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CAROL PERKINS: Football for tots

With the wisdom only a grandparent has about properly raising their kids' Carol Perkins has written a masterpiece on the dangerous practice of parents succumbing to peer pressure: She advised flag football for her five-year-old grandson, which was, at first rejected: I asked several local coaches their opinions and I could not find one person who thought a five year old was physically and emotionally ready to tackle. Naturally, I had to mention my discovery to Carla. 'But Mom, around here they start early, and if your child doesn't start with others, they will be behind.' Behind whom? The Titans? What a trap for parents to be drawn into by organizations who tap into their emotional side. My theory is that the best way to ruin a good athlete is to burn him out.
The next earlier Carol Perkins column: Carol Perkins: The measure of a man

By Caorl Perkins

"Tell CiCi what you're going to be playing next week," said the assistant coach and father of my grandson.

"Football," replied five-year-old Joseph as he transformed his transformer.

"Go get your helmet and pads to show her." I think if Mark (the father) could have tried them on, he would have. Football players never die; they coach their sons.



Soon Joseph came from another room carrying pads and a helmet that was so heavy, it took both hands to hold.

"Are you going to show me how you look in them?" I asked as he slung the pads over MY shoulder and swirled the helmet, viewing it from all sides.

I helped him with his pads but he was having no part of that helmet as I tried to put it over his head. "No, I don't like it on."

"It's a little too small, but we'll get you a bigger one Monday," Dad assured him.

I wanted to suggest that perhaps flag football might be better for his age, but I knew I would be met with resistance. Football means so much to the father who wants it to be important to the son. Just give him a few years, I thought but didn't say.

During preschool, Joseph suffered from a common illness among most boys: scuffling on the playground and carrying it over inside the classroom. In order to correct this behavior from all those involved, the teacher issued daily behavior stars. (The dreaded star!) If Joseph maintained a week of stars, which meant keeping his hands and feet to himself, then he would be rewarded at home, his mother decided.

He soon learned that hitting and poking and socking were inappropriate for school. Even though he enjoyed being an action figure, he accumulated his stars and received his Friday night reward. So, just when he learned to stop this behavior, he was encouraged for hitting anyone coming toward him. "Knock them down! Don't let them through."

Later that week I asked Joseph how he liked football. "Fine." Isn't that how children respond to every question. "Do you like being hit?" I asked. I knew the answer. "No, not much; it hurts really bad." I cringed.

A few weeks later, I asked my daughter how the football was going. Visualizing Joseph being beaten up on the field and breaking his neck and being incapacitated for life frightened me. I didn't like the idea of him hitting others either. "Well, we decided that he needed to play flag football first. He didn't quite get the concept of hitting." What kid at age five even needs to be tackling? I held my peace and shut my mouth...until.....

I asked several local coaches their opinions and I could not find one person who thought a five year old was physically and emotionally ready to tackle. Naturally, I had to mention my discovery to Carla. "But Mom, around here they start early, and if your child doesn't start with others, they will be behind." Behind whom? The Titans? What a trap for parents to be drawn into by organizations who tap into their emotional side. My theory is that the best way to ruin a good athlete is to burn him out.

The best thing for me to do was to say no more and relax knowing he isn't in danger of having his brains knocks sideways on the football field. Later, when he is old enough, I will worry. Right now, he sword fights with his imaginary Power Ranger and destroys the bad guys for civilization. What a noble act at such a young age. -CAROL PERKINS


This story was posted on 2011-10-16 03:28:54
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