More than 900 youth football leagues across the United States representing more than 200,000 players and 30,000 coaches nationwide have committed to the health and safety of their young players by adopting Heads Up Football, a new USA Football pilot program for the 2013 season dedicated to making the game better and safer.
The Heads Up Football program promotes a positive youth football experience and advances player safety by providing coaching education and teaching resources that benefit players, parents and coaches. Heads Up Football aims to take the head out of the game.
USA Football is the official youth football development partner of the NFL and its 32 teams.
Heads Up Football is comprised of five primary elements:
Heads Up Tackling: USA Football's Heads Up Tackling technique, endorsed by medical and football experts, teaches players to keep their heads up and out of the line of contact.
Coaching certification: All coaches within a youth program are trained to teach the game's fundamentals by completing USA Football's nationally accredited Level 1 Coaching Certification Course.
Concussion recognition and response: Coaches learn and are assessed on CDC concussion recognition and response through USA Football's Level 1 Coaching Certification Course. Coaches, parents and players are taught concussion-related protocols at the start of the season at a leaguewide clinic and have them reinforced throughout the season.
Player Safety Coach: Appointed by each participating Heads Up Football youth organization. This individual is trained by USA Football to implement Heads Up Football's player safety protocols, including coaching certification, and conducts safety clinics for coaches, parents and players.
Equipment fitting: Coaches, parents and players are taught proper helmet and shoulder pad fitting.
Seventy-eight former NFL players also will participate in the program as Heads Up Football Ambassadors, working with youth leagues to reinforce the Heads Up message. Former NFL standouts CARL BANKS, TONY CASILLAS, RANDALL CUNNINGHAM and BARRY SANDERS are among those serving as Heads Up Football Ambassadors. They will work alongside youth leagues, attending select practices and games while endorsing Heads Up Football.
Youth coaches of participating leagues will be trained in Heads Up Football techniques before leading their teams this season. All head coaches and assistant coaches are required to complete USA Football's accredited Level 1 Coaching Certification Course, which includes Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concussion recognition and response protocols; proper helmet and shoulder pad fitting; and Heads Up Tackling techniques, which aim to take the head out of the line of contact, and teach proper fundamentals.
Parents can help ensure their youth football players are participating in a better and safer brand of football by visiting www.usafootball.com. Youth leagues can register online today for Heads Up Football and to have their coaches certified.
"The health and safety of every youth player is USA Football's No. 1 priority," USA Football Executive Director SCOTT HALLENBECK said. "These leagues show exceptional dedication to their players, parents and coaches. Each of them is committed to the highest standards of player safety and coaching education in all of youth sports.
"We are proud to have them and our Heads Up Football Ambassadors be part of this program."
"As chairman of the NFL Foundation and as a parent of two young football players, I believe the Heads Up Football program is essential in making the game we all love safer for youth players," said CHARLOTTE JONES ANDERSON, Dallas Cowboys executive vice president and chief brand officer. "The program is also important for parents, providing resources for their kids to play the game safely and properly. The NFL Foundation is pleased to be supporting this important program."
"I'm proud to be a part of USA Football's Heads Up Football program," said Sanders, a Hall of Fame running back with the Detroit Lions. "Football is a fun game which offers so many rewards and instills countless positives for our kids when the game is taught correctly and coaches are prepared to teach. Heads Up Football accomplishes this. The program is changing for the better how youth football is played."
Heads Up Football is the future of the game. Through Heads Up Football, each youth league will nominate a Player Safety Coach to be trained by USA Football. Player Safety Coaches will implement and monitor Heads Up Football player safety protocols within the organization. They also work with league commissioners, coaches, parents and players throughout the season to provide on-site clinics and mentoring to employ coaching and player safety best practices. Parents are encouraged to be involved throughout the process, to ensure their youth players are learning Heads Up Football skills.
In addition to the NFL and NFL Foundation, organizations that support Heads Up Football include the NCAA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Federation of State High School Associations, American Football Coaches Association and Sports and Fitness Industry Association. Organizations that play youth football that have adopted or endorsed Heads Up Football include the United Youth Football League, National Police Athletic League, Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Jewish Community Centers Association. The goal is to encourage all 10,000 youth football leagues across the country to sign up for Heads Up Football.