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Independence Blue Cross deepens support of Philadelphia Union Foundation’s HeadFirst program aimed at youth mental fitness

Multi-year commitment will fund the innovative mental health program, which has already provided mental fitness toolkits to 6,500 youth soccer players in Delaware County and surrounding communities

Independence Blue Cross (IBX) and the Philadelphia Union Foundation announced today that IBX has extended its support of HeadFirst, an initiative focused on enhancing mental fitness for youth soccer players, over multiple years.

HeadFirst is one of the Philadelphia Union Foundation’s signature programs, and is designed to give players, parents and coaches the tools and resources they need to positively impact players’ mental health — which is just as important as their physical health.

“Mental fitness is absolutely critical to any athlete’s overall well-being, especially youth athletes,” said Gregg Holgate, interim executive director, Philadelphia Union Foundation. “As we look to be a force of positive change in our communities, it is clear that we have to address mental health. Through HeadFirst, we have already reached more than 6,500 local youth soccer players, their parents and their coaches. With Independence Blue Cross’ long-term commitment and generous support, we will be able to help thousands more young athletes build their mental fitness.”

HeadFirst reaches players, parents and coaches through in-person coaching sessions called A Happier U, as well as tailored digital mental health toolkits focused on topics including depression, grief, social media use, anxiety and bullying. Additionally, HeadFirst will be hosting its first Mental Fitness Forum at Subaru Park on May 14.

“HeadFirst brings critical conversations about mental health directly to the field so that student athletes, coaches, and caregivers can participate at a level that’s both appropriate and impactful for each group. The Philadelphia Union Foundation has created a safe space for youth in our region to embrace the importance of both physical and mental fitness. We believe in fostering whole-person health and are excited to support HeadFirst in its efforts to reach more players on and off the field,” said Dr. Rodrigo Cerdá, Independence Blue Cross senior vice president of Health Services and chief medical officer.

IBX will join a panel discussion on the mental health challenges faced by athletes at the Mental Fitness Forum in May. To register to attend the Mental Fitness Forum, go to the Philadelphia Union Foundation website.

For more information about HeadFirst and to access the digital toolkits, visit


Media contact:
Kathleen Conlon