Support Grows For Football Safety Initiative

Posted: Updated:

Indianapolis-based USA Football has landed a five-year, $45 million grant from the National Football League Foundation. The organizations say the funds will bring the Heads Up Football safety program to about 10,000 youth leagues around the country. The move comes as the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, which represents over 25,000 middle and high school athletic officials, has announced its endorsement of the program. Executive Director Scott Hallenbeck discussed a recently-completed safety study in February during a Studio(I) interview. March 24, 2014

News Release

NEW YORK - The National Football League Foundation has approved a $45 million grant to USA Football to support the growth of youth football, it was announced today. The grant will provide funding for USA Football over the next five years.

SCOTT HALLENBECK, executive director of USA Football, accepted the grant today from NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL and NFL Foundation chairman CHARLOTTE JONES ANDERSON at the NFL Annual Meeting in Orlando.

USA Football, the official youth football development partner of the NFL and its 32 teams, will use the grant to support youth and high school football through its Heads Up Football, NFL Punt, Pass & Kick, and NFL FLAG programs.

The funds will help bring Heads Up Football to all 10,000 youth football leagues across the country. In the first year of Heads Up Football in 2013, more than 2,700 youth leagues registered for the program, representing approximately 600,000 players and 90,000 coaches. The NFL Foundation grant will expand Heads Up Football to the high school level, providing continuity in fundamentals, terminology, and health and safety protocols from the youth to the high school level. USA Football piloted Heads Up Football in 35 high schools in 10 states in 2013.

Additionally, USA Football will grow the NFL FLAG and NFL Punt, Pass & Kick programs. NFL FLAG powered by USA Football is the premier youth flag football league for boys and girls ages 5-17. A program of NFL PLAY 60, FLAG provides young players with an opportunity to play non-contact football and learn lessons about sportsmanship and teamwork, while also getting their 60 minutes of daily physical activity. More than 220,000 boys and girls ages 5-17 currently participate in NFL FLAG. NFL Punt, Pass & Kick, which began in 1961, is the nation’s largest grassroots sports skills competition.

"The NFL Foundation is committed to enhancing our great game at all levels," said Jones Anderson. "USA Football is a leader through its innovative work in youth and high school football development, and we are pleased to support their important work."

Heads Up Football is a comprehensive youth and high school football membership program developed by USA Football and supported by the NFL and more than two dozen medical, child advocacy and sport organizations. The initiative was launched in 2013 with a $1.5 million grant from the NFL Foundation. The core elements of the program are: coaching certification, the teaching of proper techniques, player safety coaches, proper equipment fitting, concussion and health education, and parental involvement.

"The NFL Foundation's generous support of USA Football allows us to grow our programs and further establish important standards rooted in education for the well-being of our young athletes," said Hallenbeck. "We value this strong sign of trust in our nonprofit office. These funds will be put to use for the benefit of the more than 5.5 million youth and high school athletes who enjoy the fun and other benefits of playing football."

Spring is the start of Heads Up Football registration for the 2014 youth football season. To learn more, visit http://www.usafootball.com/headsup.

Source: The National Football League Foundation

April 1, 2014

News Release

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) has endorsed USA Football's Heads Up Football program to make the sport better and safer for the millions of youth and high school athletes who play. USA Football, based in Indianapolis, is the sport's national governing body.

Representing more than 25,000 athletic administrators in high schools and middle schools across the United States, the NIAAA preserves, enhances and promotes the educational values of interscholastic athletics through the professional development of its members in areas of education, leadership and service.

Nearly 2,800 youth leagues across the United States registered for Heads Up Football in 2013, accounting for more than 25 percent of the youth football community. In addition, 35 high schools in 10 states piloted Heads Up Football during the 2013 season. USA Football will offer its Heads Up Football program to all youth leagues and high schools in 2014.

"We are pleased to support and are excited about the efforts by USA Football to make the game safer for participants at all levels of the sport," NIAAA Associated Executive Director DR. MIKE BLACKBURN said. "Education is a vital component for any initiative. The NIAAA joins its efforts with USA Football's Heads Up Football program and endorses training in the areas of fundamental tackling technique, concussion awareness, heat and hydration safety measures and proper equipment fitting."

"We greatly value the NIAAA's partnership and trust," USA Football Executive Director SCOTT HALLENBECK said. "Our highest priorities are held in common, focusing on the safety of student-athletes by establishing important standards rooted in education for a better sports experience."

Heads Up Football stands on six primary tenets:

Heads Up Tackling

-USA Football's Heads Up Tackling technique, endorsed by medical and football experts, which teaches to keep the head up and reduces helmet contact for safer play.

Concussion recognition and response

-Coaches learn and are assessed on CDC concussion recognition and response protocols through USA Football's Level 1 Coaching Certification Course.

-Coaches, parents and players are taught CDC concussion-related protocols.

Coaching education

-Coaches within a youth program are trained to teach the game's fundamentals by completing USA Football's nationally accredited Level 1 Coaching Certification Course. High school coaches will gain training through USA Football's High School Coach Certification course, developed in partnership with the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Equipment fitting

-Coaches, parents and players are taught proper helmet and shoulder pad fitting.

Heat and hydration

-Coaches, parents and players are taught heat and hydration safety measures set forth by the University of Connecticut's Korey Stringer Institute.

Player Safety Coach

-Appointed by a participating Heads Up Football youth organization or high school, this individual ensures compliance with Heads Up Football's player safety protocols, coach certification, and the conducting of safety clinics for coaches, parents and players.

USA Football's Heads Up Tackling technique was developed with contributions of USA Football's Tackle Advisory Committee, which includes Northwestern head coach PAT FITZGERALD, UCLA head coach JIM MORA, former NFL running back MERRIL HOGE, Miami Christopher Columbus High School head coach CHRIS MERRITT and sports psychologist DR. DAVID YUKELSON.

Some of the medical and sport backers of USA Football's Heads Up Football program include:

-Amateur Athletic Union

-Maxwell Football Club

-National Parent Teacher Association

-American College of Sports Medicine

-Michigan H.S. Football Coaches Assoc.

-National Police Athletic League

-American Football Coaches Assoc.

-Minnesota Football Coaches Association

-North Carolina Coaches Association

-American Medical Society for Sports Med.

-National Athletic Trainers Association

-Northern Va. Football Co