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New Indiana law pushes for coaches to emphasize safety in summer heat

South Bend, Ind. - For the past few years, there has been a big movement towards player safety in all levels of football, whether with head injuries or with regards to practicing in the heat - much like Michiana will see this weekend.

Good timing, because this weekend, that movement takes a big step across the entire state of Indiana.

A new state law, set to go into effect on July 1, requires coaches to complete courses aimed at promoting player safety.

House Enrolled Act No. 1024 states in part:

"Head coaches and assistant coaches ... must complete a certified coaching education course that includes content for prevention of or response to heat related medical issues that may arise from a student athlete's training."

While the law is new, these courses have been around for years. Many of the required courses include calls for measures already being taken among local coaches.

Saint Joseph football coach Bryon Whitten and his assistants are among the wide range of Indiana coaching staffs already certified in these areas. As they wrapped up their youth camp, Whitten said that the new law making these courses mandatory is simply another positive going forward.

"Every single one of the members on our coaching staff is certified to be able to handle situations if something were to arise," he said. "Hopefully that doesn't apply, but just in case, it's better to be prepared than to not be."

Preventative measures at South Bend schools, and surely statewide, include pushing back practice times to cooler parts of the day, moving to a grass field from the warmer turf surface, and of course altering practice  and water breaks.

And as the temperatures rise through the summer and into the weeks before football season, Whitten says it's important to have as many reasons as possible for parents to confidently send their kids to practice.

"It's great to relay to parents that all our our coaches are certified [in both head injuries and heat-related illnesses]," he said. "That we have an emergency plan that if an event were to arise, we're prepared and we're trained to be able to follow it."

Organizations like the Indiana Football Coaches' Association and the National Federation of State High School Associations have been active in making these certifications the norm.

"It's been a real big push through them, and we, the coaches, have welcomed it with open arms," Whitten said. "[We make sure] we're providing the best care for our kids, which is what we're here to do."

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