Despite the obvious risks and injuries associated with the game, I believe that football is still one of the most popular and rewarding sports kids can play. If you ask a former player, even some who have suffered through a number of injuries, you’ll hear them speak with affection and praise about their time spent on the gridiron and with their teammates.
Having played and coached youth football, and been exposed to colligate and pro athletes who have played the game, here are a few key positives that I think youth football provides.
1. Camaraderie: Unlike many other sports, football requires dozens of players who have committed to training and working towards the same goal. The bond or brotherhood that football develops while working toward this goal is unlike that of any other sport.
2. Work Ethics: Football requires timing, precision and execution to be successful on the field. Those things are only developed during practices which can be a burden and grind during the heat and dog days of summer conditioning. The work ethic and commitment that is developed in young athletes carries with them and can serve as a foundation for the rest of their lives.
3. Physical and Mental Toughness: Football is one of the most challenging sports both physically and mentally. The risk of injury in football is high, and due to the nature of the game bumps, bruises, aches and pains are regular and normal part of the season that every players are forced to fight through. They are required to work through the limitation and challenge’s to give their very best even when their body physical abilities may be limited. In addition to the physical demands of the game mental toughness is essential for players to develop to move past the adversity of a critical mistake during the game or and injury that is limiting their performance and ability.
4. Discipline: Many times the difference between a win or a loss can be tied to a mental error with a dropped pass, missed block, or a costly penalty. Football teaches kids the importance of discipline and commitment in everything they do from importance of practice to the execution of their job on game day.
5. Teamwork and Unity: With 8, 9, or 11 players on each side of the ball everyone that is on the field must have a complete understanding of their position and scope of responsibility in the overall scheme and game plan. Each job is critical to the success of the team on each and every play, and the skills and interaction players learn while playing football can directly translate to life skills as them move forward.
6. Training and Health: Footwork, strength, speed, hand-eye coordination, and agility are skills that are used and honed each day in practice and during the game. With the physical demands of the game, players overall conditioning and cardiovascular will increase and benefit.
Take the time to explore if youth football is the sport for your kids. Flag leagues that offer non contact play options are a great way to expose young players to the sport with a much lower risk, while still exposing them to the benefits of the game and giving them a foundation to build on. That foundation and understand of the game will be large dividends if they decide to move on to the next level and strap on a helmet, pads and a tackle football uniform.