Are you worried about your sons playing football? Let’s talk.

As a mom, I get plenty worried, but I also see a lot of good in this game.

I grew up watching football with my big brothers. Back in the 1970s, my oldest brother liked the Dallas Cowboys. I remember my other brother having a Miami Dolphins jersey. But the all-around favorite team, by far, was the Nebraska Cornhuskers. My big brother brought me a Husker media guide home from college and posters for each season. They explained the game to me well enough that I could follow it, and I’ve loved it ever since.

It’s not all big hits and big plays, there’s the battle of offensive and defensive strategy that makes for an intense experience for teams and spectators alike.

Today with four sons, you can bet that there have been more footballs flying around in my house than I can count. And a few broken lamps. And grass stains on costume uniforms from little boys playing with their friends in the backyard. And football video games when it’s too dark or too cold to play outside.

My second oldest boy does not play football – and that’s perfect in our house. That one of my kids tried it and decided that a different path was better suited for him is exactly what I like to see. Football is not for everyone. With all of my children, I hope that we can always encourage them to their strengths so they can fulfill their own goals and dreams in their own way.

But while football isn’t for everyone, I love it when every kid who wants try it gets that opportunity. My younger two boys are still really young, but they often pack a football in their school backpack and are eager for the day when they get to trade flag football for the helmets and full pads of midget ball.

I think most of us who worry are concerned about the injury risk. We’ve seen our share of sports injuries in our own house. No doubt it’s a risk to play football. You can bet that every mom watches anxiously with every play to make sure that her boy gets up from the pile unscathed. Risk comes with football, but there’s risk in every sport. The human body is certainly compromised whenever there’s activity, whether it’s on the playground, on the bike trail, on horseback, or in athletic competition.

I’ve watched the positive changes in football as emphasis on proper technique, better equipment, and concussion training seeks to improve the safety of the game. This trend needs to continue.

Yet, despite the risks, football can be a remarkable character builder complete with countless life lessons. Many of the boys who have played it wouldn’t have had it any other way. Many of the grown men who reflect on their playing days wouldn’t change it for the world.

I’ve seen boys pushing themselves physically and mentally and accomplishing more than they thought they could have. I’ve seen coaches impacting young men in ways that builds leadership, respect, team chemistry, and friendships that endure long past high school.

Don’t forget the fun. The success of a big play, a big touchdown, or a big win brings out more emotion in boys this age than you are likely to see anywhere else. And have you ever seen those big boys be excited as little boys when rain turns a game into a mud-fest?

I look at my own sons and I see different levels of affinity for a game like football. Many boys crave the contact and intensity of sports like football and wrestling. As long as they are aware of the risks and are well trained on the safety precautions, I’m good with letting them play under experienced coaches who care about what’s best for the long term futures of the players.

Every family has to decide what’s best when it comes to their children’s activities. For us, football is still a great game, and the rewards outweigh the risks. Maybe we’ve just been blessed with good coaches, positive experiences, and serious emphasis on safety along the way. But as long as our sons have access to this kind of positive football culture, we’re going to let them play.

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Diane Karr

Diane Karr lives on a family farm in south central Nebraska with her husband and four sons. Besides chasing after her busy boys and the farm, she volunteers as a church organist. Diane graduated from UNL in 1996 as an agribusiness major, shares stories about farm life at RealFarmWifeOnTheCountyLine.com, and is a volunteer for CommonGround Nebraska. She also enjoys Husker football, hazelnut lattes, cooking and baking, boating, photography, and spending time with family and friends.

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