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California just passed a new law that limits full-contact practices for high school football teams, in order to protect us from getting concussions. But these restrictions make it impossible for us to play good football.
In 6th grade, I started playing flag football. But I just knew it wasn’t enough. I’ve been playing high school football for three years now, and the feeling of actually hitting someone on the field is my favorite thing — I love it when everyone tries to show their physical dominance.
I play nose tackle and right tackle, which means I’m on the offensive and defensive lines, and I see contact every play.
During one game my sophomore year, I missed five tackles. I was always in the right position, but when I got there I wasn’t able to finish the job. I just hadn’t practiced enough real tackles.
My high school football team has been limiting full contact practices for years, even before the state changed the rules. Instead of actually tackling during practice, we get in tackling lines to work on our form, but all we tackle is air.
In practice our team learns the “correct,” or safe, way to hit another player. We start in a hitting stance. We put our arms and elbows together, and raise them over our heads. It’s so hard to describe, because I’ve never seen anyone use it in a game.
During games, we just grab people and we take them down as hard and as fast as we can. And that’s safe as long as you keep your head up.
I don’t know how much California’s new law will prevent concussions, because there is no restriction on contact in games. Instead of limiting contact, I think there should be mandatory full-contact practices that teach players how to tackle correctly.
The reason players get injured in games is because we’re unprepared. Contact is why I play the game. If I can’t practice it, I can’t get better. And if I can’t get better, how am I going to be safe?
17-year-old Tom Hofmeister will be a high school senior in Lafayette. Youth Radio produced his Perspective.