The Philadelphia Eagles held a Moms Football Safety Clinic at the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday night. The three-hour event featured informative presentations, a tour of the Eagles' locker room, and hands-on experience with learning how to tackle responsibly.
The event began with short addresses from president Don Smolenski and general manager Howie Roseman, who had stories about their own children and football safety to share with the audience.
Smolenski's son, Shane, played football in seventh and eighth grade. After his wife, Karen, attended a football safety clinic she wanted him to check on her son's equipment and make sure it was fitting right to ensure his safety.
"I said come here, Shane, let me check your stuff, and he came over and I think I could do a full 360 with his helmet. So I said, this isn't right, you need a new helmet, you're not practicing," Smolenski recalled. "He came back the next night, the helmet still wasn't right. So I told him, Shane, you either need to get the coach to make this right or I'm going to take it to the principal and get it fixed.
"The third night, the helmet fit."
After Smolenski and Roseman spoke, further endearing themselves to the gathered Eagles moms, USA Football and Heads Up Football presented a few videos. The clips featured a host of football figures discussing football safety, including college head coaches, New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and licensed medical professionals who deal directly with concussions and football safety. The videos emphasized the importance of proper safety training for anybody interested in playing the game the right way.
After the videos, the clinic turned to a discussion hosted by 6abc sports anchor Jamie Apody, which featured Mindy Roseman, the wife of Howie Roseman; Gwendolyn Jenkins, the mother of safety Malcolm Jenkins and second vice president of the Professional Football Players Mothers Association; Cindy Zordich, the wife of former Eagles player and coach Mike Zordich and mother of current NFL fullback Michael Zordich; and Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
Jenkins discussed the idea of being afraid of your son or daughter getting injured while playing sports, something every parent deals with, regardless of the level of competition.
"I'm a mother of three sons, two of which were heavily involved with youth football from the age of seven. Safety is always in the forefront and was the most important thing when it came to their play, whether it was Pop Warner, high school, college, or now professional," Jenkins said. "Back then, when my kids were playing youth football, there were limited resources available to moms, so we were left to our own devices when it came to figuring out how to keep kids safe. We had to rely on instinct and intuition."
The main thing Jenkins wanted moms to take away from the night is that "safety is always a priority, and winning a game should never take priority over safety."
Zordich said the biggest thing she wants parents to take away from this panel was that sometimes, while parents always want to be helping their kids, sometimes the best idea is to just listen to specialists to do what's best for the children.
After the panel finished its discussion, three special clinics were held.
The first one, on heat and hydration, was held by head athletic trainer Chris Peduzzi.
Peduzzi emphasized the importance of two main things - knowing heat, and knowing hydration. Peduzzi presented a Heat Index Chart, which explained how much humidity affects actual temperatures when kids are on the field, so that parents know when it's too hot to be playing football on the field. He also emphasized the importance of good hydration, explained how it can affect performance, and how to balance electrolytes and straight water.
The second special clinic, held by Dr. R. Robert Franks, explained what to look for in concussion victims and how to handle them if they occur.
Franks opened and closed his panel with the idea of "the look;" the look that concussion sufferers get when they've been concussed. There are 36 symptoms of concussions, but the look, he said, is the most unequivocal.
"The one thing that never changes, whether a fifth grader or an Olympic athlete, the look never changes," Franks said.
He detailed baseline testing, which is something that is done before a concussion even occurs in order for doctors to have something to measure against if a concussion was to occur. He also told the moms in attendance what to look out for with potential concussions - headaches, vomiting, nausea, sensitivity to sound or light, and problems with balance and coordination.
On Wednesday, the Eagles hosted a Football Safety Clinic for moms at the NocaCare Complex to provide some Heads Up safety knowledge...
The final special clinic, which was quite possibly the peak of comedy for the night, was held by equipment manager Greg Delimitros and long snapper Jon Dorenbos.
Dorenbos and Delimitros demonstrated how to properly measure if a player's helmet and shoulder pads are fitting correctly, while Dorenbos cracked jokes and poked fun at Delimitros throughout the entire lesson.
An important part of the demonstration came when one mother asked about the inclusion of mouthpieces as important equipment.
Dorenbos explained to the audience that he had only recently learned this, but mouthpieces are actually worn to prevent concussions, not chipped teeth.
He also took the time to explain to the mothers that, while football players experience concussions, so do almost every other type of athlete. Soccer players, he pointed out, actually have the highest rate of concussions.
"The most important thing is to educate yourself, and don't fear concussions, and you'll be fine," Dorenbos explained.
Julia Ball and Peg Huff, two moms who actually run a Heads Up football league in Harleysville, Pa., said they were really impressed with the way the Eagles talked about concussions and equipment safety so frankly.
"This is fantastic," Ball said of the night's event and everything they learned in the special clinics. "We always felt there was a missing piece to the education."
Huff said her favorite part of the night was seeing the equipment be fitted onto Dorenbos, because it was something she felt she needed to learn more about.
"There were times," she explained, "when I was worried about the equipment being used in our league." After Dorenbos' demonstration, she said, she felt much better.
After Dorenbos wrapped up his wildly popular clinic, the moms made their way to the Eagles' locker room, where they received an exclusive tour of the amenities in the NovaCare Complex. Dorenbos gave the moms a tour of his slightly messy, slightly zany locker, including the Frisbees he keeps on hand to make sure the locker room stays lively. There were plenty of photo opportunities, with mothers calling their children to find out which lockers they should take pictures in front of.
From the locker room the moms traversed to the indoor practice facility for the final segment of the night, the Heads Up Football tackling techniques session. USA Football master trainer Dick Adams spent 45 minutes teaching the moms how to properly tackle, so that they when they returned home that night they would be able to relay the information to their football-frenzied children - and their coaches as well.
Adams had the moms using the techniques in full force as they "ripped" and "gripped" the padded mats provided for practicing their new skills. The main emphasis of the demonstration was to reinforce the idea of safe tackling. Adams explained to the audience that, while "wrapping up" is commonly preached by coaches around the country, it is the wrong way to go about tackling. By keeping players' arms straight up and "ripping" instead of "wrapping", the players find it easier to keep their heads up when they make a big tackle.
After tiring the collected moms out with exhaustive drills, Adams gathered the group for one last huddle.
"In 30 minutes," he said, "you got into a stance, you got into tackling position, and learned how to do proper action with the arms. You yourself went through the proper training.
"This systematically teaches a good, solid tackle."
After the event, Jenkins was thankful to have to forum to share what she's learned over the years.
"You meet moms that didn't know a lot of the information, you feel like you've imparted some of your knowledge and experience, and that's what it's all about.
"That wasn't available when my kids were coming up in terms of sharing that information, and the fluid communication that's available now."
Jenkins wanted to drive home the concussion safety, the health safety and the nutritional safety, but most of all to get express the idea that parents are able to play a big role in all of it.
"The most important part, I think, is sharing with the parents that they really have control and a voice as parents to be able to be informed, get educated themselves, and then they can make better decisions for their children," she said.