Dear Crabby, Should Young Kids Play Tackle Football?

Dear Crabby,

What age do you feel kids should begin playing tackle football? Do you feel 4th grade is too young to begin?

Lacey K.

Dear Lacey,

I assume you are like most parents out there and worried about the chance of your kid hurting himself. I know in recent years there’s been a lot of talk about how repeated concussions can really cause trouble lateron. And don’t get me wrong; it’s a valid concern. But the way I see it, parents seem to fall into one of two camps. The first is Camp ‘OhBeCarefulDon’tTouchThat.’ Parents who subscribe to this camp of thought believe precious little Johnny is made of glass and the slightest touch will shatter him. In fact, if they could keep little Johnny inside and encased in bubble wrap until he’s 30, they would be happy campers. Then there is Camp ‘InItToWinItAtAllCosts.’ You’ve seen these parents running up and down the sidelines screaming their heads off on every play and penalty. Instead of ‘Goodnight, Moon,’ they read their kid athlete bios on how to be the best. If they could, they would probably have their kid start playing football sometime around kindergarten. Of course, back in my day there wasn’t a whole lot of organized sports. Well, at least not until you reached junior high. Mostly we just found an open patch of land and played whatever sport we had the most people for. I do remember there was this one kid in our neighborhood who, even though he was my age, was at least a foot taller than most – even the older kids! He’s what people would call a gentle giant. When we’d play football (without pads, mind you) and he’d tackle you, you knew you’d been hit. But he always made sure you were okay.

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Dear Crabby Gives Advice

Personally, I think there should be a third camp, which I’d call ‘Camp CommonSense.’ Now the parents of the other two camps will probably scoff at my idea, but then again as my granddad used to say, ‘Common sense ain’t a flower that grows in everyone’s garden.’ Parents belonging to this camp would understand given that a fourth grader is nine or 10, it seems about the right time to move from flag to tackle. Heck. By that age kids in other contact sports like hockey and soccer have been playing for years. There are always going to be kids who are a little bigger for their age, just like there will always be kids who are a little on the smaller side. So, I suggest do your homework. Look for a program that has qualified and trained coaches. Ask to see their policies and guidelines to see if you agree with their mission statement and goals. The teams can be competitive, but maybe join one that doesn’t exist solely to feed into high school programs. Basically, do your due diligence so you can have peace of mind and your kid can have fun. Because let’s face it, life isn’t meant to be lived on the sidelines.

Hope this helps and thanks for your question!
Dear Crabby

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About Dear Crabby

Stuck in a rut? Need some biased advice from a crabby old baby-boomer? Read regularly by thousands and loved by some, Dear Crabby answers questions weekly to life's challenges. Send him a note at

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