I became part of the Issaquah Youth Football family in 2010. My son, and only child, was in 3rd grade at the time and loved playing flag football. He begged his mom and me to let him play tackle football. Like most parents, we had our concerns about his safety – both physical and emotional.
We had seen college and professional players injured on TV in practically every game. Those horrific images of a player spread-out on the turf, motionless, only to be taken away on a stretcher are scary. While we knew a little about concussions, it still was not commonly discussed in the Media. Washington State led the country by passing the first concussion return-to-play legislation, the Lystedt Law (House Bill 1824), in May, 2009, but awareness was still low by the 2010 football season. Common sense led us to believe that kids crashing into each other on a regular basis was bound to result in injuries, and we both worried about our son’s risk of physical injury.
Another major concern was his emotional well-being. We had close friends with older boys that had played youth football for a few years, but ended-up quitting because their coaches made them miserable. Kids need discipline as a natural part of their development. Unfortunately, there are far too many youth coaches out there that feel kids must be “broken down” and, often times, humiliated in front of their teammates. They don’t understand the importance of a positive coaching style and being a teacher first. For some reason, we see this far more in Youth Football than most other sports. Maybe it’s the physicality of the sport. More likely, it’s how these coaches were treated when they played football and feel it needs to be done the same way.
My wife and I agreed that, if our son was going play Youth Football, I was going to be part of the coaching staff to make sure he and his friends had a positive experience. As it turned out, I ended-up becoming his team’s Head Coach and it was clear after one season that my son was going to continue playing for many more years. I decided to join the Board of Directors, and became President of the Club our next season. My son is now a High School football player. Over the course of his 7 years playing Youth Football:
# of games played = 55
# of practices = 258
# of hours playing/practicing tackle football = 600+
# of trips to ER = 0
# of broken bones = 0
# of concussions = 0
This is not to say every kid goes through the program without injury. It is a contact sport and injuries do happen. But most parents with children that have played will tell you that the rewards far outweigh the risks.
I’m very proud of what our Board of Directors, coaches and parent volunteers have accomplished over the last several years. We’re consistently one of the largest clubs in the league, our kids are outfitted with great equipment and uniforms, every coach is USA Football certified and background checked, our players have very low injury rates, the club is financially strong, and we have a very high rate of player return each season. Oh, and let’s not forget our Cheerleading program. We started the Cheer program in 2010 and have seen dramatic growth each season since. Our Club actually has more cheerleaders than some other GEJFA clubs have football players!
We get lots of parent questions each year and try to do our best to answer in our web site’s FAQ section or via email. Shoot us an email if there’s a topic you still need more information. firstname.lastname@example.org