When I saw the news report, I couldn’t help but think back to a discussion I had with ex-WVU coach Don Nehlen way back when.
He said he didn’t believe kids should play tackle football before they turned 13.
It surprised me. Nehlen’s livelihood, of course, was football. He came from the old school era of Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes. Yet he’d seen what football can do medically to a brain, to a body and expressed concerned for those not ready for the rigors of tackle football.
Well, in case you missed it, years after my conversation with Coach, a bill was introduced and advanced in California’s State Assembly to ban tackle football for children under 12.
“It’s not even about concussions. It’s about repetitive hits to the brain,” Assemblymember Kevin McCarty told reporters.
Those that closely follow football know this goes to the heart of the CTE problem. A Boston University study that examined 152 athletes under 30 that died showed 41 percent had signs of CTE.
“If kids want to play tackle, wait until they get to puberty when their bodies are more developed,” McCarty said.
Of course, youth football coaches have offered resistance. Some worry players won’t know the proper fundamentals and be prone to injury when the games start.
According to the Washington Post, “In 2019, (California Gov. Gavin) Newsom signed the California Youth Football Act, which mandated a long list of safety measures for youth and high school football in the state, including mandatory safety training for coaches, additional on-site medical personnel and strict limits on the frequency and duration of full-contact practices. An amendment to AB734 approved by the committee Wednesday would be phased in should the bill pass, beginning with children under 6, who would be prohibited from playing tackle football beginning in 2025, followed by kids under 10 in 2027 and those younger than 12 in 2029.”
I think we can agree tackle football is more fun than flag football, but is the risk worth that reward?
One West Virginia coach I talked to said many youth coaches are either just trying to help (or, yes, reliving glory through their kids) and either don’t have proper coaching or proper safety training. He suggested a list of approved contact drills or make them plan and document practices.
“Flag football makes more sense for a young age anyway because it’s more similar to the game they’ll be playing – spread out and skill based,” he said.
It’s certainly an interesting story to follow.
+ + +
Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.