Texas Youth Football Association (TYFA) announced their new safety initiative aimed at reducing contact for their more than 10,000 youth football participants.

The initiative features a three-year road map that takes aim at reducing the number of padded/contact practices each week, with the goal of reducing overall injuries across the league. TYFA’s plan will eventually limit padded/contact practices to one per week.

TYFA, which has built the largest youth football organization in Texas and one of the largest in the country, partnered with GAMEBREAKER on developing their safety initiative. GAMEBREAKERwill provide TYFA with practice plans, drills, resources and headgear to implement the non-contact practice strategy.

Mike Juels, CEO of Gamebreaker, shared this on the TYFA decision: “We believe the largest number of injuries take place in practice, thus we felt like TYFA’s decision showed great leadership and foresight. In working with TYFA on this initiative, we looked to what the NFL and NCAA did to mandate the reduction of padded practices as good examples to follow. For youth leagues, we felt that by eliminating equipment from the majority of practices, they would have the best chance to reduce the aggregate amount of contact across a season, which we believe will reduce injuries.”

GAMEBREAKER, the category leader in soft-shell headgear, is worn by NCAA teams such as the University of Texas, Texas A&M, University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Houston, among others. GAMEBREAKER will provide TYFA athletes with soft-shell headgear to wear during non-contact practices. In addition to its youth tackle football teams, TYFA has mandated that all TYFAflag football teams under their purview wear GAMEBREAKER headgear for practices and games. TYFA’s goal is to condition athletes to the use of headgear while in flag and promote the continued use as they progress to tackle age groups for non-contact practices.

At the TYFA Annual Membership Meeting, an event hosted at University of Texas at San Antonio, more than 150 of TYFA’s youth football directors gathered to start the implementation of the three-year plan. Featured sessions were led by members of the UTSA coaching staff, TYFA co-founder Brian Morgan and Gamebreaker CEO Mike Juels.

The event introduced TYFA coaches and directors to methods, strategies and resources to reduce contact in practice. The UTSA coaching staff conducted a video clinic that introduced drills and examples of how UTSA effectively practices without pads. Earlier in the week, UTSA Head Football Coach Frank Wilson had this to say about UTSA’s use of Gamebreaker soft-shell headgear for non-contact practices: “It trains players to use their feet, use their hands, not to lead with their face. It disciplines the players to practice fast and use feet and hands.”

TYFA’s Safety Initiative will focus on:

  • Comprehensive “road map” that will reduce the number of “padded/full-contact practices” held per week by member organizations
  • Increasing the education around conducting effective and productive non-contact practices
  • Concussion recognition and response
  • Education and advocacy for coaches and organizational leaders around health and safety
  • Providing better equipment and re-certification of safety equipment, especially helmets and the use of padded headgear in the flag division
  • Continued emphasis on proper tackling techniques and education on ways to limit injuries
  • Harsher in-game punishments for dangerous plays or the incorrect use of safety equipment
  • Severe heat preparedness and proper hydration

Safety Initiative Road Map

  • Year One: TYFA Safety Initiative took effect on March 10, 2018, and the initial first step was to mandate the use of Gamebreaker soft-shelled headgear within the TYFA flag divisions. The use of soft-shelled headgear at this age level will condition athletes to the use of the headgear while in flag and promote the continued use as those athletes and coaches progress to tackle age groups for non-contact practices.
  • Year Two: TYFA is going to limit the number of contact practices to two per week across all age groups.
  • Year Three: It will become mandatory at the older age groups (juniors and seniors) to limit member organizations to one padded practice per week.

TYFA and GAMEBREAKER are committed to this initiative and are taking the necessary steps to provide a safer game for generations to come. GAMEBREAKER enlisted SSEC, a sports and event marketing agency led by longtime youth and high school sports expert GARRETT SHEA. GAMEBREAKER and SSEC will work with other youth football organizations interested in building their own plan to reduce padded/contact practices. Youth teams and leagues can request assistance in building their own customized plan by visiting www.smarter-practice.com.