For the fifth consecutive year, the NFL, its teams and players recognize USA Football as the sport's leader in youth development and coaching education highlighted this year by the NFL's support of the new Heads Up Football initiative. The New Orleans Saints recognized Heads Up football and its impact in the community as the Saints Charity Spotlight at the team's Aug. 16 win over the Oakland Raiders.
"It is great partnering with the Saints," said Marvin Krelan, coach of the Goretti Saints. "The fact that the NFL and the Saints are backing the program validates the teaching tools that my coaches use. The kids feel like they are learning how to play correctly so they can one day put on a high school, college, or maybe NFL uniform."
Heads Up Football is a nationwide program launched by USA Football in April 2013 with a $1.5 million grant from the NFL Foundation. The NFL and USA Football are working together to change the culture of America's favorite sport and improve youth football safety by educating coaches, players, and parents on concussion awareness and management, player hydration, proper equipment training, and Heads Up Tackling techniques. More than 2,700 youth football leagues in all 50 states have signed up for the program for the 2013 season.
Players from New Orleans' program attended the Aug. 16 game with Krelan, who said it was the experience of a lifetime.
"The game was really special, especially because of the fact that we were on the field," he said. "The kids were also excited by having the locker room experience. Lining up for the National Anthem with the Saints players on the sideline was outstanding – I got to shake the hand of my hero, Head Coach Sean Payton, and it made my day. What topped off the perfect experience was the halftime scrimmage with all the fans and hearing them cheer for the kids."
The Saints showed their continued support of youth player safety by hosting a Heads Up Football Player Safety Coach clinic during the offseason at the Saints Practice Facility on Airline Drive in Metairie. USA Football taught league representatives from throughout the state who can now, in turn, teach Heads Up Football to their youth league coaches, players, and parents.
Youth football coaches can become Heads Up Football certified by visiting www.usafootball.com and completing an online safety education curriculum. A free USA Football mobile application can be downloaded to iPhone and Android devices placing football health and safety information, including CDC concussion protocols, directly into the hands of coaches and parents.