KAMLOOPS — A week after the CFL instituted no pads, no contact in practice, the Kamloops football community is responding, saying it hopes the rule doesn't trickle down to the amateur level.
SouthKam football head coach J.P Lancaster agrees with the CFL eliminating contact in practices, citing they are world-class athletes that know what they're doing. But he said athletes are in greater danger if they are not taught proper contact, and so contact in practice, he noted, is critical at the high school level.
"My big concern about making the game safe is learning to tackle properly, so that when you're in the heat of the game your instincts kick in and your form's correct," said Lancaster. "If you were to eliminate all contact in practices at the high school level, you get these kids under the lights on Friday and they haven't repped it out enough."
"At the CFL or NFL, those guys have been through it, played Division I, or in the CFL they're standouts from U Sports. Those guys know how to tackle at that point and they can flip the switch on game day. Kids at this level can't, so it is important they go through game simulations with proper coaching and controls in place. I would be very apprehensive if they limited our contact because kids are, in my opinion, going to get in more dangerous positions."
Broncos head coach Brad Yamaoka echoes Lancaster's concerns, saying his junior players are still figuring out the game as well.
"These guys have to learn how to hit. They have to learn how to take a hit," said Yamaoka. "If they don't do that, then it'll be tough once you get into a game situation and you may end seeing more injuries because guys aren't used to that physicality."
Yamaoka played seven seasons in the CFL with the B.C. Lions and Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 1997 to 2003 at a time when the game was more physical than now.
"I know what the league is doing," he said. "When you get to the CFL, if you don't know how to tackle, you don't know how to block, you don't know how to hit, then you probably wouldn't be there in the first place. That I understand. But I hope it doesn't trickle down into the amateur level because I think we need it."
Yamaoka and Lancaster note the game at the amateur and pro level has become more safe. Lancaster cites three concussions in the last two years at SouthKam, and the one last season, he said, was due to incidental contact.
For his part, Yamaoka said eliminating contact in football practices would set a precedent and potentially force other sports to look at their own policies.
"When it comes to actual concussions, I understand the fear or the concern over it," he noted. "But you look at any other sports. Women's soccer has a higher rate of concussions than football does. So what do you do there? Is it illegal now for girls to head a soccer ball in a game? That could eliminate concussions."
Yamaoka hopes the game continues into the future, and it's more about protecting players during the game than in practice.
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