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Michael Haynes: Heads Up is class taught by educators

NFL Evolution will feature a guest columnist every Tuesday, each with a different viewpoint of player health and safety from the youth level to pro football.

By Michael Haynes

It may be January, but preparations for the 2015 season are well under way at USA Football.

This past weekend, we kicked off our first training session for the new year, bringing in more than two dozen Master Trainers from across the nation to begin shaping the way Heads Up Football will be taught.

During the next two months, USA Football will educate more than 100 Master Trainers on the tenants of Heads Up Football. These individuals are among the best coaches in the nation -- names synonymous with success.

  • John Roderique of Webb City (Mo.), winner of five straight Missouri state titles and 13 overall.
  • Chuck Kyle of Cleveland St. Ignatius, winner of 11 Ohio big school state championships and two USA Today national titles.
  • Rick Streiff of Indianapolis Cathedral, who has led the Irish to 10 state titles, including the last five.
  • Gabe Infante of Philadelphia St. Joseph's, winners of the last two Pennsylvania big school state championships.
  • Steve Specht of Cincinnati St. Xavier, a two-time Ohio champion and former NFL Don Shula High School Coach of the Year.
  • Tom Bainter of Bothell (Wash.), whose program is the defending Washington state champs.

In all, USA Football Master Trainers claim nearly 40 state titles, including eight in 2014.

Master Trainers also include college coaches and former NFL players. The collective football knowledge when they gather is awe-inspiring. I am proud and honored to help lead them.

But more importantly than their victories on the field, they are educators.

Being a great football coach requires many of the same skills needed in the clasroom -- communication, patience, organization and a solid foundation in the subject you are teaching.

USA Football Master Trainers are chosen not solely for their wins on the scoreboard but for their passion for the sport and dedication to the athletes who play it.

Following a series of training sessions during the next few months, this group will teach USA Football's Heads Up Football program to high schools and youth football leagues nationwide during the spring and summer.

Heads Up Football is a comprehensive approach to a better and safer game, encompassing USA Football's accredited Level 1 Coach Certification Course, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concussion recognition and response, medical expert-approved heat and hydration protocols, equipment fitting instruction and Heads Up Tackling techniques.

Nearly 5,500 youth leagues and more than 750 high schools across the United States registered for Heads Up Football in 2014, representing nearly 1 million players.

In 2015, thanks to the hard work by USA Football and the experts in medicine and sport who help us, the program is adding protocols for sudden cardiac arrest and Heads Up Blocking. Like in the classroom, Heads Up Football and the Master Trainers who teach it continually adapt to new research, adding to the available information.

After completing the USA Football workshop, Master Trainers instruct representatives from high schools and youth leagues in their regions on Heads Up Football principles. These league -- and school -- appointed Player Safety Coaches will oversee their programs' implementation of the highest national coaching standards for football. These standards include league-wide completion of the Level 1 Coach Certification Course as well as conducting a Heads Up Football Coaches Clinic and a Heads Up Safety Clinic for parents and players. Player Safety Coaches monitor their leagues' practices and games throughout the season.

Heads Up Football is changing the way football is played at the grassroots levels with the best available science so young athletes can enjoy the fun and benefits of the sport in the safest environment possible.

The training that goes into it starts well before the season, takes root during preseason practices, then continues throughout the fall schedule.

And every moment spent for the good our kids is more than worth the time.

Michael Haynes manages USA Football's Heads Up Football program. A former All-America defensive lineman at Penn State and first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears, Haynes has a master's degree in education and was a secondary school administrator before joining USA Football.

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