Posts Tagged ‘Safety’


Tallis Wallington runs through a football drill Tuesday at the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl Football Clinic at UNLV.

W.G. Ramirez

“Football has become safer to play than it’s ever been – it’s the world’s greatest game.”

That was the message UNLV football coach Bobby Hauck continually embedded into the minds of nearly 600 exuberant youths who attended Tuesday’s Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl Youth Football Clinic at Rebel Park.

And while Hauck might have an easier time getting his Rebels back into the postseason than he did grabbing the attention of the rotating groups of roughly 100 whippersnappers ranging in age from six through 14, it was the ensuing message that left the parents in attendance eyes wide open.

“Last year there was one youth football player nationally who died; 600 kids died riding their bikes,” he told each audience.

Alarming? Sure. True? Possibly.

Based on the research I did by scouring the Internet, there is no doubt that hundreds of bicyclists died last year. Of course, many were hit by cars, but from what I can tell, the youths who died from head trauma were not wearing helmets.

Safety first.

Which brings us back to not only Hauck’s first comment, but the same message I’ve heard all summer in conducting several interviews for a handful of football projects.

Tuesday was no different, and it was refreshing to see so many kids enthusiastic about a sport that has been conked upside the noggin with a national concern toward head injuries.

“I think the game, to a degree, has been under attack a little bit,” Hauck said. “It’s good to see these parents and all these kids excited about football. Five and 600 kids out here on a Tuesday morning in early August to participate in a football camp is kind of exciting, just to see the interest level in Revel football, and also in the game itself.”


After a pre-clinic speech, the kids were broken up into colorized groups – purple, red, yellow, etc – and taken to different stations where the Rebels practice every day. Some moved through drills as if they felt they’d be the next Robert Griffin III, others were there with their youth-football league teammates – like the Las Vegas Aces – getting ready for the season, there boys and girls just having fun and like most athletic events like these, there was a random father or two that was more into the training than his son.

“My dad keeps yelling at me that I’m in the wrong line,” cried one little camper to UNLV defensive back Sidney Hodge, who promptly flipped the boy’s frown upside down with a vote of confidence, got him in line – which the boy was right about all along – and the young trooper dominated his next time through the drill.

“I have two kids of my own, so coming out here, being fired up trying to show a little enthusiasm for them, I know it goes a long way,” Hodge said. “I would strongly encourage a lot more kids to come out. I think it’s something good for them – as far as learning the game of football.”

And learning it the right way, at a young age.

“The key to the whole thing is teaching the kids the game the right way at the right age,” said John Saccenti, executive director of the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. “We have professional coaches here with UNLV football coaches and football players who hopefully can teach these kids how to play the game the right way and how to stay safe and enjoy the game.”


Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl executive director John Saccenti addresses a group of youths at Tuesday’s football clinic. Nearly 600 local youths attended the clinic at UNLV.

On a national level, there has been an increased effort toward educating parents, players and coaches about the sport, much deeper than before. Heads Up Football has been adopted by nearly 2,800 groups, and as the second season of the educational program begins, it has the biggest backer it could ask for – the National Football League. The NFL has granted USA Football – the national governing body for the sport – with a five-year, $45 million endowment. With nearly 11,000 football leagues across the United States, former Pittsburgh Steeler and ESPN analyst Merril Hoge believes Heads Up Football can eventually become a teaching tool nationally.

“It is the responsibility of parents, administrators, coaches – I don’t care the sport, even a teacher at during recess or lunch – they need to be educated on head trauma,” Hoge told me earlier this summer. “We have done a better job in football.”

Hoge said the biggest mistake parents can make is to take their kids out of extracurricular activity, and that by avoiding to take action to provide a safer environment for their children, it’ll be a bigger detriment in the long run.

“Part of that is about playing the game correctly, teaching the game correctly, so if and when there is head trauma, the proper protocol is followed,” Hoge said. “When you do that, the (athlete) is returned to play in a safe state. Doing the right thing, understanding the right symptoms – whatever environment we’re talking about – we’ve created a safer environment.

“We have parents who are not going to let their son play (football), but they’ll drive home and let them jump on a bike without a helmet. There is more upside to sports and being active, especially in a certified program that provides a safer environment, than sitting on a couch eating donuts and playing X-Box.”

Hoge said concussion awareness has become widespread nationwide, and an arduous effort in educating and informing people – from youth football, to high school, to college and to the NFL – is finally paying off. Hoge believes, as a whole, football is in a proactive state, rather than a reactive state, as there is enough information available to learn how to treat head injuries properly.

“Where we’re at now, compared to three years ago, is astronomical,” Hoge said.

Said Saccenti: “If we’re all getting together and we’re teaching kids how to play the right way, how to tackle the right way … and trying to keep the game safe, at this age, hopefully that carries with them at every level and makes them better football players and safer football players.”

Hauck agreed.

“I feel good about the game, I think it’s safer than it’s ever been,” Hauck said. “I still think it’s the world’s greatest game.”