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With changes, youth football starts Aug. 1

Football season is right around the corner and the Hood River Youth Football program begins Monday, Aug. 1. The first week of August is the Blue & Gold camp held Monday through Thursday evenings for kids grades 3-8. Led by Caleb Sperry, head coach for the Hood River Valley High School varsity football program, the camp is a chance for kids to learn skills and get ready for practices to start on the week of Aug. 8. Register now at www.HRcommunityed.org.

Registration is also open for the season. Practices are in the evenings during August and games start in September after Labor Day. Financial assistance is available by calling the Community Ed office at 541-386-2055.

There are a few exciting changes to the 2016 youth season. “We’ve added a 3/4 grade flag football option this year, in addition to 3/4 grade tackle. There is interest in both and we want to see where flag can go,” said Community Ed Director John Rust. “In addition, the management, registration, and administration of the 7th and 8th grade-level teams will fall under the high school athletic department and Athletic Director Tom Ames. In partnership with the Hood River Education Foundation and the Opportunity campaign, some sports, such as football, have returned to the middle school and are receiving scholarships and financial support to increase participation among all student populations.”

There is something for every level of play and registration is still open: 1/2 grade kids can sign up for flag football, 3/4 grade can choose flag or tackle, and 5th through 8th grade are tackle teams.

Another new addition, selected by the Hood River Youth Football Action Committee, is a player safety coach. This year, Justin Frazier will serve in the role. Frazier has been coaching football for over 10 years at youth, middle school, and high school levels. This April, Frazier attended a national conference on “Heads Up” football, put on by the USA Football organization (www.USAFootball.org). The conference provided training on how to coach kids to play in the safest way possible.

“As a league, we’ve adopted the USA football program at all levels — flag through high school,” said Frazier. “The Heads Up football initiative involves specific training for coaches on five specific areas, including heat preparedness and hydration, concussion recognition and response, sudden cardiac arrest, proper equipment fitting, and Heads Up tackling and blocking techniques.”

Frazier will meet with coaches individually to be sure they are comfortable teaching the correct technique. He will also check in on practices to ensure kids are learning how to play safely. “Football is a fun sport and by taking the time to learn correct technique, we’ll keep safety at the forefront,” said Frazier.

If you haven’t registered or have questions, visit hrcommunityed.org or call 541-386-2055. Families can also visit the Hood River Valley Youth Football Facebook page to see pictures from past action and get involved.

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