Monday, August 26, 2013

From the NFL to Youth Football, it's All About Player Safety

       “I have two boys and they both play football.  Both my father and my brothers played the game, so I was fortunate to grow up around the sport and can appreciate the many great life skills it teaches.” 

Charlotte Jones Anderson, Executive Vice President of the Dallas Cowboys, Chairman, NFL Foundation; parent of three athletes

When I read this quote I thought, That is my life.  I know exactly what she's talking about.   Both my boys play football. Growing up my four brothers played football.  My dad coached my brothers and my husband coaches our sons.

I've loved football my entire life.  In fact, during football season football is life.

Football has taught my boys many life skills.  They've learned dedication, work ethic, how to play as a team and the importance of being ON TIME.  I'll bet the farm that if you had to run laps when you're late for work you wouldn't be late for work.

Harsh yes, but it works.  

I've met many parents on my parenting journey who have questioned how safe football is for kids, and they wonder if I worry about my kids playing football.  I can say with all honesty that there have been plenty of games when my stomach was in knots as soon as I saw the size of the kids on the other team.

Or more importantly, the size of the kid lining up against my kid on the field.

I'm blessed to have my husband involved in coaching football because he's attended many clinics on player safety, and he knows the proper techniques for blocking, tackling and simply playing.  He's able to reassure me when I'm nervous about a game, and he's able to educate players to keep them healthy and safe.  He knows how to spot a concussion, and every team he's ever coached starts with players in shirts and shorts.

After a few practices they add a helmet, and then pads.  The coaches ease the boys into their season and this enables the kids to learn where to run, how to tackle, and where exactly the ball is supposed to go.
All of these keep the players safe because there is no better way to get run over on a football field than to be standing there with no clue on what is going on.

I'll take this opportunity to add that knowing the game is essential to safety and while it may be annoying to get to three, four, sometimes five practices a week, it's important.  When parents sign their boys up for football, they need to understand they are signing up for late nights on the field, away games, and mud practices.  It's all part of the deal.  All of the practice time teaches players the game and the positions, and without it, kids are more likely to be injured.

I feel blessed that my boys are participating at a time when player safety and youth concussion laws are in place.  When my brothers played there was not as much awareness as there is now.  Heads Up Football, the NFL, and USA Football are educating youth football leagues across the country on proper tackling techniques.  Proper tackling prevents unnecessary injuries and keeps players healthy.  The NFL has also advocated for the passage of youth concussion laws in every state, hoping to protect youth athletes and ensure they get proper medical care. As a result, nearly every state in the country now has a youth concussion law.   

With boys all over the country suiting up for their football season, this is very good news for players and parents.  

As a veteran football mom, I have a few safety tips for parents who are new to parenting a football player:

1.  Prepare your kids.  Remind them to pay attention to their coaches and to work hard.  Football is not for the faint of heart.  Everyone hates the first few weeks of practice, it's a shock to the system after all that summer fun in the pool.  Tell your kids to work through it, they'll be glad they did.

2.  When the equipment comes home, have your son wear his helmet in the house.  I always had my boys sit and watch their television programs with that bad boy on their head.  If there is one piece of equipment that takes some getting used to, it's a helmet.

3.  Make sure their equipment fits well and is worn properly.

4.  Know the signs of a concussion, and remember you're better safe than sorry.  It never hurts to visit the pediatrician.

5.  Get to practice early.  There's nothing worse than showing up to practice late and having to throw equipment on and get going.  If your player is early, he's able to warm up and be with his team before that whistle blows.

Last but not least, bring plenty of water and make sure your son stays hydrated.  On those hot August afternoons, you may want to pack a cooler with drinks and a cold towel for your son to keep cool.  

Wishing every player a healthy and productive football season.  Remember to have fun, and play hard!

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