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Saying Goodbye to Pee Wee Football

In Family, Life Lessons, Sports on September 9, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Pee Wee Football

Our son was only five years old when he strapped on a football helmet for the first time.  He was raised to love the game long before he ever stepped onto a football field.  The picture of him dressed as a football player for Halloween when he was two years old is one of the most memorable of the thousands that we have taken of him over the years.  He wasn’t gifted with the natural ability that some other kids had, but he practiced as hard as any kid that I’ve ever coached through the years.  As a result, he developed into a very good football player, a lunch pail kid with average size and speed, but more heart and determination than most.

He had his challenges through the years – most notably trying to live up to the impossible expectations that go hand-in-hand with being a coach’s son – but he never lost his passion for the game.  Pee wee football helped shape him into the kid that he is today, which is why it was incredibly difficult to take it away from him.

Kids stop playing pee wee football for various reasons.  Some don’t have what it takes to withstand the physicality of the game.  Others lack the mental discipline that it takes to function as a part of a team.  Politics surrounding parent-run pee wee football leagues has caused numerous kids to leave the game.  None of the aforementioned reasons caused us to make the decision to pull our son out of pee wee football.  Although we were exhausted by the politics, our decision was based strictly on protecting him from harm, now and in the future.

There is risk in everything that kids do, sports in particular, but the risk that football poses is unique, and one that we were no longer willing to take.  The fact of the matter is that we are armed with information in 2013 that simply wasn’t available in 2007 when our son started playing tackle football.  No longer is the term “getting your bell rung” an acceptable description of concussion symptoms caused by a blow to the head; at least it isn’t to those who have evolved and taken heed to the warnings about head injuries.

Armed with the knowledge of the potential lingering effects of repeated blows to the head, we chose not to allow our son to continue playing the sport that has meant so much to all of us.  Understandably, our son was not happy with our decision.  And though we have shared numerous stories with him about the potential long-term effects that playing football could have on the rest of his life, he would strap on the helmet today if we told him that we changed our minds about letting him play.

Our son is angry, frustrated and sad about not being able to play the game that he loves, and I don’t blame him.  I was only allowed to play one season of football in junior high school before my parents refused to sign the permission slip to let me play again.  I felt all of the emotions that our son is feeling, and I had only played football for one season.  He played eight seasons of football, so I can only imagine how much more intense his feelings are right now.

Pee wee football parents are incredibly passionate about the game.  Most who read this story will probably disagree with the decision that we’ve made.  Not too long ago, I would have disagreed as well.  However, parents who find themselves questioning whether or not they want to allow their sons to continue playing football out of concern for the potential lingering health effects down the road, may find solace in the fact that a football coach (who loves the game) chose to make the same difficult parenting decision.

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  1. As parents, we sometimes are faced with making decisions that we believe are in the best interests of our children in the long run. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always make us popular. But if a parent feels strongly enough about the potential consequences, then we deal with the temporary anger and move on. When my children were not happy with my decisions, I simply said “I would rather you cry now than I cry later.”

    The child we refused to allow to play footbool is now a parent who is faced with making a decision that is not popular with his child.

    Although we would do anything to make our children happy, sometimes we have to follow our instincts, be strong, and hope that some day our children will realize those decisions were made out of love. I think that someday has come for my child.

  2. You made the right call. I know it was hard for all of you, but the intensity of parents is only the beginning of what’s becoming an overly-aggressive sport. Kids aim to please and if they’re constantly hearing the “hit ’em” and “go go go!” from the sidelines, their focus becomes the achievement, rather than the fun. I also blame the “everyone plays” mentality in some sports to contributing to the heavy hitting in full-contact sports when you actually have to have a talent in order to participate. We coddle our kids by letting them know they’ll take part in every game at some point and that the score doesn’t matter. When they finally evolve into a sport where score DOES matter and playtime is NOT guaranteed, they have to fight for a spot. It’s sad…but so true. I am sure he’ll forgive you in time.

  3. Completely agree with you. Don’t worry about what the “majority” think, you’re often in good stead being in the minority in regards to many issues. For me and my family it was a no-brainer. I don’t feel the need to live through my kid’s “glory”. The choice to play may be right for some and that is their choice to make, however, factoring in my son’s size, football doesn’t seem like a good fit.

  4. […] year.  It was the first football season that he has missed since he was five years old (see “Saying Goodbye to Pee Wee Football”).  The transition out of football had its challenging moments, but ultimately, he embraced the […]

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