Safety First: NFL, La Jolla Pop Warner football team up on Heads Up

This screen grab from a training video demonstrates a ‘hit’ maneuver of Heads Up Tackle, which creates tension in the muscles as opposed to the joints, in preparing for a tackle. usafootball.com
This screen grab from a training video demonstrates a ‘hit’ maneuver of Heads Up Tackle, which creates tension in the muscles as opposed to the joints, in preparing for a tackle. usafootball.com

By Ashley Mackin

The La Jolla Pop Warner youth football association is joining forces with uSA Football and the national Football League to launch the Heads up Football program to make youth football safer to play.

Scott Rosecrans with La Jolla Pop Warner will represent the Southern California region at the first Heads up forum in Ohio this July.

La Jolla Pop Warner uses coaches certified through USA Football, a national, independent training and certification program for coaches at all levels. USA Football plans to use the Heads up method at the La Jolla chapter, and the hope is to enact the program nationwide for all ages.

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This screen grab from a training video demonstrates a ‘hit’ maneuver of Heads Up Tackle, which creates tension in the muscles as opposed to the joints, in preparing for a tackle. usafootball.com

Rosecrans said news of concussions and the subsequent effects coming from the NFL is one reason why this program is so important, but improving safety in general is the real goal.

“We feel that safety is a paramount concern not only for parents (and players), but for us as an organization,” Rosecrans said. “If we can’t provide the utmost safety for a player we are remiss in our duties. It should be a safe, fun, enjoyable environment for all those participating.”

Injuries and safety, he said, concern parents because NFL football is the only form of the sport most people see.

“The size, strength, speed and impact yousee on NFL fields are exponentially greater than what you see on our fields. Youth football has much smaller numbers (of injuries) than high school, college, semi-pro and professional football,” Rosecrans said.

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A screen grab from a training video demonstrates a ‘rip’ maneuver of Heads Up Tackle. During a traditional tackle, players stick their heads out and wrap their arms around their opponent, while in a ‘rip,’ the arms go up in an uppercut move. usafootball.com

Heads up focuses on safer training from the beginning, teaching coaches the signs and symptoms of a concussion, what to do if a concussion happens, how to check for properly fitting equipment throughout the season, and tackling techniques for minimizing helmet contact, aka the Headsup Tackle system. The Heads up Tackle system provides five techniques to use in each tackle to maximize a player’s body strength and minimize the impact to the head and neck.

The NFL has signed on as an official supporter and NFL coaches are already praising the approach Heads up Football takes. San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy posted to the Heads up website, “The No. 1 thing we’re looking at with USA Football’s Heads up Football is that kidslearn at a young age the proper ways of tackling and playing the game. They have to understand how to properly fit the helmet. When is a chinstrap too loose? All the little things that make a difference.”

Getting the program to become the standard starts with a conference in Ohio where representatives from across the country will gather to discuss the big issues within youth football.“It’s the first of its kind,” Rosecrans said. “They are bringing in representatives and player safety coaches to aid in the training and discussions going on. It should be a great opportunity to see what others have to say and what is available to our program.”

While Rosecrans is representing Southern California on the issues, La Jolla Pop Warner coaches will be in a separate training to learn the methods of the Heads up Football program in preparation for the start of football practice.

“When we start practice on Aug. 1, all of our coaches will be trained in the various aspects that they will pass on to the kids and their parents,” he said. “The parents need to understand that this is what their child is going to be taught.”

La Jolla Pop Warner serves 180 players, ages 5-14, and Rosecrans said learning to play football at a young age will lead to fewer injuries than if learning the sport in teen years. In addition to implementing the Heads up Football program, La jolla Pop Warner recently purchased $37,000 in new protective equipment.

La Jolla Pop Warner

■ Volunteer: Openings available for the board of directors, coaching staffs or game days, call Scott Rosecrans (619) 866-2716

■ 2013 season: Begins with equipment checkout July 13; practices start Aug. 1

■ Home games: Facilities at La Jolla Country Day School

■ Eligibility: Serves about 180 players from the greater area, ages 5-14

■ Contact: 9490 Genesee Ave. (619) 985-8226

■ Website:

lajollapopwarner.org

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