Free to any kids interested in attending, the camp was filled with skill seminars that broke the kids down by age group. This allowed the kids to meet their peers from other squads and interact with different coaches.
The camp provided free lunches and training to the kids, and even finished with a pool party on Saturday to help the kids stay cool, “have a good time and enjoy themselves,” said TVYFL president John Nixon.
Yet behind the fun nature of the camp was a serious initiative to help educate about and address the problems of concussions in football.
TVYFL teamed up with USA Football to become the first program in California to host a private “Heads Up” camp program of this scope and size. Roughly over 1,200 kids spanning 18 teams in total attended the camp to learn from their coaches and USA Football master trainers. Approximately 75-plus players from Patterson attended the two-day camp.
Heads Up Football is a program developed by USA Football in conjunction with the NFL to create a nationwide initiative to teach kids an updated, proper form of tackling that is mindful of the rising number of concussions within the sport.
USA Football provides the curriculum and the master trainers that work with local coaches to ensure that techniques are being taught properly. The coaches were given a special private seminar imparting these new tackling values, and, along with the USA Football, took this newfound knowledge to the camp to pass down to the players.
The ultimate goal of the camp is to “provide safe training to lower the possibility of injury or concussion in our youth players,” said Nixon, who himself has dealt with a concussion recently and can relate to living with the effects of concussion trauma. “I have a lot of sympathy and empathy for the players” said Nixon.
Adam Lema, a coach and league representative for the Modesto Christian Kingsmen, echoed these sentiments. “It’s a sport I’m passionate about, but the sport is so fast,” said Lema, speaking as both a parent and a coach of his son who plays football. “You just worry.”
In essence, USA Football is trying to standardize techniques and football philosophy nationwide so that all youth and high school players reach the next level with these safer fundamentals already established.
TVYFL has joined in on the movement. “Online classes are required for certification,” said Joe Powers, vice president of TVYFL and Junior Varsity coach for the Patterson Ravens.
Powers explained USA Football’s requirements to become Heads Up-certified. “All coaches must be certified and background-checked before ever hitting the field,” said Powers.
There are seven levels of certification that USA Football offers to coaches who need to pass these classes in order to coach in their respective TVYFL age groups. “We educate the kids, coaches, referees, but we also educate the parents,” said Powers.
According to Powers, getting parents aware and monitoring their children is just as crucial as anything the coaches do on the field.
All of these changes come in the wake of the slew of concussion controversies in professional sports.
The state of California signed a bill on Oct. 4, 2011 that developed a concussion protocol that all youth organizations must follow.
The bill states that any athlete that has sustained a concussion injury must be immediately removed from the game. The child is not allowed to return until they are evaluated and given clearance by a licensed health care provider trained in the management of concussions. The bill also mandates that on a yearly basis a concussion and head injury sheet shall be signed and returned by the athlete and their parent or guardian before the athlete initiates in practice or competition.
TVYFL has gone even further to ensure as much player safety as possible. The league follows a stringent return-to-play protocol that follows the California bill. Along with these safety measures, each team is assigned a PSC, or player safety coach. Patterson Reapers PSC Gordon Hediger understands the utmost importance of his responsibilities. “No gray area this year,” said Hediger. “When in doubt, you’re out.”
The TVYFL plans to continue this USA Football camp annually. While other sites for the camp are being considered, Hilmar is “logistically a fitting site,” said TVYFL president Nixon.
They hope to see the program expand, and also plan to implement the next stage of comprehensive, safety-based techniques. Right now they’re focusing most on tackling, but in the future, other fundamental issues will be addressed.
The Patterson Ravens and Reapers will begin their 2014 season soon, with the Munchies scrimmages kicking off Aug. 9.
Contact Erick Torres at 892-6187, ext. 28, or email@example.com.