In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, I never thought we’d find the comfort and happiness that my child yearned for — for an entire year — in youth tackle football. But now I know that sometimes the most wonderful blessings come from the least expected places.
I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to all those involved in the Scarsdale Youth Football tackle program and share my experience with you.
Growing up in a family of all girls, tackle football was certainly not a staple in our household. However, moving back to Scarsdale with my family in 2019 and being married to a former Scarsdale youth tackle alumni, whether I liked it or not I knew it would soon become one in mine. As we settled into suburban life, just six months into my two boys’ first year at Quaker Ridge Elementary School, the pandemic hit. Right as they were beginning to make meaningful connections with new friends and teachers and get involved in Scarsdale athletics, it was all suddenly taken away from them — and every other youth in our town.
With everything canceled and barely any outside human contact, we looked forward to the fall of 2020, when school might return in person and sports would resume. My soon to be third-grader was coming up on his first season of playing Scarsdale tackle football like his dad had and he was looking forward to being a part of a team again. Then the next bit of bad news came: no tackle football in the fall — flag only — with the possibility of a full program in the spring of 2021.
Utter devastation for my son, but honestly partial relief for me. This was my 8-year-old son, my first born, and football was (what I thought at the time) a ruffians’ sport: dangerous, with high risks for head injuries, especially with the added safety concerns of COVID-19. No other mother in their right mind would allow their child to play such a game at this age and during this time, right?
This spring, I was proved 100% wrong. With barely any time to plan, Rippy Philipps and the heads of the program put together a season, albeit slightly shortened, that my son and I will never forget. In just six weeks, he gained a love and appreciation for the game that is unlike any other I’ve seen him play. During the season, all of my previous hesitations were swept away as the coaches placed a primary focus on safety, the rules of the game and playing football properly. There was a continued message sent to the children of the importance of practice, discipline and being part of a team.
These are just a few of the many lessons he learned in tackle football that will permeate his entire childhood and adult life. As I’m sure many parents know, it is hard to get a child to commit to do anything four times a week (other than playing Roblox), yet he was excited for every single practice without the slightest complaint. And game day, well, I’m not sure there is an adjective strong enough to describe his enthusiasm.
Watching the games, the Scarsdale pride emanating from my son and the rest of the team on the sideline and on the field cheering on their friends and teammates, you could not help but smile and be in awe of what the program had accomplished for these children. Magnifying the experience was that just 12 months earlier no one would have thought that getting these kids out there on the field together was at all possible. It goes without saying that the youth football program is one of the most organized and efficiently run programs in our town.
Being run by nonparent coaches who are residents of Scarsdale and have a previous connection to the program, I felt that my son was in the best hands. These Scarsdale volunteers do this for the love of the game of football, the community that they are a part of and for the kids who crave to get out there to play. The coaches were uplifting, amazing teachers of the game. I am not sure there is a way to properly express my appreciation for the impact that they have had on my son.
Speaking with other first-time tackle football moms, I know I’m not alone in this mindset. It seems that everyone I speak to has been thrilled with their experience with the program, its organization, the focus on safety and making sure the kids learn and have fun. Weary mothers like me were reassured by the heads of the program and the coaches of the advances in equipment, increase in rules of the game and the specific safety protocols taken in the Scarsdale program, including COVID-19 measures. Ultimately these parents confessed they loved watching their son play and were impressed by the confidence that this sport had helped the kids build. I second that emotion.
One mom joked to me that she thought her son “might last two practices this season.” Not only did her son continue past two, but he genuinely looked forward to each practice and the confidence, strength, knowledge of the game and the new friendships he gained in just a short season were invaluable. He, along with all of his friends, will be patiently awaiting the fall season, which is right around the corner.
I am just one story of a mom that had her reservations about the sport of football, only to learn that the sport has and will give my son more than any other can offer. Hopefully more mothers like me will give tackle football a chance.
My husband always said, “Football is the greatest sport on this planet,” to which I typically laughed or rolled my eyes, and while I cannot believe that I am currently putting this in writing — with the slight modification that we reference only “youth tackle football in Scarsdale” — he was absolutely 100% correct.
Thank you again to the Scarsdale Youth Football tackle program for making me realize this. Go Raiders!