Westport PAL president Carm Roda knows parents are concerned about the safety of their boys playing football. He also wants them to know his organization is taking every precaution to make sure they are doing things properly.
"We're trying to make sure we're the leaders for safety for kids as they learn the game,'' Roda said. He said the league spends nearly $35,000 to make football safer for every player. "One third of costs go toward safety issues,'' Roda says.
Westport PAL tackles safety issues in three ways: education, training and equipment. Each coach must attend a CPR course, a concussion seminar, have their criminal background checked and participate in a positive coaching certification course. They also need to achieve a score of 80 percent or higher on a football coaching certification test.
Westport also sends out helmets and shoulder pads to be re-certified. Coaches are trained in how to fit players properly, and the mouth guards and chin straps are issued by the league to ensure they meet their safety standards.
Coaches also minimize contact, and focus on technique. The league added a trainer to attend practices to help treat and report injuries. "We are far above what all of the other groups are doing,'' Roda says.
There more than 400 children playing football in Westport, either tackle or flag. Preseason training starts Aug. 16, and players must have six hours of conditioning to engage in contact. The season starts Sept. 4. The extra steps are costly, but PAL takes a safety-first approach.
"If you ask other leagues, they don't have to re-certify their equipment every year,'' Roda says. "We feel our biggest asset is our children. We're teaching them a great game in the safest manner possible."
Parents are invited to attend concussion seminars on Aug. 7 at 11:30 a.m. and Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. at Saugatuck Elementary. Click here to find out how to register for the upcoming season.
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