Mike Kueber's Blog

May 22, 2012

Should parents allow their sons to play tackle football?

Filed under: Sports — Mike Kueber @ 9:12 pm
Tags: ,

A fascinating article is USA Today addressed whether parents should allow or encourage their sons to play football.  The article is fascinating because it contrasted the opinions of a famous football player, Tom Brady, and his opinionated dad, Tom Brady, Sr. 

Not surprisingly, the article is headlined with an attention-grabbing quote from the attention-seeking dad – who says that playing football is like playing Russian roulette – instead of from his football-playing son, who actually has some skin in the game.  I think it is significant that an intelligent, multi-talented 35-year-old adult who “has it all,” including the prospects of a fabulous post-NFL life, thinks the risks associated with playing NFL football are acceptable. 

One might argue that parents might be more conservative in the risks that they are willing to accept on behalf of their sons, but even in that case it seems that Brady, Sr. has forfeited his right to be so opinionated by already reaping the fame and fortune that have come his way from football.  Instead, he has the chutzpah to criticize other parents of football players – “Apparently, they don’t take their own parenting responsibility very seriously, or they don’t value their children’s health as much as they should.”

Personally, all of my four sons played tackle football, but only my youngest, Jimmy, played enough to be potentially at risk.  Jimmy was good enough to start on Clark’s defensive line for two years and was involved in a lot of collisions.  In fact, he had planned on playing football in college, but that hasn’t worked out yet. 

Jimmy’s mom was always worried about the collision component of football, but that didn’t start to concern me until his senior year.  Because of that late-arriving concern, however, I will not be terribly disappointed if Jimmy never suits up in college.

There appear to be two fundamental issues:

  1. What are the costs and benefits of playing contact football?
  2. Who decides?

The benefits of playing football are legendary.  Although I never played (my high school had only 49 kids), I have heard from countless players how much they learned from the game.  And I did play high-school basketball, so I concur in affirming the lasting, significant benefits derived from team sports.  The costs associated with playing football are less certain, almost like global warming.  Furthermore, the most problematic costs appear associated with high-level competition, such as the NFL or maybe college-level.

Regarding who decides whether to play football, that obviously varies from family to family.  If the parents are strong-minded on this subject, they can prevent their sons from playing in either middle school or high school.  Most parents, however, are amenable to persuasion by their sons, so much depends on how badly the sons want to play.  And then when the sons get to the point where physical damage is a greater risk (college and the pros), the sons will make their own decisions, as Tom Brady has done.  Of course, by then, the chances of a young man turning down football are almost non-existent.  If Tom Brady, with the world as his oyster, continues to play, virtually everyone else will, too.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with parents who oppose their sons playing tackle football, and they should take as strong a position as they want.  But I don’t think Brady Sr. should be impugning the parenting of those who do what he did – let ‘em play.


1 Comment »

  1. at best it is a waste of time for all but about 1,000 americans per year. worse, high school football is the pinnacle of their life. worst, they get a life long injury in the process.

    Comment by Q — May 23, 2012 @ 7:13 pm | Reply

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