Proponents of youth tackle football ban using outdated information, Bolingbrook Trojans exec says
Proponents of Illinois House legislation that would ban children younger than 12 from participating in organized tackle football teams need to look at more modern research about concussions and the sport, a coach said during a recent interview
"I've been coaching youth football for 22 years," Bolingbrook Trojans Vice President of Administration Randy King said during a Will County Gazette email interview. "I oppose the ban greatly because the people who want to do this believe that we are coaching like they did in the '70s and '80s."
Those decades were a darker period in the sport and don't reflect the gains in safety made since then, King said. "Since '98 we have limited our hitting (contact) in practice," he said.
"We had seen that most injuries happened at practice and not in the game. By limiting the contact we concentrated more on technique. In my 22 years of coaching I have seen only three concussions, one at practice, two happened in a game and two that kids showed up from school with a concussion. We have a physical therapist at all of our home games and, at times, at our practices. No kids go back to playing until cleared by them."
Proponents of House Bill 4341, also known as the CTE Prevention Act, say the legislation is an attempt to prevent the brain trauma disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, through a blanket ban on youngsters playing organized tackle forms of the sport. HB 4341 is sponsored by Rep. Carol Sente (D-Vernon Hills), who is seeking re-election for another term in the 59th House District seat. The 59th District is in Lake and Cook counties.
King countered that if those proponents really want to prevent CTE, they need to get out more. "If the politicians really want to see how football is taught today they should come out and see how it works and the changes that have been made," King said.
"They are listening to NFL players who got CTE in a time when every kid who played had to be a gladiator."
That is not the football of today, with modern coaching teaching players about more than the game, King said. "By teaching our kids the leadership skills that football offers and the teamwork atmosphere, we challenge them to better themselves and better the team," King said.
"We teach them to help others better themselves. We want them to know that football is the greatest game ever made. To play the game is a gift. We want the game to give them so much more then to be beat up. We know it opens doors for a few and watch them as they go through High School and beyond. We have seen a few that went on to the NFL. But those who have their college dreams come true and graduate, gives you the warmest feeling."
Young players today are better geared and protected than in previous decades, King said. "Football is more than just about contact," he said.
"Every year I spend about $2,000 on helping kids get into the program or get equipment. Some of these kids don't have father figures in the home, so we try to fill a void by not just being a coach but by giving life lessons, letting them know that there are people who care about them. With football being banned where would these kids go? To the streets? To the wrong influences?"
King said he remains in contact with kids he coached, many of whom went on to play in college. "Football helped give them guidance and direction," he said. "Plus in Pop Warner, we stress being a winner in the classroom as well as the field."
Parents also need to be reassured that their kids are safe, King said. "I want to let the parents to know that while no sport can ever be safe, we always want to treat your kids like they are our own," he said.
"We have a trainer who offers concussion protocol the NFL uses to all our kids. We want them tested on any high impact or if they look like they might have suffered an injury. Before they play again they have to be cleared by the doctor. We want their brains to heal and we want them to recover. Football is only a game; sure it can open doors for you. We want you to work toward your goals but be healthy along the way to achieve them."