Who says Mom doesn't know anything about football? On April 14th, the Miami Dolphins - in conjunction with USA Football's "Heads Up Football" program and Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon- held their second annual Moms Football Safety Clinic.
Moms from all over came into the Dolphins practice facility at Nova Southeastern University (you all know it as "The Bubble") to get educated on exactly how to help their children be better prepared for their football leagues in terms of checking their equipment, getting better nutrition, and overall just making the game safer for their kids.
There were several guest speakers there to share their own experiences as football moms, one of which was the Dolphins Executive Vice President of Football Administration Dawn Aponte, who besides being a high-ranking executive for the Dolphins and serves on the USA Football Board of Directors, is also a mother of four.
"If there's one thing that I would like for you to give rare thought to as a parent, it would be to focus on the intangible benefits that our kids derive from participating in sports, specifically football." Aponte said to the moms during the clinic's introduction.
Of course she was not the only mom there. After the initial presentations by the guest speakers, a moms panel was put together, consisting of a few moms who had already been introduced earlier in the clinic. On that panel was head coach Joe Philbin's wife Diane, Stephanie Hickey - wife of GM Dennis Hickey, special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi's wife Tracey, Debbie Hall - mother of Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes, and Bernadette Vernon, mother of DE Olivier Vernon.
The moms were given an opportunity to ask questions, and one of the questions posed was what made the players great men on top of being great athletes, and Bernadette Vernon said quite bluntly, "Being humble."
Bernadette in particular seemed very interested in the event, as she mentioned that she had actually learned things herself that she hadn't known before, like how to put the helmet on her son properly thanks to the demonstration that had been made earlier.
That demonstration was made by Joe Cimino, who has been with the Miami Dolphins as the equipment manager for 22 years, and his demonstration on how athletes needed to wear their protective gear like helmets and shoulder pads with a little help from defensive end Olivier Vernon was well-received by all who were in attendance.
“Tonight I really learned a lot, especially on the safety aspect. I would have to say I certainly didn't know how important the fit of the equipment is,” said participant Rachel Derenoncourt, who along with her two young sons recently relocated to South Florida. “The equipment is important in order to make sure not only that they have a good time, but they’re safe.”
As for Vernon himself, he spoke of how much he appreciated the event and how glad he was to be able to come and support the cause.
"Seeing all the moms that came out here, seeing their concern about the safety of their children, I'm here to support the movement, it's a great thing, great cause, 'cause you wanna keep your kids safe, especially in football, it's a violent game." Vernon said.
Vernon also went on to say how much he enjoyed the fact that he could be doing the event with his mother, who clearly enjoyed herself and even started doing a little dancing when music started playing over the loudspeakers. Vernon said how she'd always supported him, and always did whatever she could to help him to the best of her ability while he was growing up.
"She would just cheer me on, she always came to all my games, every single game, playing soccer, baseball, football, she'd just be there. She'd be my fan, and then she'd always be the football mom going into high school and college, she was just always there."
Other speakers included Miami Dolphins Assistant Athletic Trainer and Physical Therapist Jonathan Gress and Nutritionist Mary Ellen Bingham, who stated in her talk that chocolate milk was an excellent post-exercise snack. Children of the world rejoice.
The night ended for the moms with warmup exercises and drills on how to tackle properly that was instructed by several Dolphins alumni, which included former running back Troy Stradford, former fullback Lousaka Polite, and former tight end Troy Drayton just to name a few.
"It's a lot deeper than just concussions." Drayton said of the message they were hoping to get across to the moms in attendance. "Youth football has taken a hit in participation, the numbers have dropped. So we just want to educate the moms basically and let them know that it's a lot. When it comes to your son or daughter's safety, there's a lot of things that go into it before putting a kid on the field."
Drayton went on to summarize exactly what it was the moms were meant to learn, such as proper equipment and hydration, and he also gave some advice on how to choose a league for a young athlete. "You wanna make sure that the program your child's in has a concussion protocol in place that 'when in doubt, sit them out'."
Moms always tell their kids that they know everything, and now thanks to the Miami Dolphins organization, it's quite possible that these moms are now one step closer. 125 moms registered to participate and to learn the intricacies of football safety, and most of the moms who were there raised their hands when asked if they had children who aspired to be in the NFL. That's why this event is so important, because the moms are important.
“Moms play an important role in the game of football, bringing their children to practice and games." said Drayton. "Moms in many instances prepare the equipment our young football players wear each day and teach them the proper way to wear equipment. This clinic is step in empowering them to have the confidence to make the game safer.”
The Miami Dolphins recently completed the coaches clinic to help aspiring athletes become better on the field, and now they have taken another step towards molding the future of football by making sure that the women in charge of taking care of the children at home are well-versed in how football is meant to go as well.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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