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Do we have a say in the sports our kids choose to play?

Dave Drapkin

In honor of Superbowl Sunday being around the corner, I thought it would be nice to talk about football—and how it scares the %&*@ out of me that Alex might want to play. I have nothing against the sport or the players. In fact, Nick and I have (jokingly) fantasized about Alex being quarterback for The University of Michigan someday (not because we’re Tom Brady fans—we’re not—but because Nick is from Michigan and U of M is a fantastic school in a fantastic town and the only way we could afford it is if Alex got a scholarship). The problem: In order for that fantasy to come true, Alex would have to play a lot of football and that troubles me. It just seems so…dangerous, no?


Part of me wants to gently nudge Alex toward the sport that will have the most fun parents on the sideline. Another part wants me to pick one that won’t bore me to death (like baseball does—I go to my nephew’s games a lot so I’m speaking from experience). And another part wants to pick the safest. But that would be what…tennis? golf? ping pong? (the first two I can get behind, btw).


So far the only organized sport Alex has played is soccer. And you can’t exactly call 15 four year olds swarming around a ball organized. But I know he will like sports and want to join the teams at school. He’s an insanely-energetic kid, he’s coordinated, he’s fast, he’s outgoing and he’s built like a tank. And Nick and I were both athletes. Sports (watching them, playing them, talking about them, etc) are a big part of our lives.


I’ve had several sports injuries in my day. A broken arm playing soccer, a severely-sprained ankle playing volleyball, a herniated disc from soccer, lots of busted fingers and toes from various sports and a broken collarbone from bike tag (this is not officially a sport but it kept me from finishing 8th-grade lacrosse so I count it as a sports injury…). I realize that injuries come with the territory but the ones that happen on the football field seem a little worse than a jammed finger from a rebounding incident in basketball.


We’ve all read the horrifying stories about kids who’ve been paralyzed or have even died from head injuries on the football field. Hell, my favorite show of all time centers on a football injury (Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!). Head injuries freak me out. And in a recent study of youth sports, football, no surprise, has the most (the sport that has the second-highest incident of concussions? girl’s soccer) But maybe things are getting safer for our kids.


I have a friend who works at the NFL (she hooked me up with Drew Brees a few years ago for a magazine interview—cool, right?) and she’s a mom, too, and we’ve talked about this stuff a lot recently. As part of her job she works with the NFL’s commission on health and safety and they do a ton of great work with youth football (the photo above is of a kids' clinic the NFL held this week in Indianapolis). They research concussions and work with medical professionals and teach kids and parents how to stay safe. My friend also told me about their support of the Lystedt Law, which prevents kids from getting back on the field too soon after an injury. (It’s named after Zackery Lystedt who, in 2006, suffered a brain injury following his return to a middle school football game after getting a concussion).


I would certainly want that law enforced if Alex ever starts to play (fortunately it has been passed in NY—see where your state stands). It's nice to know strides are being made, though I’m not convinced football is the sport for him. Nora is really good at running full speed and banging into things or the floor and not crying when most kids would be sobbing. So perhaps she’ll be our football player. Who knows. It just doesn’t seem too early to start discussing this. I know Alex is only four and we’re certainly not pushing sports on him but he’s shown a lot of interest. At the end of the day it’s going to come down to what he wants to play but I do think parents have a big influence on that, no? Would you let your son play youth football? What sports have you steered your kids towards and why?


Oh, and GO GIANTS!!!!


P.S., Notice the new blog name? Well, it turns out someone else had a blog called momfessions so now I have a blog called something else. The name doesn’t matter, though. It’s the same content and, I hope, the same great comments from all of you!