In a conference room down the hall from his office, Roger Goodell played the role of running back while a youth coach demonstrated the safest way to tackle.
The NFL commissioner was impressed. "I like your technique initiative," Goodell told three player safety coaches trained by USA Football, the national governing body for youth football.
Heads Up Football was launched Wednesday. The program uses a three-step game plan to ensure safer play. USA Football is training the player safety coaches, who then will teach coaches at their leagues and educate parents and players on the proper way of tackling to avoid injuries.
Those coaches also will educate everyone involved in youth football about concussion awareness and the correct way to identify and use equipment. One of the breakthroughs is encouraging parents to be "collectively part of the solution," said Scott Hallenbeck, USA Football's executive director.
"I really like the idea of the parents being involved," Goodell added. "I have 11-year-old girls and the first thing I focus on is the coaches. Are they capable of supervising? Are they capable of teaching?"
For now, Heads Up Football is a pilot program that Hallenbeck hopes becomes the norm across America.
The first three player safety coaches are Rick Regalado of Santa Monica, Calif., Tom Healy of Fairfax, Va., and Michael Brandt of Noblesville, Ind. Each was chosen by the commissioner of his local league, and, after the coaches completed USA Football's training regimen, they headed back home to pass on the knowledge.
Ideally, there will be player safety coaches working in every league, although that could take years to implement.
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