Football Returning is Improving Kids’ Mental Health

By Peter Schwartz | Posted 3/31/2021

I’ll never forget the look on my son Bradley’s face and his overall reaction to the news I had to share with him on August 26th, 2020. He was participating in a summer lacrosse camp when the alert came on my phone that school superintendents in Nassau County announced that the fall 2020 high school sports season would be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I knew if I waited until we got home to share the news that he could literally punch a hole through a wall. So, I shared the news with him as soon as he was done with the lacrosse camp session.

“Really?” said Bradley who proceeded the slam his lacrosse equipment into the trunk of the car.

When you’ve played a sport since you’re four years old and it’s taken away from you because of no fault of your own, it hurts. As horrible as I felt for my own son, I also felt terrible for all of the kids affected. There’s no question that not having football had a negative effect on their mental health.  

After Bradley calmed down, my wife Sheryl and I talked to him about other options to stay active. That lacrosse camp he attended took place at a dek hockey facility. Since he always had an interest in giving that a try, we signed him up for that as well as the local flag football league.

As a competitor, Bradley put his heart and soul into both of those sports, but he really missed tackle football. He was just starting his freshman year of high school and was really disappointed that playing high school football – a goal of his since he was seven years old – was on hold until there was further guidance from New York State. There were days that Bradley would just mope around the house and feel sorry for himself. It would take some prodding from my wife and I but he would eventually open up about how much he missed playing.

We saw other families in our communities going through the same thing.  The common denominator in frustration with a lot of people stemmed from the fact that there were surrounding states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania where high school football was taking place. If you flipped through enough channels on television, you would come across ESPNU showing high school football games from around the country.

The news that he was going to be able to get back on a football field after the announcement that it could resume on February 1st certainly raised Bradley’s spirits. He was excited to go get his football bag and make sure he had everything ready to go for the first day of practice.

One of Bradley’s friends since kindergarten, who had only started playing football in 7th grade, was also heavily affected by not having football. The young man’s mom told my wife at the game this past weekend that having football back has really changed his overall demeanor. She asked him why he’s been so upbeat and happy and anyone who is involved with football will appreciate this.

“Because I’m playing football and I can see my friends without getting in trouble,” Bradley’s friend told his mom.  

(I’m not crying. You’re crying!)

The reality is that there were kids in so many states around the country that were down in the dumps without football or any other sport during the pandemic. As the vaccine rollout continues and things start to get towards whatever our new normal is going to look like, it’s nice to have little slices of normality back in our lives.

Is it weird having football in the spring? Yes, it is, but after a dark fall without it, these kids are over the moon happy to have it. When the shortened season ends, it won’t be long before they’re back on the field for training camp over the summer and for the fall 2021 season.

Peter is a sports anchor for the CBS Sports Radio Network and WFAN Radio in New York.  His son Bradley is a freshman in high school and is a participant in the U.S. National Team program while his younger son Jared enjoys playing flag football.   Peter, his wife Sheryl and the boys are busy cheering on the New York Jets when they’re not at a high school or flag football field.


At USA Football, we've got your back as you begin to go back to the field. Our recommendations for a responsible return are here – guidelines, infographics, videos, checklists and more.