Football Matters to My Big Kid

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football matters

This post is sponsored by Football Matters which celebrates the positive impact the game has made on millions of players, coaches, administrators, volunteers, and fans nationwide.

We’ve got a big kid on our hands. Micah has always been far larger than the “normal” height and weight for his age, and it really started to become an issue about halfway through elementary school when he started to notice that the other kids in his class were noticing how he stood out. It also just so happens that his size has given him the opportunity to start playing youth football a year early and the impact it has already had on his confidence has been remarkable. In our house, football matters because it’s the first time our Big Kid has felt like his size has been an asset or a source of empowerment and is transforming his self-image. 

The Challenges of Raising a Big Kid

There are some unique challenges that go along with raising a Big Kid, and we have found ourselves easily falling into the trap of parenting him as the kid he looks like, rather than how old he actually is. I’m ashamed to admit how many times I caught myself losing my temper with him and his behavior, only to come to the realization that he is literally years younger than he looks and that I need to slow down and remember to parent him in an appropriate way. From a purely physical standpoint, he finds it challenging to play with kids his own age because he often ends up hurting someone inadvertently simply because of his size or will sometimes be left out of groups because of it, so he will come home and think that he is disliked, unwanted, or that there is some flaw in his character.

All these social challenges we’ve been dealing with since he was a toddler pale in comparison to when I had to wrap my arms around my boy the day he asked me, “Mom, what’s a diet?” and started crying because a group of kids in his class wouldn’t let him sit with them at lunch because he was “too big” and described how he could “feel their eyes examining my lower body and looking at me like I was disgusting.” My third-grade boy was body-shamed, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. 

football matters

Football Makes the Difference

When the football season came around and he was offered the opportunity to “play up” as an incoming fourth-grader with the fifth-grade team, the kid jumped at the chance. Suddenly, he was surrounded by kids his own size in an environment of physicality, motivation and encouragement. He put on his pads, and I swear I saw his chest swell up. After his first week of practice, he was giving me an overview of the drills and exercises they had been doing and a smile hit his face as he proclaimed, “Mom, I feel so much STRONGER!” 

For my Big Kid, the football field is where he comes alive. His coaches see him as an asset and are excited to cultivate his potential and teach him how to use his size safely and effectively on the field. They are careful and intentional when it comes to focusing on the fundamentals of tackling because a kid like Micah can put some serious power down when he wants to, and he is already understanding the importance of harnessing his power.

One of our oldest friends (and the best man in our wedding!) has been a high school football coach for many years and he has story after story of kids who have come into their confidence on the field, while also emphasizing the importance of fundamentals at the youth level. When it became clear that Micah would be able to play football a little early because of his size, we asked his advice and he had some really helpful feedback to give us about the advances that have been made in youth football in regards to equipment, coaching practices and guidelines at that level, including the USA Football Guidelines for Practice that were released in 2015:

    • Gradually increase activity in the heat: Time with equipment, Duration and Intensity
    • Progressive contact
    • Full contact Practice Limits
    • Preseason: 30 minutes per practice, 120 minutes max per week
    • Regular Season: limit “Thud” drills to 3 practices per week
    • 90 minutes max full contact per week

Before he started playing football, Micah would use a lot of negative words to describe himself. We’ve been working on it with his counselor too, but it was clear that he saw his size as a hindrance to a positive relationship with his peers. When he puts on his pads, helmet and cleats…..it’s a whole new ballgame. He knows that he is strong and most importantly, part of a team. And it’s this lesson — that being part of something bigger than yourself can propel you into a position to impact your community and your world — which goes far beyond football as the main message we want our son to walk away with. Football has finally given him the environment he needs to see beyond his insecurities and glimpse the possibilities. 

My kid’s Football Matters story has only begun. We can’t wait to see where it takes him in the coming years!

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for the article. This perspective hits home in so many ways as a mom of a big kid. The hard part about this and the idea of playing up just to fit in comes with its own challenges as well. Due to weight rule restrictions, kids like ours get segregated to certain positions. Athleticism, passion and coach-ability are literally outweighed by a number on a scale that limits experience and opportunity. It is unfortunate that a kid like mine will never have the chance to throw, catch or advance the ball between flag football and high school. How can a sport like football actually cater to the lowest common denominator?

    • Totally hear you! We had to have that same convo with Micah when his size had him locked in as a defensive and offensive lineman. But….at the end of the day, playing safely is the most important thing to us. And if a kid his size is barreling down the field as the ball-carrier, it increases the risk of injury for him the players around him. Glad to hear this perspective is helpful to another mama!

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