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Benefits of a Youth Football Organization

Football is definitely viewed as one of the more aggressive, high contact sports. Youth coaches and leagues are dealing with young children and often times their first exposure to the game.
 
We know first hand as our son has completed 3 years on a flag football team, and is experiencing his first season at tackle football as I write this. He is almost 9 years old and I have yet to have a person guess him over the age of 6! He is very little for his age, weighing in at 52lbs (wet)! The maximum weigh in weight for the league he is in is 105lbs. Yes, that is double his weight! Needless to say, I have received countless inquiries and looks as to my decision to let him play such an aggressive sport, given the obvious risks, and his general size disadvantage.
 

There are multiple reasons behind our decision. First and foremost is that he LOVES the game! He has a real heart and passion for it.
 
The second, and quite substantial reason, is that we chose with whom, and where he plays (a pick up league, a community center fun class, or an accredited organization are a few of the options). We have chosen for him to play on a team that is a member of a Youth Football League organization, and thus is governed by that. The following points are all things to consider about an organization as a whole, as well as those that participate in it.
 
Given the fierce nature of football it is important to take safety issues seriously. Thus, choosing an organization with a history of safety rules and regulations is important. Such rules can greatly reduce the risk of injury to your child as well as other children.
 
The first thing to look for is the organization’s use of/and policies concerning equipment. It is not just about equipment, but also about how it is maintained and how the wearing of such gear is enforced. Injury reduction begins here. Taking into consideration such things as:
 

  • a helmet with a face guard
  • shoulder pads
  • pants with thigh and knee pads
  • rib cage and tail bone protection
  • mouthpiece
  • athletic supporter with protective cup
  • shoes with soccer type or short cleats

 
Within our league there are requirements about the equipment being inspected and certified before each new season is to begin. This is to ensure that not only will your child be getting a helmet, but they will receive one that has been inspected and meets the organizations safety requirements.
 
Almost as equally important is the conduct of the game. Ask yourself, “Are there sufficient adult coaches and referees who are familiar with the rulebook of the league?” Copies of the rule book should not only be made available to anyone participating in the league, but should also be mandatory reading. Consider carefully the philosophy of the league as well as the individual coaching staff of your child. Youth sports are not only a place to learn the sport, but are a training ground for kids to learn honesty and fair play.
 
As the old saying goes, “It is not about winning or losing, but how you play the game.” This is true, but the nature of competitive sports is that you are there to win. Children should not be taught that winning doesn’t matter, but that winning at all costs is inappropriate. It is up to coaches and parents to work together to strike a balance in this department.
 
Along the winning/losing line is the question of playing time. Obviously if you are playing a good team and you don’t always play your best players, the odds of winning are not in your favor. Many leagues put a minimum amount that each player is required to play in a game. For instance, our son is required to be in for a minimum of 5 plays per half and there are monitors assigned from each team to make sure this happens. If it does not, the team that did not meet this requirement has to forfeit the game. Now as far as practice goes there are no rules. I was greatly relieved to hear that our coaching staff this year did not engage the policies of the previous staff for practice. They primarily practiced their “first string” while the others hovered on the sidelines and stood in as tackling dummies. I certainly would have had something to say about this. (Rather loudly I might add!) These are young children who are new to a sport and are entitled to be taught it and have hands on practice. Thus knowing what a coaches philosophy is can make a big difference, even in a league with specific rules.
 
Below are two of the primary organizations that are popular in our area. But if you are interested in Youth Football Leagues, you can do a simple internet search and lists of organizations in areas across the country are readily available.
 
American Youth Football League
 
Pop Warner Youth Football League
 

Heidi is a 34 year old, happily married wife to one self proclaimed computer geek. Through their 13 years of marriage they have added 3 children: Chloe (12), Jayden (8), and Ava (5), as well as 2 dogs: Muffin and Oscar, to the mix. When not totally engrossed in homeschooling, or taxi service for the children Heidi likes to read, blog at Starts At Eight, and chronicle their lives in photos, as well as working at new hand projects like gardening, knitting, and crochet. You can also catch her on Twitter, and Facebook!

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  • I have been told that I am an abusive parent and should be in jail for allowing my son who is almost 9 to play his 2nd year of tackle football! My husband is a coach and the team we play for is also a Youth League (Casa Grand Youth Football League) and they are very safe with all the kids! I am so relieved to see I am not the only one who gets questions!

    • Krystal, I almost had to chuckle at the thought of being called an abusive parent for allowing your son to play football! I get that it is a more aggressive sport than say, tennis, but with anything you have to weigh the risks, and make a decision for yourself and your child. That is why I strongly encourage doing your research regarding a Youth Football League, and to be involved. These two things can greatly decrease the risk of serious injuries.

      • I argued that there can be an injury just walking outside! This all came from a person who’s boys are all in karate! I do not feel that karate is abusive either but they get points at competitions for hitting the other person so how is that ok but chasing after a ball with protective gear on isn’t? lol

  • My husband coached at the high school level before we had children. After having two boys, he has now coached at the 3/4, 5/6 and 7th grade levels also. We have been part of 3 different youth leagues. It is very important to check out the leagues philosphy and get to know your coaches. Let them know when they do something you like, then if they do something you don’t like they will be more apt to consider your point of view. Volunteer to be a team mom, at the very least stay and watch practices. Football can be a great team sport and there is much to be learned on the field!

    • Terrie, you make some extra valid points. Either my husband or myself always stay at practice so we can keep on eye on things. Not only to keep tabs on our son, but to hear and see what the coaches are doing as well.

      I am also a firm believer in being quick to praise, and not just to criticize. It is important to also stick to what is relevant for your child and not to veer off into what is going on with little Johnny or your best friends child. The coaches are much more apt to hear you if you can calmly approach them with clear and concise concerns regarding your child.

      • I am glad you brought the point to praise them rather than to always criticize! My husband, as a coach for the youth football league, has actually had to speak with parents who will sit on the sidelines at games and yell at their children! One has went as far as to tell his child (7yrs) “If you don’t hold your block I’m going to beat your a**!” It makes me so sad! We have taught our kids that it really doesn’t matter if you aren’t the best on the team or if you don’t win every time as long as you put your all into it and are happy!

        • Our son is currently on the defensive line. He has to “bear crawl”. What I tell him is this, “Take someone with you!” That is it. When you lunge forward, take a man with you. If you do that you have done your job as one piece of a team. He is 8 and still learning, so one piece at a time is our goal. He had a very successful game this past weekend by using this thought, just take one man with you!

          We try to teach our kids that as a member of team, you are one part of a larger whole. Each of you has a role to play. Not one part is more important than another, there are just some pieces that end up with more attention and “glory” than others. As it happens my son is more of a defense man and assist man in soccer as well so he often does not get the glory, but without the assist, there would be no goal!

  • I totally agree football can be a fun and safe way for our boys to get out their aggression. It can also be a great way for us as moms to meet others and make some great friends as we cheer from the sidelines. Getting involved is very important as these organizations are mostly run by volunteers and if you don’t step up and the mom next to you doesn’t and so forth t en who will keep it going for the kids? My son started tackle at 6 where we lived at the time and played for 2 years. This may sound young for tackle but again keep in mind he wasn’t tackling 10 year olds. He was playing against other 6 year olds. Sadly when we moved this past year our new state and town has different age requirements and since his birthday was a few weeks on the wrong side he did not get to play. So although very upset with that we moved on to fall soccer and will return to football next year. This winter we may even get our boys in youth wrestling. why not they have been doing it forever on their own, why not channel that aggression in to something positive before they become bored teens looking for something to do with the wrong people. My point is get involved & get your kids involved in sports it is a great way for them to gain self confidence and make friends for both them and you.

  • My son is 8 going on 9. This is his first year of tackle after 3 years of flag also. His older brothers, 18 and 20, played football for youth leagues when they were his age also. I like the comments about being involved. My husband or I stay at practices also. Sports and extra curricular activities can be such a great learning experience. Thanks for writing this.

  • My son is 10 years old and he is playing for the first time this year. We are so lucky because his coach believes they are still children and that they will only be this age for a brief period of time. They do not wish to burn them out with practice every day and when the boys begin to get distracted he calls and end to practice. He feels that their lack of attention means they have worked through the attention span. I feel so blessed that this is his coach.

    • Savannah it is so great that you have a coach you are happy with! It is so important at these young ages to have a good rapport with anyone who is involved with your children.

  • You should look into The Guardian for your kids that play football. I work for Guardian Caps, but I am passionate about changing the game without diminishing the fun these kids have. That’s why I work for them.

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