When our son Bradley was three years old, my wife Sheryl and I were faced with an interesting situation. He was having a blast playing youth soccer but was getting a little too aggressive. It wasn’t that he was playing dirty or had any intended malice. He just wanted to play and if kids were just standing around, he would bump into them while dribbling the ball.
One day at a game, Sheryl whispered to me “we need to get this boy on a football field.”
She was right and later that week she found a local program that had youth tackle football for kids his age, so we signed him up for the following fall. It was the best decision that we made. A decade later, he’s still playing the sport that he loves, and he’ll be playing high school football this fall. But back when we signed him up for that youth football program, we just wanted him to play a sport that would be a good fit and that he would enjoy.
Over the years, we learned a lot about the program we were with and the program that Bradley played his final year of youth football with before moving on to middle school. For parents that are thinking about signing their child up for youth tackle football or youth flag football, there are some questions you need to ask and there’s some homework that you need to do before making a final decision.
Ask around. If there’s a particular program that you’re looking at, ask some other parents or other people in your community for some background. They may have had some experience with that program and they also might have some other suggestions for you. You will also want to research the league that the program plays in to see if there are any issues.
Plan a meeting. One thing you should not do is just blindly register your child for a program. You will want to reach out to an administrator to set up a meeting to come and talk about what the program has to offer and just get a good feel of it. Look at things like how they do registration, the fields they play on and their fundraising efforts. You may also want to ask how parents can be volunteers, especially if you’re someone that likes to be involved.
Are the coaches and the program USA Football certified? With all of the questions that you might have for a program, this one is very important. Given the landscape of football today, you want to make sure that your child will be taught the proper fundamentals and learn how to play the game is a safe manner.
Ask to see the equipment. As a parent, you owe it to yourself to ensure that the program your child will play for has quality equipment. Ask to see the helmets they use and look to see if the certification dates are current. Also, look at the shoulder pads to see what kind of condition they’re in. You can tell a lot about a program by looking at the equipment.
Finding the right youth football program for your child can be a challenge so you need to do your homework and ask the right questions. Youth football is a great sport for your child to play but you have to make sure that the team, program, and league is reputable, the coaching is good, and the equipment and fields are safe.
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.