I Would Not Let My Son Play Youth Football

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I Would Not Let My Son Play Youth Football

What?  Not let him play youth football!  Well, it’s not exactly what you think.  First off, I don’t have a son (that I know of), so this will never be a discussion in my household.  But, this is a topic I’ve thought about for awhile and started sharing with some of my clients who have sons.  I didn’t shove it down their throats, it was just brought up in normal conversation.

When I was younger, I had several friends who played youth football.  None of them continued to play in high school.  My brother and I didn’t play football until our freshman year in high school.  One of my old clients, Armand Robinson, didn’t play football until his junior year in high school.  He received a scholarship to play football at Miami (OH) and is currently pursuing professional opportunities.

So, why not let your son play youth football?  Well, I’ve got several reasons and let’s dive into them.

The size of these kids varies so much.

Kids grow at different rates.  You got different size 10 year olds battling each other.  I don’t know the particulars as far as weight limits go, what positions they can play etc., but these are young growing bodies.

Some kids will excel at an early age and then might plateau a few years down the road.  Others might stink as a younger kid and say this sucks.  But, if they had stuck with it, let their body mature, they might have been halfway decent as a high schooler.

So, is it important to get team MVP for your Pop Warner team or play underneath the Friday Night Lights?  Why not skip the youth football and avoid all the punishment and wait to play your freshman year in high school when your body is a little more mature and they can progress you at a more natural rate.  This leads into my second point.

Football’s skill set can be learned quickly.

Football is different than soccer, tennis, basketball, etc.  Those sports you need to be constantly playing to get better at the skill sets.  Take Armand’s case.  Do you think he could have not played basketball and decided to play his junior year and gotten a basketball scholarship?  Probably not.

What you need to be in football is a good athlete.  You can play flag football and develop your throwing, speed, and catching ability.  Offenses and defenses are going to be different in high school anyways because of the physical differences, so what’s it matter if you aren’t playing your sixth or seventh grade year getting experience.  You are still a good athlete.

Develop your athleticism so you can start playing as a freshman and I guarantee you will be at the same level as any of your teammates who were playing the last several years.

Delaying the serious injuries.

I’m not going to say anything that isn’t known, but a lot of youth football coaches don’t know what they are doing.  Yes, there are more that are going to clinics to learn things, but the proper techniques aren’t being taught and relayed to the youth.

Part of the reason all these concussions are increasing is because these kids are taking shots to the head at an earlier age.  Their accumulating a heck of a lot quicker.  Just wait until your kids becomes a freshman and let high school coaches, who hopefully are a little better at teaching technique, teach how to hit and tackle properly.

Also, I know there are rural athletes whose only desire is to play football.  The parents hold their kids back so they can be more physically dominant as they grow older.  I watched a game where these skinny 8th graders were being carried down the field by a running back that had to be close to 200 pounds as an 8th grader.  If you are a skinny football player dealing with that each week, why would you want to continue playing football.

If you waited until you were a freshman, that stud 8th grader would probably be playing JV, you’d be on a freshman team, and could play a freshman schedule.  You’d start getting exposure to football and the coaches could progress you when you were ready.

It just makes more sense to me to wait until you are a freshman before playing football.  Aggressiveness and toughness can be taught in other sports and will easily be transferred to football.  Just develop your son’s athleticism and let them still love football, but hold them back from tackle until the body is a little more mature.

Love to hear your thoughts.  Feel free to comment in the box below.


By |November 4th, 2013|Football, Parents, Youth|5 Comments

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  1. Troy Perkins November 4, 2013 at 9:29 am - Reply

    Well done !!!!!! Couldn’t agree more.

  2. Russell Carter November 4, 2013 at 10:50 am - Reply

    Adam a lot of what you noted is very true. I disagree with a couple things though. My experience has shown me that while a kid may be over sized at an early age, they lack the coordination and maturity to transfer size to force. Most leagues are age based so children are at least playing with kids their age. Once in school, children are forced to play with kids who have either been held back or failed. As an example my son is 13 and had 15 year old kids on is 8th grade team. Many have completed puberty or are deep in to it. I tend to believe that the foundation he built during the early years in football has allowed him to deal with size discrepancies. I think it difficult to show up in high school where some kids are way ahead of you in knowledge and size. It would be frightening.

  3. Kim November 5, 2013 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    Though I am no longer an athlete of any type (if I ever was), I do read your newsletter each week. This one struck me, so I’m sending you some thoughts.

    I have an 11-year-old son who has been playing tackle football since 2nd grade. He loves it more than anything in the world, probably because he is very good at it – plays tailback and is generally faster than anyone on the field so he can get away with a lot and rarely takes a tackle. Also a strong linebacker. Giving up football, even if only for a few years until high school, would devastate him.

    So it makes me wonder, as we parents always do, about whether I’m helping my kids make the right choices. Should I never have even gotten him involved in youth football? Should we just have stuck with flag until high school? And if there were no youth football (or not a lot of kids participating in it), how would kids ever be ready, as a team, to play high school football? Would we really want to send our freshman boys out on the field with an entire team of guys who have never played tackle football before? Football is dangerous enough without some experience at a level where you can receive on-the-field, game time instruction.

    Also, if you start your boy in something other than football, I think the chances that he decides to try out football as a freshman in high school are pretty small in this day and age. When you and I were growing up, it was pretty typical to be a 3-sport athlete. Today, I think that’s less and less common (though you deal with young athletes all the time so you would know better than I would); lots of parents/kids seem to focus on a single sport because of competition to make high school teams. (Luckily, we live in Grandview, where anyone can play anything because there are so few kids). So what if your son decided never to even try football? I think that would be hard for me, as big a football fan as I am, but of course this isn’t about me. I have a hard time seeing that a kid athlete who has played soccer since age 5 would decide at age 15 to try football – if he’s a good athlete, he’s done well in soccer and will want to continue; if he’s not a great athlete, he’s unlikely to have the confidence or skill level to jump on to the football field at age 15. I wonder if you would feel differently if you had a son, and knew that if you didn’t get him interested in football now, you might never see him try it. (After this, I have three girls. The biggest issue there is whether I let any of them be cheerleaders…ugh).

    My husband and I do have serious concerns about the concussion issue, and that is the best argument in favor of waiting until high school. But at this point, Johnnie is so invested in football and I have convinced myself – perhaps unjustifiably so — that “he’ll be fine” because he’s not yet had any injuries or taken any head-on tackles (at least that I’ve seen). I know this is naïve, but it makes me feel a little bit better.

    Anyway, thanks for letting me give some perspective and ask some questions. (This was not meant in any way to be a rant, I hope it doesn’t come across that way).

  4. Theresa November 20, 2013 at 11:17 pm - Reply

    I have two boys and the oldest loves football. He is small for his age, ie skinny, but is fast. Concussions and other major injuries are certainly a concern. I had asked a professional football player once if he would recommend me not letting my son play tackle because he is always on the lower weight limit. His answer was only I can decide what is best for my son but gave the opinion that youth football is the time technique should be taught and not when they are in high school. By high school kids are bigger and there is more stress on winning. A youth that plays a variety of sports has better adaptation of coordinated muscle movements to be a better athlete in the sport of their choosing. Of course my son will be more coordinated and bigger when he is a freshmen but so will all the other freshmen. I personally would feel more confident in my sons safety with him playing freshmen football knowing he had a clear knowledge of football and set skill techniques rather than let him play such a physical sport with no prior experience hoping just because he played other sports that he will be ble to cross over. Is my son more likely to be hurt from the freshmen who is trying football for the first time or the one who has played before? Some kids are just natural athletes and will do well no matter when they start. For those who are not so genetically blessed, I would rather they learn a proper tackle or block before their freshmen year both for their sake and my sons. I think it’s key parents pay attention to the organization for which their child plays. Where I live, Pop Warner has the strictest weight limits and coaches have to complete training to become certified which includes mandatory concussion training. Though this is somewhat comforting to know, coaches skills still vary, accidents stil happen and football is always going to be contact sport. Knowing that makes me a nervous mother but I honestly feel better every practice I see coaches and athletes working on technique and skill sets.

  5. scott baas November 23, 2013 at 11:48 am - Reply

    I would not let my son start playing football in high school and this is why:
    I started playing flag football when I was eight, tackle from the fifth grade on and I can tell you there is no athletic skill that can overcome inexperience in a CONTACT sport. In all those years a ferocious average player with mental toughness scared me more than any super athlete of any speed or size… ie just ask 260 pound Christian Okoye about Steve Atwater. I can also say by the time I reached high school the first time players were easy fodder for setting themselves up to receive a good hit and get injured. So, you want your 4.4 sec 40 track star to be the next all state wide receiver? My grandmother will be able to out run him after he takes a hit from a linebacker who has spent years in the trenches picking his mouthpiece out of the dirt, putting it back in his mouth, and moistening it with the blood from his skinned knuckles.

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