Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Oakland Raiders hosted a Parents’ Football Safety Clinic in conjunction with USA Football - Heads Up Football at their Alameda facility. The program allowed parents the opportunity to learn more about keeping their kids safe playing youth football.
Both moms and dads heard from Bassel Faltas of USA Football about Heads Up Football, Tom Harris of Riddell about proper equipment fitting, and Dr. Amit Malhotra and Dr. Elon Adams of Kaiser about concussion and hydration safety. Not only were they given essential information to make football fun AND safe, but they also had the chance to go out to the Raiders practice fields to learn hands-on how to tackle properly.
“Anything we can do to alleviate [parents’] anxiety and just educate them a little bit more about Heads Up Football and how the game should be taught, especially when we’re teaching tackling for the first time,” said Faltas. “Also, they had an opportunity to learn a lot about concussion recognition and response, heat and hydration awareness, proper equipment fitting, and they got to come out here and actually go through some of the drills that their kids are going to go through in terms of Heads Up tackling.”
USA Football wants to continue to see youth of all ages participate in football, but they want it to be done safely and, ultimately, be a better experience for the kids and their parents. “I think parent engagement is crucially important so the parents understand exactly how my kid is being taught and that will also help them feel a little bit better knowing that program has my young person’s best interests in mind,” said Faltas.
The clinic brought parents out from around the Bay Area, including from the Tokay Junior Tigers Football and Cheer. “This was absolutely one of the best things that we have ever been to as moms,” said Amber Filippini, one of the moms in attendance. “We’ve been involved in football for eight years and never been to anything like this. I’m really going to encourage all my moms to come back.”
While Filippini and the other parents in her organization were aware of basic safety, the clinic dove deeper. “We already knew about hydration, but not like this – certain things to look out for. We are now as a team going to take a little bit extra precaution with our kids, like make sure we have wet towels out there, make sure we have standby water,” said Filippini. “So basically just more safety, not only our kids involved in the program, but everybody’s kids that are involved in the program. I think it was great that you guys brought the doctors in. That really shed a lot of lights for us.”
Melissa Galvan, the vice president of the Tokay Junior Tigers, learned about the clinic from her husband. “He told us about it because he thought it would be very important for us to come since the boys come to us first before they go to the coaches if something happens,” said Galvan. “We’re constantly thinking, ‘are those boys fitted right, is that helmet proper, are those pads okay, are they safe?’ It was great for me as a coach’s wife to sit here and say, ‘oh, my husband did size that boy right,’ because I saw exactly the way that he put the helmet on them and the pads on them, so it was a great experience to get to watch the way that they are properly are sized for helmets and shoulder pads.”
The information from Faltas, the Riddell representative and the doctors provided a handbook-full of information for the parents to take back to their respective teams.
They then took the field for a full demonstration of how to properly heads-up tackle. Faltas ran the parents through various drills their kids would experience, so they would be able to ensure their children were tackling correctly.
“I loved it. I’m a Raiders fans, so to be here was very exciting, and then to be able to actually do the drills that my son and my daughter do on the football field was great,” said Galvan.
The Raiders support USA Football and keeping the youth safe. Having the Silver and Black involved helps the parents advocate for Heads Up Football. “As a youth group, having somebody like an NFL team come in and support us makes our parents look at our organization and NFL football as, ‘wow, they do take steps to make sure the kids are properly fitted, are properly hydrated,’ and to keep them involved in sports is something we focus on,” said Filippini.
The Raiders also host a coaches’ clinic and hope more information and more understanding of the safety of the game will keep football growing in the greatest way possible.