More than 200 moms from at least 15 Colorado youth football leagues attended the event. The clinic emphasized the key aspects of Heads Up Football -- USA Football’s initiative to help make the sport of football better and safer.
“I looked at what [the event] was and it was about tackling -- which is one of the main things I do on a daily basis so I figured why not go out here and teach some of the moms how to teach their kids how to tackle,” Johnson said. “It’s a sport that is tuning into safety in tackling with heads up football and stuff like that.”
During the event, the moms went to four stations, learning about Heads Up tackling fundamentals, concussion awareness, heat and hydration safety and equipment fitting.
Wayne Voorhees, USA Football’s master trainer in Colorado, goes to schools around the state and teaches coaches about tackling safely. He led the portion of the event where the moms learned about Heads Up tackling.
“We want to make sure that moms understand that football is a safe game if it’s played correctly,” he said. “This is just all about the fundamentals of tackling and showing them that it is safe to tackle and make plays.”
The moms learned different drills -- including the buzz drill, shoot drill and the rip drill. Voorhees also showed them the optimal stance for their children that will allow them to safely tackle -- feet shoulder width apart, shoulder blades squeezed together, chest up and, of course, head up.
Johnson said his coaches would tell him to “look to the sky” when tackling.
During the equipment fitting portion of the event, the moms got to see the visitors locker room at Sports Authority Field as Broncos Equipment Manager Chris Valenti was joined by Nelson in explaining how to properly fit football players in their equipment.
Valenti was excited to hear that the Broncos were reaching out to moms with this event.
“You often hear ‘Well the guy at the sporting goods store said it fits or the guy at Dick’s said we should buy this one.’ That pains me every time because even when I was in high school it was what facemask do you like, put that helmet on, yeah it works,” Valenti said. “When you’re worried about brain health, you should do more than just that. You should know a little more. I know not every youth organization can have an equipment manager, but hopefully the coaches and parents can shed some light on what’s right.”
In addition to Valenti and Voorhees’ demonstrations, the event also featured seminars hosted by representatives from Rocky Mountain Youth Sports Medicine Institute and the Center for Concussion regarding football safety. Dr. Brooke Pengel, a pediatrician and sports medicine specialist, spoke to the women about heat and hydration safety. Dr. Sue Kirelik discussed concussion awareness.
The Broncos’ Director of Youth and High School Football, Bobby Mestas, said focusing on moms is important because they are “key decision-makers” in households.
He hopes the moms who attended this clinic will go to their leagues around the state and teach other parents what they learned.
“The NFL last year piloted a few of these moms clinics because that’s the next wave, if you can educate moms along with coaches, and dads for that matter, the more people you can have on that field who are educated on concussion symptoms and heat and hydration symptoms and making sure their kids are fitted correctly, the safer the game’s going to be,” Mestas said.