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Arkansas coaches learn heads up football |

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Arkansas coaches learn heads up football
Arkansas coaches learn heads up football

CONWAY, Ark. (KTHV) -- Friday night football heroes are forged in the summer heat. In recent years, protecting young football players from that heat has been the top safety concern.

But now, there's a new worry about concussions. And that's why coaches from across the state gathered on Friday in Conway.

Even the NFL is threatened by concussions and head injuries. At that level, it's about liability and the quality of life after the game.

For Arkansas high school football coaches, it’s about convincing parents that the game is safe and kids that they can have fun on the field.

“The parents are really concerned about their kids, but if you can show them that you're going to take care of their kids, I have seen an increase in kids that usually don't play are gravitating back into our program.”

Keith Scott is the head coach at Mountain Pine High School. He also took time off from coaching to watch his son play football. He has seen the safety focus shift.

“The safety protocol that I have noticed that I went through with the kids has changed dramatically from the time he was in peewee to the time he graduated.”

“It's just about making our kids safer to play the game of football.”

Coaches like Billy Ellmore are often also teachers. In today's environment, where even the NFL is threatened by the same concerns, these coaches teach more than x's and o's.

“We go over several different things. We go over heat and Hydration, concussion awareness, sudden cardiac and along with emergency action plan.”

Ellmore is a so-called master of the USA Football's "Heads Up" program.

It takes money from the NFL and turns it into reforms to how coaches teach the game.

“We're taking the head out of the tackle. And I think that's the biggest thing about it...taking the head out of the blocking and tackling.”

Coaches from across the state attended the clinic. The drills and classes will be used in their programs. It's not required or mandated, but liability worries are demanding it. And for coaches with their own kids on the field, they're helping convince fellow parents who are skeptical that football is safe.

“There's a lot of parents that are going to say that if you can do this, you're doing the right thing.”

On its face, reducing injuries is obviously a good thing. But in the real world, these coaches say reducing injuries means small programs can continue to field teams.

It means smaller kids feel like they can play with the big boys. And it also means they have more fun.