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News Maryland Howard County Columbia

Heads Up program a step toward decreasing concussions

If something is designed to cut down the number of football concussions, then I am all for it.

The Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association announced Monday that it has endorsed the USA Football's Heads Up Football tackling program, and it will implement it for high school football teams starting in the fall.

The program is designed to teach kids to tackle with their heads up and to the side instead of using their helmet as a spear. Maryland is the first state to officially partner with the program, although the National Federation of State High School Associations has already endorsed it.

Each school will have a player safety coach on the sideline to help with implementation.

In my opinion, though, Heads Up is not a finished product by any stretch of the imagination.

It is the beginning of a concept that runs contrary to the way most football players have been taught to tackle. If you watch NFL games, you might notice that those players tackle with their heads down, or any way possible, to get their opponent to the ground. The NFL has put in rules to try and curb this behavior, but it still happens frequently.

Now we are talking about the high school level where the kids are still maturing and the risks are just as high, if not higher.

Whether kids will be able to disregard what they see from the NFL players and fully adopt this new technique will be the true test. USA Football and the NFL have both acknowledged that there is a problem and that is why they have endorsed this new program.

It's just important to understand that teaching the safer tackling technique and it happening on the field are two different things.

Scholarship winners

Two organizations, the Columbia Rotary Club and the Howard County Striders, have announced the recipients of their respective scholar-athlete awards. The winners of each award receive $2,000 and the runners-up $1,000.

Reservoir's Owen Pochettino and Glenelg's Morgan Philie were the winners of the Bob Davidson award. Howard's Sydney Biniak and River Hill's Marshall Demaree were the runners-up.

Pochettino and Karli Smiraglia, also of Reservoir, won the David Tripp Scholar/Athlete Award. Julianna Boswell of Glenelg and Griffin Riddler of Centennial were the runners-up.

The Davidson Award was known as the Columbia Flier award its first two years. Pochettino and Philie are the 29th winners.

The Tripp Award, which recognizes excellence in academics and running, is in its 25th year.

The seven student/athletes honored this year have won state individual and team state championships and received All-American honors. Biniak was named Gatorade's Maryland Volleyball Player of the Year. The group has earned an average of nine athletic letters apiece and has an average weighted GPA of 4.63.

Straehle will be missed

I met Betty Straehle during her involvement in the Central Maryland Swim League, and when she and husband Bill ran the Howard County Invitational. I thought she was the grandest of the grand then and, when I got to know her better in later years, my earlier thoughts were further confirmed.

Betty and Bill were inducted into the county's Community Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.

There are many people in Howard County who have left their mark on the swimming community and Betty Straehle was one of them. She left an indelible mark with the Howard County YMCA, the Forest Hill Swim and Tennis Club and the Central Maryland Swim League. Nothing was too small for Betty to do. If it had to be done, we called on Betty and she always responded with a smile.

Betty died on April 24 at the age of 91. She will be missed.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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