Is This a Fair Compromise on a Massachusetts Youth Football Ban?
Needless to say, I was a little upset with state lawmaker Paul Schmid of Westport last week after I discovered that the bill he wrote that would ban youth tackle football had reared its ugly head again on Beacon Hill. The bill would essentially put youth football leagues out of business with fines of up to $5,000 for each infraction of allowing kids in the seventh grade and younger to participate.
Obviously, this was the big topic of discussion on Pop Warner sidelines this weekend across the state of Massachusetts. If Schmid had his way, these leagues would be shut down immediately. Not surprisingly, all of the parents I spoke to this weekend were extremely offended by Schmid's bill and took it as a blatant government intrusion into a parent's jurisdiction.
Many parents vowed to make calls and write letters to their state reps. One of those letters appeared in my email inbox. The letter contained a compromise that I thought was brilliant and worth highlighting.
We as parents (and I'm pleading guilty here) were so blinded with rage that someone was attacking our sacred role as parents that we might be missing an opportunity for compromise.
For the sake of argument, let's operate under the presumption that State Rep. Paul Schmid DOES respect the role of a parent and is NOT looking to cut them out of the decision-making process about what is right for their children. I mean, that makes perfect sense considering it would be very bad for business for a guy like Schmid to think otherwise. So let's presume Schmid really does respect parents.
Instead of a sweeping law that would ban youth tackle football across the entire state, Schmid's bill should make it mandatory for parents to be adequately warned of the risks of participating in youth sports. Arming the parents with unbiased, unfiltered information would allow them to make an informed decision about what is best for their family and children.
Personally, I would not single out youth tackle football. As we know, football is not the only activity during which a child can become concussed. Kids who play soccer, baseball, basketball or any other organized sport deserve the same level of care and scrutiny for their well being. Let's give it to them.
As a Pop Warner Football coach, I am required to take a three-hour online course each season that is focused on preventing and recognizing concussions. A similar parent course could easily be created by league organizers that could track that each parent has fulfilled the requirement. Providing a certificate of completion would be the first step in registering your child for any given sports league.
To me, this seems like a very reasonable compromise that I hope Mr. Schmid will consider.