I am often asked my opinion on things that involve football. The questions range from how to find which player position best suits a child to who I think will win the Super Bowl, and pretty much everything in between. I have many thoughts on the game, on coaching, and on improving performance, so I am starting Passing Thoughts to share some of those thoughts. I welcome your comments and conversation. –KR

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Flag or Tackle? Making the Choice

As a long time coach, parents often ask me questions about their child’s development. One of those recurring questions is whether or not a child is ready to move from flag football to tackle football. The safety of the sport has grabbed a lot of headlines lately, so I understand concerned parents who are hesitant to make the move from flag to tackle or are reluctant to try football at all. There are advantages to playing at both levels, and it is important that families make the decision with good background information.

What are the benefits of flag football?

1. There is no risk of being tackled, having to block, or encountering extremely physical play. Athletes can work their basic skill development on every play and have more opportunities catching and throwing the ball.
2. The flag environment is very controlled with tighter rules and coaches on the field.
3. Athletes establish confidence in game fundamentals and on-field skills that can carry over to tackle football.
4. Flag is the best place to begin the process of Heads Up Football training. There is no substitute for learning proper fundamentals!
5. Athletes can easily transfer the fundamentals they learn in practice onto the game field. Kids can run plays and routes, and practice concepts that are more difficult to reinforce in youth tackle football.

What are the advantages to tackle football?

1. Playing tackle football is a great team sport where teammates rely on each other during every single play.
2. OLine and DLine players have an opportunity to work fundamentals and succeed at the positions suited for them.
3. In a positive environment with good coaching, young athletes can establish confidence that carries over to things on and off the field.
4. Transitioning through established programs promotes proper skill development. SDJRFB does an excellent job helping develop young athletes to successfully transition into middle school and high school football.
5. There has been tremendous effort through Heads Up Football to improve the safety of tackle football and increase concussion awareness for youth players. Learning proper fundamentals is proving to be key to improving safety for kids.

Most young athletes will play flag football in their early years in the sport, and at some point, they will look at transitioning to tackle. When parents ask me if their child is ready, these are the things I ask them:

1. Does your child ever physically shy away from contact on the field?
2. When you see a group of athletes participating in an event, do you feel that your child is at all behind the other kids in coordination, motor development, or processing the movements needed to compete?
3. Do you think your child needs continued focus on game fundamentals and skill development?

If you answered any of these with "yes," then you should consider staying with flag. 

There are definite advantages to both flag and tackle, depending on the skill level of the athlete and the comfort level of his/her parents. Be sure to talk to your coaches and get informed opinions about what is best for your child! It isn’t just a question of age and equipment, it is a question of development and readiness, so consult with people who are familiar with your child’s abilities. We will see a lot of elementary-aged athletes this summer at the Fieldhouse, so don’t hesitate to ask our staff if you have questions about your child’s readiness for flag or tackle.

Whether parents choose flag or tackle, they should know their child will be gaining valuable skills that will have lasting benefits on and off the field. Have fun, and enjoy the game!

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