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So, the camps are over, and now we’re into some serious training. Pass the vaseline, the deep heat and the helmet, but not necessarily in that order…

Saturday practice goes kitted! An eager buzz of anticipation flows through the air. Time to get rid of the pent up aggression from having to spend Christmas day sat next to your 85 year old grandmother who is as deaf as a post, complains a lot, and smells a lot like old cabbage. Or was that just the sprouts…

So, warm up, agility, where the fat men wobble and the small men bounce, and then Coach Roberts utters the immortal words… “Get kitted”. The new players smile but approach the shoulder pads with trepidation. The returning players (even the linemen) sprint over, and yank the pads over their head.

So, back into positional stuff. Coach O’Hare further emphasised his involuntary celibacy by offering us his balls… tennis balls. “A bit of pass protection with a tennis ball under your chin will make you think about your fundamentals. Oh, and if you drop it, it’s 10 press-ups.” The rookies looked confused. The experienced players merely shoved it down between the chest and the shoulder pads, and wedged it in there. No hope of press ups for us!

Then we worked together as a team on fundamentals – this time it was tackling. It was deemed necessary that the whole team should learn to tackle correctly, so Coach Roberts recited the BAFCA level 1 manual to us, and got the team working at tackling technique. He was very detailed, outlining the “fit” (the approach to a tackle, and the positioning), the “rip” (ripping the arms through), “grip” (wrapping up the ball carrier, and grabbing cloth), and “drive” (driving through the tackle). We repped this a few times, before getting into 3 drills emphasising the use of the tackling technique. Firstly, tackling a runner coming through the line, then a reciever in open field lanes, and then a ball carrier breaking to the sideline. Every time it was “fit, rip, grip, drive”, keep repeating it, “fit, rip, grip, drive”, over and over again…

Then into a scrimmage. Full kit, full contact, give it large! Then, first play, the QB drops back, throws… “INTERCEPTION”. I key in on Scott Taylor who caught the ball, he’s coming towards me, and i’m reciting “fit, rip, grip, drive. Fit, rip grip, drive. Fit, rip, gr…” It’s at that point that i realise i’ve just dropped a shoulder, run straight through him, and sent him flying to the floor 2 yards back. Oh well, practice makes perfect…

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