Pop Warner: It’s what children’s dreams are made of. Little boys eagerly await the month of September when their favorite college and pro football teams are back on television battling it out with rivals to win the coveted championship. Little girls can’t wait to see the cheerleaders on the sidelines, wearing their sparkly uniforms and doing stunts that seem to defy gravity. Pop Warner makes it possible for kids to live their dreams much earlier than college by allowing children ages five and up to play football and to cheer.
The smile on your child’s face when he or she gets to don that uniform for the first time, the look of pride in his or her eyes and the tears of happiness that form in your own eye (Oh yes, we know it’s a tear and not the glare of the early morning September sun) when your child takes the field for the first time are unexplainable. What’s also unexplainable is the feeling of absolute and certain fear that strikes your heart the first time your daughter falls from the top of a stunt or the first time your son is tackled on the field.
You’ve seen the news. You know that sports injuries and concussions are real. You know they’re dangerous. You know you can’t just tell a child to shake it off. You know what it’s like to have your heart walking around outside of your body – in this case, on the field in front of you, potentially lying on the ground – knowing that no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot protect your child from all that life will throw at him or her.
Fortunately, the officials at Pop Warner know what you’re feeling (hey, they’re parents, too) and they’ve made the executive decision to help you out. Maybe you can’t protect your child every minute of every day, but Pop Warner has set out to ensure that your child is safer than ever playing football thanks to the NFL and USA Football’s Heads Up Football Program.
What is Heads Up Football?
Heads Up Football is a program designed to help you, your children and your coaches understand the proper way to play the game. The purpose of the Heads Up Football program is to educate about safety; you, your child and your child’s coaches. This program teaches the proper form of tackling that helps to prevent injury as well as the signs and protocol for handling concussions.
Pop Warner and Heads Up Football
Back in August, Pop Warner announced that the league would endorse the Heads Up Football program starting on a voluntary basis for the 2013 football season and on a mandatory basis beginning in the 2014 football season for all of the league’s 1300 programs.
What does this mean for your child? This means your child is going to be safer on the field. Coaches will learn proper technique as well as all there is to know about concussion awareness (though any good coach already knows the tried and true method, “When in doubt, sit them out,” even if it’s about as popular with child athletes as the idea that one day their mom will be their prom date.). When coaches are educated; children are safe.
Kudos to Pop Warner for making football safer for our boys (though as the parent of 2 girls and maybe a boy – find out in less than three weeks! – I have to say that coaching a Pop Warner cheerleading squad this year for my five-year-old has been a real wake-up call to the fact that Pop Warner cheer coaches should be encouraged to take the concussion course). Many parents are unaware of the fact that Pop Warner endorses and encourages stunting even on my daughter’s 5-year-old squad. However, while we practice stunts in the grass at practice, the league has not yet produced safety mats for us to use during games – and our squad stands on the asphalt track surrounding the football field.
Here’s to Pop Warner for taking this step to make football safer for little boys and hopefully future steps to make cheerleading safer for our little girls. They may not be subject to tackling on the sidelines, but that doesn’t exempt them from devastating injury.