Parents play an important role in every aspect of their children’s lives. Decisions about football aren’t any different.
I have two sons who played flag football and enjoyed it very much.
The 13-year-old would like to give tackle a try. The 11-year-old is only interested if he can be the punter and kicker – without any interest in other positions.
Until recently, I was against either of them playing tackle football until they were in high school. Even then, we told them that there were no guarantees their mother and I would allow it.
The Football Development Model recently unveiled by USA Football has changed my mind.
The negative stories about the dangers of the game you sometimes hear about are related to former players who grew up playing the sport in a different era. “Suck it up and get back in there!” has been replaced with “I don’t care whether you think you can play or not, you’re done for the day.” It’s a philosophy the Football Development Model preaches.
Previous drills that not only encouraged but, in some cases, required helmet-to-helmet contact have been completely eliminated during practices. There are rules in place penalizing players who create illegal contact during games. And in some cases, those players get disqualified if the severity of the illegal hit warrants it.
Proper techniques for every skill aspect of the game are taught, from blocking to tackling to hitting. It’s a focus at every age and level, including in flag football.
So, the game of football has changed. It’s as safe as it can possibly be. And many argue, as safe as other popular contact sports.
That means it’s now time for me as a parent to re-educate myself about the game itself – really spend the time to read and understand the Football Development Model and the purposes of it before I make any decisions about the future of football for either of my boys.
It also means that if my child is currently in a league, I should be asking the question about whether or not the Football Development Model is being implemented. And if not, why not?
It doesn’t matter the “seriousness” of the league or the age level of the players, because that’s the great thing about the model – it’s implementable in every single organized football situation.
This isn’t to say that every parent is now going to automatically let their child play football. But every parent should take the time to further educate themselves about the “new” sport of football.
The game is changing … for the better. And with that so will the opinions of many parents in regards to whether to let their children play or not.
As parents, it’s up to us to educate ourselves, and when we can, pass on our knowledge to others.
Jon Buzby has been involved in and writing about youth sports for the past 30 years with perspectives as a parent, coach and board member. Jon is an award-winning writer and his latest book, “Coaching Kids Made Easier,” is available on Amazon. Send comments or future blog topics you'd like to see to JonBuzby@hotmail.com and follow him @YouthSportsBuzz on Twitter.
USA Football's new model for youth football is designed to make the game safer by reducing contact and by teaching the game based on an athlete's age, the skill they are learning and game type.