Youth football is arguably the most intense, complex sports option for kids. And while that sounds intimidating, parents and boys will agree that it teaches valuable lessons that are crucial to the game of life.
Though many see the start of September as the kickoff for fall décor and pumpkin spice lattes, in the South, September is the signal that it’s officially football season. From college to high school on down to youth football, the sport is as native to the South as peaches, peanuts and mosquitoes.
Down here, youth football begins early—as early as kindergarten age. But no matter what age you start playing, football is a big commitment at all levels.
This is my fourth grader’s first year playing tackle football. He’s been busy trying out other sports in the fall. But this year, we finally said yes to youth tackle football, not because we wanted him to be a certain age to begin, but because we finally chose to commit to practices four days a week and football Saturdays that will span more than four months.
As a football mom, I wash soaked practice jerseys and padded pants late at night after every single practice. I air out the sweaty shoulder pads, helmets and cleats. I feed my son his first dinner before practice and his second dinner after practice when all that energy is depleted.
Gone are the days of quick one-hour sports practices. Most youth football practices are pushing two hours. Week in and week out, the parents sit through weather extremities to support our sons—from middle of summer heat to early fall cold fronts.
And if you think our commitment is noteworthy, just imagine that of the voluntary youth football coaches. Their wives tell us they’ve grown accustomed to having their husbands eat, sleep and drink football for four months out of the year. They get to practices and games early, as well as stay late to round up equipment and answer questions from all the parents. They watch film on weekends and are constantly changing their strategy as kids are injured or sick.
But enough about how much commitment youth football requires, because the benefits and life lessons of the sport far outweigh any inconveniences on our part . . .