CAYFA Opposes the Bill to Ban Youth Tackle Football in Massachusetts

SAN FRANCISCO / February 25, 2018  - On Thursday, February 21, The California Youth Football Alliance learned that Representatives Paul A. Schmid, III and Bradley H. Jones, Jr. introduced "An Act for no organized head impacts to schoolchildren" in Massachusetts, and we are called to express our disappointment and opposition to such a bill.

Upon review of the bill language, and further correspondence about the bill from it's co-authors, we can only recommend that all Massachusetts athletic communities oppose this bill. We deeply regret that another attack on youth football has arisen, as we believe this bill, like it's predecessors, is mis-informed with a biased view of the current day medical and athletic facts combined with personal agendas.

The subject of athletic safety including the science of the brain is a rapidly evolving topic in our society. Over 60 neurologists from around the world recently published a paper in The Lancet stating:

"Contrary to common perception, the clinical syndrome of CTE has not yet been fully defined, its prevalence is unknown, and the neuropathological diagnostic criteria are no more than preliminary. We have an incomplete understanding of the extent or distribution of pathology required to produce neurological dysfunction or to distinguish diseased from healthy tissue, with the neuropathological changes of CTE reported in apparently asymptomatic individuals. Although commonly quoted, no consensus agreement has been reached on staging the severity of CTE pathology. A single focus of the pathology implicated in CTE is not yet sufficient evidence to define disease."

Further, in a time where an average of 2.5 million medical papers are published each year according to research from the University of Ottowa, and the 4+ million results returned when you search for "concussion medical papers 2018" and "CTE medical papers 2018" combined, the volume of change in the science of the brain is accelerating.

Meanwhile, all our athletes from the football fields to the basketball gyms deserve the very best safety conditions that we as a society can offer so they may continue to develop lifelong lessons from the athletic development that football and other sports offer. We must continue to seek the truth to accelerate the evolution of football and all other contact sports in a measured and medically informed manner. Many advances in athletic safety have been achieved in the recent past, including youth tackle football. The truth is that the sport of football has never been safer, and it continues that journey every rep of every practice and game in every season. We must not stop our athletic development at any level. We must accelerate the science of the brain. When it comes to the safety considerations in any athletic sport, including football, we believe that our athletic community should seek medical advice from world class physicians, not political representation. We must hold our legislators accountable to pursue and achieve the highest truth as it relates to medical research, education, and duty of care.  

Given the current athletic, medical, and political environmental considerations:

  • We invite other athletic organizations in the professional and amateur arenas such as the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), to join us to proactively address the current day safety crisis in all our athletic communities. Safety, particular head safety, must be the #1 concern for all athletic communities, and more needs to be done immediately for our current and future athletes.

  • We believe that more medical research and public education is necessary to keep pace with the rapidly evolving science of the brain. To this end, we wish to emphasize the work of world-class institutions like the University of Pittsburg Medical Center and TeachAids to rally the research, education, diagnosis, and treatment of our athletes.

  • We call for a medically informed safety evolution of all sports, starting with football. 

We will support all those who seek the truth regarding safety in our country's sports and fields of competition. We stand by the athletic communities of Massachusetts, and other states, especially those who have been unjustly targeted in this particular bill, the youth tackle football community. Please visit the Save Youth Football - Massachusetts Facebook group and follow @savefootballMA on Twitter to stay in touch with the efforts in the state.

Our athletes and our country needs us to come together around the subject of brain science and athletics. To the extent that we work collaboratively to this end, everyone will benefit, and if we allow the continued divisiveness, we will only prolong our path to achieving the optimal solution.

ABOUT

The purpose of the CAYFA is to advance youth tackle football by honoring our past, improving our present, and advancing our future so that more generations of student-athletes, coaches, and communities can experience the intellectual, emotional, social, and physical developmental benefits of the sport. For more information, please visit www.cayfa.org.

Press inquiries can be made to info@cayfa.org

 

CAYFA's Newest Members of the Board of Directors

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THE CALIFORNIA YOUTH FOOTBALL ALLIANCE WELCOMES OUR NEWEST MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Making Youth Tackle Football the Safest Sport in California

SAN FRANCISCO / January 22, 2019 - As a further step towards making youth tackle football the safest sport in California, we are pleased to announce the expansion of our Board of Directors by welcoming three new board members. These new board members will help advance the work of the CAYFA while working closely with our Executive Officers.

Dr. Peter Cummings

Dr. Cummings is board certified in anatomic pathology, neuropathology and forensic pathology. When asked what motivated him to work with the CAYFA, Dr. Cummings said “I am honored to be asked to join the board of directors for CAYFA. It's always been my philosophy that you are either part of the problem or part of the solution; CAYFA is part of the solution. I have great respect for the way a group of football coaches and parents came together in a proactive effort to guide positive change and what they've accomplished to this point is inspiring. The strategies CAYFA is developing to constantly improve safety and compliance while enhancing the enjoyment of the game for all interested parties is unique and empowering.”

Chris Fore

Chris Fore is a veteran Athletic Director, Football Coach and Teacher from Southern California. When asked why he chose to engage the CAYFA, Chris said “I am honored to be invited to serve on this board. There's no doubt that there is a lot of work to do here in California to help regulate youth football to make it more safe for children. I look forward to working with these tremendous individuals as we strive to honor, improve, and advance the great game of football in the Golden State.”

Merril Hoge

Merril is a former NFL Running Back, Best-Selling Author, and Motivational Speaker. When asked why he accepted the invitation to engage the CAYFA as a board member, Merril shared “I’m honored to be a part of the CAYFA board. This board is filled with people that find solutions and take action to make youth football the safest it can possibly be! I have been a part of football and youth sports for over 45 years as a player, coach, and most importantly a parent. I was the first player/coach/parent to address congress to establish a head trauma protocol in 2009! I have been implementing ways to practice and play along with protocols on head trauma and hydration to make football safer than it has ever been since 1991. Being a part of the CAYFA board we have a chance to improve the environment even more for all youth football players in the state of California and eventually the entire country!! This is just the start, we will Find A Way to educate and improve in all areas for our kids!!”

When asked about the formation of this board and the initial members, Joe Rafter shared “We are excited to welcome Peter, Chris, and Merril to our board. I can’t imagine a better group of people to launch our board. Peter brings a world class medical background combined with a passion for youth football and will serve as our Chief Medical Advisor. Chris is miles deep with football content as a coach and administrator with an unparalleled network in the California football community. Merril is a leader on and off the field with remarkable life experiences, leadership courage, and football achievements.” Mr. Rafter continued, “The commitment from these three men is further demonstration that the CAYFA is embraced by accomplished leaders from the medical and football community and that the future of youth tackle football in California is bright. We look forward to rolling up our sleeves with them to advance our work."

ABOUT

The purpose of the CAYFA is to advance youth tackle football by honoring our past, improving our present, and advancing our future so that more generations of student-athletes, coaches, and communities can experience the intellectual, emotional, social, and physical developmental benefits of the sport. For more information, please visit www.cayfa.org.

Press inquiries can be made to info@cayfa.org


My Journey of Walking the Sidelines

As we, the California Youth Football Alliance, embark on our mission to make youth tackle football the safest sport in California, we are humbled by our experiences to date. Over the course of the last two decades in youth football, I have learned many things, some of which I want to share here today, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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To start, the youth football community of California is strong, honorable, passionate, and loving of their children first, and the sport second. Around this time last year, the bill to ban youth tackle football was published in California. Within months it was also alive in 4 other states: Illinois, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey. I had been walking the sidelines of youth tackle football fields on the East Coast, and the West Coast for 10+ years by the time I was confronted by the bill in California. The bill’s intention, the ensuing messages, and the media rhetoric was not consistent with the experiences I have been blessed to have across our country. I have seen you, the youth tackle football community, volunteer countless hours of time to support young men and women, in their pursuit of success on the football fields. I have seen coaches teaching our youth the very best techniques in youth tackle football. I have seen these same grown men and women, embrace each other with competition as well as compassion, not just shaking hands but hugging each other after a game regardless of the outcome. I have seen parents share the blessing of their child with football coaches, allowing them to play a sport because it is in the child’s heart to play. I have seen parents smile with great pride as their child makes a play and achieves a new athletic experience. I have spoken with these same parents who tell me how their child is fundamentally more mature, disciplined, and focused at home and in school, as a result of playing youth football. In every discussion, the focus is on the children and their experience. I share these observations in honor of the question that Dr. Martin Luther King posed to an audience in Montgomery, Alabama in 1957, “What are you doing for others?” I see administrators, coaches, parents, players, and communities rally around our youth football players creating ripples of growth and planting seeds of character that will continue to impact our world as these children grow up to join the millions of former youth football players who are making an impact in their communities today.

In addition to coaching football, I have coached basketball and baseball while watching my sons compete in lacrosse, rugby, and horse jumping. With these experiences, I can confidently say youth football is improving at a pace that exceeds all other youth sports with respect to equipment, technology, coaching, rule changes and oversight. For decades, the global football community has been investing in advancements of the sport. I have seen new helmet technology made available to improve the safety of our youth. I have seen sideline technology implemented that allows youth football administrators and coaches to monitor the quality of practice and games. I have participated in coaching clinics and certifications that have made me a better parent of my own children by learning the power of positive coaching and becoming certified in first aid, as examples. I have seen the elimination of kick offs at the youngest of youth levels as well as new rules at the high school, college, and professional level designed to remove the head from play. I have enforced these new standards as a President of a youth football organization. Finally, as a result of these experiences, I can tell you that the game of youth football is not the game that I, nor you, played growing up. The developments of the sport are cascading down from the NFL, and in many cases the newest safety standards are being developed and implemented in the youth game. With all this said, while we are headed in the right direction, I still see opportunity to accelerate our progress. More can and will be done to make equipment, technology, coaching, rule changes, and oversight more efficient and effective so that the best is made available to every corner of the state of California. On behalf of the California Youth Football Alliance, you have our promise to make this happen.

While I am proud of our past, and excited about our future, there are many others who don’t share the experiences outlined above. In fact these others, our youth football opposition, act in ways that denigrate, vilify, and weaponize our sport and our community. I read twitter posts, news articles, and editorials on a daily basis that use language that inspires fear, loss, and even hatred. I don’t care what your political affiliation is, but we, the California Youth Football Alliance, are committed to making our sport the safest in California by enhancing our safety standards, creating effective solutions to implement these standards, seeking the truth from the medical community, and advancing our children’s and our sport’s future. We commit to pursue these outcomes with equal to or greater passion than a 4th and inches on the goal line with 3 seconds left on the clock. We are calling our youth football community together in a manner that has never been achieved before today. We must not fall victim to the language of our opposition. I say this as I call upon the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” We, the California Youth Football Community, must continue to focus on the love that we have for our children first, our sport second, and our future third.

In closing, I want to share one more insight into my experiences as a youth football parent, administrator, and coach. I share this with my hand on my heart, that in my experience, no youth sport brings together people from all walks of life like football. In fact, football might be the most perfect sport to embody the work of love, diversity, acceptance, and civil rights of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I look forward to seeing many more of you in the future, as my personal journey of walking the sidelines continues in this great state of California.