Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Youth Football: To Play or Not to Play, It Should Be a Kid's Decision

August means preseason football. Grueling two-a-day practices in the heat. Lots of running and lots of hitting. It is a sport that one needs to be passionate about to play.

Water Break
When my son, Nic, was in 3rd grade he decided to play football. My wife and I were surprised because we were a soccer family and Nic was a very good soccer player.  We talked to him about his motivations and the risks. We let our kids make their own decisions, so we let him play.

He had an outstanding year. He led the team with 72 tackles in 11 games as the right defensive end. He was also the starting fullback. His team had an outstanding year too. They only lost one game during the regular season and made the playoffs. They went through the playoffs to the Cincinnati city championship game and they won it.

Another Sack

The Fullback Gets the Ball
The next year my son played 4th grade football for the same team, but he did not have the same passion for it as he did the year prior. Regardless, he had a good year and his team won its second consecutive Cincinnati City Championship. My son ended the game with a fumble causing sack to stop a game winning scoring drive by the fierce undefeated opponent. He was sky high after the game.

As the 5th grade football season approached, my son decided not to play football. Again, I was surprised. He had just finished a very demanding baseball schedule with a very demanding baseball coach and was not mentally prepared to jump into football. The passion was just not there.

Again, we let our kids make their own decisions so we supported his decision. We were somewhat saddened by the decision because we had come to enjoy the football families, but it was his decision.

When the coaching staff heard that Nic had decided not to play, they asked me if I was going to make him play. I told them no. They were disappointed but understood.

The Main Point

Let your kids decide what sports they want to play. Help them think through the pros and cons of playing or not playing a particular sport, but let them decide. They will be more apt to succeed if they are self motivated to play. There is one exception to this rule. If fear of failure is the reason why your son or daughter decides not to play a sport then you might need to push them.

My older son came to me prior to his sophomore year of high school soccer. He told me that he was not going to play soccer. I was somewhat surprised because I knew that he loved soccer. I told him that that would be OK and that it was his decision. However, I told him that he had to tryout for the team and when he made the team he could tell the coach that he was not interested in playing. My son looked at me like I was crazy, but I was dead serious. I informed him that if he did not tryout for the team that he would not be allowed to play XBox at all during soccer season. He reluctantly went to the tryout. He made the team as I suspected he would. And not surprisingly, he decided to play and had a great year. Perhaps his best year of soccer.


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