Though many see the start of September as the kickoff for fall décor and pumpkin spice lattes, in the South, September is the signal that it’s officially football season. From college to high school on down to youth football, the sport is as native to the South as peaches, peanuts, and mosquitoes.
As a football mom, I wash soaked practice jerseys and grass-stained padded pants late at night after every single practice. I air out the sweaty shoulder pads, helmets, and cleats. I feed my son the first dinner before practice and the second dinner after practice when all that energy is depleted.
And if you think our commitment is noteworthy, just imagine that of the voluntary youth football coaches. Their wives tell us they’ve grown accustomed to having their husbands eat, sleep and drink football for four months out of the year. They get to practices and games early as well as stay late to round up equipment and the water cooler. They watch tapes on weekends and are constantly changing their strategy as kids are injured or sick.
Related: Why Football Matters to Me
But enough about how much commitment youth football requires because the benefits and life lessons of the sport far outweigh any inconveniences on our part.
7 Benefits to Your Child Playing Youth Football
Out of all the sports, my son has played, youth football has been the most intense–hands down. And while that intimidates some, it also speaks volumes as to just how much learning and growth can happen during a single season. Here’s why parents and kids alike love youth football:
Challenges kids physically and mentally. Arguably, football is the most strategically complex sport for youngsters to learn. So many rules. So many players on the field. So many play options. Season after season, youth begin to gain more knowledge of the game, and strategy ideas begin to click as they mature in the sport. Youth football pushes kids to not only play their best but to think their best when it comes to a game plan. It keeps them active and engaged, and always leaves room for both physical and mental improvement.
Funnels competitiveness. For many, competition is a well-balanced crux of fun and challenge that fuels confidence. It’s also a practical outlet for pent-up aggression and frustration and a constructive emotional release. And let’s not forget that competition is also prevalent in adult-life scenarios, such as capitalism and politics, as well as who gets the job, the girl, the house.
Develops grit. Simply defined, grit is passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals. When it comes to youth football, athletes with grit are those who finish the drill and follow through, even when they’re tired and hungry. They know their purpose on the field and are willing to push through hard moments for success in the future. It’s debatable whether grit can be taught, but I guarantee you that players with grit easily earn the respect and set the example for other teammates. Even players with talent can only go so far without grit. In the end, grit determines achievement and success, not only in youth football but in life.
Promotes teamwork. With 11 players on offense and 11 players on defense, football is a sport that depends on a team working as a unit. Even if you have an all-star quarterback, it doesn’t matter if your offensive line slacks. One player simply can’t do everything. Youth football teaches boys that everyone plays a significant role in achieving a common goal, and if the team works cohesively that effort can lead to success. Football encourages communication and camaraderie, which are crucial to a well-knit team of any sport.
Teaches respect for authority. Because of the large number of players and positions on the field, football has some of the most coaches of any sport. More coaches means more attentiveness and direction for our developing kids. Coaches set the tone for discipline and often act as mentors both on and off the field.
Builds a strong work ethic. Youth football teaches kids the discipline of practice and preparation is pivotal for success. From one practice to the next, football coaches ask their players to work hard and give it all they’ve got. Over time, this develops characteristics in youth football players such as extraordinary drive, a heightened level of focus, and an ongoing dedication to improving in the sport.
Caters to players with heart. Hand in hand with a strong work ethic is playing with heart. Players with intrinsic motivation leave every ounce of effort on the field. Even if they aren’t as talented as some of their teammates, playing with heart allows these players to excel despite their skill level. Oftentimes, players with heart are team leaders who rise up to lift the attitude of the team, even when they’re down.
Youth football teaches game skills that will translate to life skills down the road. Players will learn practical lessons on the field that will apply to larger life scenarios. They will learn how to push themselves, build confidence, perform under stress, overcome defeat, and work collectively for the common good. These skills will help shape them into resilient and well-rounded adults.
What do you love about youth football?