An old-school ball coach would never have imagined a day when a group of youth football players would change the landscape of the sport.
That’s what happened when Dick Adams, a former football coach at Annandale High School in Fairfax County, Va., attended a USA Football presentation in the neighboring town of Centreville in the fall of 2012. The youth football program at Centreville was one of three Heads Up Football pilot programs in the country.
Adams says, “I was amazed at what these young 6- to 10-year-old athletes were doing, watching them go through the Heads Up Tackling fundamentals. At that moment I was convinced that this was something that could be beneficial at the high school level and all levels.”
The following fall, the Fairfax County Public School system adopted Heads Up Football and implemented the program in the district’s 25 high schools.
Launching Heads Up Football in Fairfax County started in the summer with coaching education and a certification clinic, where coaches and trainers were trained on the 5 Pillars of Heads Up Football:
Coaching education and certification. The only nationally accredited course with educational content created by football experts and health professionals. Coaches complete an age-based course and earn certification.
Equipment fitting. Instructs coaches and parents on how to properly fit a player into any brand-name helmet or shoulder pads and check the fit and condition of the equipment throughout the season.
Concussion awareness. Training to identify concussion signs and symptoms through CDC-approved protocols as well as what to do if a concussion is suspected.
Heads up tackling. Implementing five fundamentals through a series of drills to reinforce proper tackling mechanics and teach players how to tackle, with a focus on keeping the head up.
Player safety coach. Trained to guide and direct the parents, coaches and players in the football program.
Adams says, “Heads Up Tackling is the most positive action that’s been taken to address the concussion awareness program. If you don’t think you need the Heads Up program, you’re going to have to get involved, because we’ve got to address the issue of player safety and approach the situation to make the game safer, and this program provides that.”
Watch the featured video above to learn more about the 5 Pillars of Heads Up Football, and head to USA Football to find out how you can implement the program for your team, school or league.