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Heads Up Football's Barry Sanders leads Lions youth camps


Monday's Heads Up Football news:

* showed how Heads Up Football ambassador Barry Sanders turns the Lions' practice facility into a youth football clinic teaching kids safer football practices while the team is on the road.

Sunday morning, 300 6- to 14-year-old youth football players, coaches and parents arrived to the practice facility and geared up to learn the three pillars of Heads Up Football. Following the seminar portion of the clinic, Sanders spoke to the players, coaches and parents about the evolution, rule changes and the importance of adapting to a safer way to play football.

“The game means a lot to me, and Heads Up, I think, is very thoughtful in the way they approach the game. It’s targeting the right things so kids can really grow up with the right habits,” said Sanders.

Aside from teaching youth proper tackling techniques, concussion recognition and response and how to properly fit equipment, Sanders understands the importance of educating coaches and parents about the same fundamentals.

“You have to have that support at the ground level. And we know that every parent that’s out there, allowing their kid to participate, cares deeply and that that kid is a No. 1 priority in their life. So we just want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to assist and aid in that.”

* USA Today Sports explores the decline in youth football participation, as well as what Pop Warner and USA Football are doing to reverse the trend.

There were 248,899 players playing Pop Warner football in 2010. That number fell to 225,287 in 2012 according to data provided to Outside The Lines. Other youth football leagues are also experiencing a decline, including NFL-funded USA Football, which saw participation drop from 3 million to 2.8 million in 2011 among kids between the ages of 6 and 14.

There are certainly other factors which contribute to the decline in recent years. Greater popularity in sports like soccer and basketball, in addition to pressure on kids to focus on a specific sport also plays a factor in the shrinking number of players.

Pop Warner is taking steps to cut down the risk of head injury. In 2012, it “significantly cut back on the amount of tackling permitted during practice,” according to OTL, and this year the organization will partner with the NFL and USA Football to endorse “Heads Up” football, a program launched by USA Football designed to teach proper tackling techniques.

-- Bill Bradley, contributing editor



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