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Sarasota Herald Tribune (Florida)
A local youth football organizer with many years' experience coaching was just quoted in a Herald-Tribune sports column saying he is reluctant to make changes that another youth football organization made to try to make the game safer for young kids.
The changes include eliminating kickoffs and punts, known for dangerous, full-speed blocks and tackles that can come from unexpected angles. A change for plays from scrimmage has players start in a crouch instead of a lower stance, to reduce the force of some contacts.
The man quoted called those changes extreme and said they will slow down the development of players preparing for high school and college football.
"What it does is take away from the game as the game is supposed to be played," he insisted.
Supposed to be played? Sorry but that is baloney. It is not just the worst possible consideration in any youth sports realm, it is way off track for anyone who knows the history of the game. Rule changes, some of them huge, have made the game dramatically better.
Like several other sports, football evolved tremendously over the century-plus it has been played, including the addition of many rules intended to make the game safer. Those changes often made it better to play and watch, too.
Want to go back to outlawing the forward pass?
If that local expert had argued about something I don't understand, and made a case for why the safety changes might backfire, I'd stay out of it. He's the expert. I'm just the dad of a kid who played youth football for one season and loved it, and who put up with me and his mother when we then forced him to stick with basketball, baseball and track and cross country.
I think that our son's brain, spine and legs are better off for that controversial parental decision. There is danger in any sport, but I'm glad we are not alone in drawing that particular line.
But for kids who play organized tackle football, many still in elementary school, it is important that adults know there are more important considerations than preparing for competition in high school and college, and far more important concerns than any notion that there is a way that "the game is supposed to be played."
At one time, allowing the previously mentioned forward pass was seen by some as a radical travesty. The game was supposed to be about running and brute force, period, some believed.
The game was pretty much invented and played by college students and was never supposed to be for kids years away from puberty. Those who started having little kids play organized tackle at all were the ones who wandered into strange and debatable territory.
But even for young college men who made the game infamous in the early 1900s, the game was quickly deemed far too violent and dangerous, to the point that "deadly" was a common description.
- Tom Lyons can be reached at email@example.com
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