By Bill Bradley, contributing editor
We've been reporting USA Football Month about the Heads Up Football program. But what is Heads Up Football?
It's more than a concept or drill. It's more than a technique or a process. It's a way of life for players, coaches and parents as USA Football changes the culture to make the game safer for all ages.
The program is focused on youth and high school football. It includes a comprehensive collection of resources, programs, applications to address the player health and safety issues in the game.
- Education and certification: In order to make the game safer, USA Football has created an education and certification process for youth football. This helps for consistent teaching and terminology.
- Equipment fitting: Not every player is alike and that means each piece of equipment will not fit the same. The Heads Up Football program shows not only players, but parents how to make sure a helmets and shoulder pads fit properly. That includes sitting the player out in case the helmet is an improper fit and there is no certified alternative.
- Concussion awareness: This aspect teaches players how to handle head injuries and coaches what to do if they think a player has sustained a head injury. It provides a protocol of what to expect, what to tell a doctor and what do to in the process of return-to-play.
- Heads Up Tackling: This is a process that teaches a safer way to tackle without using the head -- and provides another way to avoid head injuries.
- Heat and hydration: USA Football has worked with the Korey Stringer Institute, a premier research group for hydration among athletes, to create best practices for keeping players hydrated before, during and after practices and games.
Officials at the USA Football offices already are looking at the next level of Heads Up Football, creating safer techniques for running and blocking as well as more events for parents.
However, for now their focus is growing and maintaining the program.
"Naturally we want to ultimately see all 10,000 youth football organizations and all 15,000 high schools with varsity programs to be practicing Heads Up Football," said USA Football executive director Scott Hallenbeck.