For the welfare of our children and the welfare of The Great Game, kids should not play tackle football until the seventh grade.
There, I said it. I, Paul Alexander, Johnny Footballseed, just went on record opposing peewee football.
There’s no rush. Stick a football in their hands the instant they climb out of the crib and let them play with it. I said play with it. I said have fun with it. Fall in love with it. Dream about it. Smile. Laugh. Get them to immediately associate that football with good times!
I cringe every time I see a field full of fully-padded eight-year-olds practicing in the heat. Because I know that for many of them, their joy is being sucked out of their souls even as oxygen is sucked out of their lungs. They will come to hate football. And something that could have been a beautiful experience for them turns into fear and loathing.
That’s not good for children. And that’s really not good for football.
Look, I understand the argument that they’re really not able to hurt each other. Little kids. Little collisions. And that’s largely true. Until it isn’t.
But beyond that, tackle football is uncomfortable. It’s hot. It’s tedious. Helmets and pads are heavy. Running into other people is not a natural act. Even well-meaning, qualified youth coaches can be overbearing and frightening. Then there are those coaches who are neither well-meaning nor qualified.
I’ve seen it literally hundreds of times as a player and as a high school football coach. Burnout. Just as they reach an age at which football could have become a deeply wonderful and spiritual experience, many young men are just done with it.
That’s not good for them. And it’s really not good for football.
So, no football before age twelve? No. That’s not what I’m saying. Touch. Flag. Fun skills contests. No pressure technique development. Throw it. Catch it. Kick it. PLAY with it!
And more than anything else, fun. Unrelenting, incessant fun.
There is a point at which boys (and girls) can begin to handle the physical, mental and emotional demands of tackle football. Football is not always “fun” at that point.
Generally, that point is the seventh grade.
That’s better for them. And I will promise you it’s better for football.