Youth football takes center stage

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When Steelers' players commit themselves to being the best on the field, they don't stop anything short of giving 100 percent every time they practice, hit the weight room and take the field on game day. It's an all-out effort every time.

That same commitment and dedication is evident in the approach the team takes to supporting youth football in the Pittsburgh area. There is a passion that exists to make the game the best it can be, often times reaching out to the youngest players to ensure that is the case.

The Steelers hosted a clinic for both Moms and Coaches at the Steelers UPMC Sports Performance Complex.

"Football is a great game. I think it's important we make sure we are supporting it at the earliest levels," said Steelers President Art Rooney II. "A lot of the organizations and youth leagues need help, need support. They need educational help with concussions, and health of the players and conditioning. There is a lot we can do to help and I think over the last few years we have put a lot of effort into making sure we are providing as much support as we can."

That support was evident over the weekend when the team hosted two events, the Youth Football Clinic for Moms and Kids on Friday night and the Steelers Coaches Clinic on Saturday, both at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex.

"Education and coaching standards are vital for our kids in every sport that they love to play," said Aaron Hill, who spoke at both events on behalf of USA Football. "USA Football's Heads Up Football program embraces and empowers parents with information that benefit children in virtually all sports. Moms and dads have a significant role in their child's sports experiences. The Steelers deserve significant credit for partnering with us and advancing Heads Up Football's standards, which are rooted in the best available science."

It's the third time the team has hosted the Clinic for Moms and Kids, an opportunity for them to see the safety enhancements in the game from concussion awareness, to proper helmet fitting, and learn about the Heads Up Football Program, while offering on-field instruction for the kids. There was also a unique perspective offered by Debbie Gradkowski, mother of Steelers' quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and Geno Gradkowski, who plays for the Denver Broncos.

The focus shifted to educating the coaches on Saturday, which included classroom and on field educational sessions.

"We are changing for the better how coaches are trained, players are taught, parents are informed and safety is addressed," said Hill. "This is not your father's youth football. Heads Up Football has earned the endorsements of leading medical organizations and experts across the sport. Our number one priority is the health and safety of every young athlete who loves to play the game and enjoys the fun and fitness that comes with it. It's also exciting to see more sports join us in emphasizing player safety."

Former Steelers running back Merril Hoge, a member of the Heads Up Football advisory board and strong advocate for the program was one of the keynote speakers.

"It's cleaned the game up to where the way kids play with the fundamentals that they are taught," said Hoge. "Heads Up Football is teaching the younger players the right way to play, and they are seeing the same things being stressed on TV.

"When you play with the right techniques, you play better. That is obvious. But what people forget is you are a safer player. I've seen a cleaner, better game with guys trying to use the right techniques, whether tackling, running or blocking."

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