How to Teach Young Children to Play Football

Jonathan, after a football game.
Jonathan, after a football game. | Source

Activities For Kids

Most parents are always looking for activities for kids - especially fun activities for kids. Generally speaking, there are two basic types of activities – structured and unstructured. As a parent, a grandparent, a former teacher, and a former coach, I think both types are important. Unstructured activities encourage children to use their creativity and their imaginations. Structured activities can teach discipline, teamwork, focus, commitment, and other skills. Activities for kids can also be separated into indoor and outdoor activities for kids. With school, computers, television, and video games, most children have access to plenty of things to do indoors. That’s why I’m focusing on things to do outdoors in this article. More specifically, I’ll be discussing team sports, especially football. All my family members are big fans, and we think it’s a great activity for kids. If you’re toying with the idea of putting your child on a football team, I have some information that might help you make a decision.

Outdoor Activities For Kids don't have to be structured.
Outdoor Activities For Kids don't have to be structured. | Source

Outdoor Activities For Kids

Personally, I don’t think enough parents take advantage of outdoor activities for kids often enough. Kids these days seem to prefer staying indoors, playing video games or watching TV. Things were different in the sixties, when I grew up. We spent as much time as we could out of the house, even during less-than-perfect weather. We ran, we played outdoor games, we climbed trees, we chased butterflies, and we built forts. Sometimes we walked to nearby lakes and spent the day fishing, swimming, and paddling a boat.

Things are different for kids today. The world is a scary place now, and some of the things we did as kids wouldn’t be considered as safe now. When I was eight years old, I’d ride my pony all through the countryside, all by myself. When my husband was a kid, he rode his bicycle to the next state, believe it or not. There’s no way I’d allow my grandchildren to do stuff like that now. There are just too many crazy individuals today who prey on children.

There are, however, still some fun activities for kids that involve being outdoors while remaining safe at the same time. Such activities are supervised by adults, and such outdoor activities for kids are often watched by parents. Some of the best, in my opinion, are kids sports.

The girls enjoy sports, too.
The girls enjoy sports, too. | Source

Sports For Kids

I think sports for kids are an important part of growing up. Whether they’re team sports or sports for individuals, there’s a wide variety of kids sports from which to choose. When I was a kid, I played basketball. When my three daughters were growing up, they were involved with gymnastics, horseback riding, cheerleading, and cross-country running. Now I have nine grandchildren, and seven of them are old enough to play kids sports. They’ve been involved with T-ball, little league baseball, gymnastics, horseback riding, cheerleading, and little league football. Two of the boys will soon be playing basketball, and one of my granddaughters is joining the swim team. Also, my niece and nephew are very into soccer.

What kids sports are available in your area? There could be some that you don’t even know about. You likely have football, baseball, basketball, and soccer. You might also have T-ball, team swimming, field hockey, and/or ice hockey. There might also be BB gun teams, tennis teams, golf teams, and volleyball teams. A few years back, we had a rodeo team, but I think it dissolved. I sometimes accompanied the team to practices, along with our horses.

Which sports are best? Please let your child’s interests guide your decision. Of course, young children might not know enough about different sports to have much of an opinion, and if that’s the case, you might want to try out several. If you’re on a budget, I suggest trying out some cheaper activities first. Chances are that the kid won’t like or enjoy all the sports, so sampling a little of each will give him the opportunity to decide which one or ones he enjoys the most. A good way to do this is by encouraging your son or daughter to engage in some informal sports or other activities for kids. These are usually free or inexpensive. Once a specific sport or two is chosen by the child, you can allow him or her to join an organized team.

Tristan, after practice.
Tristan, after practice. | Source

Teamwork – Team Sports

Team sports can teach children and young people some important lessons. One of the most important is team work. Learning to get along with others and to work towards a common goal is a skill that children can use for the rest of their lives. They learn to be a contributing part of a group, which is important for forming interpersonal relationships.

In addition to teamwork, kids sports can also help teach other important skills. These include following rules, being diligent, and following through with plans and ideas. They can also learn that working hard and practicing will pay off. I think kids also gain self-confidence with sports. They get to interact with other kids and with adults, and they get opportunities to “perform” in front of an audience or spectators.

Watching the kids play sports is a great family activity. We often take along a group to watch the kids’ games, and after a game, we often all go out to dinner together. We even enjoy watching practice sessions. Our complex for kids sports is really nice, with clean restrooms, a playground, bleachers, and lots of different fields. There are also concession stands and a few shaded picnic tables for enjoying snacks and cold drinks.

Before you allow your child to join a sports team, however, be sure you’re ready and able to commit. The child will probably have to attend several practice sessions a week, along with a couple of games. The other team members and the coaches depend on your child’s showing up and being prepared to play. You also need to help your child understand that he won’t always be “the star.” His goal should be to help make the team successful, and even if he doesn’t get to play very often during a game, he can be supportive from the bench.

Jonathan's ready!
Jonathan's ready! | Source

Football

My family and I live in the Deep South, where football is huge. Obviously, I’m talking about American football here – not about the game played with the round white ball. Down here, we call that “soccer.” Soccer has definitely gained in popularity in this area, but it still doesn’t hold a candle when compared to the football that’s played with the oval-like pigskin ball.

Around here, even little league football is important. I think most parents and coaches see it as the “training grounds” for high school and college ball. Most parents become ardent fans of their football-playing offspring. Each team usually plays two games a week during the season, and the stands and sidelines are packed with supporters. Actually, we found that little league baseball was almost as popular, but not quite. Of course, in your state or community, basketball, soccer, or some other sport might be the most popular.

Little League Football
Little League Football | Source

Little League Football – Youth Football

One area you might want to explore is little league football, or if your kids are older, you might want to check out youth football. Two of my grandsons, Jonathan and Tristan, just finished their season of little league football, and they absolutely loved it. It was Jonathan’s second year playing football, but it was Tristan’s first. Both boys had previously played little league baseball, so team sports weren’t new to them.

The kids love playing on a football team, and they never shirked a practice session or game. They were eager to go. They love it when family members and friends attend the games and cheer them on, too. They’ve become good friends with some of their teammates, and the friendships have extended beyond the playing season. At the end of the season, the coaches always hold a banquet or party for all the players and their families, and trophies are awarded. Jonathan and Tristan are very proud of their trophies!

The girls enjoy cheerleading.
The girls enjoy cheerleading. | Source

Flag Football

Depending on where you live and on what’s offered in your community, your kids might have a choice between flag football and tackle football. The choice might also depend on your child’s age. Around here, most younger kids play flag football. At a certain age, kids and parents get to choose between flag and tackle. After kids reach a certain age, however, flag football is no longer an option – all the teams at that point play tackle football.

As a parent, you’ll probably feel a lot better with your kid’s playing flag football because there’s much less body contact involved, so there are fewer injuries. Instead of tackling, the players on defense try to snatch the flag from the player on offense who has the ball. All the offensive players wear a belt that has flags attached to it. The flags are attached with Velcro, and there are two flags on each player – one on each side. Removing a flag is the same as a tackle. Other than that, the rules of flag football and tackle football are the same.

Playing flag is a good way to learn the game of football, without all the inherent injuries. The kids will still learn about plays and strategies. When they're a little older, kids who played flag football might be better prepared to move on to tackle football.

A few of the boys' sports trophies.
A few of the boys' sports trophies. | Source
Tackle Football For Kids
Tackle Football For Kids | Source

Tackle Football For Kids

I have mixed feelings about tackle football for kids. Both Jonathan and Tristan play tackle, complete with the associated equipment and protective gear. You always worry about injuries when your kids play sports or engage in anything that might be remotely dangerous. We weren’t nearly as concerned about Jonathan, however. He’d played tackle football before, and he has a pretty sturdy build. We were a lot more worried about his little brother, Tristan.

Tristan was only six when he joined the seven and eight-year-old team in August. He turned seven in October, by the way. He had a choice between flag and tackle football, and he insisted on playing tackle. I wasn’t happy about that, and neither was his mother. Tristan is small for his age, and he was the youngest member of the team, too, so we were afraid he’d get hurt. I suppose much of the reason he wanted to play tackle so badly is because his big brother was playing tackle.

After much debating and discussing, Tristan was allowed to play tackle – on a trial basis. Like I said, he wore all the safety equipment, including shoulder pads, a helmet, knee pads, thigh pads, hip pads, a mouth guard, and more. his dad also worked with him in the back yard, teaching him how to tackle and how to fall in order to help prevent injuries.

We were on pins and needles when we attended Tristan’s first game. Since he played defense, he didn’t get tacked much. He was more a “tackler” than a “tackle,” and he did his job with gusto. That little rascal could wrap himself around the legs of a much larger player and bring him down. With each game, we worried a little less about the possibility of Tristan’s getting hurt. I’m happy to report that both boys made it through the entire season without so much as a scratch or a bruise.

Coach Justin and my middle daughter.
Coach Justin and my middle daughter. | Source

How To Teach Young Children To Play Football

Before introducing your child to playing, it might be a good idea to let him watch some football games. That includes being a spectator in the stands and watching games on television. As the game is being played, you'll have a good opportunity to explain some of the rules, and the kid will have chances to ask questions.

If you want to be a part of your child’s football activities, you might want to spend some time at home working with the kid. In fact, you might want to do this before the child joins a team. That way, he’ll have a lot more confidence when he first steps onto the practice field. Ultimately, if he already has some playing skills and some knowledge of the game, he’s likely to get more playing time, too.

So…I asked my son-in-law, Justin, how to teach young children to play football. He played quarterback for a college team and has served as a coach. Since you probably won’t know what position the kid will be assigned, it’s best to give them some general guidelines to the game. You can start very informally, by teaching them to handle the ball. Teach them to throw and to catch, and how to tuck the ball when running. Of course, they need a basic understanding of the game, like scoring and on defending their goal. If you can get some neighborhood kids in on the action, at-home practice will probably be more effective.

According to Justin, it’s extremely important not to overwhelm young kids with too much information on plays and formations. After all, all this is new to them, and they can only absorb so much before they get bored, frustrated, and/or confused. At practice sessions, he suggests spending no more than twenty minutes working on plays. The rest of the time should be used for drills and informal scrimmages. The kids should be having fun playing football, and that was always Justin’s main focus when working with younger kids. Once they’re “hooked” on football and have a basic working knowledge of the game, more time can be spent on specific plays and strategies when the children are a little older and have some experience under their belts.

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Comments 3 comments

Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

Thank you for sharing this.The weirdest soccer team I coached was an all Asian girl's team. They were so concerned in getting an A they were technically perfect. They played just for the grade.


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

That's weird, hatter. None of them loved the game?


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

My youngest son, Holle, played Little League football for several years and my husband and I were his fervent supporters and most faithful fans.

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