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Cooley, 'Heads Up' Trainers Preach Proper Technique At Moms Free Football Clinic

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Thanks to the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and USA Football, 150 Richmond-area mothers spent the afternoon at Independence Golf Course for an interactive learning session about proper tackling techniques.

Natalie Perry never grew up with football, at least the American kind.

Growing up in Ireland, she didn't need to know much about it, either. But now, living in Midlothian, Va., with two high school football players for sons, learning more about the game has become a greater priority.

Thanks to the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and USA Football, 150 Richmond-area mothers spent the afternoon at Independence Golf Course for an interactive learning session about proper tackling techniques.

That doesn't just mean comprehending the rules and the routes her sons are running. Mothering a football player, specifically in a climate of intense concussion and injury scrutiny, means knowing the finer fundamentals of the sport -- specifically ones that can create the most harm.

"For a mother's point of view, [it's important] for football players to pay attention to health and safety of the kids," Perry said. "It's important to keep their helmets up."

That was the primary method taught at a free football clinic for 150 Richmond-area moms on Friday. Thanks to the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and USA Football, who partnered with Dick's Sporting Goods, the afternoon wasn't just lectures. Using a portion of Independence Golf Course in Midlothian, Va., the learning was interactive, too.

Former Redskins tight end and two-time Pro Bowler Chris Cooley helped kick-start the program with a discussion about the importance his own mother had in his athletic life, one that wasn't dominated by intense nutritional regimens or gym workouts, common pressures for kids starting to develop and grow.

"She was always there for me," Cooley said of his mother before taking multiple questions from the crowd. "She took me anywhere I needed to go, she picked me up whenever I needed."

The mothers in attendance all had sons playing football, so their questions were sharp and personal. Cooley, addressing them honestly and openly, gave them advice on dealing with bad coaches, insulting parents and whether today's equipment is safe for a violent game.

Fans watched the Washington Redskins conduct their second day of training camp Friday, July 31, 2015, at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.

"I think the coaches I thought were great coaches were coaches who always had an answer for whatever they were doing," Cooley said. "I liked coaches that cared about me. I liked coaches that showed day in and day out that they cared about who I was, not just as a player, but as a person."

While only coaching the women for an hour, Tom LaNeve, a master trainer for "Heads Up," a program under USA Football, made sure to exemplify those qualities.

After a brief equipment tutorial, the women joined LaNeve and his assistant trainer Jeremiah Davis for several drills designed to emphasize proper tackling technique.

"I think it's most important that we're out here trying to make this game better and safer," said LaNeve, who has been running clinics for 25 years. "We're taking it to the ground roots, the grass roots if you will, to the kids, the youth level, as well as the high school level, but we're also educating. It's about education. If you understand what's going on, if you know how to do it properly, by the time you get out onto the football field the rest is very easy. We want to try and get that head out of the game as best as we possibly can."

LaNeve realizes completely eliminating it all is a nearly impossible task. And maybe for the cynics, teaching mothers how to properly wrap their arms around a tackle, or giving them knowledge about why a certain drill is important, can be fruitless or unproductive.

But mothers nurture. They teach. Knowing how to communicate with their sons about their sport, and knowing what to watch, is just as necessary in fostering safer technique.  It extends the dialogue in a sports landscape riddled with dangerous misinformation.

"I'll be honest, my wife did not want my son anywhere near the game football, but once she started understanding the game and understanding what we're trying to do out there, the knowledge opens up the reality of, "Ok I understand the game now, now how can I help? How can I make things a little bit better, keep my child safer?" LaNeve said. "That's why we're here as far as educating the moms so that they can not only understand the process, but actually go out there and do it like they were doing. So if you're doing it, you understand how we're teaching."

Of course, participating in drills can still be plain fun, and laughter remained a consistent soundtrack for an afternoon that involved some serious lessons.

"I really appreciated going out there and actually doing the drills and understand the position and what kids have to do," Perry said. "I'm really grateful for the opportunity to do this."

The group of mothers shuttled to Richmond after a catered lunch to take in the Redskins' afternoon practice. You can bet most of them paid more attention to the team's tackling drills.

"We realize we can't eliminate it at all, but we're trying to reduce it as much as possible," LaNeve. "And quite frankly, the moms, they're the kids' coaches, they're the kids' doctors, they're the kids'  equipment managers. But most importantly they're mom. And the health and safety of their child is first and foremost in their mind." 

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