It's not about you! How to keep perspective as a football parent


This week, I asked all my 9- and 10-year-old football players what they love about the sport they spend so much time playing each fall.

What is it that makes hours on the football field each week after school more enticing than hours in front of the TV or with a video game controller in hand or just running wild child style through the neighborhood with their friends?

Every single kid gave the exact same answer: TACKLING! 

The freedom to run up to another kid and wrestle him as quickly as possible to the ground without getting in trouble is what brings all the boys to the  field.

Which means, mom, dad, coach, it’s not about you.

It’s not your team’s win record. It’s not your coaching philosophy. It’s not peer pressure, parental expectations or traditions. In fact, it’s not even your milk shakes.

It’s tackling.

Nine-year-old boys don’t care about skill development. They don’t care about the coaching staff. They don’t care about learning to be a part of a team. They don’t care about spirit wear or volunteer schedules or parking or most of the other stuff team parents spend time lodging complaints about. They don’t even care that much about the position they play –  as long as they have one and get to tackle people or be tackled, they’re good.

It’s the parents’ job to worry about everything else, and in so doing it’s easy to lose perspective, to get caught up in worrying about things that long term, in the grand scheme of life, pale in comparison to whether your child lives an active, healthy lifestyle, gets to make positive memories doing things he enjoys and develops an understanding of teamwork, dedication and perseverance.

Here are some ways to keep your eye on the parenting prize …

  • Check in with your kids. When I approached the boys to ask them why they like playing football, I imagined that they would say they liked their positions or enjoy spending time with friends or want to be a football player one day. Not a single child, including my own, answered the way I anticipated. That’s because kids don’t think the same way parents do. So let him tell you about it. On the ride home, instead of critiquing every move he made, ask him to tell you what he loved about being on the field today and about what he wishes had gone differently. And if you want honesty, be careful about how you phrase your questions. Asking your child, “Didn’t it upset you that your coach moved you out of the running back position?” will get a much different response from, “How did you feel about practice today? Did you like the new position you tried?” 
  • Think about the future. If you just keep it real with yourself for five minutes, how likely is it that your child is actually going to make a career of any sort out of football? I’m going to tell you how likely. If you’re looking across the breakfast table at a fourth-grader-* these days, even if he is a beast on the field, the chances that he will one day be suiting up with one of the 32 NFL teams is about 0.006 percent. That’s 6 out of 1,000. That’s a teeny weeny itty bitty percent of a chance, which means it probably doesn’t warrant all of the crazy you’ve been taking to the practice field lately. Of course, it’s cool to support your child’s dream of one day being an NFL superstar, but if you want to win as parents, it’s important that you ensure your children are developing healthily in all aspects of life. That way, when he defies the odds and actually becomes the superstar you  always knew he’d be, he will be of good character and adequately prepared mentally, emotionally and physically to meet the demands of such a profession. 
  • Remember the importance of balance. Academics, friendships, family time, opportunities to explore other interests and time to just sit down and relax need to be balanced with the time your child is spending on the football field (and off of it pursuing other forms of athletic development). Your son shouldn’t be overwhelmed by football. He shouldn’t be struggling academically. He shouldn’t be continuously asked to sacrifice time with friends and family in the name of the game. Football doesn’t get to be more important than health, safety, academic achievement and social development when you’re 10 years old, and it’s your job as parent to ensure that the scales of healthy life balance aren’t tipped too far in one direction. If you find yourself writing notes to your child’s teacher to say he couldn’t turn in his homework because of football practice or lying to your child’s healthcare provider about symptoms so that he can return to play sooner, chances are you’ve lost it. Reel it in while there’s still time.

*-These stats are courtesy of USA Football and pertain to all youth players, not just foruth graders.

Amanda Rodriguez is a humor and lifestyle blogger at In her free time, she enjoys losing weight easily, looking like a soap star the moment she rolls out of bed and riding around town on her unicorn. In addition to having a loose grip on reality, Amanda enjoys traveling to far off lands (or, not so far off lands) with her family and cheering herself hoarse on the sidelines of her sons’ games. The mom behind the blog is a former Teach for Americamiddle school language arts and social studies teacher turned stay-at-home-mom turned graduate student turned professional photographer, freelance writer, pro blogger, Zumba Fitness enthusiast and general director of awesomeness.