Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Is It Time to Question the Place of Football in High Schools?

I realize I am treading on sacred ground here, but with the increase in the number of young people who are dying as a result of participating in high school football, is it not time to look critically at an extra-curricular activity that is asking young people to sacrifice their lives for a short term, spectacle event?

Football is based on violence no matter how you try to package it. Yet, as evidence mounts that those who participate experience dehilibitating brain injuries, we still insist on sending teenagers on the field each Friday night to participate in a sport that can potentially either end their lives or somehow negatively impact their lives much later.

Many of us, including myself, suffer from the foolish choice I made many years ago to participate in the sport. I suffer from constant knee pain and not being able to be as active as I would like because I chose to play football in high school almost 30 plus years ago. In my case, a mere 15 year old was asked to sacrifice his future well-being for the glory of high school sport.

American football has the potential of being hazardous to the health of our high school students no matter how much we wish to play up its potential to promote teamwork, or commitment, or any other valuable character trait we wish to attribute to this violent sport. I submit that there are less hazardous ways to teach our students these values.

It is time to evaluate the superficial sacrifices we ask our young people to make for the short term goal of high school state football championships. I would caution any parent whose child wants to participate in this sport to rethink the costs of benefits. Of course, please understand this is my opinion as a once high school football participant, a once-high school and middle school football coach. It is time to ask some tough questions about this practice.

It is time to have a conversation about a sport where students' lives are ended too early. Sure, there are other sports where young people are injured, sometimes in ways that are life-changing. But, when headlines constantly highlight instances where young lives end prematurely, or where our professional football icons end up with irreparable brain damage, it is time to ask the tough critical questions. Parents need to ask whether it is wise to allow their children to participate in a sport where there is growing evidence that they may suffer long-term brain damage.

We can't hold on to a "tradition" because it is treasured. Sometimes we have to question whether it is in the best interest of our children. If American football damages even one life, and from the growing evidence I suspect much, much more, we need to question its legitimate place in our high schools.