Minus the sweet shirt and the high fade, this is how I looked when I read the article from the New York Times citing a survey showing that participation in youth football grew – and grew more than any other U.S. sport!
Several of my previous posts have highlighted that player safety concerns might result in fewer families deciding that their sons should play youth tackle football. Well, the survey of 30,000 children and teens (part of the annual Physical Activity Council Participation Report) found that participation in flag and tackle football increased in 2015 while most other sports, except baseball, saw a decline in participation. What’s surprising to me is that participation in youth tackle football rose last year – albeit modestly. Tom Farrey, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program (@AspenInstSports on Twitter) cites the 2007 baby boom as a possible explanation. Recall that my last post mentioned the same baby boom and how births every year since have gone down which might lead to a decrease in participation numbers.
I’ve said it before; I love football. I played in high school. My sons both played flag and tackle football. However, knowing what we know now about the safety concerns, caution is certainly warranted in allowing our children to play tackle football. USA Football’s Chief Executive said he believes that medically endorsed programs like the Heads Up Football program and practice guidelines “are making a positive difference”. We’ll have to see how participation in youth football grows or shrinks over the next few years to understand the true trends and impact of these and other initiatives.
I continue to recommend flag football for youth before high school and, for youth that play tackle football before high school, their coaches should be trained properly and there should be athletic trainers present at practices and games.