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Video of hard hit in N.C. youth football league gains national attention

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 6:02 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Video of a hard hit in a youth football program in Weddington is gaining national attention as it circulates on social media.

According to an attorney for Wesley Chapel Weddington Athletic Association, the video is from an incident that happened in September of 2020.

The attorney for the organization told WBTV in a statement that the hit happened under the watch of a first-year coach.

The attorney said the coach was removed from the position when the drill was deemed unacceptable for children of that age group.

The full statement can be read here:

WCWAA’s youth football program, along with all of their other programs, primarily focuses on the safety of youth athletes, as well as the instructional and developmental aspects of the game, including appropriate drills for appropriate age groups. All of the coaches are volunteers and are required to be certified through USA Football. When this matter first came to the association’s attention back in September of 2020, the Board immediately took action to address the situation as the safety of the youth athletes are of paramount importance. After a thorough investigation, the head coach was removed from his position.

This drill occurred back in Sept 2020 on a team with a first year coach in the program. This was addressed immediately with the coach when it happened as this was deemed not an acceptable drill for this age group or the experience level of these players. Subsequent to the coach being removed from his position, there were no other incidents or issues with this team during the remainder of the season. As all of the coaches are USA football certified volunteers, WCWAA continuously encourages and requires their coaches to enhance their education and training through USA Football as well as through mentoring programs within and outside the organization. The younger coaches in the program are provided with feedback and support during the season from more experienced coaches. Again, the safety of the players is the primary focus and we believe that the immediate and swift actions of removing the coach from his position demonstrates WCWAA’s commitment to that safety.

WBTV spoke to several football coaches and health officials about what went wrong and how this type of hit could have been prevented.

Perry Sutton is a certified member of USA Football.

He coaches and runs several football camps and programs in Rock Hill, SC.

Sutton watched the video and said he isn’t passing judgement since he only saw a few seconds of video.

“We don’t know what happened before and we don’t know what happened after. It could have been that the coach was there and walked away, then somebody else holding the bag comes in,” Sutton said. ‘So, let’s stop this and let’s get some training because we need to get these coaches or these people there some training.”

Sutton explained that the drill is to work on angle tackling.

However, he said there are several ways this drill could have been carried out more safely.

“At that age, that’s too far away,” Sutton said. “Back in the day you tackle from a distance but today when you’re starting off, you start them off head to head almost {referencing how close together young athletes should be from each other when learning to tackle}.”

WBTV also interviewed Concord High School Head Football Coach Marty Paxton.

“I don’t think it was a terribly designed drill but may not be so good of pairing the ability level of the kids together,” Paxton said. “When you’ve got a kid who looks like he’s played a lot of football and is much bigger than the other kid, I personally would not have paired those two kids up together.”

Both Paxton and Sutton said the drill can be performed safely when taught correctly.

Atrium health Sports Medicine Specialist Dr. Kevin Burroughs said the sizing of equipment is also important in ensuring safety in contact sports.

“When I look at that video, I see a kid who has a very large helmet compared to his relative body size. So, sometimes they don’t have properly fitting equipment which can be a big deal,” Dr. Burroughs said.

Sutton and Paxton recommend parents make sure their child’s coach is certified by USA Football.

In the case of this hit, WCWAA said all coaches were certified volunteers of USA Football.

If your child is hit during sports, Dr. Burroughs suggests the coaches and parents keep a close eye on the student-athlete for several days after the event.

Dr. Burroughs said concussion symptoms can sometimes take 24 to 48 hours to emerge.

Symptoms of concussions can include headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and difficulty focusing.

Former Carolina Panthers star Thomas Davis also weighed in on the video on social media.

“So I keep seeing this video circulating around about the Weddington Titans program,” Davis said. “This video is not at all an indication of what is being taught! My two boys, nephews, and godson have played with them for 6yrs and not once did we have any issues close to this.”

USA Football also commented on the tackle, saying:

“This is dangerous, inappropriate and has NO place in our game. Coach training is a pillar of our Football Development Model because educated coaches are key to making the game safer and more fun for the kids who play it.”

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