Football Safety Tips … YES, Safety Is An Issue!

My experience as a player, coach, and yes even a Soldier have lead me to always look at football safety tips at this time of year. Indulge me for moment as I reflect on my days as a football player.

Football Safety TipsMy first helmet was solid high grade plastic with a web of leather padded straps inside–best helmet there was “back in the day”. My coaches were all certified through the local league’s certification program. And if I got hurt, or thought I was hurt my Mom was a nurse and the final moderator. Football was like a social event for parents–they were all there for practices, games, functions, everything.

But even with all of that, they didn’t know what they didn’t know. Dehydration was common, getting your bell rung (concussions) were funny, and pain was for sissies. Only broken bones were a reason to sit and that’s because they were the only thing a doctor could definitively show a parent on an xray.

Today we find ourselves in the midst of an awakening with regard to sports injuries and football is under particular scrutiny. This evolution to where we are today seems to have been spurred by the popularity of the sport and the willingness of young men and women to step up and coach. Unfortunately, we have let the certification of coaches and the involvement level of parents fall to the wayside.

The result is lots of kids playing football, lots of inexperienced, even unqualified, individuals as coaches, and a laser focus on safety. Sadly, this only exacerbates the situation. So how do we fix it? How do we make a sport that is inherently physically violent, safe; or at least safer? I have some thoughts.

Changing a Culture

First and foremost, we need to change the culture of football, and that starts at the youth level. Players have to be allowed to be open about injures. The fact is, most kids, 6-12 years old, don’t even know the difference between pain and injury. Parents and coaches need to be hyper-sensitive to this aspect of youth players and “allow” players to be injured.

Moreover, they have to create an environment where it is ok to “take a knee” when they are hurt. This goes completely against the culture of the game of football, against the mentality that we have instilled in our players. And as Parents and Coaches–we are part of the problem, the kids are learning from us all the time.Football Safety Tips

The tough part of changing this culture is time. How much time are we as parents and coaches willing to put into our kids? Are we willing to educate ourselves, our coaches, and kids to make sure they are safe; moreover, do we have the time, can we take the time? Important questions.

Notice the theme of my previous paragraph–Parents. Parents call the shots believe it or not. Parents pay the fees and the doctor bills, they provide the logistics of getting kids to and from practices and games, they help the kids through the ups and downs of the season, and they provide the ultimate piece of the game–the players.

Parents Are The Key

Let me begin here by saying YES there are thousands of coaches across this country that pick up kids for practices and games everyday. However, ultimately, the parents are the key to all things when it comes to their kids playing sports.

They pay the fees, they work out the logistics, the fundraisers, make deals with other parents when they have schedule conflicts, you name it.Football Safety Tips

But our young athletes also need parents to be knowledgeable about SAFETY. And they need to demand that coaches are uniformly certified to coach and to coach SAFELY. And they need to hold coaches accountable–if a coach is showing complete disregard for player safety, being verbally or physically abusive with players, etc–parents have to take him/her to task. Often times, the coach is simply another parent or friend of the family, and they need to know that parents are willing to take him/her to task.

This is a LOT. But in our society we are well beyond turning the safety of our kids over to someone else and we do have options. Now how do we prepare our coaches to deal with the rigors of the season.

Coaching Certifications

How do you certify a coach? Do we care how many games he’s won, are we interviewing him/her beforehand, is there a committee approving them, what do they know about football, what about safety, what is important for them to know–who decides that? Ask yourself all of these questions and you will immediately come up with 100 more very quickly, I do.

Does your league have any type of certification in place at all? Any kind of training at all? Any kind of standards for your coaches? By and large, No. The last league I was associated with had NOTHING. The coaches didn’t even teach the kids how to get into a stance, it was terrible.

My career has given me the opportunity to play and coach in a variety of locations around the country. By and large, coaches are accepted for who they claim to be and ordained subject matter experts. Some communities have more established certification programs that others, but many don’t. Coaches are hard to come by, especially at the youth level, and certification programs can be expensive.

BUT, certification programs are absolutely necessary, especially given the risks. But alas, all hope is not lost. Ask a coach, ask a neighboring community what they do, establish one! Also, there are fully established, ready to launch programs out there, you just have to find them. Luckily we have the internet now as well.

Heads Up!

I want to offer you “a solution”, the Heads Up program. NO, I don’t get anything out of promoting this particular program. But as I look at the curriculum, the people who run it, and the people who endorse it, I find it to be an outstanding path to keeping our young players safe and teaching them how to play the game right.

Heads Up offers coaching certification at all levels, including our level–Youth. Their key components:

  • Concussion Recognition and Response
  • Heat Preparedness and Hydration
  • Sudden Cardiac Arrest
  • Proper Equipment Fitting
  • Shoulder Tackling
  • Blocking
  • Coaching 101

The program also includes Parent and Team Education programs and throughout they have tons of football safety tips for coaches, players, and parents. CLICK HERE to learn more about the Heads Up program.

My Final Thoughts on Safety

This is a tough subject and I know that I haven’t gone into a lot of depth, especially with the hot topic of concussions. I’ve heard recommendations from “end football” to “disregard safety”, in reality, I’m not much of an extremist so I am somewhere in the middle. Science on concussions specifically is still developing, and parents should definitely educate themselves on the risks–I don’t know enough to give you a specific recommendation.

As to the risks of injury, the best prevention I’ve seen in my career as a player and coach is proper technique and conditioning. Technique has become almost a lost art in many small communities. The Xs and Os of coaching seem to override technique. And conditioning is not as well understood as you might expect in this day and age.

Kids are our future, their safety is our responsibility. Get online, talk to coaches and players you respect, talk to other parents, make sure you have certification programs in place, get involved. Parents are the key!

If you have questions or comments about this post please leave them below.

Also, if you have other topics you’d like to hear about from me, leave them below as well.

Skip

 

 

 

 

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20 Comments on “Football Safety Tips … YES, Safety Is An Issue!”

  1. What a nice post you wrote! I really enjoyed reading it and I could not be silent about your post so I decided to leave my comment here and say Thank You! For sharing this quality post with others.
    Actually this is exactly the information that I was looking for about football safety tips and when I landed to your website and read this post, it answered all my questions in details.
    So I’m happy that you decided to write about this topic and share it with people. It’s very useful and can definitely be used as a great source for football safety tips.
    I will come back to your website again for sure and I’m looking forward to read your new posts.)

    Thanks!

  2. Fantastic article. When reading your articles it’s such a joy it always brings me back to my younger days playing. I know the helmet you speak of I had the same and always switching up face masks.
    You so right back in our days concussions were not to be serious just take a break and rest.
    Safety is huge today as it should be and your article is spot on and all coaches need to read this.
    Thank you so much for letting me go back in times of my youth football days.
    David

    1. Thanks David. Everything I write about is from personal experience, so I, and it sounds like we, have gotten to see the game evolve–mostly for the better. Hopefully this article helps parents to better see their role in their children’s safety.

  3. What I have to say is I really really appreciate that you stress how important the parents are to the childrens’ success! What an integral part of the entire process the parents are! Sometimes, as a parent of children in sports, I do feel like a second rate citizen. I sometimes feel left out of the loop, and I have to let go. Some of the coaches really embrace the parents, while others seem to think we are a nuisance.

    So thank you for that, and for really caring about the kids. Websites cost money, and time, and producing one is no small task. I think it’s great you did this write up and recommendation without compensation. It speaks for your character, but with such good info, I don’t think it would matter if they did pay you a referral fee.

    Looking forward to more great articles! I feel like you’re in my corner!

    1. Appreciate the comments Babsie! I definitely understand the “second rate citizen” feeling. I have literally had to inject myself into practices just to make sure that kids were actually being taught/coached by their coaches, because those coaches tried to push the parents out, they did not want anyone questioning them. But as parents(and grandparents for me), that is our job. And part of a coach’s job as this level is to educate parents.

  4. Hello there Skip, great article here. You are super correct here with the player safety, ESPECIALLY concussions; that’s a big deal. No wonder many mothers don’t want their kids playing football; isn’t it true that every player gets a concussion and pretty much every player is going to get injured? Talk about the need for a mass safety protocol! Great going Skip!

    1. Thanks Evan. My hope is that the sport, particularly at the youth level, will come together as a community and really start to police itself a lot better. Like they say, it takes a village.

  5. Hi! My husband loves football and my 3 yr old son loves it too! He always talk about how he will play football in school when he grows up and showing me some his crazy moves,lol! I get scared for him because of all the injuries and stories I have been hearing about the sports. I appreciate this article so much and it gives me knowledge on how to help in safety in this game. I appreciate it and will look into your recommendations here.

    1. Injuries will happen, but they can be mitigated, even eliminated to a certain extent with proper coaching, equipment, and parental involvement. I’ve seen the difference first hand. Good luck with that 3 year old 😉

  6. I love this post! As a parent and grandparent along with covering games for the local newspaper, I have watched a lot of football games in my time! I always worry about those young men and boys and, girls, too, that are on the field giving it their all! I have seen injuries and I have seen pain. I’ve seen good and bad coaching. Our children’s safety is of utmost importance and you are right, correct conditioning and technique. I appreciate the job you do and the time and care that you put into it! Kudos! I’m also going to mention the Heads Up program to our area coaches.

  7. I’m not American and football isn’t a thing where I’m from. It’s mostly an American sport and only a few other countries play American football.

    However, safety in football can be extrapolated to safety in all sports. And from what I’ve seen on TV football could be a dangerous game. If you’ve ever seen the movie Concussion, you know that injuries should be taken seriously. So I totally agree with you that we need to change the mindset and tell our kids that it’s okay to feel pain and it’s okay to “take a knee” as you said and sit it out if they’re injured. “Being a man” and not admitting you’re injured or in pain is plain dumb.

    And quite frankly coaches are to blame. They really do push these kids way too much and often take the fun out of the game and focus on competitiveness and winning at all costs.

    Thanks for sharing

    Kevon

  8. Hey Skip, I think it’s crucial for kids playing any sport to be safe especially football since there’s so much contact. As parents, you want them to have fun but to be careful as well. When I was in high school a football player was walking on his way home and stopped into the gas station to get a drink and he came out and died! To this day they don’t know why if it was from an injury or not. I never forgot it. Safety first!

    1. Unfortunately, we have experienced some real tragedies in the sport of football. I’ve seen a few myself. That’s why I’m a huge fan of the Heads Up program–it brings real training and awareness to everybody involved in the game.

  9. This is a great article how to prevent injuries, I’m pretty sure lots of people have no idea how dangerous this sport can be ( it is a very though one, and honestly, I don’t like that my child would play it), so I really hope your post is going to help seeing to people that an injury has to be taken seriously!

  10. Thanks for shining a light on this newly controversial subject. When my son played the coaches kept the (female) parents at bay and we didn’t have much input.
    Now I have grandchildren coming up in grade school who aren’t playing yet but the day is not far off.
    I’m hoping their parents and coaches will work together to address the issues you brought up. I am going to send them a link to this article for reference.
    Many thanks for the great information!

  11. Hi Skip,
    Really good article and you make some valid points like children don’t necessarily know pain from an injury, I’d never really thought of that. I also like your point that parents are actually the ones in control so their input should be welcomed. It’s a hard one getting the whole macho, go out and hurt someone attitude gone but as you say give the right knowledge and education to the parents, coaches and kids and old attitudes will change.

    Keep up the good work

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