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Alumni: Salamanca’s Hill Advocates for USA Football

A year after moving from the area, a former Salamanca football assistant has returned to the game — in a regional capacity.

Aaron Hill spent seven seasons as an assistant to Jason Marsh, moved his family last summer for a sports marketing job at The University of Pittsburgh. Now, still in the Steel City, he is a month into a new position with USA Football, a non-profit youth football governing body.

Now, Hill is the Northeast regional representative for USA Football. He considers the Heads Up Football initiative central to his position.

“We’re looking to drive participation rates and make the game safer for all youth and high school athletes through our coach education programs” Hill said. “Essentially, I’m responsible for traveling the Northeast and creating conversations with commissioners and coaches about making the game better overall.”

Hill’s regional ranges from Maine to South Carolina.

As a former player and coach, the SUNY Cortland graduate described a personal stake in the game’s future.

“Football has been a passion all my life, played it until I was 20 years old, coached it for seven years after that,” Hill said. “Obviously we’re starting to see that we have to make some changes to make sure the game survives. It’s always been appealing to me, something I’m passionate about, it provides benefits I believe in. The opportunity presented itself and I was fortunate to land the position.”

-- The initiative’s name suggests teaching a safer tackling technique, which is chief among Hill’s concerns, but not the only one.

“The key components of heads up football are concussion recognition response, heat preparedness and hydration,” he said, “sudden cardiac arrest is a concern right now, proper equipment fitting and of course the main component is proper tackling technique.”

Hill recalled his Salamanca coaching experience, and gave the Warriors and the city’s youth teams a solid review.

“This area has been very compliant,” he said. “Coach Marsh and the Warriors have been very adaptive in the technique, years before I started coaching with them. A lot of our pee wee and midget commissioners have been very receptive. They’ve been transitioning to the Heads Up program for multiple years."

“Now Olean Area Youth Football, Jamestown Area Midget Football and Cattaraugus County have adopted it. They’ve really been leaders in for youth football in Western New York.”

-- All area youth leagues, from the CCMFL to Olean Area Youth Football and Jamestown Area Midget Football follow USA Football’s Heads Up Football program. All of the leagues’ coaches take an online certification test.

A new position, the Player Safety Coach, appointed for each league, takes a more in-depth look at concerning areas.

“It’s really starting to take flight now: it’s a requirement for each Heads Up organization,” Hill said. “They are responsible for taking the education back to their town and training coaches.

“We’re looking for somebody who’s experienced and respected among their peers. These coaches have to travel to a regional in-person clinic and train with one of our master trainers. We hold regional safety clinics, where master trainers train them location.”

-- So far, a month in, Hill said the Salamanca coaching experience has given him a leg up on the job.

“The experience I gained there is almost invaluable,” he said. “Just being able to offer real, relatable football conversations, it comes with a certain level of respect. They appreciate that I’ve been through the process, I’ve been in their shoes. It just makes those conversations easier when I travel the Northeast. That experience is why I have the position I have.”

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