To the Editor:
Football is a fantastic sport. The discipline, fitness, sportsmanship, and team building I have witnessed in Wilton Youth Football is outstanding.
Lately, youth tackle football has gotten a lot of bad press, undeserved and inaccurate. It was disheartening to hear that several area towns, including Wilton, aren’t able to field a 3rd grade team.
Before parents become scared about letting their sons play tackle, we need to step back and look at the facts. The study cited in the NY Times that suggested kids under 12 shouldn’t play tackle football or contact sports is fatally flawed. It pooled professional and Division 1 players with others that only played through high school or middle school. Thus, the numbers on concussions or damage is radically skewed.
Many parents allow their kids to ride bikes, ski, sled, ride horses, and scooters, which are all statistically proven to be far more dangerous than tackle football. But we don’t see the articles about that. In Wilton and surrounding towns, tackling instruction, stricter rules on helmet contact, and improved equipment have greatly contributed to player safety. There were more concussions on local soccer fields last year than football fields. I help coach my son Wyatt’s tackle football [team], and I am far more comfortable watching him practice and play this sport than riding a bike on the road. He had a concussion last year–from sledding–and missed a hockey practice because of it.
So parents, if you are concerned about your sons’ safety and do not allow them to play tackle football, i get it. But, by all means, do not allow them to ride bikes, sled, ski, ride horses, and such.
Furthermore, the idea that kids can somehow start contact at a later age doesn’t make sense. I grew up playing contact sports, I cannot imagine learning how to hit or take a hit in middle or high school, when kids are larger and more differentiated in size. I cannot imagine surviving my freshman year on the ice hockey team without already knowing hot to hit and take a hit. Positioning, reacting, and muscle memory are skills that need to be developed early on.
Finally, many boys like to play rough. It is natural. It’s healthy. Watch puppies play and jump and nip at each other. We are not so different. Let’s be safe, but let’s not stop boys from being boys!