Moms of Youth Players Get Football Cram Course – ABC News

Four dozen women snap selfies in the New York Giants locker room. They examine the pros’ helmets and shoulder pads, then head to the field house to do drills.

The women all are football moms, and they’re learning about tackling techniques, hydration, training and equipment care, all designed to keep their sons playing the game safely.

The clinics are part of an initiative by the NFL and USA Football, which governs the sport, to demonstrate the benefits of the Heads Up Football program. They could soon become a regular part of the calendar. The Falcons and Vikings also have held events this month, the Cardinals will do so in July, and 10 other teams are planning such sessions.

The idea is simple: making parents feel secure about their children playing the sport.

“Football has become the poster child for concussions,” says Chris Golic, whose husband, Mike, played eight seasons in the NFL as a defensive lineman, and whose two sons played at Notre Dame. “But it’s a sport that gives a family so much, and has given my family so much. We want to reach out and say that the sky is not falling, that there are changes happening to make the game safer.”

That’s being done in a hands-on way for the mothers. They break a sweat as they learn the five positions in Heads Up Football that keep the head and neck out of tackling: the breakdown; the buzz; the hit; the shoot; and the rip.

While the drills are accompanied early on by lots of chatter and laughs, the women get serious once USA Football master trainer Vince Digaetano, an assistant coach at SUNY Maritime in New York, orders them into action. Explaining is one thing, Digaetano says, but actually performing the drills pays off far more.

“I felt silly at first, like a kid learning,” said Dori Toth of Metuchen, New Jersey, “but at the same time, I felt I was getting it. I understand why they do it step by step. I like doing it like that.”

Another mom, Dena Muller of New York, was so reluctant to allow her son, Gus Muamba, to play football that it took more than two years before she signed him up for the Harlem Jets. Muller now echoes the message Chris Golic presents to parents who have doubts about football — or any sport, for that matter: “You can’t protect your kids from everything in life, but you can try to keep them safe in everything they do, and keep supporting them in chasing their dream.”

Muamba’s dream has been to play for his local league, and his mom says the opportunity has done wonders for her son healthwise, socially and in the classroom.

“I finally signed him up, still reluctant,” she said of Gus, now 12. “And it was amazing to see the change in my son — although after two weeks, he almost wanted to quit because he had never worked so hard. I told him, ‘No way. You chose to do this.’

“He lost 12 pounds in the first few weeks of conditioning, and got into very good shape. There is such an issue with weight among young people in America, and this was great to see.

“It was football two hours a day, three times a week. It was really valuable. He had an outlet for all his physical energy. He’d had a problem focusing in school, but after he began football, his teachers asked me: ‘What’s up with Gus, he seems so focused on his work now?’

“I said, ‘I think it’s the Harlem Jets.'”

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