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VOL. 37 | NO. 7 | Friday, February 15, 2013

Online resource helps parents make football decisions

By Linda Bryant

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Vin Sehgal and Jeff Hemhauser started to notice over time that fewer children were trying out for their youth football league.

The two friends took their concern to a national audience in 2012 when they launched Youth Football Online, a nationwide website and movement that promotes youth football and educates parents, coaches and players.

“Parents were more concerned about football safety, while children were more involved in playing video games and the Internet,” Sehgal says. “We sought to start something to change all of that.”

Youth Football Online, based in New Jersey, now gets hundreds of thousands of online participants a year from all over the country and publishes a wide array of information, including extensive playbooks and relevant issues in the news. The organization also has a nationwide awards program for outstanding youth football players.

Sehgal says he is very concerned about the safety of the sport, answering questions for the Nashville Ledger.

What’s your mission and who’s your audience?

“We’re for the promotion and proper instruction of youth football.

“Our goals are as follows: We encourage parents to involve their kids in football because of the many benefits of playing the game. Youth football teaches discipline, teamwork and physical fitness. We like to say, youth football is training for life.

“Our audience is very passionate about football. We often receive questions about safety and concussions from concerned parents via our social media channels.

“We educate coaches on how to correctly play the game of football, offering free plays, drills and safety instruction. We challenge young football athletes to train hard and keep nutrition as a top priority in their lives. We have a popular all-star program that highlights the best youth football players in the country, not just for their excellence on the field but also in the classroom and in their communities.’’

What do you think of the NFL’s decision to to launch Life Line, a crisis line for current and former players, coaches and family members?

“We believe this is a great start. It allows for players that are quietly suffering to speak with trained professionals. The NFL should continue to strive toward safety improvement and build upon ideas such as this crisis line.’’

What have you learned from your studies and contacts with NFL players?

“Our research has shown that current NFL players are unhappy with the progression of safety in professional football and question if they, at some point, will be victimized by the game they love unless stricter penalties are enacted against rule offenders.’’

You’ve said you’ve noticed that safety is not a big priority for the NFL, can you say more about it? What leads you to reach this conclusion?

“The NFL has a responsibility to practice safety for themselves and for the younger generation of football players. Kids often emulate what the professionals are doing, whether it is good or bad. As the commissioner attempts to enforce suspensions against repeat safety offenders, the NFL Players Association continues to successfully appeal. This needs to stop.

“We feel safety and proper technique should be taught at a youth level so it eventually becomes an integral part of the football culture.’’

Do you think football will evolve into a safer sport?

“Football is evolving into a safer sport. Head safety continues to improve as helmet manufacturers strive to produce better equipment. Inexperienced youth football coaches are becoming more knowledgeable as more resources are available to them online. Pop Warner and other youth football organizations have adjusted their rules for safer play.

“Youth Football Online regularly participates in workshops with national organizations to promote safer play. We are for having a designated “safety coach,” nominated from within a coaching staff, to ensure safe practices are being performed on the field.’’

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