James Harrison loves football.
Heck, the man is still playing linebacker in the NFL at 38 years old.
But just like any parent who's learned in recent years about the damaging effects of concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Harrison has had to ponder whether he'll let his own children play the game.
In a recent article for USA Today Sports, Harrison revealed that his answer is yes. However, he's not putting any pressure on them to play tackle football. Harrison says that his sons simply seem to be drawn to the sport more than any other.
"I'm not putting any pressure on my boys to play tackle football. I'm also not telling them that they can't play. I want them to decide what they want to do, so I've tried to expose them to other sports. Right now, their interests are in karate, track and flag football. I've tried baseball, golf, basketball and hockey with my kids (yes, I know how to ice skate). They didn't have interest in any of those," Harrison said.
Harrison then went on to explain that he promised to let his 8-year-old son, James III, play tackle football if he gets straight A's. "I will say that I was buying myself some time when I said that, because he won't get actual letter grades at his school until 5th grade. But I think he'll do that because he's very smart, and he really wants to play tackle football," Harrison said.
Harrison believes that by letting his sons start playing tackle football between the ages of 8 and 10, he'll be putting them in position to be both successful and safe on the gridiron. Not only will it give them time to learn proper technique, Harrison reasons, but it will also give them time to learn how to play safely.
"My biggest piece of advice to parents thinking about getting their kids in tackle football is to ask other parents with kids in the program what they think about the coaches. The main thing to make sure of is that the coaches have the kids' best interests at heart. When it comes to my boys, I'm going to let them play because it's something they want to do. They'll learn that the game can be played more safely if you use the proper techniques, but also that there are some injuries you just can't prevent, which has happened to me throughout my career," Harrison said. Those injuries have included three herniated discs, a broken orbital bone and double hernia surgery.
Anyways, it was interesting to hear one of the game's most vocal players speak out about why and how he's letting his children play football. Just don't try to give his kids any participation trophies if they don't win their league championship.
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