During the past four years, the Westport Police Athletic League has been working to increase the amount of safety measures and precautions that it takes with their various teams. As the fall sports season approaches, the PAL is undergoing more changes in its safety policies, specifically in football.

New for the 2010 PAL football season, there will be paid medical trainers at all practices, as well as an emergency medical technician (EMT) at all games as it had in the 2009 season. All of the football equipment will also be sent to trained professionals to be certified that it is safe to be used.

"We want people to feel comfortable signing up. When people leave kids in our hands, we want them to feel safe," PAL Director of Youth Sports Carmen Roda said.

Importantly, all PAL coaches undergo rigorous training to become certified in the areas of first aid and CPR and they are trained about concussions.

Christopher Nowinski, a leading professional in the concussion field and president & CEO of the Sports Legacy Institute, leads the concussion training course for the PAL coaches. Nowinski has successfully pushed for changes nationally in the area of concussions and has worked with the NHL and NFL.

Other steps to become a PAL coach include passing a football certification course, the National Youth Sports Coaches Association and Positive Youth Coaches Alliance courses, as well as the concussion certification courses previously mentioned. Additionally PAL runs criminal background checks on its entire staff. " Very few, if any, youth programs have all of this training," said Roda.

Along with educating its staff, PAL also strives to educate parents about concussions. On Aug. 2 PAL held a concussion training session, which will be held again on Aug. 30, PAL at Saugatuck Elementary School in Westport.

The session is open to the general public, especially parents of children in the program and those who wish to become more involved in PAL. Those with questions can contact Carmen Roda at rodacarm@aol.com.

PAL not only invests significant time and effort into high standards of safety, but it also spends $35,000 a year for safety measures in football alone. It takes $20,000 for equipment to be recertified each year, $7,000 for (required) Shock Doctor mouth guards, and $5,000 to train the coaches.

"Safety is our big concern, no other youth sports program puts the same time and money into safety," said Roda.

Westport PAL is the second youth sports program in the country to require this type of training for all of its coaches and staff.

With football pre-season starting on Aug. 16, Coach Roda and the PAL organization look forward to a fun and safe season.