As we are beginning our families 5th season of youth football, and my husband’s second season of being the President of our youth football league, we are getting lots of questions about the equipment needed from parents that are brand new to the sport. I thought I would ask my son for some of his tips for a new player – and since he is a 12 year old boy with not much to say, I thought I would throw out some tips for the moms and dads out there too.
What about the mouth guard?
At first it will feel a little funny in your mouth but once you get used to it, it feels like it isn’t even there. You can walk around the house with it in your mouth so you get used to it. Also, when you are in the game make sure you have it in your mouth because then you might get a penalty or they will have to stop the game to tell you to put it in.
Mother’s Note re: Mouth Guards – There is a wide variety of mouth guards out there with a variety of price points. We have always used the Gel Nano Mouthguard made by Shock Doctor (about $20). Make sure you pick one that fits your child’s mouth properly. If your child has braces, thre are mouth guards especially designed to accommodate them. Make sure you follow all the instructions re: ‘prepping’ the mouth guard for use. This particular mouth guard that we use needs to be boiled and then formed to your child’s mouth.
Most youth mouth guards have a ‘tether’ where you can attach it to the child’s helmet. (Our league REQUIRES an attached mouth guard so be sure you know the rules of your league before you go shopping.) Also, make sure your child knows where they leave their helmet at all times – you certainly don’t want another child grabbing the helmet and putting your child’s mouth guard in their mouth. Yuck!
What do you think about the cleats?
Football cleats are pretty much like any sneaker but when you are walking on a hard surface make sure you are careful because you could slip. They do help you grip on to the ground when you are lining up for a play and help you ‘push off’ the ground to run once the play starts.
Mother’s Note re: Cleats – Honestly, cleats have always been my husband’s department. What I do know is that football cleats are different than baseball cleats – apparently the different sports require different placement of the cleats on the bottom of the shoe. Our youth football league requires MOLDED cleats which means that the bottom of the shoe is all one piece – the cleats themselves are not removable. By the time the kids are in High School, they can wear removable cleats where they can screw off the ‘cleats’ and screw on new ones (aka they can screw off plastic cleats and screw on metal cleats – ouch!). Make sure you find out what the requirements are before you go shopping – you don’t want to show up to practice after spending money on cleats only to find out they are the wrong kind of shoe!
Remember when you first got your helmet?
When you first get your helmet it will feel like 100 pounds on your head but if you just wear around your house 5min a day then you will start to get used to it. The helmet has to be tight on your head so it protects you. The helmets we use have to be pumped up with air so it fits your head right. Make sure you only wear your helmet – when your whole team has their helmets on the ground it can get confusing which one is yours. At first it hurts a lot to take off the helmet because it has to come off over your ears. You might need to have a coach take it off for you until you get used to it.
Mother’s Note re: Helmets – I remember when my son first got his helmet. The helmet and shoulder pads make it really real that they are playing football – so CUTE! The helmet is really heavy for 7 and 8 year olds and at first some of them struggle just to keep their heads up straight. After a few days they get used to the weight. Also, it is difficult to get their helmets off at first and the coaches did have to pull the bottom of the helmet outward as they lift it up off their head to help them get them off. It is easier to get helmets off of a wet head. For some kids, they would actually have to pour water into the helmets to get them off of some kids. This is one piece of equipment that you want to make sure if fitted absolutely properly – this is not something you should try to do yourself.
Tell them about wearing shoulder pads-
The shoulder pads might feel funny at first and it might be harder for you to throw the ball but like everything else if you just get used to all your equipment it will feel normal to you.
Mother’s Note re: Shoulder Pads – This is another position that needs to fit properly – they shouldn’t be too big or too small. Shoulder pads are generally secured in the front – our leagues tie in the front with shoelaces – and under the armpit with an elastic strip that comes from the back of the shoulder pad to the front of the shoulder pad. Younger children often need help getting these on and secured properly.NOTE: Put the practice jersey or game jersey on the shoulder pads BEFORE the child puts the shoulder pads on! It is 10x easier to manipulate the jersey onto the pads without the child’s head and arms getting in the way!
What about the “Lowers” you have to wear?
These are pads that protect you from the waist down – from your waist to your knees. At first you might feel ‘fat’ wearing these pads because you aren’t used to wearing so many things around your middle, but once you start walking around you get used to them.
Mother’s Note re: the ‘Lowers’ – If you have a ‘girdle’ with separate pads, put the pads in once and wash the girdle with the pads still in it – I would just tie the shoelace at the waistband really tight and throw then right into the wash. As far as the thigh and knee pads that go into the pants, I do take the pads out of the pants for washing. I would Lysol the pads and let them dry while the pants are being washed. To put the pads back into the pants, my nephew told me that the easiest way to do this is to turn the pads inside out so the pockets are exposed. Then you can put your arm through the inside of the pants (from waist to knees), grab the bottom of the knee pad with would hand and pull the pant leg ‘right side out’. I try and share this tip with each parent I talk to since parents really struggle with this.
Wrapping Up –
Although it may seem very intimidating at first to dress your player for football, just remember that all these pieces of equipment are for your child’s protection. There are a lot of different pieces to deal with, and the big pieces are pretty self explanatory. The most confusing pieces are the “lowers” and parents, please don’t be shy about asking your child’s coach where each of the pads belong. In the end, this will make sense as you start to put this ‘jig saw puzzle’ together. Before you know it, you will be an expert and will be the parent helping the next parent to outfit their new little football players!!!