I had always believed that football for young boys isn’t any more dangerous than any other contact sport. Why? I believed that young players weren’t strong enough or developed enough to hit each other that hard.
But I’ve changed my mind after watching videos of action in youth football leagues.
While I did see good clean hits, I also saw deliberate shots to the head. That’s poor coaching as I see it. Kids need to be taught how to tackle and block using proper technique.
When my son was seven I signed him up for football. I was surprised to find out that our town didn’t have a flag football league. I lobbied for one but was voted down. The prevailing opinion was that it was going to be tackle football or nothing at all.
I argued that most seven-eight-year-olds aren’t mentally prepared for tackle football. Because attention span is very poor at that age a kid is going to get hurt if he’s not paying attention.
My son was an example. He had a poor attention span at that age and I warned him he might not be ready for tackle football. But he had to learn for himself. It took only about two weeks for him to see that I was right. That brought his football career to an end.
What happened to my son is what I saw on those videos. I watched kids who weren’t mentally or physically prepared to play tackle football. Worse yet, they were going up against kids who were. That’s a recipe for disaster!
Coaches need to identify which kids aren’t prepared and then advise parents that their kids aren’t ready to play.
From my experience, being mentally ready to play is every bit as important as being physically ready. Kids who aren’t ready shouldn’t be allowed to play. That’s why flag football is important. It’s an alternative for those kids.
We need coaching seminars so that youth league coaches can learn about the dangers of helmet-to-helmet contact. Coaches also need to learn how to teach proper tackling and blocking techniques.
Let’s face reality. Just because two young boys are the same age and same size doesn’t mean they are both on the same level. Some are ready for tackle football. Others are not.
If we don’t accept that, then we’re putting our kids at risk.