My family and I have been going to our local high school football games consistently for the last four of five years. Football is really big in our community so its fun to be part of the atmosphere, root for the team, and spend some quality time with family, friends and neighbors. That experience is going to change a bit next year when my son begins playing for the high school.
A few years ago, we were at a high school game and Bradley kept saying to me that his goal was to play on that field. I told him to relax because it was still a few years away. That conversation seemingly took play every time we went to a game, but then a few weeks ago it was my turn to look into the future. Bradley was hanging out with his middle school teammates in another part of the bleachers and I was sitting with my wife, Sheryl when I leaned over to her and whispered…
“Holy (fill in the blank) Bradley is going to be playing on this field next year!”
What was once five years away and then three years away is suddenly now a year away. There are things a youth football parent needs to know about what to expect when your child reaches the high school level. This is not peanut instructional football anymore. It’s not youth football at the pee-wee level either. It’s also going to be different than the experience of middle school football.
From a playing time standpoint in high school, all bets are off when it comes to being assured that your child is going to get his or her uniform dirty. Nothing is guaranteed in terms of playing time, even at the Junior Varsity level. When you pay for your child to play youth football, you have an expectation that your child is going to get a fair amount of playing time. That expectation needs to be adjusted when your child gets to middle school, but generally, those kids who have previous youth tackle experience are going to have the upper hand. In high school sports, the best players are going to play, and the backups will have to wait patiently for a chance to get on the field. That could be if a game gets out of hand or because of the unfortunate circumstance of an injury.
I’ve already told Bradley to expect this off-season to be different than any other off-season since he started playing ten years ago. He’s going to have to work hard to stay in shape, do some strength and conditioning and be ready to compete for playing time in training camp over the summer. As parents, this is something that Sheryl and I have already discussed with him and he seems to be ready for the next level of football and doing what he needs to do to be successful.
But moving up from middle school to high school is not just about what the player has to adapt, it’s also about what the parents have to adapt to. Having a child playing high school football is a completely different animal than what a parent may have experienced before, but hopefully, there were experiences along the way that can help you prepare for what lies ahead.
Knowing many other families that have gone through the high school football experience and attending the games is going to be very helpful for what’s in store next summer and fall. One of Bradley’s middle school teammates has an older brother playing varsity high school football and his parents have been extremely involved in the program. In fact, we’ve become friendly with the parents to the point that the mother has already started recruiting us to help.
With the experience of volunteering and helping with fundraising at the youth football level, my wife and I are ready to help at the high school level next year. Whether that means working at the snack stand, selling 50-50 raffles, helping on special nights like “Pink Out” during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or anything else they need our help with, we’re ready to roll up our sleeves. Whether it’s JV or varsity, high school football is one big family and it’s a big part of the community.
At the end of the day, it’s all about my son and his middle school teammates making the move to high school football and continuing to watch them grow as players. As parents, it’s going to be really cool to see all of our kids representing the high school and the community because many of us have all been together for many years and remember when our kids were just cutting their teeth on the football field looking like weeble wobbles at times. To be completely transparent, I’ve been emotional at times during this ride, especially in Canton the last two summers when Bradley played in the USA Football Middle School Bowl Game Series.
This past Friday was Bradley’s final middle school game. As he walked off the field, a lot of things ran through my mind. He’s had so much fun and has accomplished so much. Now there is new excitement of what lies ahead next year. I’m pretty sure I’ll be emotional again when I see him run onto the field to play high school football. For my wife and me, and for so many other parents, it’s something we’re looking forward to.
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 plays middle school football on Long Island and is a participant in the U.S. National Team program 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.