Throughout his career as a physical education instructor and coach, Jock Patterson has been a man of principles and beliefs.
When it came to the teaching of life's lessons in his gym class, or on the gridiron and wrestling mat, Patterson paid strict attention to the well-being of the students he was instructing.
Patterson played football and basketball at Keith Academy. The soon to be 73-year-old, who grew up in Lowell, is a cancer survivor with a still tireless zest for life.
He worked in the Tewksbury and Lowell school systems, was the former wrestling coach at Tewksbury, and served as an assistant football coach at several schools including Tewksbury, Lowell Catholic and Alvirne in Hudson, N.H., where Patterson was on the staff last fall.
With five decades of experience devoted to interscholastic athletics, Patterson has built up a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the games high school students play. Now Patterson is putting this information to good use as the founder of the National Sportsmanship Alliance (NSA, n-s-a.org website), which he began in 2014.
"I'm a big believer in safety and fair play in high school sports," said Patterson. "This program stresses the importance of student-athletes learning to treat players the same way they expect to be treated during games and practices.
"Good sportsmanship by all is so important. Play the game clean.
The area of safety Patterson is most passionate about is the prevention of concussions. Patterson believes many head injuries in football can be prevented by doing a better job of enforcing the rules. He says simple things such as officials "blowing a quicker whistle" to end a play would cut down on concussions and many other serious injuries.
"I can't tell you how many times I've seen a ballcarrier being tackled and someone else comes in and hits him on the way to the ground and causes a serious injury," said Patterson, who lives in Hollis, N.H. "That's why I feel they need to blow a quicker whistle. I honestly think this would help prevent concussions and other injuries."
Patterson had two known concussions as a high school athlete. He also suffered multiple concussions when he was in a car accident while in college that caused him to be unconscious for five days. So Patterson has dealt with his own share of head trauma.
According to one published report, high school football accounts for 47 percent of all reported sports concussions. Patterson believes the changes he's calling for will decrease the risk of concussions.
Patterson hasn't been able to convince officials he's contacted at the National Federation Of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA) of the need to change/better enforce the rules that are currently in place governing safety/concussions. He's also reached out to high school principals in the Granite State.
"A lot of people do not even respond to me about it," said Patterson. "Others have told me they already have rules in place. But a lot of the rules in place I feel have more to do with what happens once you get a concussion.
"Based on my experience, the trainers, doctors and coaches do a good job when it comes to an athlete's recovery from a concussion. But I think more attention needs to be paid on taking steps toward preventing concussions."
Patterson doesn't want to see football reach the point where it's viewed as being so dangerous player participation drops off drastically.
"I'm trying to save high school football, not kill it," said Patterson. "Experienced football people who have seen all these concussions know something has to change. They want to keep the game the same way it's always been played. But unless there are some changes, I don't think you can do both.
"They've altered some things for better safety, like not hitting a defenseless receiver, which is a tremendous rule change. But more needs to be done. I don't want to take blocking and tackling out of the game. That's football. Teaching kids to hit from the waist to the shoulders will drastically reduce the number of concussions and injuries. And that's my goal."
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