Coach's Corner: Sam Knopik 1/30

Sam Knopik

By Sam Knopik Pembroke Hill Head Coach
Posted: January 30, 2011 - 10:01 PM

Illegal helmet contact is an act of initiating contact with the helmet against an opponent. There are several types of illegal helmet contact:

a) Butt Blocking is an act by an offensive or defensive player who initiates contact against an opponent who is not a ball carrier with the front of his helmet.

b) Face Tackling is an act by a defensive player who initiates contact with a ball carrier with the front of his helmet.

c) Spearing is an act by an offensive or defensive player who initiates contact against any opponent with the top of his helmet.


According to the National Federation of High School Association’s 2010 Football Rules Book, the previous passage of Rule 2-20-1 defines various illegal helmet contact. It should be noted that there is not a regulation for the ubiquitous helmet-to-helmet cliché we have heard all year regarding NFL play. Rather there is a very clearly written series of definitions of illegal helmet-to-ANYTHING fouls.


The game of American Football is once again under fire, rightfully so, regarding player safety. Time after time throughout the past 150 years the game has adjusted to the rising concerns of safety. Rule changes are as elemental to the game of football as apple pie is to America. Quite simply, rules exist to define the parameters of play AND to protect the participants.


A wonderfully written history of the game of football as told through the rule changes was written by longtime University of Delaware coach David Nelson called Anatomy of the Game. It is an eye-opening read for those of you who want to know how we got to the 21st century game.


In the midst of attention head injuries are having, at all levels, in all communities, we need to move beyond awareness and into the realm of action. The good news is the rules are in place. 2-20-1.


Rule 2-20-1 very clearly illustrates the illegal use of the helmet in the physical nature of the game: there is no place for it. Why then do we allow the phrase of helmet-to-helmet even exist in our nomenclature? Do not allow your players or coaches to use it and when you hear it explain that it does not exist. Above all do not allow officials to quote the phrase.


In order to begin real, effective change in our culture of football it must begin with the coaches. However, it is readily believed that professional coaches are well educated and trained about the proper use of the head and the helmet within the game. Where coaches can come up way short is the support they show for officials who attempt to enforce 2-20-1.


It is important that coaches understand that this rule exists to protect the offending player just as much as the player who takes the brunt of such a blow. Officials need to become conditioned to making this call as readily as they make a holding or pass interference call. The only way this will happen is if coaches can back-off and allow the officiating crew to protect the kids, and ultimately protect our game.


Sam Knopik is the head coach at Pembroke Hill.