BRADENTON, Fla. -
Eric Douglas is a player safety coach for the Pinellas Park Rebels football team. Today he spent time running though drills he learned and intends to teach his players. Hopefully keeping them safe on the field. "Contact. Initial contact. How you make it, where you should make it," Douglas said.
Douglas and close to 50 other coaches took part in a new program called Heads Up. It's a first-of-its-kind football clinic put on by USA Football, a non-profit organization aimed at reducing football related injuries. The group is going around the country training coaches.
The drills they teach are designed to make a safer tackle, one that focus on reducing helmet to helmet contact. "Contact is part of the game. How we make that contact safer. How we help kids play the game smarter, and using their head thinking, not using their head by hitting with it," Tod Creneti said. He is the head coach of Saint Stephens Episcopal School and a USA Football Master Trainer.
In the past few years football has come under scrutiny, especially when in comes to concussions. A class-action lawsuit was even filed against the NFL by some former players who claim the league didn't do enough to protect them.
Not only are trainers teaching coaches the proper way of hitting to help prevent injury. They're also teaching them about helmets and how the right fit and the right design can help prevent concussions. "Helmets have gotten lighter. The padding has become more customized," Creneti said. "They're beefing up mouth pieces, they're beefing up chin straps. They're trying to create technology to measure the amount of contact people have taken."
One of the more important techniques coach Douglas took away from today's clinic was how to hit properly. "Keep their heads up first of all, that's the big thing," Douglas said. "Kids have a natural reaction when they're tackling to try and dive forward. So we're going to try and make sure they keep their head up."
USA Football hopes these clinics help make a difference, and if they prove results, plan to have even more of them in the future.