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I get Dad’s that call me or text me and tell me they want their son’s to be safe, but they are afraid they will get behind if they don’t put their 8 to 10 yr old in Youth Tackle Football? Quite the contrary as Flag, Flex or 7on7 now have over 4 million active players in ages 6 to 12 and that is substantially more then Youth Tackle. In fact, Youth Tackle participation numbers have dropped for the 6th consecutive year. The NFL has taken note and you can see their involvment with growing flag leagues around the country to keep players involved with the game of Football. In fact they are being very progressive in trying to protect players and installed new rules this season on kickoffs, targeting with the head and better protection of the QB. Sorry 3 pt stance but your about to go away too in the next few years. After two weeks in the season people were calling the game soft and nothing but flag football but here we are 85 percent complete with the 2018 Season and guess what? Viewership is up, ratings are up and low and behold scoring is up across the board! Less head trauma, less concussions, less targeting of defenseless receivers = more scoring! Was it really that hard to figure out? Flag, Flex, 7on7 all encourage more scoring and people want to play and well its just fun. Plenty of time for the Youth player to learn full contact in MS & HS.
The game has changed, and aspects of High School & College Offenses schemes have come into the NFL. The game is spread out, fast paced and incorporates a lot of passing. Do you really want to have great young QB prospects like Pat Mahomes get drilled in the head on the blind side and have to watch his backup for remainder of the Season grind out 13-10 games or is it fun like last Monday night when he gets in a 50 plus shootout with the Rams and the game goes down to who has the last possession?
The game continues to change and evolve towards safety in football except for one area and that is Youth "select" Tackle Football. And while for the most part the Coaching is not really select at all nor do they adhere to any background screenings. It seems that its only really called select so they can add anyone they wish to their roster from any part of town and not have to be troubled with a true draft process where they maybe would get out coached schematics wise or have to teach skills or fundamentals. It seems that some (not all) of these Coaches are involved with Youth Sports only to chase trophies or silly titles or rings that mean zero for High School or College Coaches. Not one High School or College Coach has ever asked an incoming Freshmen what his peewee record was?
Am I against tackle football? Nope, not at all. I love it but certainly think there is a better way to teach younger players then what we have currently been doing. So what I really like what Rec Tackle Leagues are doing with Youth Football and that is keeping the entire Season to 90 days or less, mandating that you can only have 3 or less padded events per week that includes practices and games. They are essentially doing what the NFL, College & High Schools have all done and limit the amount of full contact. If it's not needed at the upper levels why would you allow Youth "Select Coaches" to keep your children in full contact tackle 7 to 8 months out of the Year? Lets see I think I saw this year where 8U & 10U players needed pre season camp, training camp, 3 to 4 scrimmage games, 2 to 3 pre season Bowl games, 2 pre season tournaments, regular season, post season playoffs etc etc etc. Then you would think its done but we haven't even gotten to the pay for play "all-star" games. You can play in as many of these as you wish as long as you can pay. Then don't forget the pseudo Exposure Camps or Showcase Games. Of course these are pay for play as well and fully padded. By the time that's over its almost time to start pre season camp again!
Flex Football was created because of what was happening in Youth Football especially "select". In Youth Football there was not a bridge game designed that could take a younger youth player from a introduction game of 5on5 non contact flag football all the way to a 11-man tackle full contact game on a hundred yard field? That is what we are doing with Flex, taking that first year player, taking that player moving up from non contact flag and introducing semi or limited contact and working on skills, fundamentals, leverage with your hands and your feet without the unnecessary and pointless banging of skulls.
If you're a parent of a player age 6 to 12 and your "Coach" has your son in full pads over 4 months of the Year you really need to reevaluate that Coaching Staff. Don't fall for the "exposure" word that these "Coaches" like to hold over you to keep your star player. There is no College looking at your 6 to 12 yr old yet.