Friday, January 27, 2012

Whatever Happened to the Forearm Shiver?

Everything has changed since I played football.  Color television.  Computers.  Indoor plumbing.

Watching the Outlaws practice brings back memories of the way we did it back then.  And I keep wanting to put down my camera and demonstrate the right way.  The most interesting change is offensive line using their hands.   Lily coaching before the line blocking drill is showing how to use the hands. 

When I played the offensive line wasn't allowed to use hands.  So we kept our arms folded, hands near chest.  The surface we'd use to hit the opponent was our forearm.  When we practiced blocking, we'd get in the three-point stance and, at the snap of the ball, fire off the line smacking the defensive lineman with our forearms.

The goal was to drive the forearm into his chest with so much force his whole body would vibrate from the impact - hence the term forearm shiver. 

We would follow through with the shoulder so my head would go to one side of the defender's body, my shoulder and arm across his midsection, acting like a bar of steel driving him back and in whatever direction I wanted him to go. 

We never extended our arms.  And of course I think that was the better way to do things.  Having arms extended and hitting with hands seems to me to reduce the power at impact. 

But my way isn't the way football is played these days.  I watch the NFL games looking for examples of the forearm shiver and I never see any.  Partially because the defensive line doesn't stay put.  They present a moving target and you have to be mobile to get your block.

Football boils down to one-on-one contests, blocker versus tackler.  Strength versus strength.  Skill versus skill.  When you watch football notice the battles in the line. 

These photos are from the practice January 21. 

Being taller makes it difficult to hit low on the defender.

One thing upon which modern and ancient football experts agree is the importance of getting low.  Not down on the ground low (although sometimes that is prescribed).  But low so you are driving into the mid-section of the opponent.  To visualize this go out and attempt to push a car.  You don't stand up straight, you scrunch down and get your hands/shoulder at about the level of the tail lights.  Or pick up a friend about the same size as you.  You'll want to drape her over your shoulder with shoulder in the middle of her body.  Watch the way firefighters are trained to carry victims they rescue, over the shoulder.

Lower is better.  Lower maximizes your power.  Still lower is (apparently) unnatural.  In future posts I'll do more on this subject because it is so fundamental.  For now I want to highlight the problem of being taller than an opponent.  In the photo above the blocker is taller and has difficulty getting low on the blocking pad.

Below are photos of Q.T. attempting blocks on players not as tall as she.  The drill was a two-block drill.  Hit one defender, then roll away and hit a second.  Very difficult for a tall player to get low enough.  This is particularly true on the second block because the first impact upsets your balance.

Q.T. is aiming low.  In the old days she'd be trying to
hit the pad with her shoulder and right forearm.  She
is tall enough that I'm not certain she could get low enough.

I like the way this worked out.  The hands push the defender
to a more upright position.  If the defender is low, straighten
her up.  Q.T. isn't lower; she appears to have a stalemate on
lower/higher.  But also appears to be in a power stance.

But on the second block, her height becomes
a disadvantage.  The initial contact had the
defender lower.  And the defender definitely has
the advantage in this photo.

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