling technique during their college career!

I used to say that if I had a son I'd want him to play football. But if the recent research is confirmed I doubt I will let him. I guess that leaves wrestling or maybe MMA (grappling only) to toughen him up :-)

The difference between football, wrestling, boxing, etc. and wimpier sports like swimming, track, soccer, basketball, etc. is that in the more combative sports the other guy can make you want to quit. I played linebacker and I can remember tough SOBs at guard who would explode out of their stance and plant a helmet on my arm/shoulder every running play -- if it wasn't the guard then it was a fullback with a full head of steam. By the late quarters my upper arm was blue and I started to wish they would pass the ball so I could drop into coverage. A good running game does literally wear down the defense. Somehow the 100 breaststroke, even the state championships, didn't have quite the same intensity.

There is an aspect of mental toughness developed from facing down an opponent in a physical confrontation. West Point required incoming (male) cadets to learn boxing for over 100 years -- sticking your face where someone can hit it forces you to overcome some very primal fears.

... cadets learn war ethos and fear management. They build aggressive mind-sets. Not surprisingly, members of the [boxing] team choose front-line combat, mostly infantry, at a higher rate than any other group on campus.

“They see the bigger picture of what we’re getting these young men ready to do, of what this is all about in the long run,” Daniels said. “That fighting spirit, it starts here. It starts in the ring.”

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