Last week Husband told me about the recent U.S. Congressional panel hearings on the proposed act called “The Protecting Student Athletes From Concussions Act.”
The act will help the children. It will keep them from playing when they have a concussion. Even a minor one. It will reduce long-term brain damage.
“Interesting,” I thought, “but worthless since Daughter is… well… a girl. I don’t expect her to be playing much football.”
And then we went to a cousin’s little league football game.
The behavior of some of the parents was ridiculous. Fretting and carrying on, mothers were complaining, “They shouldn’t quit – they should keep fighting! What are they doing out there?”
They are 9.
In human years. Not dog years.
Wouldn’t it be better if we stopped organizing their play?
When children go out to play, they use what is at hand. If they have a football, they create a “field” in the grass with whatever they can find. They don’t feel like they are losing out by not having proper equipment. They just want to get out and play.
But when grown-ups see kids playing, we feel the need to help. Instead of observing children and enjoying the discovery and imagination, parents impose the “right ways”. We think, “Well, if they are happy playing with nothing, wouldn’t they enjoy it more if they had the proper tools?”
They aren’t getting concussions because they are playing outside in the grass. They’re getting concussions because we put them in pads and helmets and teach them the “proper way” to run plays and tackle. We encourage them to use grown-up ways to play a grown-up game.
It continues because they want to impress us.
Once we impose equipment and rules and teach kids how to run plays, we take away the magic. We cover their imagination with our grown-up stuff.
So why don’t they quit?
They would. Except we are also their role models. They look up to us. They see that we are excited about this game with these fancy rules and they try to impress us. They want to learn and show us that they can play our games. They want our praise.
We misinterpret “needing praise” as excitement for the game.
Once we decide that they love football, we want to give them every opportunity to join the NFL. We want the best for them. We give them the best equipment, the best coaching, and every opportunity after school to practice.
But they only want to please us. And play outside.
Do we really need congressional hearings and “The Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act” to keep our kids safe and healthy? Or should we stop interjecting grown-up rules and regulations into their creative play?
It would be easier, more cost effective and more supportive of our creative youth to just let them play their way. It would also save their heads.
- U.S. concussion guide makes return to play tougher (reuters.com)
- Doctors group warns on concussions (philly.com)
- Concussions In Sports: Atheletes’ Head Injuries Should Be Reviewed, Experts Say (huffingtonpost.com)