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Keeping Football Alive

I'm always excited when football season starts but unfortunately, this season has had a few 'wet blankets' thrown on it already. It's sad to see stories like this school in Sonoma County, CA cancelling varsity football. Closer to home, two schools in my area near Chapel Hill, NC have done the same.

Make no mistake - the sport of football is under attack! Declining participation due to parent concerns of CTE are the cause.

I was at the USA Football National Conference (youth football governing body) in Orlando last February. Representative from the NFL were front and center discussing ideas on keeping the sport strong.

To those of you who have concerns about putting your child in tackle football I would offer the following suggestions...

1. Consider your child’s age and physical maturity level

My son didn't play tackle football until he was in the 8th grade and he went on to have a tremendous experience through high school. The fact of the matter is, because of the type of kids and coaches that he got around, it literally changed his life in an extremely positive way!!

2. Consider the many recent changes to football that have made the sport dramatically safer

  • Use of the head in tackling.

  • Tackling defenseless players (a player reaching for a pass mid-air)

  • Targeting (hitting a player that is not in a position to make a play)

  • Knowledge of concussions and concussion protocols. Coaches and trainers are taught to error on the side of safety when in doubt about concussion and keep kids off the field. The fact of the matter is their jobs are on the line over these safety issues more than ever.

  • Technology changes in equipment that make the game safer. It's a HUGE emphasis in the football equipment world. Literally half of the vendors that you see at football coaching clinics today are marketing player safety gadgets and gear.

3. Consider the benefits of character and life skills that football teaches

It's my strong opinion that football does a better job of this than any other sport. Why you might ask? Because football presents more challenges than other sports (and I played a lot of them). It's hot, sweaty and physical. It teaches you that you have limits far greater than you thought you had.

It's full of physical and emotional pain! To survive, you have to learn to endure and overcome!

A football team has players and coaches from all races and walks of life. City, country, suburb, rich, poor and middle class.

I grew up in a small farming town in Central Michigan. The truth is that I didn't know a single black person until I went to Bowling Green State University. Not only was my roommate black and from the inner city, but over half the team was!

I learned that people can come from all walks of life, be from any socio-economic background, pray to any religion and align with any political party and still work together and get along with each other. They could do so as long as there was one common vision that they shared.

Does any of the above sound like LIFE to you?

There are very few sports that offer the character and leadership development opportunities as extensively as football does.

4. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

If you're not ready to put your child in 'tackle football' then consider getting them involved in some sort of 'non-contact football' like flag or 7 on 7!

Recently, I invested in 2 'non-contact' 7 on 7 youth football leagues in Durham, Chapel Hill and Burlington, NC so that kids can get involved in competitive football and develop valuable football skills. Skills like throwing, route running, catching and defending! All skills, by the way, that will help them not only in contact football when they are ready to make the transition but will help them become a better overall athlete in any sport!

If you're in the area, be sure to like our facebook page so that we can stay in touch with you!

Also, if you have football background and an interest in learning more about these opportunities you might consider contacting Bob Winstead in Raleigh, NC.

Bob had a vision several years ago so he started NYFO - National Youth Football Organization which is primarily a spring and summer a 7 on 7 'non-contact' youth football league that is designed to support and partner with youth and high school 'tackle football' organizations by getting kids involved in football and allowing them to continue to develop their football skills along with the many valuable character, life and leadership skills mentioned above.

If you love the sport of football as much as I do, then I'm sure that you'd like to see it survive and thrive so that it can continue to impact the lives of so many. Just as it did for myself and my son.

Congratulations and ALL MY BEST to all football players, coaches and supporting entities out there who making positive contributions to the sport that we all love. Know that you are making a much bigger impact than you might realize.

Eric Smith is a former NCAA Division-1 quarterback and high school football coach. Eric is the owner and director of The Winning Edge Quarterback Academy, where he coaches and mentors aspiring quarterbacks in Durham, North Carolina. He's also a certified leadership speaker, trainer and coach for the John Maxwell Leadership. To connect with Coach Smith, visit, email him at or follow him on Facebook and Twitter @winningedgeqbr.

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