Let’s face it: in America, football is king. It is the social glue that holds together countless communities, groups of friends, and even entire families, with millions gathering in the stands and around TV screens annually to share in the thrill of a big game. In some towns, it would not be a surprise for a child to make his first pass before learning to walk. On the field, in the home or bar, football reigns supreme.
Every year, thousands of kids gear up for a first-hand taste of this national pastime. However, as a full-contact sport, there is no avoiding the fact that football can be dangerous at any level, amateur and professional alike. With this in mind, here are a few ways in which you can best ensure your child’s experience on a school or club football team is as positive and character-building as it should be.
The first step to take in keeping your child safe regardless of position he or she will play is an investment in the right protective gear. The following list covers all the equipment with which any football player should be outfitted:
Helmet with face mask and a mouth guard – A proper fit in this department is crucial, as oversized helmets and mouth guards can easily be knocked off during rougher moments.
Protective padding for thighs, shoulders and around the hips
Cleats – Football is traditionally an all-weather sport, so having a shoes that can grip the turf well in every condition is important in preventing twisted ankles and other foot-related injuries.
Leg and ankle braces – Related to the point about, these minimize the severity of the slips, trips, and falls that occur in virtually every play.
As with any sport, proper stretches and warm-up exercises are vital to preventing strains and maximizing athleticism. A thorough routine can be anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes long, and will raise body temperature, heart and respiratory rates, and increase metabolic Stretches should be comprehensive, covering not only limbs and joints but also the torso. Remember, always include at least a short run before stretching out to avoid pulling a muscle, and stretch just to the point of discomfort – not beyond.
Last but not least, always make sure your child understands the rules of the game before taking the field. This is one of the simplest to avoid an injury, and yet it is too often overlooked. Good communication between coaches, players, and referees is one of the best guarantees for safe game.