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Chris Golic tells parents 'sky is not falling' in work with USA Football

Chris Golic is more than the wife of former Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Mike Golic, who is half of ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" morning show. She also is a mother of three college athletes, including two former Division I football players, and an advocate for moms of student athletes.

Chris was selected to be part of USA Football's Heads Up Football Advisory Committee earlier this year. The committee -- which includes 22 men and women representing youth football experts, retired NFL players, educators and medical professionals -- is helping to advance Heads Up Football's mission to promote player safety for the children who love to play the sport.

Chris, who recently saw how the New Britain (Conn.) Youth Football League is using the Heads Up Football program, spoke with NFL Evolution contributing Editor Bill Bradley earlier this week. She discussed how she got involved in USA Football, what she likes about the Heads Up Football program and how she sees her role in the youth football project.

How did you get involved in USA Football's Heads Up Football program?

I guess they went through the channels at ESPN first. I got a series of emails ... and they contacted me to see if I had any interest in being part of the committee. I was happy, surprised, felt honored to be even considered to be part of the committee. It came at the perfect time in my life because all of my children are either through college now or in college. I was looking for something to throw myself into after being a stay-at-home mom all these years. It was a subject matter I was very familiar with, so I was more than happy to jump in.

Did you know what Heads Up Football was about when you joined the committee?

I did not. But once I read about it and thought about it, it's a program that is long overdue, especially at the youth football level. It was definitely something I wanted to back and get involved with.

When you were raising your kids, especially your sons, did you ever see the need for a program like this?

The one thing we were always fortunate with was that we had a built-in coach living with us in my husband. That kind of picked up for any deficiencies we may have had in the youth football programs. He was able to fill in the blanks. But as you go through anything and you're working with volunteers, you appreciate volunteers donating their time. Like any walk of life, there's some volunteers that are more equipped to do a great job than others. This program fills in those gaps from some of the people who mean well and who are donating their time and working with the kids, but may not have all of the necessary hands-on tools to do a great job with the fundamentals and the player safety.

It appears as if you appreciate the coaching-certification aspect of Heads Up Football.

I definitely do. You get people from all walks of life with different theories about how things should go with coaching youth sports. While their way might work, I like the uniformity of knowing as a parent what you should be looking for coaching and what fundamentals they should be teaching and the direction that the sport is heading as far as player safety. I think it's an important thing to know that they're certified and we're all on the same page with our expectations.

Recently you were in New Britain watching a youth league use the Heads Up Football program. What was that like?

That was great. It was the first chance that I had to really see it firsthand. I participated in the mother's clinic that (USA Football and the NFL) held in the summer at Ohio State. But that was different. It was more of a Q&A environment with mothers there. But this was going out and seeing with my husband the implementation of a program. It was actually talking to parents and talking to coaches and seeing how the implementation was going with their group. It was great to see. New Britain had done a terrific job of embracing it. There have been some teams that have signed up for it and they're not following through the way they should. This one has done it from top to bottom the right way. The parents are involved. The players are being taught correctly. The coaches are all certified. It was great to see it being implemented and being successful.

What do your three children think about this role you have taken?

As a family, we talk about these kind of subjects all the time, especially when topics come up in the news and what not. We tend to sit and talk about it. And they think it's a great thing, too. When my husband Mike was playing, it was completely different than how it is today. You've seen how it has kind of pulled away from the mentality of "rub some dirt on it and you're fine." Now, it's "we really have to see what's going on here." While you want football players to be tough and learn to play with little injuries, the things that have to do with concussions, the time has come to look a little closer at what's going on. It's time to realize the long-term ramifications of not following through on a concussion.

As a former NFL player, what has Mike said about your work with Heads Up Football?

He is completely behind it. Any hang-ups my husband has with rule changes tends to be on the professional level. As far as youth football, he couldn't be more behind it. He feels that the technique in football today has really fallen by the wayside, so he believes in the fundamentals and teaching kids the right way to play. As these kids come through the ranks, he thinks you'll see a better quality of football in regards to tackling.

You have no coaching experience, but you know a lot about football. How do you see your role as a member of the Advisory Committee and at these clinics?

I kind of feel like it's my role to talk to mothers. In this day and age, you hear mothers say, "Oh, I'm not going to let my son play this" or "I'm not going to let my daughter do this." They tend to be the real decision-makers when it comes to what their kids participate in. For the most part, they'll take them to all of their practices. They're pretty involved on a day-to-day basis. I feel like my role is to let the mothers know that the sky is not falling with regards to football and youth sports in general. You tend to hear the media report a lot of the worst-case scenarios when it comes to sports and injuries. You tend to hear about the really bad stories involving sports and parents tend to latch onto it and become afraid. I can understand that. You want what's best for your kids. But I also realize that we can't live in a bubble. I think the best way to approach sports is to equip yourself with information, make sure that the coaches are equipped to do their job and that they're certified. You have to let your kids live their life. I would never want to stand between my kids and something that they love and have a chance to be really successful at. I consider myself as someone who should be boosting them and finding a way to make them successful rather than telling them, "No, no, no, no. You shouldn't do that. That's not good for you to do." I don't believe in that. Life is too short. You need to go out and try things, whether it's being in the band or being on the football team. You need go out and experience it and you need to be involved in something. I think that's very important.

What's your next assignment with Heads Up Football?

I'm going to Chicago, where they're going to have another women's clinic at the Bears facility on Oct. 29. I've been asked to be a part of that. ... It's going to be a little bit smaller and more intimate than the Ohio State mom's clinic was. The other little curl we're going to put into it is my son Jake -- who played football at Notre Dame and suffered through a few injuries while he was there -- will be part of the panel, too. Moms can come and ask him questions because we have a coach usually there and we have a mother. We thought it was a good idea to have a player there who has been involved almost to the top level at Division I college football. We'll get his perspective and he could lend some good information to the group.

You sound very excited to be in this role.

I'm just excited to be a part of it. My sons kept asking me, "What are you going to do when you're an empty-nester?" I'm kind of one of those people who believe that something will show itself to me that I can get involved in and that I'm going to feel like it is worth my time. That's how I feel about this. It's something I've been around my whole adult life with my husband and my kids. It's something that's gaining momentum and that is important for the success of youth sports going forward. As long as they'll have me around, I'll be happy to be a part of it.

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