NFL Flag Football

I Want My Son To Keep Playing Football

I spend mid-February through August vaguely depressed. Sure there’s birthdays and vacations and holidays and family life to live. But something is missing… something called NFL football.

Growing up, I thought I could be the first female football player. I ran routes with my dad while watching New York Giants’ games every Sunday. I probably should’ve been practicing my kicks because at almost 5’5 yet less than 120 pounds adult, I’m not much of a threat anywhere else on the field.

With my dreams of playing football dashed, I became, among many other things, a mom, and the first and only television my infant son watched for years was NFL football games in the New York Giants onesies I handmade for him.

I made this onesie for E. Let the brainwashing BEGIN.
We ready for some FOOTBALL!

Even with what would seem like adequate brainwashing, neither my son nor his younger sister, who also wore NYG bibs and onesies, showed much interest in football. That is until 2012, when my oldest watched the Giants make their spectacular playoff run to the Super Bowl. Perhaps watching mama’s favorite team never lose solidifies something in our hearts.

He didn’t just want to cheer though. He wanted to play. I began teaching him how to throw a spiral and began googling for football options for a six-year-old. I found NFL flag football nearby, and miraculously, he was placed on the New York Giants.

NFL Flag Football
He was strongest on defense, but no one can take the joy of a touchdown out of a 6-year-old.

My son asked me the other day whether I would cheer for him if he wasn’t drafted by the New York Giants and played for {gasp} the Washington Redskins professionally. Now this is a huge question considering last Halloween we were the Giants except for my husband who dressed as a Redskin so we would have someone to tackle.

Family Giants Huddle
This Eli Manning is huddling up with two Victor Cruzes on Halloween.
Family Tackle
It’s extra spooky because we live in Richmond, Virginia home to Redskins training camp.

Me: Of course, I would. I will always cheer for your team first.
E: Even if we were playing the Giants?
Me: Even when you played the Giants.
E: Wow.

He thinks that is love, but love is that I follow all the information on concussion safety. We are entering his second year of flag football, but I know if he decides to pursue football as HIS SPORT, we will soon be at a crossroad: choosing between flag and tackle football, or, really, tackle football or finding a new sport. I want him to play football as long as he loves it, but I also want him to be safe. I appreciate the steps the NFL is taking by encouraging coaches and parents to understand how important properly fitting equipment is and to create specific drills for correct tackling techniques. I’m grateful there are tougher penalties for helmet-to-helmet tackles and hopeful more states will pass laws like The Zackery Lystedt Law to have the regulations behind determined parents, kids, and coaches to keep our children safe from concussion and with concussions in all youth sports, not just football.

I’m also glad the NFL teamed up with the CDC to encourage kids, parents, and coaches to know the signs of a concussion. There are videos that don’t shy away from those who are suffering from brain injuries (due to football, snowboarding and other sports). These videos review what recovery is like and how there is still pressure from coaches and other players who don’t understand that concussions are invisible injuries. They also outline the signs of concussions, which all parents should know for any sport-loving or active child:

Concussion Signs
Source: CDC HeadsUp

However, I don’t want my kid to get to the point of having a concussion. I’ll need to stay on top of whether his helmet fits and is well taken care of and if his coach is paying attention to the new rules and safety measures. I’ll also need to pay attention to the atmosphere of his team, coach, and locker room. When high school coaches complain about safety rules, it’s to my son’s determent. Players can’t be afraid for their jobs when going to their coaches and doctors in charge of their safety and health, and I need to point out when players like Alex Smith say they have no regrets putting their health first.

Is the game changing because of these new rules and extra equipment and safety measures? Yes. But if children, who love football as much as my son, are going to play beyond pulling flags, it has to change. We have to protect our players, especially our youngest ones, if only because we will not have the best out on the field anymore. I encourage anyone who loves NFL football to not only support these measures but to encourage the NFL to go as far as possible through new technology and calling out bad attitudes. Speak up on the sidelines now so football can be here in all its glory for generations to come.

Disclaimer: I was given the topic and compensated for this post. I’ve loved football for 35 years and my 7-year-old son adores it more so I’ve been following the concussion news and will continue to do so updating my stand accordingly. My hope is that encouraging the NFL’s concussion measures and pushing for more will allow my son to play football for as long as he wants to be on the team.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents an 2 elementary age children, 4 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

6 thoughts on “I Want My Son To Keep Playing Football

  1. First, I love that you wrote a sponsored post for the NFL. As a sports loving mom I sometimes feel a bit odd. :)

    Second, I’m a mother of an aspiring hockey player. as much as I wish he didn’t, my son LOVES it. I am hellbent on tracking equipment, attitude and concussion information closely as well so he can safely play for as long as it suits him.

    Thanks for bringing this up!
    Jen @ a little barefoot blog recently posted..Change will do you good

    1. I am so glad they are working with moms. I’m definitely the reason my son loves football — sports moms unite!

      It’s awesome to hear how actively involved you are in keeping on top of all the important information on health and safety around concussions (attitudes, equipment, tech, etc). I loved watching my friends play hockey growing up — of course, I never thought much about people getting hurt when I was an adolescent.

  2. Great article Alex! Football is my obsession! San Diego Chargers is my team! Safety is a big concern. Just a little over a week ago a GA high school football player was lost due to a broken neck in a scrimmage game. Every precaution was taken during our first scrimmage game Friday night, quarterback downed by two-hand touch and no punt or kick returns allowed. The crowd didn’t feel cheated in the least, it was a great game, and our players were safe! And……we won!
    Of course we have an amazing marching band who keeps the excitement level high in the stands as well. Mykal is in drumline so we never miss a game!

    1. Sunday, December 8th we’ll be mortal enemies!!!

      That is so sad to hear about the GA high school football player. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

      GO MYKAL! Drumlines are awesome.

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