When entering your child into the world of tackle football, one question that will play on your mind concerns the age they should start playing. The answer is that there is no right age your child should reach when learning to tackle in football and beginning to play the game. There are simply too many other factors – more relevant factors – to consider than a number on a piece of paper.
We are going to look at some of those factors in the blog. These factors help you decide if your kid is old enough to play tackle football in a way that will keep them safe and help them fall in love with the game. First, let’s look at the pros and cons of tackle football.
- Keeps players physically fit.
- Educational motivator. Athletes tend to do better in school.
- Teaches balance, coordination, and other traits that will help in life.
- Huge benefits for social connection, interaction, and friendships.
- Develops leadership, confidence, and critical thinking skills.
- Potential for head and neck injuries.
- The potential occurs most often in tackle situations.
Here are those factors to consider when deciding what age to enter your child into tackle football.
A 2018 Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program study suggested setting a minimum age of 14 for kids to play tackle football. In theory, this attempt to use injury data to put an age on the game is good. In practice, however, it doesn’t make sense.
If you were to take a room of 14-year-olds, the difference in height, weight, and general physical development would be astounding. On one end of the spectrum will be athletes that have weight trained for the last five years, while on the other will be kids still growing into their bodies and without close to the same level of muscular development. Putting those players on the field together at that age would be just as dangerous as doing so at a younger age.
Instead of looking at a number, look at your child’s development. Certainly, using a weight program to build strength – especially in the head and neck area – is a smart thing to do. This doesn’t have to be anything extreme, but the increase in confidence and potential benefits of injury resistance is enormous. In simple terms, if your kid doesn’t “look” ready compared to their peers, they likely aren’t yet ready for tackle football.
You would never let your child get out on the road and drive without instruction on how to do so. Think of tackle football in the same terms. Find a coach that specifies in individual or small group coaching, especially one for whom the tackle in football is the area of the game where their coaching focus lies.
We noted above in the cons section how the main worry in tackle football is head and neck injury. This is a genuine concern that can have long-lasting implications for the health of your child. Using the resources on our site, enrolling in tackle football coaching in the North Texas region – or wherever you are based – and giving your child the skills to tackle confidently and safely will be a huge factor when deciding if your child can start playing in games.
Developing a good relationship with that coach is important too. They will know when your kid is ready before you do, this is their job, after all. They will also have contacts for development-appropriate teams and leagues. They will generally be a fountain of information when deciding if your kid is ready to move on with their football journey.
One area that probably doesn’t get talked about enough is how youth football equipment is improving safety standards rapidly. This can be as futuristic as robotic tackling dummies in practice that reduce head contact with their predictable movement patterns, all the way down to mouthguards that are improving their shock absorption capacity with new materials and technology.
This is a space to watch when deciding if your kid is ready for tackle football. Ask questions of the coaches and see how advanced they are in this field. If they still have leather helmets, then probably look elsewhere. If, however, they are on the cutting edge of development, then you can be assured your kid will have coaches making the game as safe as it can be.
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