Aug 20, 2013
About 2,800 youth football organizations across the country are taking part in new training program that highlights safety.
Isaiah Hayes, 7, is a member of the Alexandria Titans and an aspiring quarterback.
It’s only the second week of the preseason, and his team has already learned the most important rule: keep your head up.
“If you put your head down, then you could hit your head and crack your neck,” Isaiah said.
He is among thousands of young athletes taking part in the nationwide rollout of Heads Up, a training program promising to teach safer tackling.
With funding from the NFL, USA Football, the leading authority of amateur football, developed the techniques.
Lincoln Hayes, Isaiah's dad, noticed the difference in technique right away.
“Keeping your head up when you're impacting was what really sold me,” he said. “I immediately signed up my older two sons, same day.”
The program allows coaches to get special instruction on conducting drills, monitoring player safety and fitting equipment properly.
Three years ago, the youth league roster started thinning out because of headlines about concussion in the pros.
“The Heads Up program is already bringing new faces onto the field,” Titans coach Marcus Mudarri said. "I do really think that's because parents feel more comfortable about letting their kids play football.”
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association said they are planning to adopt this training program in the future.
Heads Up has been used in youth football programs across the country. This season, 32 high schools in eight states – none in North Carolina – are serving as test sites for the program. All high schools will be eligible to adopt the program for the 2014 season.
The NCHSAA said that coaches are very aware of the problems with helmet-to-helmet contact and concussions. They are placing a greater emphasis on minimizing that contact.
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