The BLOG: Culture

A positive take on youth football

I coach youth football. Yup, I admit it. Sometimes when other parents hear this, they think I’m wicked cool, and they are of course correct. Lately, however, many reactions range from mild disapproval to scornful disgust. I tend to elicit that kind of response from people before they know I’m a coach, so that part doesn’t bother me. What does concern me is that the one-sided negative coverage of youth football of late is dissuading many parents from learning about all the uniquely positive things this amazing sport offers, and how the game is changing for the better.  It’s a shame that sweeping generalizations about youth football are prohibiting many kids from enjoying such a valuable experience, especially in my town of Wellesley, Mass.

First of all, let’s just be honest: Football is awesome, and everyone knows it. Ever seen “Rudy”? Enough said. And youth football is the best of the best. Unless you’ve witnessed 11 pint-sized third-graders perfectly execute a read-option play, with each little critter making a proper block and running the correct pattern, you have not lived.  It’s something akin to seeing a pack of wild ferrets break into a choreographed flash mob. There’s simply nothing like it.

Second, most respectable youth football programs have already improved historically flawed systems through the Heads Up Football initiative. Coaches are being more thoroughly trained and certified, players are being taught safer blocking and tackling techniques, and safety has become the top priority. As a former player, I can attest that the way coaches teach the game and run their practices is different today. That doesn’t mean injuries aren’t going to happen. We all take that risk when our kids play any sport, whether it’s soccer, hockey, basketball or curling (those sweepers sustain a shocking number of head injuries — go ahead, look it up). The point is, good youth football programs are taking safety very seriously these days, and through enhanced training and awareness initiatives, both coaches and players are doing a much better job of reducing unnecessary impact.

My town’s youth football board has taken every measure to ensure our boys are well cared for, providing our teams the most advanced equipment and going so far as to post a doctor at every game and every practice. Our coaches are safety certified, well trained, and fiercely dedicated to our boys. And our players are remarkable young men, devoted to their teammates and proud to be Junior Raiders. Furthermore, it turns out that if you successfully teach these boys the value of discipline, hard work, loyalty, respect, perseverance, camaraderie and good sportsmanship, you actually win a lot of games, too. What serendipity!

Wellesley Youth Football’s goal is to build champions on and off the field, and to create an environment where our boys are free to experience a unique brand of brotherhood while learning some of life’s most valuable lessons. I just hope that every kid in our town – and across the country – who wants to play football has a fair chance to receive that special gift from his parents.

Rob Broggi

Rob Broggi

Rob Broggi is the fourth-grade head football coach for Wellesley Youth Football.