Featured Football Girl: Christine Golic

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“Let’s bypass the bullshit and move on because the minute hand moves faster than you think it does.”

– Christine Golic’s Twitter bio

Like soccer moms, there are football moms. Then there is Christine Golic, the quintessential football mom, who has also been a football wife, football daughter and football sister.

A former high school cheerleader, Golic met her husband, Mike, while attending St. Mary’s College, the sister school to Notre Dame where he was a defensive lineman and captain of the football team. Mike went on to play eight seasons in the NFL, though is more famously known today as the co-host of ESPN Radio’s widely popular morning show, “Mike and Mike.” Golic’s older son, Mike Jr., played at Notre Dame and is trying to make it in the pros. Her younger son, Jake, also played at Notre Dame and is currently finishing out his collegiate career at the University of Cincinnati

When not attending one of her son’s football games (or her daughter, Sydney’s, swim meets), Golic is putting her unique experience and insights to good use as a member of USA Football’s Heads Up Advisory Committee, a national NFL-supported initiative aimed at making football safer.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Golic about the challenges of being a high-profile football mom, her work with USA Football, and why educating moms, in particular, is a priority for the NFL.

What is it like to be a high-profile football mom, especially to children more under the microscope because of their last name?

It has its ups and downs. Obviously, I love it overall. Football has been tremendous for my kids as far as opportunities to get a great education at Notre Dame. My daughter is also a swimmer at Notre Dame.

My kids have been better at taking any criticism than I have. I think it’s because moms tend to be emotional about their children.  I’ve been in a world where my husband was critiqued as an athlete, and people have their opinions about him as a sportscaster. I don’t take that to heart nearly as much as what people say about my kids. Your kids are a whole different ballgame.

A lot of information has recently come to light connecting brain trauma with playing football. How do you convince a mom like me with two young boys not to steer them away?

I always recommend putting kids in multiple sports. I think it’s important to let kids find what they love, whether it’s baseball, football or being in the band.

I always say that my want for my kids to be confident, independent children always overtakes the fear that they’re going to get hurt doing something. As a mom you’ll find that when you first put your kid on a school bus you’ll get nervous. The truth is we don’t know what will happen with our kids, so that’s why it’s important to put them in the safest possible position.  But you also have to let them spread their wings and hope that what you teach them as a young person will make them confident, strong adults.

My daughter, who’s now a junior at Notre Dame, went sky diving over the summer. She’s a daredevil and tends to like those things. You kind of swallow hard when your daughter says, ‘I want to jump out of an airplane,’ but she was confident enough to do it and went to a place that was safe. I was in awe of her.

Have you guys had family discussions about safety in sports, and concussions in particular?

We have. Actually, I spend a lot of time at Notre Dame and a bunch of my kids’ friends are hockey players and girl’s soccer players. and because of what I’m involved in now, I talk to them. Some hockey players my kids know have had to stop playing because of concussions. One of the boys had severe concussions and had to be re-trained to do certain simple things, and I said to him, ‘knowing what you know now would you do it again, and would you let your kids do it?’ Without batting an eye he said, ‘yes, because the things I’ve gained from playing sports and the people I’ve met and what I’ve learned about life far outweigh the problems I’ve had with concussions.’

I think some of the concussion things are going to get better because I think part of the problem was that we didn’t address them. We’d send people back onto the field without giving them adequate time to heal and that’s where we got into problems.

 

What age do you think is safe for a child to start playing tackle football?

I think it varies from kid to kid. It’s something your family needs to be comfortable with. The way my first child was built as opposed to, say, the child down the street has a lot to do with it. Another component is if your child’s friends are doing it because a lot of times your kids want to do what their friends are doing. It’s a very social thing. A lot of things go into it but it really comes down to a comfort level with you as a family.

How did the Heads Up Campaign, including its enhanced relationship with the NFL, get started?

I think some of it regarding the concussions was a reactionary thing to what was going on in the NFL. I say bravo. It’s unfortunate that some people had to pay the price for not having the information that we have now. But I’m proud to be working on something to make it better for the next generation.

I equate it to my generation, right before I was born, when they’d bring babies home from the hospital without car seats. But we’ve evolved and realized we can make things safer. I feel like that’s what we’re doing with football and the concussion problem.

What was the genesis of the Mom’s Clinics being run in conjunction with most NFL teams, and what does a typical clinic entail?

It’s us realizing that moms are the decision makers when it comes to youth sports. We’re the ones driving them to practice for the most part. And for the most part, we’re the ones who are more prone to say we don’t want a kid to participate because we’re scared.  We’re not here to convince moms to let their kids play football, but rather to get them information so they can make the best decision for their child based on reliable sources since it tends to be scary if you just Google things on the Internet.

The moms at the clinics do a great job. They ask great questions. I can tell they feel empowered by finding out about things like how a helmet should fit. How pads should fit. How to tell if a helmet has been preconditioned. We teach them about heat and hydration, and oftentimes a trainer will speak about how important hydration is in the sense that kids should be hydrated several days before an event, not just the day of. Nutrition as well. Those are the things that go a long way to making your kid’s experience not only safer but more fun.

As a mom, when my kids were growing up I didn’t know any of that.

Golic at the Cleveland Browns Mom’s Clinic

Has it been hard to sell football to moms lately given the recent NFL firestorm?

I’m not going to lie. Every time I hear a story I think, ‘my job just got a little harder.’ But in my heart of hearts I believe in youth sports and what sports can give to kids and people far outweigh the negative of what we see on TV. Being a football wife and a football mom, I know that 99% of the guys who play the sport are good guys. Guys like Devon Still in Cincinnati with his story. Stories like that don’t get heard enough because they don’t grab the headlines.

I want people to know that I personally believe there is way more good that comes from sports than the bad stuff. Sometimes the worst things we endure bring about the biggest changes. I think the shakeup has been so great that we’re going to see very positive changes at every level.

What’s next on the docket for USA Football?

We’re really trying to reach moms. The clinics are great but it’s definitely a finite number of women we can reach.  Social media is becoming important for us. I try and go on Twitter and share things.  We have a Facebook page called NFL Touchdown Moms, where moms can go on to ask questions and share pictures. We want it to be an avenue for moms to connect with other football moms.

I think the USA Football program will become a bigger and bigger tool for refining youth sports. There are 2.5 million kids, I think, who play tackle football and 2.3 million who play flag football. That’s a lot of kids we can reach. I don’t take the responsibility lightly.  It can be a great tool not just for learning how to tackle someone but for direction in their life.

 

Notre Dame is obviously your college team. Do you have a favorite NFL team at this point?

My husband played most of his career in Philly.  I was a Steelers fan for a short while because my son [Mike Jr.] was in camp, and then he was in with the Saints.  We’re available to be a team parent at the NFL level. I’m not really aligned with any NFL team right now.

I like your savvy there. Sign my son and win the Golic family’s support.

Exactly. I want to wear a sign with a blank logo that says, “We’re available to be your next team family.”

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Melissa Jacobs

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