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Oakton Moms Bond Through Football 101

Program aims to show the coaches as approachable

Coach Jason Rowley lined up 11 attendees of Football 101 for Women into a typical defense formation Friday night. He then described a blitz, pointing to where each of the women would have to move for the play. He then described a couple more plays. And variations. And nicknames for the positions.

Most of the moms — and a couple grandmas and aunts — stood in awe.

"If my son can remember all this stuff, you'd think he'd be able to memorize his Spanish vocabulary," one mom said later.

The second annual Football 101 program, organized by Missy Isakowitz, brought 44 women to Oakton High School to learn the ins and outs of Cougar football directly from the coaching staff.

The $25 fee covered costs, which paid for dinner, T-shirts and door prizes.

The ultimate goal is to make moms aware the coaches are approachable, not just the hard-nosed men who whip their sons into shape, said Joan Reimann, who cofounded the event last year with Sally Goins.

"I hope the event makes the moms feel a little more comfortable, but I also want them to know how much their sons are learning," said Rowley, . "It's almost like taking on another class in school. There's a huge mental side of the game, as well."

But underneath it all, the women just like hanging out together. And they want the new football moms to hang out with them, too.

"It's truly about community-building. Moms can ask questions of the coaches and have them feel more approachable, but also we want to break the ice between moms," Reimann said. "We don't want to break up into cliques based on circumstance or assumptions. ... We had great moms ahead of us when our sons first started and we want to keep that going."

Jenny Gibbons said she feels more comfortable about her freshman son playing football now that she's gone through the sessions.

"I'm a nurse, so I'm worried about concussions," Gibbons said. "I have a daughter who plays a different sport here, so I know about the trainer. I know they're very serious when they say they will do what they can to make sure the kids are OK."

She found seeing the equipment reassuring because of the new football helmets.

The football Booster Club to buy Schutt Air XP helmets for the entire football program, not just varsity.

When showing the helmets to the moms, Coach John Glufling said the team researched the two major helmet companies, Schutt and Riddell, to figure out which had the best technology to protect the players.

"No helmet is concussion-proof. This is just one more thing we can do for the kids to help prevent concussions," Glufling said. "Drinking the right amount of fluids is another thing, and you moms can oversee that at home. We can't eliminate concussions, but we can try."

In addition to learning about defensive plays and the equipment, the women also sat down with two offense coaches — Pat Purcell and J.J. Hetman — to hear about the many different plays the boys will be running and their coaching philosophies.

After sitting through the three sessions, Gibbons was struck by how much the Oakton program is like a family. With the coaching staff having worked together for years, and a few who even graduated from Oakton, she was impressed by their dedication to the program and the strong connection the community seems to have to the Cougars.

"The minute [my son] Austin signed up and said 'I'm gonna do this,' it's been a family feeling," Gibbons said. "Hearing the coaches talk, it just feels more like that."

Beth Flaherty said the family feeling extends to the moms and sons, too.

"I think many of these boys would honestly say they have more than one mom," Flaherty said.

Football tryouts began this morning. The regular season will kick off with the Outback Bowl at home against crosstown rival Madison Warhawks at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 2.

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