THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
Youth football is about to look a lot different.
USA Football, the governing body of youth football, announced changes to the game of football for youth so that it might be safer to play. It will be closer to flag football with rules such as only six to nine players on the field per team at a time instead of eleven. Other rules include shrinking the field, eliminating kickoffs and punts, and eliminating the three-point stance of linemen.
The reasoning behind these changes is due to the drop in participation in youth football. It's no surprise that enrollment in youth football programs is down due to safety concerns now that concussion awareness has become widespread. So how does the sport rebound?
Well, the answer is the same as it is generally in a capitalist market if you want to people to buy your product: give the people what they want.
On the surface, making the game safer is a no-brainer (no pun intended). Why would anyone argue over safety concerns for children? Well, traditionalists would argue...but these are probably some of the same people who would argue against the use of helmets in any sport that requires them.
See, the argument is always about safety versus when we begin to train our youth to be "soft." We keep changing so much in the world because people are sensitive to everything these days. It becomes less of a discussion about what will truly be best for our kids and more a political discussion with personal agendas and psychological overtones.
But whereas that argument has its place, football has so much baggage attached to it regarding the new medical evidence regarding concussions and long-term damage to the human brain that reverting back to the side of "don't teach our kids to be wimps" demonstrates nothing more than plain ignorance.
Some experts are predicting that, based on all the evidence coming out about how harmful football actually is to the human brain, the sport will cease to exist within the next twenty years. And if you consider the barbaric origins of the game and the aspects that remain in its current state, maybe that's not a bad thing. Football is entertaining, but the sport has evolved to the point where it is the modern day equivalent of the emperor watching the gladiators fight to the death purely for entertainment.
The bottom line is that football is arguably the most dangerous team sport played in America. If our youth want to play it, they should play it in a manner that does not jeopardize their future. Every other sport has the potential for significantly different rules at the youth level for protection, so why can't football?
This is one of the few times where the argument is clear cut. If you're still hiding behind displeasure of your kid being "soft" if he plays by these rules, then you're simply ignorant to the reality of head trauma.
Baseball player, umpire, coach, fan; professional musician; founder, President & CEO of The OSIP Foundation, Inc.