As parents, we all want to protect our children from harm. The best thing we can do is provide them with a safe environment in which to play and to educate them on how to protect themselves and their peers from getting hurt.
That’s especially true when it comes to contact sports. The earlier in life our kids learn the fundamentals of a sport, the better able they’ll be to protect themselves when they play the sports in high school or college.
That’s why legislation making its way through the state Legislature is an unwise and unsafe idea. Under the bill, organized tackle football hosted by schools or private or public sports organizations would be prohibited in New York for children age 12 and under. That includes games, practices and “other activity which involves engaging in tackle football,” which we assume means teaching kids how to tackle properly.
Sponsors cite studies showing how vulnerable children’s growing brains are to injury and how contact sports can impair their future physical and mental development. Those are legitimate issues to raise.
But the legislation also ignores some factors.
One, it prevents coaches from training young children in the proper techniques for tackling and receiving a hit. The younger a child learns the proper techniques, the more likely they’ll carry those fundamentals into the sport when they’re older. A child who starts off playing football in high school will have to learn those skills as they’re playing, potentially putting themselves and others at greater risk.
Two, the bill takes the decision-making power away from parents. It should be up to parents to decide whether their child is physically and mentally capable of playing a sport, the age at which they can play, and to evaluate whether the league and coaches are property preparing their children and teaching proper safety techniques.
One could argue that under that logic, the state shouldn’t impose age limits on any activity, including operation of ATVs, motorbikes or snowmobiles. But those activities involve motor vehicles that are inherently more dangerous due to their speed, weight and controlability and therefore require higher degrees of training, motor skills and decision-making ability than basic one-on-one contact sports.
Finally, what’s to stop the state from banning other sports in which children can be injured, like hockey or soccer or field hockey or baseball?
We can’t stress enough the need for safety when it comes to young children.
But isn’t it safer to let them play under strict supervision against children their own age, size and ability while being taught the proper techniques for protecting themselves and others?
When it comes to tackle football, that decision should come from the parents, not the state.