On Saturday morning, the Miami Dolphins held their fourth annual Heads Up Football Mom's Clinic inside the practice bubble at their headquarters in Davie, reaching a record-high participation of 300 total parents who came to learn more about football safety and nutrition for their youth athletes.
“We are here educating families. Having both decision makers is a work in progress to a better and safer game. One thing we are trying to do is inform these parents, who then can make sure that their kids are playing safe and tackling properly and training them more on what signs to see,” Dolphins Manager of Youth Programs & former Dolphins tight end Troy Drayton said. “This event has grown a lot, when you think about when we first started we had about 75-80 people and now we are 300 people strong. We are getting into the roots of change, and for us that is what we want to do. One of our pillars of Youth Programs is health and safety and aligning with USA Football and its initiatives is an important element for us.”
The reason the number of participants skyrocketed from last year to this year is - despite the name of the clinic - fathers were allowed to join in and learn along with the mothers, who stated that they were glad to come and learn more about how to keep their kids safe while they play the sport they love.
"Coming here today and seeing all of the people here, truly there is no other sport [like football]," said team mom Susan Harrington, who has three of her own boys. "It's really informative, I took notes on the whole concussion thing, the fact that South Florida allows us - you can go to the Children's Hospital and get that free EKG or the impact testing, I'm definitely going to do that."
The reason this event is so significant is because of all the distrust the average parent has towards the sport of football. With news about a player getting a concussion on almost a daily basis, no parent is exactly thrilled about the prospect of their son or daughter suffering from even the slightest brain damage if it can be avoided.
This is why Youth Football leagues are so invested in this clinic, and a large majority of the participants in this year's event came from the Miami Extreme Youth Football League, with President Richard Raphael leading the charge in getting them the education they need to prepare and protect their young athletes.
"With all the attacks against football, we get parents that come out and learn about football, that way it keeps the game alive." Raphael said. "Our goal is to protect the game of football, and I think, what better way by starting from the bottom and teaching the parents about football, so that way they know the basic fundamentals and that way they know that it's safe to play football.
Perhaps the most important lesson that was taken from the event was how to properly fit helmets and protective padding, which was taught by equipment manager Joe Cimino with help from Dolphins kicker Andrew Franks, who was more than happy to offer his head for a helmet fitting.
"Understanding from a coaching standpoint, the safety aspects of how to make the sport itself safer is really big, I think that's huge." said Franks. "For me, I had a couple concussions in my high school career that could've been prevented probably ... setting these standards early is really important for youth football in general."
After the verbal lessons were completed, the parents got to get physical with the help of Dolphins alumni Troy Drayton, Twan Russell, Donald Brown, Ed Perry, Lorenzo Hampton and Chris Conlin.
Education is the key to progression in all facets of life, and the sport of football is no exception. With so many misconceptions about the sport floating around amidst news of injuries and concussions, it's no wonder parents are so against their children playing football.
But as more and more parents start to make an effort to learn more about the details of the sport, and with the help of events like this clinic there to guide them, there's a real chance that football will start to become brighter in the eyes of families everywhere.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Header Image Credit: Miami Dolphins
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