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Bellingham Pop Warner Launches New NFL-Sponsored Program

Sep 30, 2014 09:01AM ● By Pamela Johnson

Pop Warner Player-Safety Coach Brian Abernethy teaches new tackling techniques to players Jim Kilduff and Alex Flemming.

On most fall evenings, at least 100 boys ages 7 to 14, can be found on the Blackstone Street practice fields readying for the next Bellingham Pop Warner football game. Player safety, always a priority, has an even more significant presence this year as the organization joins the NFL-sponsored, USA’s Football Heads Up program.

Led by the board-appointed new Player Safety Coach Brian Abernethy, an 11-year-veteran with the local program, the national initiative aims to make the sport of football better and safer.
Abernethy is charged with training coaches and parents on improved tackling techniques, concussion awareness and proper hydration.

“I’m very encouraged by steps being taken by Pop Warner to keep the game safe for the young athletes,” said Abernethy. “The commitment (to the Heads Up program) by our coaches shows they care and understand the importance of these recommendations. They’re on the field every night educating these kids.”

Parent Joclyn Cochrane, who has a first- and sixth- grade boy playing this year, attended the informational parent session recently. “My boys love football. I love knowing that our coaches are on top of the latest injury- prevention techniques. It gives me confidence that they’re putting my sons’ safety at the forefront.”

Some of the Heads Up program highlights include identifying signs of a concussion and progressive return-to-play guidelines that include a list of milestones a player must pass before he can safely return to the field; readying a player to play in hot weather by using specific acclimatization techniques during practice and games, as well as how to properly hydrate throughout the season; and implementing new 5-step tackling techniques to decrease risk of head injuries.

“At the end of the day, I want all these kids to love football, have fun and be safe so they can play it for years to come,” said Abernethy. “It takes informed parents and coaches to ensure that every season is a healthy, safe and happy one.”

For more information, visit USA Football’s Heads-up Football program, visit For more information on Bellingham Pop Warner, please visit





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