Updated: Oct 17, 2019
This is a serious question you need to ask and answer as a family.
There is a mountain of information out there about the dangers of tackle football, so why do so many kids still play the game?
Parents don't want to see their kids hurt or injured or maimed for life, so we do what we can to protect them, and sometimes that includes just saying "NO."
We allow our fears and worries to stop our kids from doing everything from riding their bikes across the street, to not getting their driver's licenses until college! (I live next to a community college and am appalled at the number of students being dropped off by their parents!)
We have created a society of young people who live life on the couch, or worse... in their rooms. They have very little social interaction, they play PS4, and scroll mindlessly through Instagram. We have created an epidemic of young people with no hobbies, no interests... no life.
My son had begged me to let him play tackle football since he was 6 years old. I said "NO." With Will Smith staring in a film called "Concussion" and news report after new report stating the dangers of head injuries, how could any responsible parent allow their child to play football?!
But my kid kept asking, so we compromised with flag football. Each time he asked again to play tackle, I would tell him, "When you get to junior high," and he must have asked about a thousand times!
Well, 7th grade came faster than I ever could have imagined and here was that 12-year old once again asking to play tackle football. However, this time it wasn't really a question, it was "You said when I was in junior high!"
Dammit! I did say that, soooo down to the local Pop Warner field we went to sign my boy up for tackle football. I just kept thinking "What am I doing?" Fingers crossed that he wouldn't be very good and would rarely leave the bench.
But he was so excited. After every practice he came home sweaty, smelly, and smiling. With that kind of enthusiasm it's hard to not be good.
I didn't miss a practice. I wanted to be there in case something went wrong. But soon I realized this isn't the violent game I thought it would be. The coaches weren't screaming at the players, although we played against a few of those. The parents weren't screaming at the refs or fighting in the stands. All those cliches, rumors, and assumptions about youth football were not our experience.
What I saw was a real TEAM sport, a team that worked together, relied on each other, and pushed each other to be better.
At every practice the coach had the boys run...a lot! There was one boy who was a little "huskier" than the others, and he would inevitably fall behind. AND he would be crying big, fat tears down his face as he jogged slower and slower. Incredibly, the other team members didn't make fun, or yell, or degrade the kid...they encouraged him,"You can do it." "Just a little bit farther." "Come on, you got this!" Gently nudging the kid from behind and letting him know they were all in this together.
It was the most heart-warming thing I have ever personally experienced in sports, and I was hooked.
Does that mean I'm screaming "hit him harder" from the stands...no. My heart is on that field and each game another mother and I chant together, "Please don't let anyone get hurt!" I'm scared to death each time my boy goes on that field. But what's the alternative? I tell him no? I take away that smile from his face? I force him into a world consisting of the living room couch or his bedroom? No, thank you. To me the risk is worth it.
If your boy is contemplating high school football, let him play. In fact, don't just let him play; get involved, run the snack-bar, join the booster club, and get a shirt proudly displaying your kids team name and his number.
My boy is now a sophomore in high school, playing Varsity. Yes, that is a picture of my smiling Varsity football player!
I'm not going to tell you your kid won't get injured and I'm not going to tell you it won't be scary...it is!!! However, I am going to tell you he will learn important life lessons, make lifelong friends, and be a stronger, more confident, better person because of his years on the football field.
If you're asking yourself why football? and not any other sport, please watch the following TED talk and, in the comments below, let me know if you think it is worth it too.
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