John Barry

Football is America’s favorite sport right now. The NFL is by far the most popular, even though it has received a lot of bad press lately. No, I’m not talking about taking a knee during the national anthem. I know my wheelhouse, and the complexities of social/political ideologies are not my strong point. I’m coming to this discussion from two different viewpoints. Both as a sports performance professional and a parent of a 2-year-old. My goal is not to make a decision for you, but to enlighten you on perspectives from each side of the aisle.

Having a 2-year-old is amazing. I never knew I could be this happy. Even at this age though, I realize I walk a fine line of encouragement and protection. I love when she successfully goes down a slide with a big smile. I also have terrible anxiety when she climbs the ladder to said slide. We want to support and encourage our kids to fulfill their dreams and follow what makes them happy. But we have a responsibility to pull in the reins when we feel they reach too far.

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The Benefits of Being On A Team

Is the sport of tackle football a great opportunity for our children to grow and succeed, or just an overly dangerous activity with more risk than reward? I have had this exact conversation with multiple parents about their kids. I’ve worked with multiple football players of all levels, from peewee to professional. I almost feel obligated to defend the sport to the inquiring parent. First mentioning the benefit the game has brought me. I played in high school, have been a fan my entire life and played flag football after high school in college and throughout my adult years. The hard work, discipline, camaraderie, and athleticism are just a few of the benefits I gained from my experience. Being part of a team, especially one that goes through excruciating circumstances, has helped me build bonds that have lasted through the years.

Even being part of the same program has connected me with people. If I come across someone that played football at my same school (or even their parents) and didn’t play with me, there is still an instant bond. People I competed against have a similar result. It’s a mutual respect, knowing the hard work and sacrifice that it takes to play the game. These relationships and encounters can open up doors for a person. If they are lucky enough to have the ability to play college football on a scholarship, I say go for it. In these cases, the risk is worth the reward.

Football as a Career

Every sport and activity comes with a risk of injury, but if you truly have the skill/size to make a go at it in football, do it. I understand that represents a very small percentage of people reading this. The NCAA reports that there are just about 1-1.1 million kids that play high school football. The number that plays in college at any level…73,000. Out of those, a whopping 253 have a chance to play in the NFL.

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I’d like to look at these numbers from another perspective. If most of us reading this are average, then the kid in question will probably only play high school football. The majority of the kids on their team and the kids they compete against will only play in high school as well. This is where a tough decision comes in. Evaluate the size and athletic ability of an individual, relative to where they live. If they have the ability to compete at an equal level, then let them play. If the area is a football powerhouse, then take a step back and re-evaluate. The chances of a kid being or playing against a potential professional is minuscule. The real dangers of injuries, including CTE and concussions, are higher and more likely for players that play throughout their young life. The risk is still there, but not nearly as high as popular thought.

Takeaway

As a parent, I feel my main job is to encourage, support and protect my daughter. With all I said above, I’m still unsure of what my answer would be if she wanted to play football (granted, it is traditionally a male sport). I want to believe I would do my best to educate her on all of the facts about the sport, good and bad, and trust that she would make the correct decision. Whichever she chooses, I would back her up and do so with a proud smile on my face. Greater than playing or not playing football, is being an individual that can make a logical and informed decision without alien interference.

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