Ah, extra-curricular activities. They're the stuff dreams are made of, aren't they? The kits, the schedules, the training. It's all just another thing to worry about...but in all seriousness, getting your child into a sport can be hugely beneficial for everyone involved. Not only does it give them a sense of belonging and achievement while doing something healthy, but it can help you build a solid network of mom friends. That's an invaluable resource to have in life. However, if your child has been begging to join the football team, you might have some understandable reservations. After all, it's a contact sport that can cause serious injuries to players - but it's also one of the most lucrative in terms of scholarships and professional careers. Here's everything you need to know before making the decision.
Are they old enough?
Football isn't just about throwing a ball and seeing how far it goes. Teams are required to think about plays, tactics and everything else that comes with a sport. Bleacher Report recommends getting your child to learn the basics of flag football first to give them a taste of the game. It might seem unlikely that kids of six or seven will be able to do serious damage to themselves, but accidents occur on the field at any age. Do you feel like your child is prepared to take that risk? Do they understand the importance of safety? If the answer is no, you might want to hit pause.
How much damage are they likely to do?
Some players never sustain an injury, but this is football. Concussions are part and parcel of the game, so how concerned should you be? According to experts, concussions should be taken seriously. Teens are still developing, so head trauma can have an impact on that. If it happens more than once, then it can have a lasting effect that isn't to be underestimated. You can't be on the field with them, but you can make sure that their equipment (such as helmets) are properly fitted.
How much free time will it take up?
In short, a lot. Playing football, especially in high school, is a significant commitment. Coaches expect a lot from their players, but students also have to focus on their academic performance. Depending on the time of year and how seriously football is taken at your child's school, you can expect them to be at practice at least twice a week, if not more. It's important to bear in mind that it's not just your child's time that will be consumed, but yours too. Logistics, like taking them to and from practices, can be trickier than you might think.
What is chronic traumatic encephalopathy?
If you've started to look into football, you might have noticed there's a lot of buzz around brain injuries, specifically one called chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. In 2017, a large study discovered that 87% of football players have the condition, but what exactly is it? CTE is a degenerative illness that can occur after repeated blows to the head. Researchers have found links between CTE and suicidal behavior, dementia, and memory loss. While there is no treatment, there are things players can do to reduce their risk, such as coming out of the game immediately after a blow to the head and resting. As parents, it's important to realize that this isn't a sport to be taken lightly.
How much will it cost?
Football teams are usually heavily dependent on registration fees and donations. While the cost can vary greatly from team to team, a 2016 survey found 21% of parents spent over $1,000 on the activity annually, according to USA Football. What's more, teams often call upon local businesses and parents to help raise funds for new equipment. Like any sport, it comes at a cost. Some teams expect parents to volunteer to work at fundraising events. However, there is sometimes the option to pay a flat fee in lieu, says How They Play.
No matter what your decision, be sure that both you and your child are fully ready to give it your all. If Friday Night Lights taught us anything, it's that hell hath no fury like a football coach scorned!