Sports and Safety: What Every Parent Needs to Know

The “Monsters of the Midway” never saw them coming.

This past fall, 200 moms took over the Walter Payton Center at Halas Hall in Lake Forest to take part in the “NFL Moms Safety Clinic.” The event, hosted by the Bears and sponsored by the NFL, is part of the league’s commitment to getting kids active and playing sports in a healthy and safe manner.

The workshop included presentations from several high-profile speakers, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Dr. Oz and “football moms” Diane Long (mom to NFL players Chris and Kyle) and Chris Golic (mom to NFL player Mike Jr.). The goal of the workshop was to educate moms about football safety issues, which include concussion awareness, proper equipment fitting and safe tackling techniques.

Learn Correct Technique 

Can learning how to tackle really help keep your child safe in football? The answer, according to ETHS Football coach Eddie Conley, is a resounding yes.

“Football is a contact sport, and sure, it can be rough, but there are ways to keep the game safe and it starts with proper training, which is best learned at the youth level,” Coach Conley says.

He credits the USA Football’s initiative “Heads Up Football” for highlighting proper tackling protocol, which includes a focus on less helmet contact. “If parents understand that learning proper tackling techniques will keep their kids safer on the field, they are more likely to make sure their kids learn these skills when they are young, before bad habits can form.”

Understand Concussion Awareness

When it comes to sports, the threat of concussions is always an issue, which is why it’s vital for all parents and coaches to learn the signs and symptoms of concussions as well as what to do if you suspect that your child has one. Parents should also talk to their children’s coaches to make sure the team has an appropriate concussion-awareness plan in place to ensure someone is looking out for your kids at all times.

Be Your Child’s Advocate

One of the best takeaways I learned from the clinic is that parents need to be their children’s health and safety advocates, both on and off the field. This means making sure your child’s uniform (including padding and helmet) fits correctly so as to maximize injury prevention. It also means looking out for your kid, even when he doesn’t want you to.

“Sometimes kids will lie to their coaches,” Diane Long says. “It’s not that they want to lie, but they often may not tell their coach if they are injured or hurt just because they want to keep playing.”

As parents, we must also watch out for our kids by asking questions and making informed decisions. Going to the “NFL Moms Safety Clinic” opened my eyes to ways parents can help their kids stay healthy and safe in any sport they play.

NFL & Heads Up Football Advisory Committee member Amanda Rodrigue said it best when she offered me this advice: “Learn everything you can about your child’s sport. This means knowing the rules, staying informed when it comes to safety issues, and learning where you can best get relevant information. Be an advocate not only of your own child, but also of all youth athletes in the sport and of the game in general.”

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