Tackle vs. Youth Flag Football: Which one and why?
Youth tackle football is not as dangerous as the news labels it to be. I am not going to bore you with statistics, but the fact is, that your 8-year old son just doesn’t get hit hard enough to get concussions! Half the kids on defense don’t want to lay your son out in the first place, they’re just running around like cockroaches when the lights get turned on. Of course, there is that ONE 8 or 9-year old defensive stalwart who is foaming at the mouth to knock your kid loopy, but just block him, or at the very least, get in his way! The entire offensive line, or those who WANT to block, just need to all gang up on the foaming of the mouth linebacker.
We all know the numbers are down in youth tackle football participation. It is actually significantly down, and because of that, you may see all the promotional material for “Heads Up,” football and the like. That is all good news, and coaches are “getting it” as we all want a safer brand of tackle football, but the new wave of teaching skills on how to tackle is not going to make your child any tougher.
Parents are choosing not to play tackle nowadays because they blame it on the “dangers of the game.” “I don’t want my son to get concussions,” but the reality of it is, in many cases the parents are pulling their child away from tackle football because their child is not getting playing time. Sure, coaches may tend to play their favorites (likely their child), but there are coaches that do know what they are doing. From the sidelines, it looks as though your child is engaging in practice, but the coach, who is on the field, is seeing fear in your child’s eye. He knows better than to let your child on the field for fear that he is going to get hurt.
My son when in 6th grade “played” one year of tackle football. Although a tremendous baseball talent, football clearly was not his gig. My son served the “minimum play” standards, sometimes. I am not one of those parents who protest the coaches’ decisions. There were a few games where my son did not see the field at all. Again, not a problem, BUT, I did have to chat with the coach that if it’s a close game, and my son does not get in, fine. I get it; however, in a blow out one way or another, get him in the game for a number of plays and in the end, the “minimum play” will all average out. Because I talked with the coach in an educated manner, and not with a fit of rage, the coach got it. Of course it didn’t increase my son’s aggressiveness any, and that would be his only year of tackle football.
My son did excel in youth flag football. This was before and shortly after his one year of tackle. This piece is NOT about steering clear of tackle football, but if you so choose to, then youth flag football is viable. Here are some reasons:
When on a tackle football team, typically, you may have 4-5 coaches and a lot more complaining parents! You may be one of those parents who will sit on the far end of the stands as to avoid “those parents.” The screamers. The complainers. The second-guessing “armchair” flag football coaches. Or, you may be one of those parents. Who knew? With youth flag football, you only have to “deal” with maybe one coach, and about 6 sets of parents. I like your chances.
Well, maybe. Because it is football, contact is going to happen. You child is just as likely to sprain an ankle, or maybe even receive a concussion in flag as he is in tackle. However, there is headgear available. For the most part though, youth flag football is safer inherently because there are fewer practices and less likely, shorter practices.
In traditional youth flag football, it is 5 on 5 with a roster of 8. Your child is going to play! You just want your child learning how to run routes and be in position to get the flag. It is football at its simplest form. Run, catch, throw, and “tackle”.
The game of flag football is going to be less frustrating. Your child may actually look forward to practice. There is nothing worse than going to practice when your tackle team is 0-8 and there is no Tom Brady on the horizon. Your child is going to have that sense of accomplishment when he runs into the end zone, something that would have never happened when playing tackle because he was stuck on the line.
Well, this is debatable, but it is better to have one clueless flag football coach as opposed to five clueless tackle coaches (if such is the case). All you want as a parent, is a coach to step up and be a mentor to your child, and teach the fundamental skills of football and good sportsmanship. I always felt that if your coach happens to know football then that is a bonus. Coaching flag football does not have nearly the rigors or pressures of coaching tackle. There is not the pressure from the parents (maybe 40 of them) to get their child playing time.
Your child is not going to be playing for the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, or Dallas Cowboys. Don’t live out your dream through your child’s play. Just let them play. Even if your child is the “stud” now in whatever sport, the other kids or going to catch up. There is a small chance your child will even play high school football after youth tackle or flag is over. I saw it with my kids. My oldest son was not swayed by high school drama. He is about to turn 20, and he has had the same girlfriend since his freshman year. He never went out and partied. He was the starting catcher for the baseball team (except his Junior year). He got through the gauntlet of high school. I was blessed. He never went beyond high school with his baseball career, and his last game at high school, I was an emotional wreck. When it comes to football, whether it is tackle or youth flag football, ENJOY the time because it is over quick.