Posts Tagged ‘sport safety’

Changes ahead for youth football?

January 11, 2016

The new year could be bringing a new look to youth football around the country. Case in point: Somerville, Massachusetts, has announced its recreation department is changing the city’s youth football program from tackle to “non-contact” flag football for kids in first through eighth grade.

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Photo courtesy Grand Forks Park District

In an article published by boston.com, city officials cited concerns nationwide over increases in injuries for young players in contact football, as well as declining enrollment in the city’s contact program. The changes were announced this past week, to go into effect this summer.

“Particularly over the past few years, the rise in injuries among young people playing contact football, both in game situations and during regular practices, demonstrates a need for us to reevaluate the programs we offer to our youngest residents,” Jill Lathan, the city’s director of Recreation and Youth, said. “Somerville Recreation has a history of providing programs and opportunities for youth of all ages and interest levels, but we also have a commitment to keep our children safe while they have fun.”

Lathan also said the recreation department will continue to support those who want to continue to play in a contact football program, like Pop Warner, through its equipment rental program, but the city will not sponsor a tackle football program for young players.

“Interest and participation in flag football is increasing both in Somerville and nationwide, and we are excited to be able to offer the program here in Somerville that will teach youth the necessary skills if they do choose to participate in contact football at an older age,” Lathan said.

The city seems to be following recommendations made by Dr. Bennet Omalu, famously portrayed by Will Smith in the new movie, “Concussion,” who said in an op-ed piece in the New York Times last month that there should be a minimum age to play tackle football because children’s developing brains should be protected from concussions. While few believe that the minimum age will be set at 18, as Dr. Omalu suggests, this move by Somerville shows that municipalities are taking the threat of brain injuries seriously and are taking steps to try to keep players safer.

Rules of Engagement

September 17, 2015

It’s happened again.

In the span of just over a week, another high school referee has been assaulted during a football game, and again it happened in Texas.

This time the incident involved a player from San Antonio’s St. Anthony High School who, video shows, shoved a referee following an altercation on the field during the game.

Here’s the setup: The player had been penalized for being involved in a scuffle on the field during play, but after the flag was thrown the player pushed the referee who called the penalty by the shoulders before his teammates pulled him away.

No surprise, the player was tossed from the game after that.

Of course, all this comes on the heels of the incident at John Jay High School the week before, where video shows two John Jay players targeting a backfield judge, one knocking the referee down, the second one spearing him as he was on the ground.

What is precipitating these acts? Maybe there is no correlation between the two. In the case of the John Jay incident, the players now are claiming the targeted referee used racial slurs against them. For his part, the umpire is considering criminal charges.

But now we have video of the incidents, and we can see how disturbing the acts are. And perhaps it all has to do with the pressure of winning, especially in football-mad Texas. For his part, the top athletic official in John Jay’s school district, said, “This is the first time I’ve ever witnessed and experienced (anything like this) in the realm of athletics.”

While coaches have the responsibility to teach their players the lessons of sportsmanship and fair play, event organizers now have the responsibility of what to do when the rules aren’t followed. In Indiana, for example, referees suspended a season-opening football game after players got into a shoving match, which seems pretty tame after the referee-assault incidents we’ve now seen.

Schools and athletic conferences as well as event rights holders who produce out-of-school events now have to worry about not just the safety of players, but the safety of the referees, umpires and others paid to keep order at the games. The bottom line is, this has to stop to keep organized sports alive. Today, the issue is football. Tomorrow, it just might be basketball.

Photo courtesy of MaxPreps.

Photo courtesy of MaxPreps.