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Posts Tagged ‘youth football’

Update: I wrote this one at the beginning of my second son’s rookie year in full pads tackle football.  Now, it is four months later and the season is over. He played safety and, despite being the second-smallest kid on the team, showed a real fearlessness about tackling bigger runners.   In the last game of the year, he came out to meet head-on a bigger running back and got slammed down to the turf but made the tackle.  I held my breath but he got up and went back to the huddle and made 5-6 more tackles in that game.  It is great to see your son bounce up and keep playing.  Here’s the video of that play.  He’s number 8.

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My 7-year-old son is playing full pads tackle football for the first time this year and is one of the smallest and youngest on the roster.  When the coaches divided the kids into two lines for the first tackling drill of the year, my son was fourth in his line.  My eyes quickly went to the other line and I counted back four to see who he was matched up against.  In his first attempt at a tackle, he had to bring down one of the biggest and fastest kids on the team.  I got butterflies in my stomach imagining that my little rookie in a minute or two could be lying flat on his back, crying and saying, “Daddy, I don’t think football is for me.”

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Gut check before the collision

Gut check before the collision

In my community, seven year old children conditioned by their parents to be polite, share their Matchbox cars, and not to hit anybody under any circumstances are eligible to begin playing the violent sport of footballMost of the so-called “anklebiters” don’t have sufficient aggression or bad intentions to charge ahead and flatten the other guy, no matter how loud the coach yells at them to do it.  Therefore, the most urgent task of the anklebiter coach– if they are to have any hope of success on the field come the start of the regular season September—is to transform his recent graduates of the first grade into a team of little assassins who can take and deliver The Big Hit. The first drill every anklebiter coach runs involves placing two players about three feet apart and forcing them to run at each other, causing a collision. The coach and the assistant coach stand at the anticipated point of impact to ensure that scared kids can’t avoid the hit by running out of bounds.

As a parent who fondly remembers his 11-year-old son running that basic drill three years ago and this year is watching his second son go through his initiation, I see the initial reluctance and fear of 80 percent of kids to hit each other as gratifying evidence of the innocence of youth. I know that someday in the not-too-distant future, my children will learn about teenage street gangs, watch kids pick on each other mercilessly, witness schoolyard fights, and learn that the world can be a violent place.

That is why watching an exasperated football coach shake his head and look down at the ground because his scared, little players won’t hit each other is a touching moment that will pass all too soon.

Little kids hitting each other is what anklebiter football is all about.

Little kids hitting each other is what anklebiter football is all about.

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My 11-year-old son and I preparing for a wrestling match.

My 11-year-old son and I preparing for a wrestling match.

I once looked my son in the eye and told him that getting good grades in school is far more important to me than his performance on the sports field.  My children’s future success in life certainly will be dictated by their grade-point average not their batting average. Yet, I will more quickly work with them on perfecting their wrestling moves than I am to teach them at the kitchen table about long division. My hypocrisy has put me into a common Daddy dilemma: how hard do you push your children to excel in competitive sports at an early age, and at what cost? (more…)

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