Steve Specht, center, talks with former NFL head coach Don Shula, right, after receiving the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year award during an NFL Super Bowl XLVII news conference.
Cincinnati St. Xavier High School head football coach Steve Specht is taking a leading role within USA Football's Heads Up Football program, promoting a better and safer game on youth levels nationwide.
USA Football will instruct Specht and other football experts—including high school coaches and former NFL and college players—as Heads Up Football Master Trainers during a workshop March 2-3 in Indianapolis.
Following their training in Indianapolis, Specht and other Master Trainers will teach USA Football's Heads Up Football program to youth league leaders across the country. This encompasses teaching USA Football's Heads Up Tackling techniques, educating leagues on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concussion recognition and response protocols and instructing on proper helmet and shoulder pad fitting.
Heads Up Football is a comprehensive approach to a better and safer game. Adopted by youth leagues on a national level in 2013, Heads Up Football stands on four primary tenets:
- All coaches within a youth program are trained to teach the game's fundamentals by completing USA Football's nationally accredited Level 1 Coaching Education Course.
Concussion recognition and response
- Coaches learn CDC concussion recognition and response through USA Football's Level 1 Coaching Education Course.
- Coaches, parents and players are taught concussion-related protocols at the start of the season at a league-wide clinic and have them reinforced throughout the season.
- USA Football's Heads Up Tackling technique, endorsed by medical and football experts, teaches players to keep their heads up and out of the line of contact.
- Coaches, parents and players are taught proper helmet and shoulder pad fitting. Equipment maintenance best practices also are learned.
"Heads Up Football promotes a safer, better game," USA Football Executive Director Scott Hallenbeck said. "We are proud to have Steve help us lead America's youth football community as a Heads Up Football Master Trainer, helping to set the highest standards of player safety and coaching education across youth sports."
"Youth football leagues in our region have a tremendous opportunity in 2013 to adopt USA Football's Heads Up Football program and have Steve Specht deliver it to you," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. "USA Football has earned my trust – they put the safety of our kids first and offer the training youth coaches need to be exceptional teachers. Steve represents everything good about our sport and is part of Heads Up Football because, like the Bengals, he's committed to raising youth football's standards and this program does that."
Specht, 45, is 80-24 (.769) since becoming the head coach at Cincinnati St. Xavier High School—his high school alma mater—following the 2003 season. His Bombers have won two Ohio big school championships (2005, 2007), with Specht earning Ohio Division I Coach of the Year honors both times. He served as the head coach of the 2012 U.S. Under-19 National Team and defensive coordinator in 2009, leading Team USA to a gold medal in the 2009 IFAF Under-19 World Championship and a silver medal three years later. Specht also was named the 2012 Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year, created to honor exemplary high school football coaches who demonstrate a commitment to player health and safety along with the integrity, achievement and leadership exemplified by the winningest coach in NFL history, Don Shula.
USA Football is the national governing body of the sport in the United States as well as the official youth development partner of the NFL, all 32 teams and college's Atlantic Coast Conference. Youth tackle football is played by 2.8 million American children age 6-14. USA Football has trained more than 100,000 volunteer youth coaches to better teach the sport's fundamentals and to address player safety with CDC protocols.