Football Injuries, Over-scheduling and Funding, Oh My!

The idea for this post was sparked by an NPR story I read: "What is the Real Cost of American Football?" A wonderful commentary, it addresses our nation's fascination with this violent sport and the chance for some very serious injuries to its players. The article was a poignant one for me because I've specifically addressed this same topic with my 7-year-old son.

My son sees the glory these football players receive on television and seems to have an interest in possibly playing the sport, but doesn't portray a burning desire for it. A very analytical child, he and I had a reasoned discussion about the sport he already plays, soccer, versus the sport he has considered, football. While both have injuries and some would argue soccer has more injuries, the level of football injuries always seems to rise well above soccer.

My best argument for my son, however, came from a great hometown football legend himself (my high school physical education teacher who coached our hometown football team for a generation) who said, "the foundation of everything a boy needs to learn to be a good football player can be started in soccer". I'm hoping that simple statement will give me a few years of knowing my son's brain, head and neck will all be safe.

The idea that kids would begin playing football at such a young age led me to the other point of this post; do we over-schedule our kids? Maybe I'm dating myself here, but I do not remember anyone playing football at the age of six when I was little. Reading articles on this subject, it appears as if in some towns, children as young as six can practice football daily. PJP and I have strongly considered the amount of time our children can and will participate in extra-curricular activities. Working at Behomoth University, we've both seen the results of over-scheduled children when they go off to college. These are the children that have no idea how to balance their own schedules now that mom and dad are not doing that for them. These are the students who want to take 21 credits in one semester, when I would not have dreamed of taking more than 16.

A new debate has arisen among researchers over whether we really are over-scheduling our kids (for more information check out this article). Personally, I feel the debate is missing a key component, moderation. I look at most aspects of life with the philosophy "everything in moderation", and when it comes to my children and their activities, this mantra fits perfectly.

Our kids do need time to dream and decide what shapes they see in the clouds. They do also need some organized activities where they learn to work with others (and certainly a physical outlet for all that energy is never a bad thing). Striking the balance on that teeter-totter is the fun, adventure of parenthood. For what its worth, our rule of thumb at these young ages (4 and 7) is only one activity at a time. Recently our son had the choice between basketball and indoor soccer, he choose basketball. I feel that this is teaching him that we all must make tough decisions in life, and we can't do something well when we try to do too much!

(ask me how our rule of thumb is working when they are old enough to want to play instruments, that I have not figured out........... seeing as PJP plays just about every instrument known to man)

Lastly, in this mish-mash of topics I have to address a nagging concern I've had since watching the Superbowl on Sunday night. The title of that NPR commentary caught my attention because of its reference to money (or what I thought was going to address monetary issues). A comment I found scrolling through the numerous conflicting opinions that followed Ms. Martin's commentary did a fairly good job at summing up my thoughts:
I have had lingering thoughts about how much $$$$ was spent on yesterday's SuperBowl (i.e., teams, fans, vendors, television...). What if Americans cared equally about transforming education? How significant the changes in our culture could be.