AUSTIN (KXAN) — There are only weeks to go until the first high school football games in Texas and, this year, the University Interscholastic League and the Texas High School Coaches Association, or THSCA, have teamed up and are taking a step forward to make football a safer sport.
The organization is implementing a mandatory statewide tackling certification program for all high school and middle school football coaches, making Texas the first in the country to do it. Seattle-based Atavus Sports will oversee the program.
Westwood High School head football coach Anthony Wood completed the course two weeks ago in San Antonio through an on-site training presentation followed by an assessment to receive his certification.
"It was a tough test," said Wood. "Making sure we understood what it is we're teaching our young kids today."
For the past 25 years, Wood has been teaching young players all about the popular contact sport and says he understands the risks involved.
"With everything that's occurred here over the last five to 10 years with concussions and things like that," he says safety is key.
Last year, the American Journal of Public Health found rule changes and laws about reporting concussions led to more people identifying and reporting the injury. The study also showed a big drop in "recurrent" concussions. This was only about two and a half years after these kinds of laws went into effect.
"As the game evolves we find different ways to make the game safer," said Wood.
The "tackling certification" kicked off last month, and as of now, coaches can only take the course through in person through various on-site clinics across the state.
However, starting next April, coaches will be able to take the course online, at their own pace, but will still be required to complete the assessment and pass an order to become certified.
"We're just focusing on better techniques," said Wood. "Understanding how to position our upper body and lower body when making contact with our opponents, where to put our head, where to put our shoulders, [and] understanding that the helmet is not a weapon and that the helmet is actually for safety."
By reinforcing those techniques and adopting them on the field, Wood believes it will only make the game safer.
"I always like to side on the air of caution and as long as we do that and we continue to make the game safer then we will continue to have kids play the sport," he said.
All coaches must be certified before the next football season.