There is a good piece at the Chicago Tribune about the many benefits for youth of playing football. (LINK: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-x-0912-keilman-column-20120912,0,5928127.story.)
I really liked the article. It addresses the debate on the potential dangers of football which has been discussed here on several occasions. The author, a writer with the Trib whose 9 year old son is playing ball, ends up in a slightly different place. While the danger of serious injury and concussions is real, he ends up seeing significant benefits. These can be summed up in three areas:
Teamwork. Unlike youth basketball and baseball, which can be dominated by a single great athlete, football demands teamwork. If everyone doesn't contribute, you'll lose. But there is a place for everyone to contribute.
Confidence. Putting on pads and working with your teammates can do wonders in building confidence in a young boy.
Modern life can offer kids a pretty soft existence: parents who never pick up a paddle, snacks by the boxful, nonstop entertainment streaming through smartphones. It's easy to float through life untroubled by challenge.
These characteristics build resilience, one of the most important things a child can do.
What really matters, he says, is learning to overcome adversity.
On the football field, adversity comes with every snap. The game teaches kids that when they get knocked down, the only response is to get up.
If you're one of the ones debating whether or not to let your kids play football, I'd strongly encourage you to read the article. I have seen these benefits in my own son, and they outweigh the dangers, from my perspective.