The Las Vegas Raiders continue to engage with the community during the pandemic, this week hosting a virtual clinic for parents of youth football athletes across Southern Nevada. The virtual presentation, titled “Raiders Return to Play Parents Clinic,” consisted of a panel of experts who shared examples and offered ideas to parents on supporting children while they participate in youth football activities as well as proper safety and health protocols and the importance of nutrition. Parents whose children are part of organizations including the Nevada Youth Football League, Southern Nevada Pop Warner, Youth Sports Nevada, Vegas Sports Foundation and the Henderson Flag Football League took part in the virtual clinic.
Diane Long, mother of three children with NFL ties and wife of Raiders Alumnus and Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long, spoke virtually about the importance of providing a positive environment to allow children to maximize their experience while being involved in this great sport. “The mother role is the thing that I take most seriously and always have,” said Mrs. Long, who had two sons play in the NFL and another who currently work in the Raiders’ front office. “I have been where all of you are. I have struggled, been conflicted, there have been challenges, it’s not easy, I feel you and I’m here to share my experiences.“
Mrs. Long, in addition to being a football wife and mom, is also an attorney, author and philanthropist. She shared with the parents that assisting her three children in realizing their dreams meant dealing with each one individually. “They are all very different and if anybody has multiple kids, you realize that they can be night and day and all three of ours were,” Mrs. Long said. “Listen to your kid and try to understand what the dream is and then help them navigate from there.”
Mrs. Long related to the group that support is extremely important at the youth sports level and, for her, it continued even when her children reached the NFL. “I tried to go to as many games as I could in the NFL because in a big stadium of 65,000 people, it was always important for our boys to know they could look up in the stands and see all these faces and know that there is one person up there who is there just for me,” she said. “It’ s important for kids to know that they are supported, and they are loved and someone’s proud of them.”
Mrs. Long spoke about the positive value of having children participate in sports. “You are physically active, part of a team, collaborating and you take coaching,” she related. “Teamwork is an invaluable lesson for young people. Whether you are a young man or woman, all kids need a tribe. It’s an opportunity to interface with groups of kids you might not otherwise connect with.”
Brian Parker, Director of Education for the Taylor Hooten Foundation, outlined the importance of understanding dietary supplements and how they come into play as youngsters get older and move up in levels of competition. Mike Krueger, Director of Football Education for USA Football spoke to the parents about the role they play in keeping their children safe while playing sports. He outlined return-to-football guidelines and provided information on best practices. He also presented to parents what he described as “The pillars of the football development model, the framework for how the game is coached, practiced and played.”
Last week, Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner virtually spoke to members of the Liberty High School football as part of an ongoing series being implemented by the Raiders called ELITE chats. The week prior, Raiders defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins addressed prep offensive and defensive linemen who are part of the Big Dawg Academy, a Las Vegas-based sports performance training program. The players participated in the activity on their lone day off and addressed topics centered around the ELITE acronym (Education, Leadership, Integrity, Teamwork, Equality).
The Raiders are hosting weekly high school virtual ELITE team chats in 2020 for high school football programs in Northern and Southern Nevada. Through collaborations with the Clark County and Washoe County School Districts, the Raiders identify high school programs to partner with. The ELITE chats kicked off in August with Raiders Alumni as the presenters, Alumni who participated were Lamarr Houston (Rancho High), Jacoby Ford (Canyon Springs), Kevin Gogan (Del Sol High), Khalif Barnes (Spring Valley High), and Miles Burris (Chaparral High).