ARE THEY READY.. FOR SOME FOOTBALL?

By Darnell Scribes

While youth football is on the rise and it is also in a crisis even though it’s seemingly gaining more popularity because of the names and personalities involved with teams these days. The numbers indicate overall football participation across all age ranges has decreased from 10.1 million in 2006 to 9 million in 2011with the most significant drops in the 12-17 and 18-24 age groups (National Sporting Goods Association). This decline may if fact be due to the real and perceived risks of the sport? Concussions are a hot button topic of conversation on all levels from Pop Warner all the way up to the NFL.

To further complicate matters on the field, the talent and size gaps are growing wider due in part to the parent’s ability to spend on training and diets for their kids. Some parents don’t hesitate to shell out big bucks on supplements, personal trainers, and skills camps. All of this translates to a more intense environment than that is already visibly present in these pint-sized warriors. So, now your under developed kid is in the direct path of a semi-super child prodigy, who in the eyes of the parent is on a bullet train to the NFL and nothing should stop them.

Here in Texas where bigger is always better, nothing is bigger or better than football for any age group. A 12-year-old boy is being banned from play on his Pee-Wee football team because he is, simply put, built like an adult. Weighing in at nearly 300 lbs and standing at close to 6ft, he is more than twice the weight limit of the maximum allowed to participate in the division. Although he is gargantuan in size, he’s just a kid and wants to play with his peers and I’m sure he sees it as all fun. But for the parent on the sidelines watching all you can think about is hospital bills and tears.

People still love and can’t seem to get enough of the contact. The exciting speed of the game and joy of being on a team won’t deter the most genuine fan from wanting to see their sons or, strangely enough, daughters on the field. Stars like Snoop Dogg and Deion Sanders are leading the charge to spark a new generation of footballers to ensure that the future of the sport is bright. Most of them see it as a chance to be around the passion of their life and also give back. A little less than a couple months ago Deion, founder of PrimePrep Academy, took the show on the road to spread the good news of youth football. Traveling from city to city with his team the “TRUTH.” Sanders is inspiring other coaches, sponsors, young athletes and supporters to continue to build their organizations. I spoke with Byron Jenkins the founder of 501 Marketing based out of Fayetteville, Arkansas. about his thoughts on youth football. Jenkins is a part of a group, also including former Dallas Cowboy Reggie Swinton that was very instrumental in bringing “TRUTH” to Little Rock. Here is a snippet of our conversation.

What is the best part of youth football? The building of relationships, team, community, coaches, parents, the camaraderie overall. That’s the best part, the camaraderie.

What would you consider the biggest concern? Concussions, with the scare of what’s going on in the NFL and we are starting to see more of the facts, some of these injuries are starting in the Pee Wee leagues. Back in the day it was just called getting your “bell rung”. Now with what we know, it is a lot more precaution taken for the players health.

How was it to work with Deion Sanders in helping promote the game? It was cool, he’s a legend, very personable. You know Deion has never met a stranger. Hall of Famer. Good to see him in awe over my alma mater Central High School.

Jenkins didn’t hesitate to state that he believes as many others do, youth football will continue to thrive and grow. Even in this climate of head injury scares and what looks to be growing questions about kids and this game leaving us to ask “Are they ready for…some football”?

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