Too Young for Football?

Jan Faull, M. Ed, answers a parent's question about the right age for a boy to begin playing football.
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Q. "My husband is very eager for my son to play football. He is on the small size for his age (9) and I worry. I don't want him to get hurt. Is there a recommended age and weight for a boy to start football?"

A. Organized football games for youth involving tagging or touching rather than tackling, probably aren't any more dangerous than soccer or basketball. Children can as easily collide when playing soccer or basketball as when playing touch or tag football. Realize that when a collision occurs between two 9-year-olds playing pee-wee football who weigh 65-70 pounds, it doesn't have nearly as much force as when two high-school football players, who may weigh as much as 200 pounds or more, collide. With that understanding, there's still a lot to consider with respect to safety when signing a pre-adolescent up for a sports team.

It's important to request information of league organizers and coaches. Start by asking about proper equipment. Will it be fitted for your child? Will the safety gear be appropriate for football, including helmets, mouth guards, padding and more?

Then inquire about the playing fields. Are they well maintained? Ruts and rocks on the playing surface would not be safe for the rough and tumble nature of football, even it's only touch or tag football.

Now ask questions with respect to adult supervision. What's the adult-to-child ratio during practices and games? One coach to a team probably isn't enough to look out for play surrounding the ball -- and play that's happening on the rest of the field.

Lastly, request information as to how the child athletes are prepared. What skills do the coaches teach? How do they teach game rules? How do they approach the issue of sportsmanship?

As you're soliciting your information, you'll be able to determine if the adults involved are committed to safety. Once your questions are adequately answered, ask your husband a question. Why does he want your son to play football? How will playing pee-wee football contribute to your son's overall development?

Does your husband believe that starting your son young will increase the likelihood that he'll play football into high school and possibly into college? If he does, dispel that notion by telling him that statistics show that children who start playing organized sports when young tend to burn out by high school.

If he gives any of the following reasons, affirm them, as they are good reasons for involving youth in organized athletic endeavors:

  • Scheduling time for physical exercise
  • Developing a positive social group
  • Committing to the discipline of team practice and play
  • Providing a place to use developing motor skills
  • Learning rules, strategy and the competitive nature of the game
  • Managing emotions on the field and from the sidelines

 

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