Dear Football Moms,
In the football world, I have witnessed the amazing. From my front row bleacher seat, to the emergency room seat my nervous pacing prevented me from using, I have lived the gamut of emotions a mom’s life brings –especially as a mom of four athletic boys.
In 2005, I unexpectedly found myself a single mom. I had no choice but to quickly figure out how to fly solo. That meant learning what made a house of four boys tick and how to speak “boy,” fluently and fast! My biggest fear in the early days was that my own failure would lead to consequences for them that could have lifelong repercussions. My mission had to be simple. My formula fool-proof. Family, faith, school, food, and STAY BUSY with productive after-school activities. While those activities could have included a myriad of “safe” clubs – I thought debate club and chess club sounded good – all four were drawn to athletics: football, baseball, and basketball. Kidding aside, I knew that the life lessons learned participating in athletics – teamwork, hard work, self-discipline – would serve them well in life…not to mention expend as much energy as possible! Remember…single mom…four boys! From that point on, my life would be a blur of thousands of hours spent on bleachers, at pre-game dinners, post-game rituals, injury set-backs, heartbreaking losses, and exhilarating wins.
Playing sports has helped each of my sons recognize and realize their dreams. Supporting those dreams and helping them “come true” became and remains my singular focus. Zach had always dreamed of playing college basketball until, at the advice of a high school mentor, he pivoted away from basketball and began training and focusing on playing tight end – with a goal of playing that position in college. “Our” dream came true when he went on to play college football at Stanford.
My second son, Shane, loved football too; he played wide receiver—until the unimaginable happened in the first home game of his senior season. Shane suffered a concussion during that game that left him motionless on the field. Against my wishes, after high school, he made several attempts to return to the sport, but it was not to be.
While both Shane and Zachary dreamed of playing football, only Zachary was able to live his football dream. I had one son running out of the tunnel on college football Saturdays, and another son who watched the game with me from the bleachers. Shane’s dream vanished because of a head injury. It was sitting on the bleachers with Shane that I realized I needed to do something to prevent the head injuries that had stolen my son’s dream of playing football.
While I am the first person to recognize that athlete safety requires a comprehensive solution – especially in the game of football – head health is my passion…my mission…my dream. When I was introduced to the team at Defend Your Head, I immediately recognized that their protective-technology aligned with my mission – effective and affordable head protection technology available to every youth and high school football player. Jackpot!!
To experience an entire town rallied around a high school team football under the Friday lights remains one of the single most unifying parts of our country’s culture. As parents, we can demand what protective equipment our players wear on their head. We MUST insist that the safest equipment is worn. Dreams – of course. Safety – imperative. In short, we must insist that the artificial barriers that keep the safest equipment off the field are removed.
To be completely transparent, I spend NFL Sunday’s praying, wringing my hands, and watching the game through my trusted “finger goggles”. If you have ever heard a helmet to helmet hit up close you will know why. When that helmet is protecting your son, it better be the very best it absolutely can be. The violent hits in the NFL are real and terrifying, but so are those experienced by all our kids—at every level. Yes, Zachary’s career has been full of blessings, we’ve made everlasting memories, and he is living his dream, but he is still my son, so my first prayer before every game is that he is spared injury. My post-game prayer is about thanks.
When in 2018, Zachary helped the Eagles bring the first Lombardi Trophy home to Philadelphia, I knew his dreams had come true. Equally amazing are my three younger sons who make me exceptionally proud. Shane, who once laid motionless and unresponsive on a football field for five minutes, is now a business executive. Nic, who missed his entire freshman and sophomore years of high school due to a back injury, and through nothing but the most incredible determination, rehabbed and miraculously made his high school varsity basketball team his senior year; that team went on to win the California state championship and today he plans to attend law school with his sole focus to help others. My youngest, Jackson, now 20, played basketball, football, and baseball his freshman year. He dedicated himself to football and baseball, and is now a D-1 scholarship baseball player at San Jose State University.
How do moms define success? For me it is raising kids who are prepared to succeed and giving them space for their dreams to come true. Never in my wildest dreams, did I think that high school football would really turn into a scholarship, into an NFL career, but here we are. In Zach’s case, his dreams of playing trumped the fears that we (as moms) have. As important, it gives me the fuel I need to turn my dreams of a safer game into reality.
As moms, we protect our children from the minute we meet them. Please join my fight to protect our sons and daughters head health in their athletic endeavors. Join me on my front row bleacher seat and experience some of the very happiest moments in your lives too.
With a sincere and grateful heart,
Lisa Ertz, Director of Health and Wellness
Defend Your Head