Recently, there has been much conversation regarding the safety of youth sports, especially youth football. There is a New York State lawmaker who is attempting to make contact football illegal for children under age 11. On my radio show, ĎYouth Sports Now,í Iíve interviewed concussion authorities; helmet manufacturerís, parents and coaches. There is no longer constructive conversation as itís all become a black-and-white issue with no room for further conversation ó either you are for youth football or against it. When youth sports parents need to be criticized, I am the first to speak up as an eyewitness to the stereotypical actions that take place. But when parents need defending for their decisions, I am in line and ready to back them up. Itís time for the conversation to be between the parents, coaches and the young athletes. Itís time for safety education to be part of the training programs and itís time for the decision regarding youth football to be made in the homes, not the media.
Former New Orleans Saint and Super Bowl champion Scott Fujita recently wrote a widely publicized and criticized editorial in The New York Times saying that when parents ask him if they should let their children play football his answer is candid and honest. He tells parents that he has three daughters and is glad he doesnít have to make that decision. Pretty interesting comments from a former player.
Fujita went on to say that football is football, and no amount of regulations, fines, penalties or punishment will change the gameís inherent violence and dangers ó and the latest news of a 16-year-old high school player who died after a helmet-to-helmet hit adds to the argument against the game. But he also says that the decision to allow children play football is and should be an individual decision that should not be regulated by government, the medical profession or school districts.
Football is not for every child. Scott Fujita is a healthy retired player, but there are some former NFL players suffering life debilitating injuries that agree with him and claim that only the family can make that decision for the young adding that through proper education and training many of the injuries can be reduced or eliminated. Fujitaís parents say when he was young they certainly had reservations but they wouldnít have necessarily banned him from the game. They took responsibility for looking into the coaches and the policies of the league.
I really donít like controversy and try and avoid it in all aspects of my life. By no means do I criticize any parent who determines that their children should not play youth football. In fact, I commend them for making a decision that is right for their family. I also know that there are dangers in everything we do; driving a car, flying in a plane or letting your kids play any other sport. But it doesnít mean you stop living your lives.
Fujita ends his editorial by saying that as a former player, he does feel responsible and obligated to inform parents of the dangers of the game and to reinforce with them that itís not his decision to let their kids play. He says itís the values, beliefs and education that need to come from inside the home that will assist parents and not the words of a former player and current broadcaster to take on that responsibility. We can take this advice and use it for many decisions we make for our children.
Greg Kamp is a 23-year veteran of youth sports as a coach and administrator and is currently the President of Penfield Little League and sits on the board at the District level. He is the host of Youth Sports Now, a weekly radio show on WYSL-AM/FM and also runs Strategy First, his own public relations and marketing business.