FCIAC holds Heads Up Football coaches clinic in New Canaan

The safety of football players and the effects of injuries, particularly on the brain, sustained while playing the high-impact sport are of the utmost concern among many parents, who are still deciding whether or not to allow their children to play.

Teaching proper tackling techniques, recognizing symptoms of concussions and other injuries, and making sure equipment is safe and fitting properly are just a few of the subjects the FCIAC will address this week when it hosts a Heads Up Football Clinic at 5 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 17, at New Canaan High School.

The clinic is open to all FCIAC football teams, and is being paid for by the league.

“It’s the FCIAC’s way of being proactive with all of the concerns and publicity that’s come out about concussions and CTE and everything else,” said New Canaan head coach Lou Marinelli, also the FCIAC’s football committee chairman. “We believe all of our schools are going to participate. It’s our way of making things safer for kids who play football in our league.”

Heads Up Football is run by USA Football, the governing body of youth football in the United States, and one of its major funders is the NFL, which also promotes Heads Up Football.

The primary focus of Heads Up Football is to improve safety for players, with an emphasis on proper tackling, equipment safety, and concussion recognition. It also deals with heat preparation and dehydration and other health-related issues.

“It’s something the league has gotten behind in an effort to make sure that our coaches are teaching the right techniques for tackling,” Marinelli said. “Ideally, we’d like to have every school have safety coaches to make sure it’s being taught the right way.”

Each of the FCIAC’s football teams are required to have at least three coaches at the clinic, which will include three hours in the classroom with tests and one hour of on-field training. Coaches who attend the clinic and pass the tests will become certified safety coaches by Heads Up Football.

“The league is paying for the training and teams can have as many coaches as they want attend, but you have to have at least three there,” Marinelli said.

With Marinelli being a prime mover for the event, it was decided that New Canaan High School would be the site for the clinic.

“It shows that we care about the kids we coach and we understand the concerns,” Marinelli said. “There are reports which have come out (about CTEs), none of which have been substantiated, but we are trying to get ahead in teaching these things and making sure our kids are safe.

“The league administrators should be commended for insisting that this be done.”

According to Marinelli, his Rams haven’t had many concussions over the years and he feels the number has been kept low because the coaches teach the proper techniques.

“Honestly, we haven’t had that many concussions (in New Canaan),” Marinelli said. “We’ve had some, but we haven’t really changed much with how we’ve treated it because we’ve been doing most of what they call Heads Up for a while. You’re always learning and you never want kids to hit with their head, ever.

“We’ve done so much with our youth (programs), when we teach out you coaches, we reinforce all the things that Heads Up is teaching”