Concussions and head injuries have been a hot bottom topic for the last several years as it pertains to playing football and what could happen as a result of playing. For the Phoenix Union High School District Concussions have been up the last few years for football and district athletic director Dr. Zachary Munoz wanted to be proactive.
“Our concussions were going up,” said Munoz. “A lot of our kids don’t play tackle football or organized football until they get to high school were as more affluent districts, kids come in having three or four years experience of youth football.”
So Munoz and former Arizona State and NFL lineman Scott Peters connected about is SAFE Football program to learn ways to make the players safer and more prepared on the field.
“We are providing each player and coach in the district our comprehensive information, basically our curriculum to certify them in teaching them all forms of contact,” explained Peters.
What Peters and his crew do is they first work for about three hours with the coaching staff at each Phoenix Union school teaching them their techniques. Then at another date, they come back and work with both the coaches and players.
It is about safety but also about learning skills and technique that could make you better. This program is not only coming to the aid and broadening the knowledge of players on the field, but coaches on the sidelines as well.
“Anything can be safer,” said Central High head coach Jon Clanton. “We can do a lot of things to make things safer but people think, that’s going to take away from the game. But in reality, what Scott teaches, it enhances the game and makes you safe so it’s not only going to make you safer for the game, it’s going to make you better.”
“For us to be able to use these techniques to make the game safer, it helps keep the game here,” stated South Mountain head coach Mark Carter. “Because of lot of this (playing football) is building camaraderie, believing in something bigger than yourself because in today’s world or Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, it’s all about me. SAFE Football is saving our game which in turn is helping us build better people.”
Peters has teamed up with another former NFL and Stanford defensive back, Kevin Scott who works with the skills position players while Peters works with the lineman. Scott mentions that for young kids, it can be intimidating working with or listening to guys who did it at the highest level. So the two make a point of working with the players hands on to demonstrate that they can use these techniques against anyone.
One of these situations to make an example of anyone at any size can do this, Scott Peters at 270 pounds called up a young player at the Alhambra clinic. That player was 90 pounds. Using the SAFE Football techniques, that 90 pound player managed to lift up the Peters.
“We show them that if you use these techniques properly, you can block somebody like me or you can lift somebody like Scott,” Kevin Scott explained. “They get excited, they say ‘hey, these guys played professional football and with these things that they are teaching, if we actually do them they work!'”
“The Phoenix Union, by all accounts, that’s a district that I would say the kids are at a disadvantage,” stated Peters. “Many of them don’t have the money to go and play, they’ve never played football and their first experience is playing football is definitely in high school…I think it was a big deal for us to be able to give back to those kids.”
The clinics will go on for at least three years for SAFE Football and the Phoenix Union so that the skills can continued to be learned and implemented for both the players and coaches for years to come.
“Our kids now come in and are learning the game as they are playing the game,” stated Munoz.