Being a football parent is no easy task.
The mom and dad duties of caring for children playing the game extends far beyond daily trips to the field for practice and cheering them on gameday from the stands or the sidelines.
For parents, their child's health comes before anything else. That's what Darrell Taylor, the Cleveland Browns Director of Youth Football, discussed Tuesday with a panel of professionals in a Youth Football Parents Clinic virtual presentation, where several experts joined him to discuss all the ways a parent can ensure their child is staying safe and healthy while playing football.
"The Browns care about the community, athlete health and safety, as evident in our 'Browns Give Back' focus on educating youth football parents and coaches," Taylor said at the beginning of the presentation. "There are no better advocates for a child's health and well-being than his or her parents."
Parents must be educated and aware of several key components to their child's health during a youth football season. The panel discussed proper performance nutrition, concussions and heat-related injuries, proper blocking and positioning technique to lessen injury risk and other ways to be an outstanding parent ready to lead their child through a successful youth football career.
Nicole Ward, mother of Browns cornerback Denzel Ward, knows what it takes to be a football mom. She is also the executive director of the Make Them Know Your Name Foundation, a heart health foundation created by individuals and organizations willing to take action to positively impact the heart disease epidemic.
Ward, who opened the presentation detailing how people can take part in the MTKYN's mission to promote awareness on heart health issues, said being a mom to an NFL player feels no different than being a mom to a youth football player.
"I am a mother first," she said. "That's just how it is. I have the same worries, concerns and things that were at the youth level as we do at the NFL level. I feel like my role as a mother is to be there to guide him, give him advice and protect him."
How should parents do that? It starts with education. In the presentation, Dr. Christopher M. Bailey discussed concussion awareness, Katy Meassick — the Browns' team dietician — covered dietary needs of a youth athlete and Dr. Sean A. Cupp examined warning signs and first steps to preventing heat illness.
With many youth sports in the country still on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Beau Rugg, OHSAA Senior Director of Officiating and Sport Management, also explored when youth sports might be able to safely return in Ohio. Coach Chuck Kyle from St. Ignatius High School covered the techniques players should use to safely deliver a block or finish a difficult tackle, and Roman Oben, a former NFL player who spent 12 years in the league and is currently the NFL Vice President of Youth & High School Football, rounded out the presentation with a discussion on his challenges as a youth player and how he's taught his children through youth football.
No health-related segment of the game is more important than the other, and it's crucial for parents to stay in-tune with how their child can safely practice and meet the physical — but fun — demands of football.
For more tips on youth football and to view the full presentation, visit https://www.clevelandbrowns.com/community/youth-football