NEW YORK -- The NFL Foundation announced Monday it is spending $45 million to support youth football and protect kids from concussions. Part of that involves getting them to tackle properly, and the league figures there's only one person most kids will listen to.
Leina Douka is a 34-year-old mother learning how to play football at a camp in Georgia. She has no intention of ever entering a game; she's doing it for her children.
"Honestly, I was one of those moms who thought, 'It will never happen to my kid,'" Douka says.
Two years ago, Douka's older son Tristan suffered a concussion. He was carted off the field and later stopped playing entirely. Douka's youngest son, Logan, did not.
"I never worried until that happened to my older one," she says. "Now, I'm constantly worried."
Football accounts for 30 percent of concussions in boys between the ages of 15 and 19, far and away the leading source. That's why the NFL is running this camp. The thinking is: if moms know what's right, they can make sure their kids do, too.
"They appreciate just being able to be on the field and to understand the drills and to participate in it and understand it better," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says.
Asked how he responds to questions from mothers who ask whether their kids should play football, Goodell says, "Well, that's a personal decision."
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"But we want them to have the right information when they make those decisions," he continues. "When moms understand it better, they say, 'Yes, we want our kids to participate. We like the fact that we're brought into the circle, so that we can understand better the game and understand what you're doing to make sure when I leave my kid with you, as a coach, you're making sure that he's being taken care of.'"
One major focus of the Heads Up program is teaching kids not to copy some professional players who have been fined for illegal helmet-to-helmet hits.
"A lot of this is returning to the fundamentals of football," Goodell says. "We're getting back to those fundamentals. The helmet is designed for protection. It is not a weapon."
"Before it's, 'Mom, you don't know, you don't know what you're talking about,'" Douka says of conversations she'd have before she attended the camp. "Now, I feel like I can say, 'I went to a camp. I do know what I'm talking about, and that's what you need to be doing.'"
Douka is among the first. The NFL says the plan is to bring Heads Up to 10,000 youth leagues nationwide.
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