The rate of participation in youth football has declined significantly in recent years. The NFL hopes to combat that by going straight to a boy's first football recruiter: his mom.
Through it's USA Football, a non-profit group started by the National Football League, organizers are offering Mom Clinics where women go through the motions of what boys experience on the gridiron. The clinics aim to reassure moms that safety is a focus of the NFL and youth football, and that the sport is committed to protecting future linebackers and tackles.
Participation in football has declined in recent years. In a recent Bloomberg Politics poll, more than half of all Americans said they did not want their sons in the sport, the New York Times reports in its piece about the clinics. A separate survey found that close to half of those polled said they didn't think boys should play football until high school.
Sports organizers know that it's moms by and large who decide what sports their kids will play, which is why USA Football is designed to bring in women. Few have competed in football themselves, so clinicians instruct moms on the moves.
The NFL needs the youth football leagues to ensure they have a pool of talent to choose from for the multibillion dollar business. But conclusions of brain studies are making more and more families question whether the risk is worth it.
A recent study found that retired players who started playing before they were 12 years old had a significantly increased risk for developing memory and thinking problems compared to players who started in their teens. Both groups, however, scored below average on memory and cognitive test. On many of the tests, there was at least a 20-point difference between the group that started before 12 and the ones who started after.