Thursday, June 4, 2020
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To play tackle football or not to play tackle football, that is the question. There is a lot of attention being given to tackle football and its risk to kids. There are some cities that are even considering banning tackle football for the younger kids. The obvious concern that has surfaced lately is the whole risk of concussions and the potential long-term consequences of that injury.
So, should kids play tackle football? My answer: (in the form of a question) Why do you need to?
Let me say this first and right off the bat that I am really not entirely opposed to kids playing tackle football. If they are going to play organized tackle football though, a huge amount of importance needs to be put on the coaching and the coach’s ability to teach correct mechanics and proper safety. That should be understood as the biggest priority. If the coaching team keeps the priority on safety and they are knowledgeable, I do think that kids can have fun and have a good experience playing tackle football.
Even if the “organized” leagues of tackle football are banned, you know that the kid will continue to play tackle football in their backyards. It is a natural thing for boys to play aggressively and physically. It really can be a lot of fun.
Back to my question, is tackling the ball carrier really the point of what we are trying to teach our kids? Aren’t we really trying to teach the kids blocking techniques, offensive schemes, hitting the holes, running good, tight pass patterns, reading the defense and all of those things that they need to learn on the offensive side of the ball.
What about defense, teaching the kids to fill the gaps, and how to read the quarterback’s eyes, how to fight off a block, the different kinds of defensive sets and when they are the best choice based on the game situation. The list can go on and on.
To me the reason we sign our kids up to play youth football is to teach them all the proper skill mechanics and footwork as well as the strategies of the game. They need to know all the potential offensive and defensive schemes and when to use them in the game based on the score, field position, time left on the clock and so on.
I don’t think the reason for signing our kids up for football is to teach them how to tackle. Yes, I know that there is the correct and safe way of tacking to be taught, but to me, that is just one part of the game, and to me that part is so much smaller than all the other reasons I listed previously.
There are many, many kids who play “flag” football and really learn the game and become just as prepared to play high school football as those younger kids who have played tackle.
Learning how to throw and catch the ball while running good patterns that are timed out has nothing to do with “tackling”. Learning what offensive play to call and why really doesn’t have much to do with “tackling”. Learning how to step in the gap, or reading a block or the offensive line learning proper blocking techniques and strategies has more to do with “football” than it does “tackling”.
So, if you are a parent that has safety concerns about letting your son, or daughter play tackle football, no worries: sign them up for flag football. They will learn the game and have tons of fun. I really do think that the idea for youth football is not about tackling but about learning how to play the game.
At the early ages, football should be about playing football, not about “tackling”. They just need game experience and good sound football coaching.
So, I say put away the helmet and shoulder pads and grab the “flags”.
If you have comments or questions for Tom Kuyper, email him at:

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