In the High School football world I will be the first to tell you I do not like the proliferation of private showcase camps, combines, and 7 on 7 events which seem to be cropping up everywhere almost everyday. Too many of the wrong sort of folks and profiteers have entered that space in past years and no one is watching what they are doing and how they are run. From a safety, compliance, and oversight standpoint there is usually none. At the same time these folks are using public facilities.
The interest in High School football is at an absolute all time high. When the final down is played at the State Championships the public schools shut football down and rules and regulations prevent it from starting back up for many months. Never fear because the minute that happens it is open season. As a rules guy with a central focus on athlete safety & well being I have relied upon our State Associations, the OSAA (Oregon) and the WIAA (Washington), to set standards and rules. Those of you around the Nation reading this have your own associations.
The Concussion issue is something no one in the US lead on until one young man and his Dad stepped up in Washington and took the issue on in court. Zackery Lystedt and his family won as multi-million dollar lawsuit after Zack was critically injured playing football in the Tahoma High School District. In 2009 Zackery had a law named after him and the first Concussion Safety bill aimed at protecting youth athletes was created. House Bill 1824, the Zackery Lystedt Law, became the basis for the subsequent laws that passed in Oregon (Max's Law) and in Idaho Law (Kort's Law). In the 5 years after that all the States in the US have followed.
The NFL had no meaningful rules before that and neither did the NCAA. So one person can change the way we do things and what we are used too.
On the same front we have the National proliferation of non-padded 7 on 7 events being run daily and on weekends all across the Nation. This includes a lot of public school teams and just as many if not more private leagues loaded with sponsored teams. The issue in this watered down CONTACT FOOTBALL is that we want to pretend it is not contact and look the other way on safety. Facts are facts that most of these players are not wearing helmets nor any form of protection when they compete and they are at extreme risk of severe injury.
As much as we have tried to get the helmet discussion going we have come up with mostly blank stares. Very few athletic directors have responded to calls we have placed regarding the safety issues that are obvious when heads collide at full speed. Players hitting other players, heads hitting knees, goal posts, or the ground- it is happening all the time and it is VERY VERY DANGEROUS.
Someone is going to die and many others are being disabled and suffering blunt force trauma that will effect them for the rest of their lives while competing in these events. An 8th grader did die in Texas 3 years back when he hit his head on a bench while participating in a 7 on 7 during PE Class. No actions were taken.
Yet one solution that can help is the requirement to wear a light protective cap that has been certified by a program called Brain First. The washable and reusable soft helmet is known as the GAMEBREAKER Helmet and is leading the charge for a safer environment much like Zack Lystedt did.
Enter the biggest private 7 on 7 group in the Nation. At the Pylon Elite Football 7 on 7 event this past month the Directors of the camp decided to make the move to not allow anyone at their event (3,500 players) to participate without proper protection. Like them or not Baron Flenory and his partner Kashaan Simmons of Pylon Football have just thrown down the gauntlet to their competitors and the public schools. They led by example and they did so after realizing it had to be done.
"Last year in Ohio there was a kid that ran into somebody and was knocked out; he was put into a concussion .. he was bleeding out of his nose and his ears," said Flenory as our Alexandra White interviewed him in Las Vegas last month. "He went to the Hospital and was Life Flighted. His Dad later went out and bought a GAMEBREAKER Helmet; and we were realized that for us that was something that we need to do. When you look at the sort or athletes we attract these kids are valuable! They are worth scholarships and that is someone's baby and we need to make sure that when they come to our events we are protecting them."
Simmons and Flenory have been maligned in the past for taking control of top recruits and encouraging the AAU Club model of Football where the best kids travel the Nation competing for corporate sponsored teams; and in some cases that is true I suppose. But here is where the rubber meets the road. They have claimed they do these events and host these huge national tournaments because they care more and are looking out for the kids more.
One this issue they are not getting an argument from me. Leadership in the area of Player Safety can come from the public or private sector. Ultimately it needs to come from Mom and Dad. Coaches next and anyone after that is great.
Having said all that I want to challenge all of you Head Coaches and Administrators and AD's and Parents out there to step up to the plate and protect our kids. It does not matter if your a public or private sector person- you need to do this. It is time and the information is all there. If you host or send your kids to one of these events and even one athlete is injured you have to take a share of the liability for that. The GAMEBREAKER HELMET is the leader in this protective gear. There are others perhaps and some wear rugby gear but this is the Gold Standard product. For 1/2 the cost of a pair of top end cleats your kids will be safer.
Here are Kashaan Simmons and Baron Flenory at the Vegas event talking about the products and why they made the historic decision they made. We thank them for their leadership and for putting the athletes First. This is a welcome rule and one we hope they stick with forever.
Parents LIKE GAMEBREAKER!