Kellen Winslow: It’s a game of chess

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While much of that was based on his physical prowess as a graceful, 6-foot-5, 245-pound man with wide receiver skills, the foundation of Winslow’s success was mental. That’s where Winslow sees the mistake in how football players are developed. There is too much emphasis on the physical part of the game early on.

“Football is chess and once I figured out that I was the knight on the chess board, that’s when I really understood the game,” he said. “The game is mental, not physical. Yes, you have to decide if you’re willing to do the physical things required to play the game, but even that is a mental decision that can wait. Don’t burn out some kid’s body before he has made the decision about wanting to play.”

Winslow also has a ready answer to coaches who believe that blocking and tackling need to be taught at a young age.

“That’s a Neanderthal approach. Again, the game is more mental than physical. You can teach the skills and the movements required to play the game at a young age and then allow someone to decide if they want to play at a later age. Parents need to take responsibility for this decision because a coach is going to try to get you to do what he wants you to do. It’s up to the parents to monitor their child,” he said.

Along those lines, Winslow’s son had to wait for years to play tackle football even though “he clearly had the right approach and desire to play it earlier.” Likewise, Winslow managed his son carefully in other sports. When coaches made him a pitcher in Little League, Winslow strictly limited the number of pitches his son threw and prohibited him from throwing a curve.

Even those restrictions pale in comparison to what Winslow feels should be done in football, despite the fact that he loves the sport and knows how much glory it brought him. The developing science on head trauma, concussions and CTE among football players simply backs up Winslow’s common-sense approach.

“I don’t know that you can quantify how much damage is being done to children, but I do believe it’s a cumulative effect. The sooner you play, the sooner you’re going to have head trauma. We also know now very well what effect early drug use has on the development of the brain, so I think it’s reasonable to conclude what type of effect head trauma will have,” Winslow said.

So it’s simple, tackling can wait.

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