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Posts Tagged ‘Pee Wee Football’

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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Good Sportsmanship Trumps Winning at All Costs

In Family, Life, Life Lessons, Sports on April 16, 2011 at 9:14 pm

When we decided to relocate back to New York, I reluctantly allowed my son to play spring football in the local league that he played in for two seasons.  After watching the favoritism shown to the teams whose coaches are in the “inner circle” of this league, we searched out a better option and played someplace else this past fall.  Unfortunately, that league doesn’t offer spring football, and I didn’t want him to miss out on playing because of the issues that I had with ridiculous politics.

I spoke to a coach that I knew from our last season in the league about getting my son on his team and becoming an assistant coach.  Everything was on track to make it happen, until my son excelled in tryouts and was selected in the draft by another coach earlier than anticipated.  The team that I tried to get him on is the dominant team in the league, but that was not important to me.  I just wanted my son to play for a coach that I respected as a person.

We have always been on winning teams, but the experience wasn’t always good, especially when the coach cared more about winning than developing the kids as football players.  I am very competitive, but to me, competing hard is more important than holding up the bigger trophy at the end of the season.

This afternoon, we faced off against the team that my son almost played for.  As the last two undefeated teams in the league, this game was highly anticipated, but fell far short of expectations.  Our opponents dominated our team on the scoreboard the way that they have dominated every other team that they have faced.  It wasn’t a total shock given our opponent’s superior talent and experience playing together..

No one likes to lose by a large margin, but at this age, the scoreboard is not necessarily a true indicator of how the teams competed.  For the most part, we kept them in check, but 4 big plays made it look like they were moving the ball at will against us.  Since they have done the same thing to every other team, we knew that this outcome was a possibility.

In all honesty, we didn’t have what it takes to beat them today, and probably wouldn’t if we faced them again in the playoffs.

Even though they are the best team in the league, and will likely go undefeated again, after today, I am very happy that my son did not end up on that team.  Although the majority of their players play the game the way that it is supposed to be played, some of their players think nothing of giving cheap shots and trash talking.  Personally, if it were kids on my team doing that, I would bench them, but that’s just my coaching style.

One player in particular gave a number of cheap shots to our players.  This kid had already been investigated for his actions against an earlier opponent, but of course, he was cleared of any wrongdoing.  I can’t say for sure why he was able to get away with it in our game, but suffice it to say that the referees missed some very blatant unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

Although there is no rule that says that you have to stop trying to score once the game has clearly been decided, many coaches use that portion of the game to give other kids the ball besides the running backs.  The fact that the opposing coach continued to give the ball to his star players long after the outcome was already decided goes to show that our coaching styles are simply not compatible.  And though my son may end up on a team that runs up the score one day, I would prefer that he doesn’t adopt that mindset at such a young age.

Unless there is a shocking upset, the dominant team will celebrate another championship at season’s end.  It is a moment that I am sure that they will revel in.  Would my son like to win a championship?  Absolutely!  But it is not as important as becoming the best football player and person that he can be.

Years from now, none of this will matter at all.  Only a handful of these kids will continue to play football once they graduate high school.  Most will not.  And the odds are that none will make it to the NFL.

Given the choice between having my son play for coaches who teach kids to play hard with good sportsmanship or one who uses his superior talent to continue to pile on once the game has been decided, I will choose the former any day of the week, even if it means not winning a championship.

I never won a championship in all of my years of organized sports, but I look back on my playing days with an incredible fondness because of the coach that I had the privilege to play for.

When my son’s bruises heal from the cheap shots that he received today, he will forget about this loss.  Eventually, what he will remember most about his last season of football in Texas is the tremendous experience that he had playing for outstanding coaches.  And in the end, he will be better off for not getting drafted by the dominant team in the league!

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A Fight to the Finish

In Family, Life, Sports on March 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm

When fall pee wee football ended in November, the long wait until spring football began.  After four months off, we finally had our first game of the season this weekend.  As anxious as the kids were to get back on the field, I think that the coaches were even more excited for the season to start.

Because of spring break, we didn’t get to practice as much as we would have liked, but every coach faced the same challenge in getting their teams ready for the first game.

Even though the boys are still very young, the competitive juices in all of us were flowing, and we wanted to start the season off with a victory.

Our team controlled the ball for most of the game, but somehow we still trailed by a score of 6-0 with less than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter.  Every time we came close to scoring, we were turned away.  Although our struggle to score can be partially attributed to our opponent rising to the challenge, mental errors, missed opportunities and a key injury played a much bigger role in keeping us out of the end zone.

Aside from one broken play where our opponent scored on an 85-yard touchdown run, our boys did an outstanding job on defense.

With less than five minutes to go in the game, it was starting to look like our dominance on the field was not going to be enough to secure the victory.

To the credit of a team playing their first game together, none of our boys ever gave up.  They never looked defeated, and they continued to play hard on every single play.  Despite the fact that one of our top running backs was injured, no one made any excuses.

Our other starting running back had never played the position in a regular season game before this weekend, and yet he ended up having to shoulder most of the load for the entire second half, while also playing a key role on defense and special teams.

With the clock winding down, we needed to make something happen quickly.  In a game that was filled with frustrating moments, we finally got the break that we needed when our defense caused a safety and cut the lead to 6-2.

We got the ball right back and marched down the field, but time was not on our side, and we only had two timeouts remaining.  With less than 30 seconds to play in the game, we finally punched it into the end zone, and took an 8-6 lead, but our defense still needed to come through one more time to secure the victory.

After the kickoff, our opponent had about ten seconds left to go 60 yards.

They snapped the ball and my son blasted through the line and made a solo tackle in the backfield.  As an elated coach and proud parent, I jumped in the air and started to run onto the field to congratulate him and the rest of the team.  But then I realized that our opponent had called a timeout with two seconds left on the clock, giving them one more play.

On the final play of the game, their running back took the handoff and quickly blasted through a hole in our defense.  But as he started gaining momentum, our boys stepped up and made the stop before he could break free and score.

It was only the first game of the season, but this hard-fought victory felt as good as winning a playoff game, and it set the stage for what promises to be an exciting season.

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