Bryn Mawr >> At The Shipley School’s recent annual coaches meeting to kick off the 2017-18 school year, the Bryn Mawr school featured two renowned speakers – former NFL lineman Joe Valerio, and Dr. Tina Master, sports medicine pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
Valerio, a Ridley High School and University of Pennsylvania graduate who played for the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1990s and who has coached football at the high school level, talked about coaching adolescent athletes; while the topic of Dr. Master’s talk was, “Minds Matter: Seeing Concussion through New Eyes.”
Shipley athletic director and head lacrosse coach Mark Duncan said, “Many of our coaches were impressed with Joe V’s positive outlook and great personality. I loved Joe message as Shipley becomes a Positive Education School. He has such a great sense of what works in sports and it reflects what we are doing here at Shipley in Positive Education and Sports Safety.”
Shipley field hockey head coach Molly Fernandez said, “During Joe’s talk, I was reminded of how much we affect our players’ development and ultimately, the pleasantness of their athletic experience. My biggest takeaway from the talk was – each player you have coached will always remember you for being their high school coach. How do you want to be remembered?”
Shipley girls soccer head coach Dakota Carroll said, “I thought it was great advice when Joe Valerio told us, ‘Do not be a C’mon coach.’ Many coaches can relate to this because we all have been in a situation where we say to a kid, ‘C’mon!’ He made a great point that, ‘C’mon!’ does not give clear instructions for the kid to learn.
“I feel like as a coach I try to be very conscious of what I am saying to a player on the field and how we respond as coaches to frustrating situations can either help or hurt our growth as a team.”
Valerio told the Shipley coaches, “[Positive] communication is huge when you’re dealing with adolescent athletes,” then related an experience from his own playing days in the NFL regarding another type of communication.
“I was filling in for our [all-star] regular center, Tim Grunhard, snapping the ball to our quarterback, Joe Montana, and when I fumbled the third snap to him, the coaches descended on me like buzzards,” said Valerio. “Later, a veteran teammate told me that they were doing this for Tim, because they couldn’t get on him [as an all-star. I call this ‘second-string coaching’ – getting on a second-string player to make a point for a starter – and it doesn’t work when you’re dealing with high school athletes.”
Speaking of Montana, Valerio told another story to illustrate a coach’s method of motivation.
“Before we added Joe Montana in 1993, we were getting 500 people at our pre-season practice sessions; when Joe joined us, it became 5,000 people per session,” said Valerio. “Alex Gibbs, one of the best coaches I ever had, said to me, ‘You see all these people out here – these people are out here to see Joe, so I’m sure you just got a lot more motivated. You don’t want to be the [offensive lineman] who lets Joe get hit.’”
Valerio reflected on the organized practice sessions the Chiefs used to hold (he later joined the Rams as a long snapper and was appalled at their lax preparation), and said, “As a coach, remember – practice doesn’t make perfect – practice makes permanent [habits].”
After Valerio’s playing days, he moved into football broadcasting, and once again witnessed an example of proper preparation.
“I worked with [former Chiefs quarterback] Len Dawson in the broadcast booth, and I remember he had a whole board of information that he prepared on the players,” said Valerio. “By the end of the game, I realized he had used only about 10 percent of the information, and I asked him, ‘Isn’t that discouraging, that you can use only 10 percent of what you prepared?’ And he replied, ‘The fact that I can’t use 90 percent of it makes me work even harder during a game.’”
Shipley brought Valerio on board as a speaker after Dr. Master (who through CHOP has worked with Shipley’s concussion awareness program for several years) met the former NFL lineman who said he was interested in speaking engagements to help CHOP and the work they do with youth concussion awareness.
The past few years, Shipley has worked with researchers from CHOP and the Concussion Legacy Foundation out of Boston University in analyzing Triax impact sensor data gathered from Shipley’s high school athletes in various contact sports (soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball and squash) who wore the G force impact sensors.
Shipley also has worked with Dr. Chris Nowinski, who did his PhD research with Shipley students on impacts and blows to the head, analyzing the sensor data and injury rates.
The Shipley School, which instituted a ‘no heading’ policy for its middle school soccer program three years ago – an action that received national attention – continues working on concussion awareness with its high school athletes.
Duncan said, “Dr Master is great – always helping and working with our student-athletes and coaches to be smart and proactive when it comes to injuries.”
Dr. Master focused on several topics with the coaches, including visual vestibular oculomotor testing, translating biomechanics (looking at timing of hits and the cumulative effect of hits) and evaluating objective physiologic measures such as binocular eye tracking.
Through CHOP’s “Our Minds Matter Team”, Shipley athletes can be tested for concussion immediately after impact.
“They can be tested at Shipley or in our offices at King of Prussia,” said Dr. Master. “During a game, the Shipley players and coaches have been taught what to look for. In one of Shipley’s first soccer games this season, a youth received a glancing blow on a corner kick, had some memory [gaps] just after the impact, and ‘Our Minds Matter Team’ came to the Shipley athletic office to test the youth.”
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