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Saints provide leadership, financial support for USA Football's Heads Up Football program

Posted Jan 28, 2016

High school athletic associations in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi endorse the program

The Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA), Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) and the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) have endorsed USA Football’s Heads Up Football® program for the betterment of the states’ student-athletes with local leadership from the New Orleans Saints. The three-state endorsement is the first of its kind within an NFL team’s market. A total of 20 state high school athletic associations and coaches associations combined endorse the USA Football program.

USA Football, the sport’s national governing body and recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee, certifies more high school and youth coaches combined than any organization in the U.S.

In preparation for the 2016 football season, all three state high school athletic associations recommend that its football-offering member schools register for Heads Up Football, which has earned the endorsement of leaders in medicine, child advocacy and sport. Created and administered by independent nonprofit USA Football, Heads Up Football establishes medically endorsed standards rooted in the best available science. The program, available to all U.S. high schools, is employed by more than 1,100 high schools.

On a regional level, New Orleans Saints Senior Director of Community and Governmental Affairs Stephen Pate was a vital catalyst in opening doors for the USA Football program, advancing its nationally endorsed standards across the Gulf Coast’s three state high school athletic associations. In addition to Pate’s work with representatives from each state, Saints Director of Youth Programs Jason Trosclair has been working with USA Football for the last six years to include Heads Up Football-related content in youth initiatives.

The Saints continue to champion smarter and safer play for young athletes through Heads Up Football, conducting clinics to further educate coaches, parents and players. Events hosted by the Saints include USA Football Player Safety Coach Clinics, Moms Clinics and forums with regional youth football leaders to expand and encourage youth and high school teams to enroll in the USA Football program.

In addition to increasing awareness across the Gulf Coast, the Saints have provided $100,000 to fully fund Heads Up Football’s enrollment fee of $10 per coach for every high school in each of the three states.

Heads Up Football is a comprehensive approach to teach and play the No. 1 participatory sport of U.S. high school boys. Supported by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM), the program teaches tackling and blocking techniques designed to reduce helmet contact while addressing all-sport-relevant topics with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concussion recognition and response; sudden cardiac arrest protocols; hydration and heat preparedness; and instruction on proper helmet and shoulder pad fitting.

“USA Football commends every state high school athletic association that is committed to deliver Heads Up Football’s medically endorsed standards and research-based effectiveness to its student-athletes,” USA Football CEO Scott Hallenbeck said. “The Saints' exceptional support toward USA Football helps us deliver our programming to more high schools across the Gulf Coast. Through Tom Benson’s commitment to high school coaches and athletes, the Saints are a leader among the college conferences and NFL teams who work with us to advance Heads Up Football’s standards.”

“This announcement is the culmination of efforts between the high school athletic associations, USA Football and representatives for the Saints,” Saints Owner Tom Benson said. “In the spring, we promoted Stephen Pate to senior director of community and governmental affairs and specifically tasked him to work with USA Football to pursue the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s Heads Up Football endorsement for every high school in our home state. Once Heads Up Football’s presence was secured in Louisiana, we wanted to help expand USA Football’s program to Alabama and Mississippi as well, advancing the safety of student-athletes at high schools across the Gulf South.

“In addition to helping facilitate the growing relationships with our high schools and USA Football, we are in the process of securing funding to assist in offsetting the cost of coach certifications. Our goal is to have every school district enrolled in USA Football’s nationally endorsed program. We hope this is the starting point for the region to ensure that Heads Up Football is the standard by which our sport is taught and played in every high school in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi within the next three years.”

The LHSAA, MHSAA and AHSAA have become the 11th, 12th, and 13th state high school athletic associations, respectively, to stand with sport and medical experts in endorsing USA Football’s Heads Up Football program for the good of its student-athletes, joining Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Alabama would be the 13th state to endorse the program. Seven high school coaches associations also endorse Heads Up Football, including the Louisiana High School Coaches Association.

“We are excited to be partnering with USA Football through its Heads Up Football program,” said AHSAA Executive Director STEVE SAVARESE. “We share the common goal of educating our coaches, administrators and players about the best health and safety practices concerning high school football. We must be vigilant in continuing to find ways to make the game of football more safe, thus allowing the student-athletes to continue to learn the important life lessons that this unique sport can teach.”

“The safety of our student-athletes remains my number one priority, and USA Football’s Heads Up Football promotes just that,” LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine said. “The partnership between the LHSAA, our state’s high school coaches association, the New Orleans Saints and USA Football is a prime example of the collaborative work that we continue to put forward for our young people.”

“Our state association and member schools continue to emphasize the importance of coaching and teaching proper techniques and skills that are necessary to maximize safe play and minimize all risks involved by students participating in contact sports,” MHSAA Executive Director Don Hinton said. “Heads Up Football provides continuing education to our coaches that increases the awareness of important standards for participation in order to properly play the game and ensure the safety of all participants.”

“USA Football is an important member of the high school football family,” said Bob Gardner, executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). “We encourage our member state associations to employ Heads Up Football’s comprehensive hands-on and online curriculum and are encouraged by how the program continues to be embraced and adopted, particularly in these three states.”

"Heads Up Football reinforces many of the safety messages the NATA communicates and is an excellent complement to our organizational initiatives designed to make sports safer for young athletes,” said NATA President Scott Sailor, EdD, ATC. “Our association is proud to endorse this valuable program that aligns so closely with our goal to keep young and aspiring athletes on the field, off the sidelines, and doing what they enjoy best in a safe and competitive environment.”

Every high school that participates in Heads Up Football designates a Player Safety Coach (PSC) from its football coaching staff. PSCs are trained by USA Football to guide, direct and monitor the program’s implementation as well as lead in-person training for fellow coaches, parents and players. PSCs have access to USA Football clinics statewide throughout the spring and summer to learn Heads Up Football protocols and techniques.

Coaches enrolled in Heads Up Football complete an online certification course developed by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and USA Football.

KEY FEATURES OF HEADS UP FOOTBALL

High School Player Safety Coach (PSC)

A coaching staff member who will complete hands-on training at a USA Football Player Safety Coach Clinic and will teach Heads Up Football health and safety education protocols across your program. Your team’s Player Safety Coach will lead efforts in coaching certification and conducting safety clinics for coaches, parents and players.

High School Coaching Certification

USA Football provides every coach within a Heads Up Football-registered program with accredited courses, developed with football experts and health professionals. Coaches with valid USA Football certification are eligible for coaching insurance.

EDUCATION COMPONENTS OF HEADS UP FOOTBALL

Concussion Recognition and Response

Education is the first step to advance student-athlete safety. As part of Heads Up Football’s curriculum, football programs are provided concussion recognition and response resources developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Participating schools empower coaches and parents to become educated on concussion signs and symptoms and how to respond.

Proper Equipment Fitting

Learn how to properly fit helmets and shoulder pads. Properly fitted equipment advances player safety.

Heat Preparedness and Hydration

Education for coaches and parents increases the emphasis on all-sport-relevant prevention, recognition and basic treatment of athletes. Developed with experts at the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut, Heads Up Football’s heat- and hydration-related curriculum encompasses best practices.

Heads Up Tackling and Heads Up Blocking technique

Series of fundamental drills reinforce proper tackling and blocking mechanics, teaching players how to perform these basic football skills with a focus on reducing helmet contact.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Instruction on how to have plans and procedures in place to quickly react in the case of cardiac events, the leading cause of fatalities during exercise for U.S. children and teens.