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Letter from the President of St. Raphael Football

Dear Parents, 


It stuns me that certain politicians are comparing the unfortunate CTE issues experienced by former NFL football players to youth players enjoying a great team sport with their friends . . .   


Some factors that should be considered when evaluating the current state of youth football:


NFL Football Pre-2010:

  1. Guidance and coaching geared toward safety was virtually non-existent.
  2. The use of Steroids and pain medication was prevalent and well documented.
  3. Many players with documented issues played at a VERY high level (college and professional) for 5-20 years and at very high speeds and with very large body masses, which exposed them to many more violent head-to-head hits.
  4. There was an “old school” mentality that existed, where if you saw “stars” or “blacked out” you finished the game or risked losing your position.
  5. Head hunting was the preferred method of tackling.
  6. Players played with poor equipment and helmet technology, and many didn’t even use a simple mouth guard.


Youth Football Post-2010:

  1. Younger players are lighter, slower and more flexible than their college and NFL counterparts, which means far less force is generated on a youth football field.
  2. The engineering and effectiveness of helmets, mouth guards and other equipment have advanced exponentially.
  3. Proper blocking and tackling techniques, including USA Football endorsed “Heads up Tackling” techniques are now stressed by coaches; and when approaching from an angle players are taught to “gator tackle” or “hawk tackle” with their helmets behind or to the side of the runner, NOT in front and across the runner.
  4. Concussion protocols are in place at all levels.  Certified trainers or doctors are routinely on site to help assess every injury, particularly head injuries, and in most cases, the trainer has the ultimate authority to sit the player.
  5. There is much less hitting in practice than even five years ago, with low contact tackling drills evolving every year.
  6. Drills designed to “test toughness” such as “Tunnel of Love,” “Sharks and Minnows,” “Bull in the Ring” and “King of the Dummy,” which were commonplace in every football practice 20 years ago are now taboo and in many instances, specifically prohibited.
  7. At some levels, special teams (Kick-offs and Punts) have been eliminated.
  8. Only approximately 15% of youth football players go on to play varsity high school football, and only 2% of high school football players go on to play in college.
  9. Trying to teach high school kids this sport, (i) when none of them have any experience with proper technique, (ii) with lower coach to player ratios, (iii) with players who are older, bigger and faster, seems much more dangerous than the safe and controlled environment existing in most youth organizations.


I am also saddened by the procedural unfairness of the most recent news-grabbing committee vote in the State of Illinois legislature where many opponents of the current proposal to ban youth football were not given enough notice of the proceeding to testify.  Most notably, as reported by the Associated Press . . .


Dr. Cynthia LaBella, sports medicine director at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, submitted written testimony arguing there is no evidence that eliminating tackle football would prevent CTE. Lurie Hospital is taking no position on the legislation's merits but urges lawmakers to consider alternatives to prohibiting traditional youth football.  "Injuries are more likely to occur when improper and illegal technique, such as spear tackling, is used," LaBella wrote. "As such, efforts should be made to improve the teaching of proper tackling technique and enforce existing rules."


No experience teaches the benefits of hard work, discipline, self-sacrifice and teamwork more than youth football.  Additionally, lost in all of this political rhetoric is the fact that it’s just plain fun for kids to play!


Finally, on a personal note, my son Riley would easily count his experience playing football as one of the most influential and positive in his life.  He played youth football for St. Raphael, high school at Naperville Central and went on to play a year at NIU.  He did suffer one concussion . . . playing basketball on the playground at Scott School in 3rd grade!


Yours in football,

Paul O’Toole

President, St, Raphael Football, Inc. 

Letter from the President of USA Football and article



Dear Football Community:

As we continue to advance football through entry points and options, coach education and continuous improvements to the sport, lawmakers in select states have proposed legislation to ban tackle football for young athletes.

USA Football encourages discussion and debate regarding this topic. We welcome opportunities to demonstrate the football community’s shared commitment and consensus-building that benefits kids playing youth tackle football. Our collective, forward-thinking actions with support from other leaders across medicine and sports, has led to our game being taught and played safer than ever before with nationally endorsed standards.

I’m writing to share a Feb. 10 commentary published by the Minneapolis Star Tribune: 26 brain injury experts in neurosurgery, neuropsychology, neurology, neuropathology and public policy spanning 23 universities and hospitals in the United States and Canada shared the current state of scientific ambiguity as it relates to contact sports, and why more needs to be known before policy is enacted.

This information must be understood by those who seek to ban tackle football. We encourage you to share this news with your state and local legislators. Our team at USA Football will do the same.

We will continue to stress that Entry Points and Options + Coaching Education + Continuous Improvements within Football = Positive Experiences for young athletes and their families. 

We have a unique opportunity to unify and defend football, its importance and the good work being done.

More to come.


Scott Hallenbeck
CEO, USA Football



    St. Raphael Football

    A non-profit organization in Naperville, IL which provides a positive and nurturing football program to players from 6 to 14 years old.

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    St. Raphael Football  
    931 W 75th Street
    Suite 137-265
    Phone: (630) 527-9244  
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