USA Football announced Monday that the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has adopted the Heads Up Football program in order to advance football player safety.
The NFHS partnership follows other major football organizations that will take part in the five-prong player safety program. Previous adoptees of the Head Up Football program were the American Football Coaches Association, the Atlantic Coast Conference; the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences; AAU Football; the Boys and Girls Clubs of America; the National Police Athletic League; the NFL and Pop Warner Little Scholars.
The NFHS oversees high school sports with the 51 high school governing bodies, including the District of Columbia. The NFHS will encourage high schools -- with 1.12 million athletes playing high school football -- to adopt Heads Up Football on a local and state level.
"The health and well-being of our student-athletes is our No. 1 priority," NFHS executive director Bob Gardner said in a statement. "Rooted in education, Heads Up Football is advancing sound behaviors and techniques as to the manner in which football is taught and played. USA Football has melded needed insight and techniques from experts in medicine and sport for the benefit of our students."
The move is welcomed by Philadelphia-area high school football coach Gabe Infante, who coaches at St. Joseph's Prep.
"I've talked to a lot of youth coaches who believe it's important for the key high schools in their areas to endorse the program," Infante told USA Today. "That would obviously add some credibility to them running it with their youth programs."
To start the NFHS program, 32 high schools in eight states will test Heads Up Football this season as a precursor to adoption of the program for all U.S. high schools in 2014. The 32 schools will designate a player safety coach, who will instruct fellow coaches, parents and players on Heads Up Football.
"Heads Up Football is raising standards in how coaches are prepared to teach and how player safety is addressed to coaches, players and parents," USA Football executive director Scott Hallenbeck said in a statement. "Nothing comes before the health and safety of our young athletes, and the NFHS shares that commitment with us. Our game is undergoing a significant behavior change for the better through the education and training Heads Up Football delivers."
The Heads Up Football program, which has been adopted by nearly 2,800 youth football leagues for this season, includes heads up tackling, coaching certification, concussion awareness, player safety coach training and proper equipment fitting.
Virginia's Fairfax County announced earlier this year that it had adopted Heads Up Football for its 25 high school football programs.
-- Bill Bradley, contributing editor