Over nine years of being a youth football parent, I’ve seen and experienced an entire spectrum of experiences, both good and bad.
This is a topic I’ve written about extensively. The one experience and emotion I think I can write a book on is the subject of playing time. There are different layers to that subject in youth football but one particular fear and emotion that a parent can anticipate — and experience — is the concept of “daddyball,” and how that can affect your child’s participation and love for the game of football.
Over the course of this three-part series, I’m going to share my experiences with handling tough situations. Playing time, when your child feels like the need to quit and how to handle hard conversations pre, during and post season.
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My older son Bradley is in his ninth year of tackle football and my younger son Jared is in his second season of flag football. It has been mostly a fun and rewarding experience for the kids as well as for my wife Sheryl and me. Without question the hardest thing we dealt with has been watching either of our kids spending too much time standing or sitting on the sideline.
If you’re child wants to play youth football, tackle or flag, the first thing you need to do to potentially avoid the playing time issues is to do your homework on the programs in your community. There might be a team or program that is very close to where you live, but you also owe it to yourself and your child to look at some other options that might be in your general area.
Look at these programs online and check out their websites to see what they’re about. Don’t forget to look at any testimonials that might be available. Ask around to other parents in your school district and community that are involved or used to be involved with youth football and ask them for suggestions. They might be familiar with some of the coaches and they might share some feelings and experiences about it.
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I know youth football coaches have a tough and sometimes thankless job. It’s a job I never want to have again. I only did it the first year Bradley played, but what I found out was I really just wanted to be a football dad.
My biggest fear during my time as an assistant coach, was a parent’s concern over playing time and I made sure I communicated my thoughts to the head coach. This was developmental football, so the object was to get everyone into the games and give them experience in multiple positions. That’s not always the case as you get to the pee-wee level since the games count in league standings. Thankfully, I was one-and-done after that season. Although, it gave me some perspective.
In subsequent seasons, I’ve paid close attention to playing time — not just for my sons but for every child on a team — and it’s the most important thing parents have to concern themselves with when they register their child to play.
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“Will my child enjoy football?”
“Will my child get a fair and equal opportunity to play?”
Those are the two questions you have to think about when you’re researching a program in your area. Next week, I’ll explain what to look for once the season is underway and how you can communicate your concerns with the coaches and the program.
Peter is a sports anchor for the CBS Sports Radio Network, FOX News Headlines 24/7 and WCBS 880 Radio in New York. His son Bradley is playing middle school football and flag football on Long Island while his younger son Jared plays flag football. Peter, his wife Sheryl and the boys are busy cheering on the New York Jets when they’re not at a youth football field.