Proposed restrictions on tackle football is based on outdated info, youth sports group president says
Proposed legislation that would ban organized youth sports programs from allowing children younger that 12 to play tackle football is based on poor research and outdated information far more relevant to pro-players than children, the head of a Joliet-based youth sport and cheer organization said during a recent interview.
"These are little boys," George Garcia, president of Joliet Steelers Youth Football & Cheer, said during a phone interview with the Will County Gazette. "They're not going to do that kind of stuff."
Garcia compared improved equipment, safety and training in football over the past decade to that in the auto industry. "We don't take cars away," he said. "We find ways to make it safer. That's what we're doing now."
Garcia recommended that parents do what Illinois lawmakers didn't do and that is research chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) for themselves. "I want them to read up about it," he said. "I think that's something they (lawmakers) didn't do with this bill, they didn't research it enough. I'll bet even my local rep, she didn't research it enough. She didn't know what we've done, how far we've taken this to prevent everything."
Supporters of the proposed legislation, House Bill 4341, the CTE Prevention Act, which recently made it out of a House committee and spawned a rally against the legislation earlier this week, don't seem to know how low the number of concussions is in football, Garcia said. "Football is lower than hockey, it's lower than wrestling, it's lower than soccer in concussions," he said.
"Everyone has been scared because of the NFL where's it's big and those guys take big hits," Garcia said. "That scares parents, it does, but they have to understand that those kinds of hits aren't being taken before age 12."
HB 4341, touted by supporters as a way to combat CTE, was introduced into the House by Rep. Carol Sente (D-Vernon Hills).
The legislation passed out of the House Mental Health Committee on an 11-9 vote on March 1. The bill was held on the House calendar order of second reading and standard debate on March 6.
On the same day, a grass-roots social media-based rally of youth football supporters from across the state gathered in Springfield. A petition opposing the bill circulated during the rally and reportedly has collected about 14,000 signatures.
HB 4341 also denies parents the right to choose what is best for their children and is based on outdated information that isn't relevant to young players, Garcia said. "They're making judgments based off of guys who played football 30 and 40 years ago," he said. "I don't think they understand that within the last 15 to 20 years, the game has changed."
The game as played today has better equipment and better training, including certified coaching staffs, Garcia said. "What we've done for the game will prevent CTE, will prevent players from being injured," he said.
If HB 4341 becomes law, the effect on local communities "is going to be huge," Garcia said.
"There are, I want to say, 15 organizations in Will County alone – there could be even more – who will be affected by this," Garcia said. "Truthfully, I understand that there's tag football but it's not the same. They can say it's the same all they want but it's not."
Tag football, of which there are leagues supported by Joliet Steelers Youth Football & Cheer, does not teach contact player skills that players in those positions, such as linemen, need to learn in order to succeed in the game, Garcia said. "There's a lot of kids who are going to be turned away because of that," he said.