The head coach of the Campbell Collegiate Tartans was in Estevan on Saturday to run a tackling camp for local football players.
Ryan Hall's Big Play Tackling Camp attracted many players at the high school and minor football levels to the Estevan Comprehensive School field.
The camp was comprised of a two-hour teaching session with local coaches, followed by a pair of two-hour practices, one in street clothes and another in full equipment.
Coaches ran stations with various tackling drills devised by Hall, who has a lengthy background in coaching. The day wrapped up with some pursuit drills for the older players.
"I think probably the most important thing was the time that was invested in the coaches," said Hall. "With the players, they're not going to totally develop their tackling skills in one day with two practices. But the important thing was the coaches being out here, running the drills and teaching the skills so that they can now work on these things every day once the season starts.
"It's kind of like that old saying, if you give a man a fish, you'll feed him for a day. I could come down and coach the kids and the kids maybe would get something out of it (on that day), but the real investment is the long-term. Teach the coaches and then the coaches can put that investment in every day for years to come."
Many of the drills on Saturday did not involve contact, and Hall said he takes pains to ensure player safety wherever possible.
"There are a couple of things, with the system that we teach, that are really important. Safety is crucial. There's such an emphasis these days on concussion prevention and the technique that we use really emphasizes protecting the head," said Hall.
"At the same time, it emphasizes being aggressive and powerful. It seems like those two wouldn't go together, but once you go through the whole progression, they really do work together nicely and you can see the kids feeling more confident in their technique and being more aggressive as tacklers, and working together as a team. And when they do that correctly, the chances of concussions are a lot lower."
Hall said he believes limiting the risk of concussions in practice is one way to reduce head injuries in the sport and he incorporates that into his teaching.
"We're never going to take them out of the game. They're just part of the game, they're part of the risk, part of the challenge and the danger that makes football an exciting and popular sport. If it wasn't dangerous, people wouldn't play it and they wouldn't watch it.
"But if we can limit the risk, especially contact in practices — we did so much stuff out here working on tackling where we didn't touch another player — so if you can work on your tackling skill without banging bodies and risking cracking heads, you're way ahead of the game as far preventing injuries."
Hall spent 17 years coaching 12-man and nine-man football in Caronport before joining Campbell Collegiate in 2007. He has also spent time on the coaching staff of the Regina Thunder and was the head coach of Team Saskatchewan's Football Canada Cup entry in 2008 and 2009, winning the championship for the first time in 2009.
This is Hall's first summer offering the tackling camps. He has already been to Yorkton and Assiniboia, and there are more camps scheduled for the Thunder, one in Weyburn and another in Regina later this summer.
"I care about football. I've been coaching in rural Saskatchewan for most of my life. I just moved to Regina about five years ago. So I know that the resources, in particular in rural Saskatchewan, for coaching development are a lot more limited," said Hall.
"Because I come from rural football, it means a lot to me to try and support rural football and build it up, especially coming to a place like Estevan where people are working so hard to make football exciting and popular and a positive experience for the kids, right from the elementary kids up to the high school.
"So I guess that's the biggest thing, to just try and help coaches make the game great and keep the game great. We don't want it to die because coaches don't know how to coach and kids have negative experiences or get unnecessary injuries."