South Hadley football team receives $3K grant from Silvio Cella Family Foundation to improve player safety

  • South Hadley football coach Scott Taylor receives a grant from Gina Cella on Monday in South Hadley with South Hadley athletic director Tad Desautels, left, and Michael Cella, right, as well as members of South Hadley’s football team and coaching staff. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • A helmet decal from the Silvio Cella Famly Foundation that the South Hadley football team will wear in 2018. The Tigers received a $3,000 grant from the foundation to help improve player safety Monday. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

Monday, April 30, 2018

SOUTH HADLEY — A $3,000 grant will help increase player safety for the South Hadley football program.

The Silvio Cella Family Foundation presented South Hadley one of its four yearly grants, Monday at the school. Silvio Cella coached Revere for 49 years, and his children started the foundation to honor his legacy. One school from each of the state’s four sections is selected. Greater Lawrence Technical, Nauset Regional and Burncoat also received grants. South Hadley will wear a helmet patch from the foundation in 2018.

The foundation fielded around 70 applications from across the state, including a dozen from western Massachusetts, according to Gina Cella, the chair of the foundation’s board of directors. They’ve donated over $100,000 in grants since 2010.

“The purpose of our foundation is to improve player safety, to improve playing conditions and really help access,” Gina Cella said.

South Hadley applied for the first time this year. The Tigers will use the money to purchase a tackling mat and the Richie Gray Tackling System. If there is money left over, they will buy an Iron Neck for the weight room.

The tackling mat will allow South Hadley to tackle full speed and go to the ground without actually going to the ground. South Hadley coach Scott Taylor worked with the Gray System through USA football. It’s a set of tackling dummies that teach players proper technique for wrapping up and tackling with the shoulder.

“With the way the sport is progressing and the way that tackling is being taught with the shoulder strike system, these bags are perfect for what we want to accomplish,” Taylor said. “It’s creating muscle memory for the kids.”

The foundation asks two questions of its grant applicants: Why does your team deserve it? What is the money for?

Taylor impressed Cella with his presentation and his passion.

“He was very compelling, and he was very knowledgeable,” she said.

Safety has always been a part of the foundation’s mission, but it has become even more aware of the concerns in recent years.

“There’s been heightened awareness of the concussion issue, and I think it really deserves some education,” Cella said. “It’s a contact sport we can’t eliminate, but we can certainly reduce the opportunity for injury. There’s a risk in everything we do, but we’re trying to minimize the risk for these players.”

Taylor believes football is safer than it has ever been because of the equipment and knowledge available now.

“I think the game is really moving in the right direction. The game of football is going to teach these guys more about life than any other sport,” he said. “This is going to help us to create a safer environment for the kids.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com.