It’s a violent game that makes a lot of parents uneasy, but numbers for Pee Wee football continue to grow in the Miami Valley.
Safety is a major concern for the estimated 15,000 kids who will suit up for teams around the Dayton area this fall. Concussions are a constant concern no matter if the athlete is 6 years old or 16. The idea is to teach the proper techniques at an early age.
That’s why several local coaches spent a morning recently at Beavercreek High School learning how to teach youngsters to play the game the right way and educating adults on keeping the players safe.
It’s part of a program called “Heads Up Football,” which was developed by USA Football to help lessen the impact of concussions.
“The most important thing is having a controlled environment for practice to get them ready for games,” said Pee Wee coach Darrin Roth. “That way they know how to tackle, they know how to fall and they know the proper form when it’s time time to go full speed.”
Roth is the player-safety coach for the Western Ohio Junior Football Conference. He admits the game at the youth level has changed in the last decade to reflect problems that could persist as players get older, faster, and stronger.
“The kids health is more important to me than winning,” he said. “I’m going to make sure that if that kid tells me he has a headache and he doesn’t feel good, he’s not playing again until he gets checked out by a doctor.”
The clinic also focused on providing the proper equipment and making sure a child doesn’t take the field with a helmet or shoulder pads that doesn’t fit.
“We have to make sure that players are comfortable in their gear and not afraid to hit,” Roth said. “Just because we’re wearing equipment doesn’t mean we’re invincible, but we’re trying to teach a new way of football and make sure the kids are safer and most important, having fun.”