Football Niagara is Playing it Safe
Football Niagara is the leading organization in the region offering youth the opportunity to play the great game of football. The league is home to five wonderful organizations that reside in St. Catharines/Thorold (Sea Hawks), Fort Erie (Long Horns), Niagara Falls (Lions, Argos), West Niagara (Steelers, Falcons), and Welland/Port Colborne/Wainfleet (Tiger Cats). Football Niagara also administers the Niagara Generals, an entry in the Ontario Varsity Football League. The Generals have teams in atom, peewee, and bantam. As the league enters the upcoming 2016 season, player safety, as always, is at the top of the list for league organizers, coaches, parents, and players.
Throughout their respective communities, these teams play an important role by providing a safe and fun environment and developing healthy, active children. Football Niagara is making sure that it is a leading organization in all aspects of safety by paying attention to detail and keeping abreast of new practises and procedures.
This year, extra attention is being placed on equipment to ensure that all players have the best protective gear on the market including shoulder pads, football pants and upgraded helmets. The league recently purchased over $60,000 in Riddell Speed Helmets to protect each player’s greatest asset, his/her head.
Football coaches are required to complete Safe Contact training in the latest safe blocking and tackling techniques. Safe Contact teaches a safe tackling technique that emphasizes making contact with the front shoulder and/or chest rather than the head. It emphasizes a blocking technique that stresses making primary contact with the hands and no open-field blocking below the waist. As well, players are taught to brace themselves for contact. The helmet can never be used as a battering ram.
Additional safeguards are provided by having players in the atom and peewee divisions that weigh over 115 pounds and 145 pounds respectively, wear helmets marked with an “X.” They are restricted to playing on the line and cannot be designated ball carriers. To keep current in all aspects of safe play, selected volunteers regularly attend professionally conducted seminars, (the next is in Pittsburg on March 4 and 5), who then facilitate local seminars for all team coaches.
Football Niagara has implemented a “When in doubt, sit them out” policy. The process removes an athlete with signs of an injury from play and ensures that an appropriate healthcare professional, with the knowledge of the player’s parents or guardians, evaluates the player. The athlete is prohibited from further participation until he/she is assessed to be symptom free.
Coaches are trained to look for any unusual symptoms and signs of distress and proceed with the appropriate response. To view a list of warning indicators, recommended procedures and more information, visit: www.footballniagara.com.