USA Football to Lead Player Safety on Youth Level

Posted in: Foundation Partners, Youth Football, Player Health & Safety

USA Football to Lead Player Safety on Youth Level Through Heads Up Football Program's Master Trainers

USA Football, the national governing body of the sport in the United States, will conduct its first Heads Up Football Master Trainer workshop on March 2-3 in Indianapolis.

USA Football will instruct 21 Master Trainers, including some of the top high school football coaches in the nation as well as former NFL and college players. This group will then teach the Heads Up Football program to youth league leaders across the country.

Heads Up Football is a comprehensive approach to a better and safer game, encompassing USA Football’s accredited Level 1 Coach Certification Course, Heads Up Tackling techniques, educating leagues on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concussion recognition and response protocols and instructing on proper helmet and shoulder pad fitting. USA Football’s Master Trainers bring a wealth of experience and success – including a combined 26 high school state championships – to the position.

After completing the USA Football workshop, Master Trainers will instruct youth leagues in their regions on Heads Up Football, educating youth league-appointed Player Safety Coaches who will oversee their leagues’ implementation of the highest national coaching standards for youth football. These standards include league-wide completion of the Level 1 Coach Certification Course as well as conducting a Heads Up Football Coaches Clinic and a Heads Up Safety Clinic for parents and players within their leagues. Player Safety Coaches also will monitor their leagues’ practices and games throughout the season.

“Heads Up Football promotes a safer, better game,” USA Football Executive Director Scott Hallenbeck said. “We are proud to have this group assist us in leading America’s youth football community as Heads Up Football Master Trainers, helping to set the highest standards of player safety and coaching education in any youth sport.”


“Youth leagues have a tremendous opportunity in 2013 to adopt USA Football’s Heads Up Football program,” Cincinnati Bengals head coach MARVIN LEWIS said. “USA Football has earned my trust – they put the safety of our kids first and offer the training youth coaches need to be exceptional teachers.

 “All of us in the football community, at each level of the game, need to be committed to raising youth football’s standards, and Heads Up Football does that.”

 Adds New York Giants head coach TOM COUGHLIN: “USA Football is establishing a set of standards by which a person becomes certified to coach, and I endorse that 100 percent. Only allow your child to play when you know that USA Football certification is there for the coach and you know that your child is being taught the proper fundamentals of the game and that real intelligence has gone into the preparation of practices.”

 Among USA Football’s Heads Up Football Master Trainers are:

  • CHUCK KYLE, head coach, Cleveland St. Ignatius High School – winner of 11 Ohio Division I state titles and three USA Today national championships
  • JOHN RODERIQUE, head coach, Webb City (Mo.) High School – winner of eight Missouri state high school championships and was an assistant with NCAA Division II national champion Pittsburg State University (1991)
  • STEVE SPECHT, head coach, Cincinnati St. Xavier High School – winner of two Ohio Division I state titles and the 2012 Don Shula NFL Coach of the Year Award
  • BUDDY CURRY, veteran youth football coach and former Atlanta Falcons linebacker who was named the 1980 Co-NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year

Adopted by youth leagues on a national level in 2013, Heads Up Football requires four primary elements:

Coaching education

  • All coaches within a youth program are trained to teach the game’s fundamentals by completing USA Football’s nationally accredited Level 1 Coaching Education Course.

Concussion recognition and response

  • Coaches learn and are assessed on CDC concussion recognition and response through USA Football’s Level 1 Coaching Education Course.
  • Coaches, parents and players are taught concussion-related protocols at the start of the season at a league-wide clinic and have them reinforced throughout the season. 

Tackling technique

  • USA Football’s Heads Up Tackling technique, endorsed by medical and football experts, teaches players to keep their heads up and out of the line of contact.

Equipment fitting

  • Coaches, parents and players are taught proper helmet and shoulder pad fitting.

USA Football’s Heads Up Tackling technique was developed with contributions of USA Football’s Tackle Advisory Committee, which includes Northwestern head coach PAT FITZGERALD, UCLA head coach JIM MORA, former NFL running back MERRIL HOGE, Miami Christopher Columbus High School head coach CHRIS MERRITT and sports psychologist DR. DAVID YUKELSON.

USA Football is the official youth development partner of the NFL and its 32 teams as well as college’s Atlantic Coast Conference.

USA Football’s Heads Up Football Master Trainers:




Tom Bainter

Seattle, Wash.

Bothell (Wash.) High School head coach

Aaron Brady

Washington, D.C.

Gonzaga College High School head coach

Kevin Brown

Kansas City, Kan.

Veteran youth football coach

Buddy Curry

Atlanta, Ga.

Former Atlanta Falcons linebacker and veteran youth football coach

Vincent DiGaetano

Valley Stream, N.Y.

SUNY-Maritime College defensive coordinator

Artie Gigantino

Oakland, Calif.

Former Los Angeles Raiders special teams coordinator and linebackers coach

Chris Greisen

Green Bay, Wisc.

Former Division II All-American and NFL quarterback

Chris Haddock

Clifton, Va.

Centreville High School head coach

Mike Haynes

Dallas, Texas

Former NFL defensive lineman, veteran Texas high school football coach

Gabe Infante

Philadelphia, Pa.

St. Joseph’s Preparatory School

Chuck Kyle

Cleveland, Ohio

St. Ignatius High School head coach

Lawrence Lee

San Diego, Calif.

Veteran youth football coach, San Diego American Youth Football and Cheer

Neal Martin

San Diego, Calif.

Veteran youth football coach, San Diego American Youth Football and Cheer

Greg McCaig

Houston, Texas

Cypress Creek High School head coach

Chris Merritt

Miami, Fla.

Christopher Columbus High School head coach

John Roderique

Webb City, Mo.

Webb City High School head coach

Jonathan Ross

Cairo, Ga.

Cairo High School assistant coach

E.Z. Smith III

Concord, N.C.

Former Concord High School head coach

Steve Specht

Cincinnati, Ohio

St. Xavier High School head coach

Wayne Voorhees

Broomfield, Colo.

Legacy High School head coach

Thomas Williams

Los Angeles, Calif.

Former NFL linebacker

About USA Football: USA Football, the sport’s national governing body in the United States, hosts dozens of football training events annually offering education for coaches, skill development for players and resources for youth football league commissioners. The independent nonprofit is the official youth football development partner of the NFL, its 32 teams and the NFL Players Association. USA Football manages U.S. national teams within the sport for international competitions and provides more than $1 million annually in equipment grants and youth league volunteer background check subsidies. Endowed by the NFL and NFLPA in 2002 through the NFL Youth Football Fund, USA Football ( is chaired by former NFL team executive Carl Peterson.