By Sue Moore
Football announcers enjoy informing their audience about a player who just got his bell rung, often injecting that they hope he’ll be back on the field in a minutes.
That was in the old days, but now coaches and parents are not accepting this. A young person playing football in the Vicksburg youth league all the way up through the high school program, are being coached by men who have had safety certification, according to Kip Young, player safety coach for Vicksburg youth football. This includes concussion identification and safety precautions to avoid injury.
This is the second year that Vicksburg’s youth football program has been enrolled in the national USA Heads Up football program, sponsored by the National Football League.
USA Football says it is the national governing body for amateur American football in the United States on its web site. It is an independent nonprofit organization based in Indianapolis, Indiana. USA Football hosts more than 100 training events annually and offers education programs for coaches and game officials, as well as skill development for young players and resources for youth league administrators.
Not only are the coaches taking a certification course, they are adapting coach Tom Marchese’s high school play book so the system will have continuity from the youngest player up to Vicksburg’s senior players, explained Josh Baird, the youth league chief coordinator.
In fact, the 18 head coaches and their assistants for flag football (six and seven year olds) through eight varsity coaches have taken an online course for concussion awareness, tackling mechanics, and proper hydration, paid for by the Vicksburg youth football program. Young follows this up with a session for parents to explain the safety considerations during practice and the actual games.
Approximately 160 youngsters ages six through 12 have signed up for what used to be known as Rocket football in Vicksburg. The name has changed to better reflect parents’ concerns, Young explained. The kids have had extensive fittings for equipment and helmets when each enrolls in the program, he said. A code of conduct is signed by every parent and includes sideline deportment and the role of the parent, emphasizing that there is more to being a winner, it’s the love of the game and improvement in skill at each practice and game.
Scholarships are available and a limit of $75 has been set that any family participating would have to spend.
Through this commitment to safety, the organizers are hoping to show the community their vision that it’s more than just winning a game on Saturday afternoon. It’s a respect for the officials, a commitment to the overall football program, while addressing parents’ safety concerns, Young concluded.