Some of my earliest memories are of sports. Whether it was yelling “touchdown!” while watching football with my dad or digging my soccer cleats far enough into the dirt that I could twirl on them, sports quickly became my passion, my love, and my life. The sports I played defined me. I danced through pre-school, wore cleats through elementary school, bumped the ball through middle school, deadlifted through high school, threw the discus through college, cycled into my early twenties, and tackled a sport I never thought possible in my late twenties.
Trying out to play full contact women’s football for the Washington, DC Divas last year was one of the scariest, and equally thrilling things I’ve ever done in my life. To play a sport dominated by men was empowering, but player safety was always at the forefront of my mind.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about the risks involved in playing full contact football, but I knew that there were steps I could take to prevent injury. First, I needed to learn proper technique and second, I needed to invest in my helmet and padding.
As a rookie, how I played as far as my technique was concerned became just as important as how I performed athletically. A successful game to me was not only leaving with a win, but also walking away injury free.
These women became my family, and whether they were on my team or not, I never wanted to see someone get injured or concussed because of improper tackling technique.
I’ve often been asked if I’ll let my children play football, and my answer is always yes. What’s important to me is that my children are taught proper tackling technique and that all of their coaches be educated and certified. The reality is, injury can happen in any sport, but when a child plays a full contact sport it becomes extremely important for them to understand that how they play can greatly affect the health and well being of themselves, their teammates, and the men and women they play against.
With a $1.5 million grant from the NFL Foundation, the NFL and USA Football launched the Heads Up Football program to educate the country on proper tackling technique. These organizations are committed to…
-working with parents to make sure they understand how to help their kids stay safe on the playing field
-teaching youth football players Heads Up tackling during the 2013 season
-educating and certifying coaches through Heads Up Football
-properly fitting players for their helmet and shoulder pads
-working with coaches and players to change the culture of the game
As a women’s full contact football player, it is so important to see these organizations embrace their leadership roles and to educate coaches, players, and parents on concussions, player safety, and tackling techniques. Addressing these issues ensures that the sport of football will be around for future generations, whether or not my sons or daughters decide to play.