The youngest Scappoose football players will use their heads for winning instead of hitting this fall.
Negative publicity about concussions has driven some parents away as one might argue that collisions breed injury, but Scappoose Youth Football's fifth- and sixth-grade coach Bob Workman and the Indians, as do their peers in third grade through high school, teach USA Football Heads Up blocking and tackling techniques.
"Coaches focus more on offense than defense, and I'm a defensive guy," said Workman, 69, a Nebraska native who grew up in Canby and whose defensive lineman career led to a walk-on attempt at Oregon State University and playing time at Portland State University and with the United States Football League's Portland Storm, which folded after two years in 1975. "We're going to teach the Seahawks' Heads Up until the kids are sick of it, then it will become instinctive. When that happens, it all comes together. You have to have 11 guys all going the same direction at the same time."
Workman, who went to Nebraska Cornhuskers football games with his dad as a kid at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, came to Scappoose from Gresham just over two years ago and can't wait to get kids ready for the ascent into Indians football coach Sean McNabb's high school varsity system.
"Bob is very detailed in what he does, and very professional," McNabb said. "Teaching fundamentals is important, but making the game enjoyable helps ensure that we get these young athletes back out as they get older. Bob will have a big hand in that."
Tualatin Valley Youth Football League rules limit teams to 30 or fewer players, so twin teams would practice together and play separate schedules and could meet in the playoffs if all goes well.
"We're faced with two small teams or to cut kids, which we absolutely refuse to do," Workman said. "If we end up with two teams, we'll need more coaches [who, with volunteers, referees and officials, can register through the Youth Football section of scappooseyouthsports.com]."
Every kid is supposed to see a minimum number of plays per game, and some kids turn out to be very good players.
"We're trying to grow it so we can have multiple teams," Scappoose Youth Football president Cory Zonich said. "We've been involved in [Heads Up] for three or four years now: It's wonderful to show kids how to tackle the right way. If it's a way to make sure kids don't get hurt, that's what we're going to do. Most of practice is practicing the little things, not just hitting each other as hard as they can."
Youth football representatives reached out to players, parents and fans at Scappoose's NFL Flag Football games in the last two weeks, and the goal is two coaches' meetings before the first practice on Aug. 7 and a jamboree on Aug. 26 at Hillsboro High School.
"You can hit really hard and not use your head," Workman said. "We do everything we can to teach kids about football, responsibility and life."