4 Reasons Youth Football Is What Kids Need Now

This post was made in partnership with Future For Football and the National Football Foundation.

Football can feel like a foreign universe if you’re not into it, right?

For me, someone who has never gotten into professional, college, high school, tackle or touch or youth football, someone who is definitely more invested in the commercials, snacks, and the half-time show than the actual game, football has seemed like one of those things that could be ok for those who are into it, and, at the same time, entirely forgettable and unimportant for those who are not. For me, football has always been take it or leave it. Honestly, before this project, I wouldn’t even know how to start to get my kid involved in youth football. Now I do.  

And, as a former member of the “football doesn’t matter” camp, I am here to eat pie. Humble pie. 

Youth football team lined up before a game. Photo by Dennis Healy, used with permission.
Photo by Dennis Healy, used with permission.

I was wrong about football. Particularly about youth football. I now believe that not only does football matter- a lot- but that youth football offers a great way to prepare kids to succeed in school, learn social and emotional skills that they will carry with them forever, and learn how to appreciate daily physical activity. 

Football isn’t the only way to do these things, for sure, but the lessons it imparts are powerful, necessary, and meaningful. Without question, youth football is exactly what kids today need. 

And, please stop imagining me as an angry grandpa talking about “kids today…” 

My meaning couldn’t be further from this place of judgment.

I see so much grace, humor, and flexibility in kids today that I am perpetually impressed and delighted with them. I am no angry grandpa (or grandma,) I am just a mom who spends a lot of time with a lot of kids. I am also really excited to share how youth football promotes responsibility, joy, teamwork, communication, mentorship, community, and physical fitness with the folk who, like me, didn’t really give football a chance or who didn’t know how easy it is to get your kids on a local team.

Photo by Doug Whitmore, used with permission.

Youth football teaches kids and helps them grow in so many ways.

  1. That engrossing team activity you’re looking for for your kids? Football. 
  2. That lesson on teamwork and responsibility? Football. 
  3. Friends, a vibrant community, and positive role models? Football. 
  4. Physical challenges and an emphasis on fitness? Football.  

Really. It’s been football all along. 

And it isn’t hard to get your kids involved! Last year, I used Future for Football’s League Finder to find a team in my area to work with. Parents can use this same incredibly convenient tool to find a team in their town (or close by) for their children. 

League Finder takes away the guesswork of finding a football team for your young player to join. And if you, like me, are clueless about football, Future for Football’s League Finder is a convenient and easy first step to getting your kid into a youth football league. 

I had the great fortune to interview a local player with tons of potential and a unique role within her youth football league last year. This year, I wanted to connect with the league coach who in turn, suggested that I interview the 2023 team captains. 

Coach Jason Barron is the President and Head Coach of the Champlain Valley School District Buccaneers. Despite the fact that everyone speaks about him with the reverent tones reserved for celebrities and brick oven pizza, the first things you notice about him are his sense of humor and his kindness. Coaching, for Jason Barron, is not about his ego; he is entirely invested in helping his players, from the littlest flag football newbie to the three eighth-grade co-captains, achieve their maximum potential every single day, on and off the field. 

Coach Barron played football starting when he was a kid and then he followed his two uncles into coaching. This is one thing I have seen in every football player I’ve spoken with- many players started playing because an older sibling, cousin, parent, or neighbor played. The reality here is that football is a legacy tied to tradition. 

Coach Barron spoke about the values he relies on to teach his various teams football. It was illuminating to reflect that despite the reality that football is a physical sport, his emphases are on things like holding kids accountable, teaching kids to put team before selves, and getting his teams to push themselves physically. 

His approach is not about being good enough or just having fun, but it is about knowing what you need to do to have success. Success isn’t an accident. It’s planning and practicing over and over and over again. At the same time, he reinforces the idea that “progress, not perfection” is the goal, knowing that learning from mistakes is a critical part of being resilient and successful in life. 

He recently received a letter from a parent that says a lot about how he coaches.

BTW, you and the other coaches are motivating (child’s name) on a level we haven’t seen. He wants to play better, support his team, and make everyone proud. I am seeing such growth in him and though I REALLY don’t get sports, am grateful he has this community.” 

Parent of a Current Buccaneer

This is the kind of community every kid deserves. And the kind of coaching. 

Coach Barron has implemented a unique system where his outgoing eighth graders, who are likely moving on to high school football, elect three team captains to manage the entire team. He describes it as, “Taking S.T.O.C., which means having respect for yourself, your teammates, your opponents, and your community. We ask our players to do this with pride and poise because we want them to take pride in being a good person, and also have the poise to do so even when it’s hard. It’s the backbone of our program.”

Sitting down and talking with Carter, Finn, and Harrison, the current eighth-grade Buccaneers team captains, was a pleasure. These young men were thoughtful, reflective, and genuine. It’s hard to imagine three eighth-graders being in charge of a hundred or so teammates ranging from second to eighth grade, but this is absolutely accurate. 

When I was talking to the captains, Coach Barron’s words about scholarship, citizenship, and athletic achievement really shone. 

At one point, I asked them about an incident Coach Barron mentioned, where he got wind of minor bullying that was happening on the team. I asked Coach Barron how he resolved it, and he said that he told the captains to fix it. I asked- well then, how did the captains confront their peers, and he said that he didn’t know. He just knew that the bullying didn’t continue because he asked the captains to take care of it. 

I was so moved and impressed when I asked the captains to reflect on what they get out of playing football. Finn replied,

“A lot of leadership skills and how to work with other people and teamwork, how to bond with other people quickly and figure out how to work well with other people.” 

The last thing I asked the three co-captains about was failure. I was curious about how mistakes are handled on the team. Harrison said

“…We try our best to pick each other up… Like, in one of our first games, I fumbled, but like, nothing bad. Everyone was just helpful.”

Carter added,

“…Failing is a part of life… you need to fail in order to get better and it’s just bound to happen.”

Photo by Doug Whitmore, used with permission.

Carter, Finn, and Harrison love football, are loyal to their team, and are developing skills that they can use forever. Whether in sports or in the workplace, the leadership development, personal responsibility, communication skills, teamwork, and physical fitness they are learning as football players will always shine through. 

Vermont Moms is grateful to the CVSD Buccaneers for teaching us a whole lot more about football, and to the National Football Foundation’s Future For Football initiative that makes playing football so much more accessible to all. 

I warmly encourage all parents to check out the Future for Football League Finder to find a football team in their area. Future for Football also has tips for coaches, tips for players, and a fantastic virtual workout series. There’s no better time for football! 

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