Heads Up Football is changing the way the sport is taught on the youth and high school levels. The Panthers recently hosted a player safety clinic where men and women representing more than 25 youth football organizations throughout the Carolinas spent a day at Bank of America Stadium learning about USA Football's program.
Led by former Concord High School head coach and USA Football Master Trainer E.Z. Smith, the Heads Up Football Player Safety Coach Clinic focused on concussion awareness, heat and hydration, helmet and shoulder pad fitting, and proper tackling fundamentals during classroom and on-field training sessions.
Smith guided the coaches through the Heads Up Football curriculum. After completing the workshop, Player Safety Coaches will oversee their leagues' implementation of the highest national coaching standards for youth football. Player Safety Coaches also will monitor practices and games throughout the season.
"We have to train Player Safety Coaches to be like us – passionate about the game and its rules," Smith said. "Football is a serious sport. It's a contact sport. But if you can properly prepare a player for that contact and teach the proper techniques and principles that USA Football is helping us to understand, and if coaches can accept that, teach it and use it, then we can be successful."
USA Football is the official youth development partner of the NFL and its 32 teams.
"More than 10,000 football players in the Carolinas will be positively impacted by the clinic and the 40 participating Player Safety Coaches," said Peter Vacho, the Carolina Panthers military and football outreach manager. "Amazing numbers that tell the story of what the football community thinks about the Heads Up Football program."
Nearly 2,800 youth leagues nationwide participated in Heads Up Football last year, and 35 high schools across the country piloted the program, which is open to all youth organizations and high schools in 2014. More than 200 organizations from North and South Carolina have already signed up for this season, including all 21 high schools and 31 middle schools in Wake County, N.C.
"The safety and well-being of our student-athletes are at the forefront of every decision we make," said Deran Coe, Wake County's senior administrator for athletics. "Wake County has more than 4,000 football players in our middle schools and high schools. The training and ongoing support our coaches and staff will receive through this program ensures that our students will continue to be coached using the best practices, safety protocols and research in the sport of football today."
Heads Up Football has earned the endorsement of more than two dozen athletic, medical and child advocacy groups, including the National Athletic Trainers' Association, NFL, National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, National Parent Teacher Association and North Carolina Coaches Association.