SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – With the growing threat of sports-related concussions among children, the Chatham County Parks & Recreation department is stepping up this upcoming football season with a new training initiative for coaches.

“I come from the mindset that perfect practice makes perfect performance,” said Antonio Murphy, the department’s deputy director. “This means we need to get our coaches up to skills with the latest techniques and information so that they can do a good job teaching and instructing it to the kids who play.”

Antonio Murphy, deputy director for Chatham County Parks & Recreation department (photo provided)

In the past, the department’s volunteer football coaches completed certification training only through the National Alliance for Youth Sports. The program’s youth sports training covers topics such as working with parents, motivating kids, building confidence and instilling good sportsmanship, safety, nutrition and hydration among many other areas.

However, this coming season, coaches will undergo additional training.

“With the start of this football season, we are going one step further, especially with our tackle football,” Murphy explained. “We’re using USA Football, which is another nonprofit. They have a whole football coaching certification curriculum that talks about how to be able to identify concussions and what concussion protocols look like.”

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, a concussion is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works. Concussions can also occur from a blow to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth.

Even a “ding,” “getting your bell rung” or what seems to be a mild bump or blow to the head can be serious.  

With many concussions occurring from youth sports, Georgia’s Return to Play Act was signed in 2013 by then Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. The law has been in effect since Jan. 1, 2014, and applies to school and recreational athletics for children ages 7 to 18. It requires schools and recreational facilities to provide parents and athletes with information regarding the nature and risk of concussion or head injury. The law also mandates that coaches receive education on concussion recognition.

Another part of training that Chatham County Parks & Recreation football coaches will be up-to-date on are the fundamentals of tackling for concussion prevention.

“We want to make sure kids have a positive experience, from introduction football to where it takes them, and that starts with a good foundation. The USA Football program teaches the fundamentals of tackling,” said Murphy. 

“I grew up in an age where if you played football and you had a volunteer coach, it was all about big-hitting, not so much technique to prevent injuries,” he continued. “We don’t want to see any little kid getting hurt, and with the proliferation of how the sport is going, with athletes becoming bigger, faster, stronger, it is important to master the techniques and skills.”

This coming season, the department’s football teams will also use refurbished helmets and shoulder pads that have been evaluated and brought back up to standard and approved for use.   

For more information about Chatham County Parks & Recreation’s football programs, visit here.