The Steelers hosted their first-ever Heads Up Football Information Session over the weekend, educating area youth football administrators on the basic premises of USA Football's Heads Up Football program, as well as discuss upcoming Steelers Youth Football, USA Football, and Heads Up Football programming.
"We want to let the youth football leagues know there is a program out there that the Steelers, NFL and USA Football are all behind," said Ed Passino, regional manager for USA Football. "We want to change the culture surrounding player safety in youth football. A lot of that is educating coaches on what proper form tackling looks like, it's with the head up. A lot of times youth coaches teach their players what they were taught, 15, 20, 30 years ago. They need to advance what they are doing. Some of the old terminology, things like bite the ball, put your head on the numbers, needs eliminated. That verbiage gives kids targets where to put their heads. The Heads Up Football initiative wants to eliminate that process, remove it from 'coach speak' when they are out there talking to their kids and teaching them how to tackle."
Heads Up Football consists of six pillars, including heads up tackling, concussion awareness, heat hydration, equipment fitting, education and certification of coaches, and player safety coach.
"It's an overall safety level for the families," said Mark Ross, President of Western Pennsylvania Youth Football League and coach in the Hopewell youth football program. "Knowing the coaches are educated, out there making the game much safer for the kids helps the families. They are all concerned about the concussion factor, but being involved with Heads Up Football gives them a sense of security. It's also educating our coaches on how the game should be played and taught.
"The teams are getting much more involved because they see the factor that is out there where they are earning the trust of parents to let the kids play. We are seeing a growth in numbers again. A lot of parents approach us at registration and tell us how encouraged they are that we are out there doing it and making the coaches be certified."
Ross said the involvement of the Steelers organization and the NFL has made a huge difference in the program being widely accepted.
"It's a huge factor because of what the Steelers mean," said Ross. "They are active in the community. They are taking this and rolling it out to all of the programs across Western Pennsylvania to make this game safer. It's huge when you have the Steelers standing behind you. The parents buy into it more."