Do Da Dirty Bird: Coach Mike Smith Doing Good Away from Falcons Sideline Too

John McCurdyCorrespondent IJuly 23, 2009

FLOWERY BRANCH, GA - MAY 9: Head coach Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons during minicamp at the Falcons Complex on May 9, 2009 in Flowery Branch, Georgia. (Paul Abell/Getty Images)

I was checking my e-mail for about the millionth time on Tuesday, and lo and behold...something new?!

Long story short, I was getting hooked up with a phone interview with Mike Smith. Yes, that Mike Smith, head coach of my hometown Falcons.

I got to know a bit more about our fearless skipper of the sidelines and his lovely wife Julie by speaking with them about their efforts in Gatorade and the NFL's joint venture to raise awareness of heat-related illness prevention.

Check out our conversation.


John McCurdy: First off, I just want to say thank you to both of you guys for what you’ve done for our team and for the city of Atlanta. It’s amazing the way the program has turned around. Not everyone in the city has followed the team the way I have, but you guys have turned the entire city into believers. I have to say that.

Mike Smith: Well, thank you. It’s been a collaborative effort, there’s no doubt about that.

JM: Certainly. Well, I was going to talk to you guys about the Gatorade “Beat the Heat” program, just get a few of the details on that. So what attracted you guys to the program?

MS: Well, I think, for me, heat illness is something that is 100 percent preventable. We’ve partnered with Gatorade, and not just myself and Julie, but other members of the NFL, and what we’re trying to do is keep athletes safe during the hot summer months.

With this “Beat the Heat” program, what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to educate not only coaches and athletes, but parents about heat-related illnesses and the importance of hydrating properly. And the other thing that it does, this “Beat the Heat” program, is it will help raise funds for our partner charities that we’ve partnered with that share our mission.

Those are really the three big reasons that I’ve gotten involved, and Julie, I know she’s very passionate about it because it’s not just about coaches and trainers but the moms and dads, and I’ll let Julie talk a little bit more about that.

JM: Sure. Mrs. Smith, I’d like to hear what you’re focusing on.

Julie Smith: You know, as a mom, we need to make sure as family members that we can be the first step in prevention of this illness. Just make sure that kids are hydrated and talk to the coaches and trainers, because they have a lot to work on.

You know, as the kids leave for school, just make sure they’re hydrated before they go outdoors. It’s something to stay on top of.

JM: Yeah. I hear what both of you guys are saying in that it seems like something almost basic, but it’s something so important. It’s something so preventable that sometimes we almost push it out of our minds, but it’s that vital, because lives are at stake, right?

MS: There’s no doubt. There were over 300 deaths from heat-related illnesses last year, and believe it or not, I think there were 32 or 33 related to football. As Julie said, those are 100 percent preventable. The families can start [the process of getting and staying hydrated], but the coaches and trainers are key as well.

You know, our trainers here at Flowery Branch, we make sure that the players drink plenty of Gatorade to replace what they’re losing through sweat, and that helps them stay hydrated, safe, and playing hard. And you know, another benefit for drinking Gatorade is that it will help their performance.

JM: Exactly. I’m a runner myself, so I know exactly what you’re talking about when you mention improving your performance by being hydrated with all the sports drinks that are out there.

MS: Right; [staying hydrated] helps [athletes] perform at a higher level for a longer period of time, which is very, very important for the Falcons but also for all athletes to perform better. It’s not necessarily just about football players, it’s all sports.

And not only sports; you know, you go out to work in the garden, you should go out there and drink Gatorade and hydrate and make sure that you don’t have issues with the heat indices that get up in the summer months in Atlanta.

JM: So what can the individual do to help the NFL in its work with “Beat the Heat?"

MS: We’re trying to get the awareness out there for people to go on and download Gatorade’s Heat Safety Kit. Each time a person goes and downloads that kit, Gatorade is going to make a donation to our partner charities, and those partner charities are the Kendrick Fincher Memorial Foundation and the Stringer Foundation.

So every time someone goes and downloads that heat safety kit, they’re going to make a financial contribution. And their mission, just like ours, is to educate everybody about the importance of hydration.

JM: Well Coach, I know you’ve got a really busy schedule, I really appreciate the time.

MS: Thanks John, come see us down here at Flowery Branch!