From the moment we see that positive pregnancy test, we want to protect our child.
A Mother’s Worries
First, we worry about miscarriage and make sure to follow the list of do’s and don’ts for our pregnancy. We cut grapes in half to prevent choking, and install baby gates on our stairs. We put childproof latches on our cabinets, and spend hours researching car seat safety. Later, we talk to our kids about not jumping off swings, not talking to strangers, and looking both ways when crossing the street.
Their safety is in the forefront of our minds.
I did all of those things. And yet, I allow and encourage my son to play tackle football.
At about age five, my son started showing an interest in football. We started watching the Denver Broncos games on TV, and playing catch in the yard. At age six, my son started playing flag football one day per week. It did nothing but fuel his love for the game, and he started talking about playing tackle football.
No Way, Little Dude
At that point, I was against it. I wasn’t about to let my son play one of the most violent sports out there and possibly get permanent brain damage. With all of the recent research about CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), I was afraid my son would sustain multiple head injuries, and his life would be ruined.
Flag football would have to do.
However, over the next two years, I changed my mind. At age 8 (3rd grade), my son started playing tackle football. To date, he has played four seasons (two fall and two spring), and he is playing this fall. He loves the game and he is a valuable teammate. Football has taught him great lessons about commitment, teamwork, mental toughness, how to manage disappointments, how to win with kindness and the value of hard work.
Change of Heart
What changed my mind? Education. Instead of researching car seat safety, I was researching helmet technology and fitting guidelines. Learning about different types of helmets and how they work helped me feel better. Also, getting to know his coach and how seriously he takes head injuries alleviated much of my worry. He trained to recognize head injuries and will never place an injured player in the game. The players’ health is paramount to him.
Am I still worried my son will get hurt? Yes, of course. It is always a concern, but not one that playing football makes any worse. Our children can get hurt doing a variety of things. They break legs falling off bunk beds, sprain shoulders falling out of trees and scrape knees up in a tumble off of the bicycle. It comes with the territory of being a kid. We cannot baby-proof the world!
Giving our children space to experience life is important.
Football Teaches Life Lessons
I am more concerned about holding my son back from being who he truly is and doing what he truly loves. He shouldn’t be afraid to pursue passions in his lifetime, even when they are hard and require work. I don’t want him to back down from challenges, even when they are risky. I want to teach him to embrace life, pursue passion and excel at being his best self.
For now, his singular passion is football. The lessons he learns from being a football player will stay with him his whole life. They will make him a better man, a better husband, a better father, a better friend and a better neighbor.
These lessons simply are making him a better human being.
For more information on CTE, concussions or brain trauma, please visit https://concussionfoundation.org/.