Mothers know about safety. When they know their child is safe, they're happy. It's only natural for a mother to be concerned about her child playing football. Yes, it may be the most popular sport in America, but it's not without its risks. A mother that knows the keys to safety in the sport of football is a mother that will allow her child to play a game that is beloved for not just its action on the field, but the lessons it teaches as well. Arming mothers with information about how to play football safely is what the Atlanta Falcons' Moms Football Clinics is all about.
One night earlier this week, more than 100 Atlanta area mothers got together for a football night of their own. The ladies spent over two hours at Sandy Creek High School learning from experts about the sweeping safety measures that are taking place in all of football, especially at the youth level. The women walked away not with a better understanding of the X's and O's of football, but with knowledge about how to teach their child to play safely and how to spot dangers before they happen.
The Falcons hosted their inaugural Moms Football Safety Clinic at Kings Ridge Christian School in Alpharetta on Tuesday, designed for moms who have a son or daughter playing youth football
"You can never be too safe and safety measures are improving every year," Mia McCarney, whose 14-year-old son has played football since he was four, said. "I came to get this information so I can take it back to his high school team and I can share it with the other moms.
Former Falcon and current USA Football Master Trainer Buddy Curry taught technique, wrapping up the evening with a light session covering how to wrap up, a.k.a. tackle. Falcons players Joe Hawley, Cliff Matthews, Patrick DiMarco, Jonathan Massaquoi, Mike Johnson and Josh Vaughan were on hand to lead mothers through their drills. Mothers learned the art of the textbook tackle, a technique that is designed to ensure the safety of both the tackler and the opponent.
Team neurosurgeon Dr. Kaveh Khajavi helped mothers understand how to treat and prevent concussions. Bill Peake from equipment manufacturer Riddell gave the attendees a thorough demonstration of the correct way to size and wear football's protective gear. Peake didn't hold back any details, explaining all the specifics of helmet and shoulder pads, down to the parts of the face and shoulder helmet and shoulder padding should touch.
Stephanie Rodriguez, a mother of a six-year-old entering his first year of football, said the Moms Football Clinic gave her the confidence to know that she can monitor her son's safety while playing as well as share what she knows with others. Before, she was a football fan, now she's a smart football mom.
"I am a single mom and I have no idea how to fit his uniform, his helmet, his pads," Rodriguez said. "All I know is that we love football. It was very necessary for me to come as a mother to make sure my child is going to be safe when playing."
Also in attendance was Brian Parker from the Taylor Hooton Foundation, an organization dedicated to raising awareness around the use of performance enhancing drugs, steroids and dietary supplements. Stephanie Douglas, mother of Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas and Melissa Bryant, wife of Falcons kicker Matt Bryant, hosted a mothers question-and-answer session and provided support during the tackling session.
Tuesday's session is the second Moms clinic the Falcons have hosted this offseason and they're the only team in the NFL to host more than one this year. With summer workouts and uniform fittings right around the corner, it was the perfect time for some mom and football fellowship.
Learning how to tackle from Falcons players may win the moms in attendance some points with their children, but the mothers walked away with something more valuable: knowing that the risks of football can be managed and the psychological and physical benefits of the sport can outweigh the risks.
"In everything that you do, there's some type of risk," Dawn Brown, mother of a Sandy Creek High School player said. "We just have to take as much care and precautions and educate ourselves as much as we can to lessen that."