If I had a dollar for every time…no wait a minute—if I had a dime for every time either my wife or I received a dirty look from someone because we let our son Bradley participate in youth tackle football, I’d be a very wealthy man (and able to donate money to our local program to make substantial upgrades.).
Bradley is now 11 and has been playing football for seven years; he loves it.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but yes, my wife and I let Bradley play tackle football. We’re also about to experience another aspect of the sport with our younger son, Jared: flag football.
Bradley’s first sport was soccer at 3, but it was clear at that young age that he needed something with a little more physicality. Since he was growing up in a football family, the gridiron was the way to go.
Bradley fell in love with football because it’s a passion in our home. My wife Sheryl grew up with a love for football and I’ve lived the dual life of being a fan while also covering the sport as a reporter.
Football has been great for Bradley because it has taught him many lessons about leadership, teamwork, and discipline. He is a student of the game and takes it very seriously. That means watching as much football on television, going to local high school games, and of course, our family trips to New York Jets games. Bradley also attends a football camp each summer as well as the USA Football Protection Tour.
It’s also my feeling that youth football has been the best sport that we’ve been involved in as a family because it has allowed us to meet some great people and make great friends for life. The parents, coaches, players, and siblings involved in youth football really create a family atmosphere that we just haven’t seen in other sports that our kids have played.
There’s nothing quite like a “football family” and I hope we can experience that for many years to come.
But, the question my wife and I always get is, “Aren’t you worried about injuries?”
Of course, there’s a concern but that’s with anything in life. But there are injuries in other sports too. In fact, we know many families that have had kids get hurt in other sports and other activities like bounce houses, playground accidents and just horsing around in the house.
Football is a physical game and there are going to bumps and bruises, but my wife and I see no reason to not allow Bradley to play a game he loves because there is a fear of him getting hurt.
I’m actually more nervous about him crossing a street, even when he’s looking both ways, than him playing football.
As far as Jared is concerned, he is about to turn 7 and is in his fourth season playing youth soccer. He really likes it but has been itching to try other sports. Jared has always enjoyed going to Bradley’s games and something interesting happened a couple of summers ago.
Bradley was in football training camp one night when Jared came up to my wife and I and said something that surprised both of us.
“I want to play football like Bradley,” he said.
We couldn’t believe it for a number of reasons. Most parents will tell you that all of their kids are different, which is not a bad thing, especially with our two sons. It has been clear for quite some time that Bradley is more of a sports enthusiast than Jared, which is fine. It’s important to be active, but not every kid is a sports junkie.
So while my wife and I were surprised that Jared wanted to play, we decided to go ahead and let him play, to see what happens. We were both skeptical that he would like it but we always tell our kids not to be afraid to try new things. Well, it took two days for Jared to realize that tackle football was not for him and that he wanted to continue playing soccer.
We weren’t surprised, but what has also been evident is that Jared does like the concept of football. He’ll play catch in the backyard with Bradley and watch games with all of us on television. He even likes going to the Jets games and training camp where there are so many football-themed activities like throwing a football at a target. Jared has even gone to the same youth football camp as Bradley and also took part in the USA Football Protection Tour last summer.
Jared loves football, just not the contact. So last year, he learned about flag football and wanted to play. The only problem was that Jared was going into first grade and the age requirements for local flag football program started with kids that were going into second grade.
So this fall, Jared will begin playing flag football. He is so excited because he gets a chance to play a sport that he likes without the physicality that comes along with tackle football. There are many kids that start out by playing flag to get their feet wet in the sport before they migrate over to tackle. I don’t know if Jared will ever want to go back, but the cool thing is that he can say he’s a football player.
There’s a sign in the den in our home that reads, “We Interrupt This Family for Football Season.” It really is true because we all love the sport and are involved in many ways. We are a football family and wouldn’t have it any other way.
So yes: my wife and I let our kids play football. Tackle or flag…it doesn’t matter!
Peter is a sports anchor for the CBS Sports Radio Network and WCBS 880 Radio in New York. His son Bradley plays youth football for the Levittown Red Devils in the Nassau-Suffolk Football League on Long Island while his younger son Jared will begin playing flag football this coming fall. Peter, his wife Sheryl and the boys are busy cheering on the New York Jets when they’re not at a youth football field.