FORSYTH COUNTY — Football, like many sports, has certain risks inherent with playing the game, but local youth athletic leagues are hoping to minimize some of those concerns.
Last week, dozens gathered at Kelly Mill Elementary School as members of the Midway Athletic Club held a panel on youth football safety and Heads Up Football, a program that all athletic clubs will use this year that teaches proper player safety techniques.
“The six core components are concussion recognition and response, heat preparedness and hydration, sudden cardiac arrest, proper equipment fitting, heads up tackling and heads up blocking,” said Wes Hall, a representative with Heads Up Football.
Heads Up Football is a nationwide program endorsed by many current and former coaches and players that emphasizes proper techniques for players and certain certifications for coaches.
While coaches will all go through online training to learn the core components, those working as a special “player safety coach” will go to a one-day training program and ensure that coaches are certified, attend practices and games and make sure that coaches are certified.
Joining Hall on the panel were coaches from other sports, pediatric doctors, park officials and parents, who answered questions from the audience.
“Tonight we really wanted to introduce to [the audience] that weren’t necessarily ‘football people,’ but also have an interest in the game of football and keeping our kids safe,” said Anthony Jennings, a coach at Midway.
Parent Rod Jones said he signed his son up to play but wanted to know the risks of the sport, and that the presentation helped with concerns he had over hydration and heat.
“I grew up in the north, so to be playing football in the south in the middle of July, I’m really concerned about that,” Jones said. “Our county is the best county in the state. They’re proactive with the equipment. They’ve got a hydration program.
“I’m a lot more comfortable with putting my boy out there in the middle of summer now that I have the information.”
Youth football season will start in August, and player registration is currently open.