Posts Tagged ‘Kids


I am NOT ready for a Solo Professor

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So this week, the Professor started biking to school in the morning.


I’m not ready for this.

My wonderful wife will point out that you need to let go some time—and she’s right—but I wasn’t quite ready to do this yet.

When Alpha Tween was Prof’s age, he was walking to the Boys and Girls Club for aftercare in New York City  (Yes, Queens is New York City) and I was definitely nervous. But both my wife and I were working and couldn’t pick him up so it was a necessity.

He had a cell phone and was to call or text when he left school and when he arrived at the after-school program and he kind of remembered to do it, sometimes, maybe.

We got used to it though, and we saw a tremendous change in confidence and independence which, in the long run, I think will be invaluable for him as he goes through life.

So it’s a good thing that The Professor is doing this. I think that soon we’ll let him bike home on his own as well.

But it’s so hard to let him go. I love our town and I feel like he (and Alpha) are as safe roaming the streets here as anywhere else—maybe more. But all I see right now are bad drivers and all I do is worry about my kid as he bikes to school. Every morning I spend time worrying that I’ll get a phone call or something and that he’s been hurt or worse.

The thing is, he’s so proud and happy right now. He feels independence in a way that he never has before and he feels “grown up” and responsible. And all that is so important, so vital to his confidence and makes him so damned happy.

So I’m trying to get over myself and mentally prepare for the next step—getting him keys and a phone and anxiously waiting for him to come home.

I’m not ready for it—but I’d better get ready and soon.



The Professor Thinks He’s Funny

art by Alpha Tween who, I am shocked, knows who Mr T is.

art by Alpha Tween who, I am shocked, knows who Mr T is.

So by and large, I ignore April Fools Day and it ignores me. My family isn’t big on practical jokes because we’re goofy 24/7/365.

We don’t need a special day to celebrate it, you know?

This morning I went downstairs to wake the kids up, as I normally do. Lately, I have been finding The Professor under his comforter on the floor, because he’s apparently too good for beds. Seriously, this kid might as well use his bed for kindling, for all the use he’s getting out of it right now. So I was by no means surprised to find him under a lump of covers and a comforter on the floor again this morning.

Keep in mind, my eyes started at the bed, saw just two pillows laying against the wall (he props himself up to sleep) and then saw the comforter. It’s not like I didn’t look at the bed.

So I reached down and started to pull back the covers when—BLAMMO—the pillows on the bed burst apart, and a small child flew out of nowhere yelling APRIL FOOLS.

It turns out he woke up early (without an alarm clock, which is amazing all by itself), decided on multiple places he could hide, finally settled on one and got set up. He then waited for me to come downstairs and sprung his trap. My wife is probably pretty lucky she wasn’t the one who woke him up—she’d have had a heart attack.

I’ll give the kid credit—it was a good prank. Jokes on him though, because I know he can get his ass up and out of bed with no help from me.



How Do You Solve a Problem Like Alpha Tween?

So it’s been a while, yeah? Last week was a travel week for work, so as happens around here, we lapsed into silence. I’m almost over jet lag, so hopefully I’ll have my act in gear sometime soon. I always want to post more, I just never seem to get around to it.

This week hasn’t started off that well around Casa De Dad Moon Rising. Well, I take that back. I’m happy to be home amongst my loving family (who are super awesome for letting me do things like travel to Alabama for a college All Star game and then jet to Vegas for a ‘retreat’ with another company) and everyone is healthy and glad I am back.

However, for Alpha Tween, this week is not going well. He’s 12 and apparently being 12 his brain has ceased functioning on a regular basis. He’s losing things at school, stuff he swears he recalls putting into his folders or backpack or somewhere else, but never ends up home.

And it’s starting to be important stuff, like his schedule of electives for next semester. If he doesn’t get that in (and it may already be too late) he’ll get whatever classes they give him, not the ones he wants. He’s also lost his day planner (which begs the question, is he even using it?) and two hats.

He’s really upset. I mean, my wife and I are upset, frustrated and angry because there has been tremendous time and effort spent (mostly by my lovely wife) giving this kid tools which should help him stay organized. But he’s really, really broken right now.

Alpha is, of course, in trouble for all this because it’s been a constant problem and all the support we’ve been giving him isn’t helping. Plus, he constantly looks us in the eye and tells us “A” when the answer is “B” or worse, we tell him to do something and he nods and “yups” us about it, then totally doesn’t do what he’s supposed to.

The thing is, I get that a 12 year old’s brain isn’t fully developed and doesn’t work at close to 100%. I get it and, frankly, I’m not sure MY brain works at 100% most days. Maybe not even 50%.

But there comes a point where excusing it or explaining it away doesn’t help. He needs to face consequences and maybe we have been bailing him out too much.

The problem for me is, I don’t know how to solve this. I have no idea how to help him, partly because my own memory is occasionally poor for certain things and partly because I just don’t know what is wrong.

And he’d really, really upset. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him as down as he was this morning. He’s frustrated, angry and pretty depressed. He isn’t happy with himself but doesn’t understand why things are happening the way they are and seems to feel he is powerless to fix this.

I’m not sure what we can do to help him. We’ve given him tons of tools, he just isn’t utilizing them.

Maybe letting him fail at a few things as a consequence is the way to get him to learn. We all need to learn how to overcome obstacles and failure. Maybe by screwing up he can learn to motivate himself to improve.

Maybe it’s time for him to fail a little.

It’s sure as hell not easy to watch though.



Jack-of-All-Trades, Master of an Axe

Here is a conversation which took place at dinner with the extended family last night. It involves The Professor and my uncle, who is a firefighter down in Florida.

This is paraphrased because it was told to me secondhand, but it seems to have started when The Professor asked my uncle what he did.

Uncle: I’m a firefighter, EMT and a teacher.

Professor: Shouldn’t you just stick to one thing and do it right?

If you think about it, it’s a fair question since we’re constantly on him to focus on one thing at a time. On the other hand, it’s not exactly the most polite thing he’s ever said.

Also there was this gem:

Professor: So if you’re an EMT, a teacher and a firefighter, do you chop students up so they can get shown how to be put back together?

I have no idea where he gets this stuff.

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?


Attack of the Helicopter Parents: When Gymnast Mom Strikes

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I’ve been threatening this column for a while and I figured that with football season starting it was about time.

However, I’ve had some subjects for posts I really like show up in my brain, so I kept pushing this one back.

Then my wife came home with a peach of a story and I figured “That’s a sign.”

First, you may not know what a helicopter parent is.

Well, helicopter parents (known in entertainment circles as stage parents) are parents who hover over their kids when they do whatever it is they do. Most commonly found around kids who play or do something that could end up making them famous or money, it’s a parent who sees that Johnny can shoot a basketball or Sue can dribble a soccer ball better than any of the other kids and decides they’re going to “help them” make the most out of their skill.

image via – and it’s a brilliant shirt

Often it’s the parents living vicariously through their kids—they were never talented enough to make the high school wrestling team and get a full ride to college, but Harry can—but sometimes they’re just way too enthusiastic in general.

There are different flavors—from the mom who won’t let her son drop violin because “he’d be wasting his talent” to the dad who micromanages his son’s life so he can become the ultimate quarterback.

Anyone who is my age and follows football thinks of Todd Marinovich, the former USC and Oakland Raiders quarterback whose dad was working to make him a quarterback when he was a toddler.

That’s not even all that uncommon really, though the extreme side of things.

We’ll see some nuttiness in these columns but let’s start with what my wife witnessed at gymnastics last night.

The Professor is starting to play team sports, but he really likes the individual ones as well and as nimble as the monkey is, gymnastics has always been a great fit.

Tuesday night was a makeup class for him in place of one he missed when he was visiting his grandparents a few weeks back. It was a slightly lower level then he normally does (he’s intermediate level #humblebrag), but as always, he had a good time.

image via

While he was doing his thing, my wife waited in the lobby. You can watch the kids, but there isn’t much space to do it so she was sitting and hanging out while he had his class.

At some point a woman came in trailing two little girls and the three of them went to one of the glass doors to watch.

The woman began criticizing (in a loud Jersey accent which my wife described as “Snookie”) one of the girls in the class for not holding onto the balance beam.

“Oh she’s not going to do it. She has to hold on when she does that. She’s just being lazy.”

She then shooed the other two girls away, blaming them for the gymnast’s struggles because “they were distracting her.”

Then, obviously the gymnast caught her mom watching her as the women started directly talking—through the glass door and very loudly—to the girl.

“You have to hold onto the bar. You’re not holding onto the bar. You have to do it or you won’t be able to do the stunt.”

Eventually she let it go, exasperated, and sat down. My wife said she then started a loud conversation across the room with another parent discussing at length how her daughter was lazy, complained too much, wanted to do the gymnastics but won’t practice, wasn’t going to put in the effort she had to and oh no, now she’s going to complain because cheerleading is starting and she won’t want to do that either.

And then she started having a loud conversation about her daughter’s body and how she would be getting breasts soon (apparently she was about 12, though my wife said the girl was very short so she didn’t know).

You know, because that’s a conversation for public consumption.

Sidenote: I have noticed the last few years that people will say the most private, not-for-public things in public places now. I don’t need to know your daughter is hitting puberty, I don’t give a damn if you think so-and-so drinks too much or how much money you make. Keep it to yourself.

image via Huffington Post

The daughter then came out for a water break and the woman began berating her. Just telling her all the same crap she did through the glass, but now in front of everyone in the lobby.

The girl snapped back at her—”I’m trryyyiiiinnnnngg”—in a tone which my wife said she’d have never tolerated. Until she considered that the mom was dressing down her kid’s skills, attitude and desire in front of a group of strangers at a very loud volume.

They ended up in a super loud argument (something which is always embarrassing to witness) that resulted in the girl huddled up on her mom’s lap sucking down a Gatorade and in tears.

Now, I don’t know what the mom’s issue was. Maybe she’d had a bad day and this was unusual. I will say that the story has the feel of something frequent, but I don’t know.

I don’t know if she thought her daughter could be a gymnastic star or was lazy or any number of things.

But good lord lady, it’s your daughter.

If you have an issue with her effort, you talk TO her about it not rant AT her about it. And here’s a pro-tip: do it away from other people and listen to your kid. Maybe her arm hurts. Maybe she’s feeling ill. Or maybe, even though she loves it, two hours straight of gymnastics is too much for her. Perhaps a shorter class or lesson?

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If your kid wants to do something, you have to be the one to see how much effort they—and you—can put into it and adjust the activity accordingly. It’s one thing to make a kid practice—we make Alpha practice his guitar—it’s another to make them practice to the point where they are exhausted and stop liking what they are doing.

It’s insane. I’m proud of my wife for not saying anything because that sort of thing is hard to witness silently.

Your kids are just that—kids. They need your help managing their time and they are not small adults. They don’t cope with things the way you might.

Just try and remember that the next time the kids aren’t quite putting as much effort into something as you think they should.

Your biggest concern should be that they are having a good time and smiling a lot.

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?


Questions to Consider Before Letting Your Child Play Youth Football (part 2)

So this is the second part of the earlier post on what to consider when thinking about letting your kids play youth football. You can find the first part here.

I say kids because, while not common, it’s not unheard of for girls to play—especially among the younger groups.

Mind you, there are probably a whole host of questions I haven’t covered for the parents of girls which haven’t occurred to me because, well, I don’t have them.

Girls, I mean, not questions. I have plenty of questions.

Back to the point though, in this segment we’ll talk a little more about supporting your kid without being “that parent,” choosing the right team, and checking your (and the kid’s) expectations. Among other things of course.

So there you guy—again ask questions in the comments or on twitter if you’d like. I’m happy to help.


How do I Support Without Becoming the Next Craig James/Marv Marinovich?

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Ah, helicopter dads.

One day, when I have millions of hours of free time (which is to say, never), I will start a blog called (sidenote from 8/1/13 – It’s going to be a recurring post here at DMR) and fill it with all the horrible and ridiculous things I have seen parents do in many, many different sports.

How can you be supportive without crossing the line? Sure, invoking James and Marinovich is pure hyperbole, but I’ve seen parents do some pretty stupid things.

It can be a fine line between cheering your child on and pushing them too hard, harassing their coach for more playing time, and shouting plays to the kids on the field.

I once saw a dad pull his kid out of a basketball huddle at halftime to coach him up, while the coach was talking. That’s not even the worst of it, but I can’t repeat the rest without dropping language we here at Bleacher Report try to avoid. (sidenote: We here at Dad Moon Rising DO encourage such language so you’ll hear that tale soon in full glory)

There are a few ways to avoid this.

First, make sure your child is your guide. Learn your kid’s limits and respect them. I’m not saying you can’t push them to do better, I’m saying don’t be the parent haranguing their kid when they are in tears and begging to stop playing.

I’m saying be the parent who focuses on the positive, not the negative. You can point out where he or she can play better. Just don’t make that the only thing you point out.

I am in constant dialogue with my son. He’s expressed an interest in playing college ball, and that’s great (he’s 10, next week he could want to be Eddie Van Halen). He’s asked for my help, but I make sure he knows that he is in control, not me. If he tells me “Dad, enough,” then I back off.

That hasn’t happened yet, but that’s not the point. He needs to know if it does happen, I will listen.

Second, let the coaches coach.

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Both last season’s coach and my son’s new coach have welcomed parent involvement overall, but also have been clear that, on the field, our kids are now their kids. The coaches are in charge.

You want to work on catching the ball, tackling, running routes with your kid? Great. Do it outside practice or game. Sure, you can sneak little tips in during a water break—my son always checks in and asks if he did this or that right. But you can’t do it when the coach is coaching.

Maybe you think I’m being ridiculous, but I see it all the time.

Here’s another thing about letting the coaches coach—be careful not to contradict what they are doing. If I’m going over something with my son and he tells me they do it differently, then I learn how they do it and that’s what we practice.

Finally, control yourself. Again, you think it’s simple but something happens to a great many parents—moms as well as dads—when a game starts. They start out cheering and the next thing you know they sound like that obnoxious fan two rows behind you at an NFL game, screaming at the refs, the coaches, the kids and other parents.

The Incredible Hulk looks at these parents and says “Dude, seriously?”

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Look, I get it because we all get lost in the heat of the moment when the game is close and the ref blows a call/a kid fumbles the ball/the coach calls a bad play.

You feel your temper rising? Walk away, cool off, breathe. Come back and cheer.

Because that’s all your kids want to hear. They want you to cheer. They don’t need you screaming about a missed tackle. They’ll probably beat themselves up without your help.

If you need to be more involved, get more involved by coaching or becoming a team parent.

What Sort of Conditioning is Suitable for Still-Developing Bodies to Help Prepare Them for the Rigors of Even a Youth Football Season?

This is, to me, a dicey issue because it’s really easy to screw it up. Many parents will assume that getting your kid in shape is much like getting yourself in shape. However, their bodies—even teenagers—respond to certain exercises much differently than adults.

Dr. Bramel cautions parents to ease into it. “Grade-school age kids and teenagers can be prone to overuse injuries if they do too much, too quickly.”

In my experience, coaches suggest keeping it real simple. Stretching exercises, sit-ups, push-ups and jogging to build endurance.

image via the Maine Morning Sentinel

Coach Serrette feels the same way about not going overboard. “You see people buy tons of equipment but most of those people cannot move their own body weight.”

“I am a big fan of body weight exercises,” he says. “You will see me do planks, burpees, mountain climbers with the players.”

Core exercises are key as well, something that I learned watching players train under Travelle Gaines several years ago in California.

“It is the key to overall fitness,” agrees Coach Serrette, “That is what the entire core craze is about. People spend all this time working body parts but you need to do more things that work your entire body.”

Again, I remind parents to keep an eye on their child’s limitations.

Keep in mind that your child will be working out multiple times a week with their team. So once the season starts, I make sure my son cuts back to an easy routine of sit-ups and push-ups a few times a week and I make sure he listens to his body.

If he’s too sore, he skips.

With football, the mentality is to play through pain, but for a child that can be dangerous. If it hurts, you have to give it attention (this goes for conditioning as well as in-season injuries).

“Pain is the body telling you to pay attention to the area of the body that hurts,” Bramel reminds us. “If simple things like rest, ice, stretching and/or a short course of anti-inflammatories don’t alleviate the symptoms, talk to the trainer or see a doctor before returning to play and risking further injury.”

Bramel also suggests that before you start any regimen, you speak with your child’s doctor for advice. I would add that you should talk to their coaches as well. Remember, these are resources and they will have practical experience that can help you avoid mistakes.

Check Your Expectations

You are about to spend an awful lot of time as your child plays football. If they fall in love with it, you could be doing this for years on end. So it’s natural to wonder where it’s all leading.

Can my child play in high school? If they’re good enough, could college ball be a possibility? Will they play in junior college? Division II? FCS? Maybe even FBS?

What about the pros?

As I have said several times in this piece, it may seem crazy to you, but I see parents (and kids) get carried away all the time.

One thing Coach Serrette does is send his parents a little reality check in the form of a link to an NCAA study which lists the percentages of high school athletes in several sports who make it to the collegiate and pro levels.

A table from an NCAA study tracking kids who go from high school to Pro Level (image via

A table from an NCAA study tracking kids who go from high school to Pro Level (image via

I was surprised to get this but realized that for many parents, there isn’t always a guidepost on where this could all lead. What is pretty common knowledge given my line of work is not always obvious to other parents.

Coach Serrette doesn’t do this to discourage parents or kids, but to give them a realistic idea of what they face.

“I always tell my players the same thing. Do not shoot for the pros, shoot for college.”

Using football to get an education is certainly attainable for many players according to Coach Serrette.

“There as tons of colleges that will give you money to play for them in the FCS or D-III and I have had more of my players that have gone to smaller schools and received a free education than I have had gone to the FCS schools. I think the goal should always be to play to get that money for college because THAT is truly doable.”

Like everything else, it’s important to go into this with both your and your child’s eyes wide open. Not every child becomes the next Drew Brees, or even Danny Amendola. Many children can use football to help further their education.

What is the Right Team/League for My Child?

This is a critical question, maybe the most critical because it combines a lot of what we’ve already talked about.


If you’re like me, you may not be spoiled for choice. We didn’t have many teams within a reasonable distance from where we live in Queens. We lucked into what I feel is a great organization in the Queens Falcons. (sidenote and update: Now living in New Jersey we once again have hit a fantastic organization in the Montclair Bulldogs. Seriously, we’re 2-2 which is a blessing.)

If you have a choice—and hopefully you do—you need to research those choices as thoroughly as possible. Search for the organization’s website (most have them now). Call and talk to the president of the group. Talk to the coaches your child will play under. Attend a practice or two.

Many teams will allow a child to try out for a practice or two to see if they want to really play. I assure you that a lot of kids will know the moment they get hit whether this is the sport for them.

Even though we were really looking at just one team, I did all the above. I read everything on the website. I emailed the Falcons’ president. I talked to the coaches. We went to check out the practice.

Think hard about what you’re looking for in a team, how much practice you feel comfortable with, the personality of the coaches, the personality of the kids—heck, the personality of the other parents.

Other parents, by the way, are an excellent resource. While your child is talking to his potential teammates and watching drills, chat with the other parents. More often than not, they are very friendly and happy to tell you what the score is with the team you are looking at.


Even if you do all of the above, you could very well decide to sign up and, midway through the season, decide that this isn’t the league for you and your child.

That’s fine. You can always continue the search the next offseason, now armed with an even better idea of what you’re looking for.

Even if your child plays a minuscule amount of time, the key is that any team they join is a place where your child can enjoy themselves.

“I try my best, although it is not easy, to make everyone feel a part of the team,” says Coach Serrette. “It does not matter if you play 40 minutes or two, you are a part of the family. You will see that as they get older no one remembers many grand stories of their accomplishments, but they can relive many laughs and jokes from practice.”

What’s the Upside Here? What Is My Child Going to Get out of Playing Youth Football?

Aside from the obvious physical benefits of conditioning and physical activity in a world which sees a greater and greater percentage of childhood obesity, as well as far more interest in playing video games than being outside, youth football has a greater benefit.

Let me illustrate with another anecdote about my son.

image via NY Times

My kid plays a lot of different sports because he’s a natural athlete and he just loves to play. In fact, as much as he loves football, he’s played basketball since he was six or seven.

He’s normally a very quiet guy on the court. He’s an OK player who tends to let others take the lead on the court and is rarely vocal (unless, as kids are wont to do, he’s complaining about a non-call). He’s had the same coach for three years now and that coach has been begging him to step up and be more of a leader. It didn’t happen the first two years, which is fine. We figured, it’s not his thing.

Just over a week ago, he stepped onto the court for his first game of the season and I have to tell you, he was a totally different player. He played more confidently, took more shots, played more physically, and was far more vocal than I have ever seen him playing any sport prior to football.

Confidence. That’s what it was. The first thing his basketball coach said to me after the game was, “That’s football for you.”

If your child plays, chances are you will see a huge difference in their self-esteem and confidence. The change in my son, while also a part of growing up, comes in large part to the confidence he gained playing youth football.

The environment, the intensity, the pure joy of achievement after all the practices, sweat, bruises and hard hits—at the other end of it, knowing that you took everything someone could throw at you and walk away—that’s a big deal.

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Your child will also learn what it’s like to be on a team—a true team where you know that the guys around you  deserve your best effort, because that’s what they give you.

Coach Serrette believes it’s an important part of a boy’s development. “The biggest benefit of youth football is the teaching of responsibility…it’s about the first true introduction into what it means to be a man in society.”

Like football, being a man, Coach Serrette says, isn’t always easy but has its rewards.

“At the end of the day the score means little, but the team, the family, trumps the needs of you as an individual. Understanding that prepares you for fatherhood.”

The coach knows he’s getting a little deep for his charges, but thinks the lessons will linger anyway. “I know an 11-year-old may not see it that way, but it’s the truth and it is a collective lesson of maturity and responsibility, that they will carry throughout the rest of their life—if they get it and what we are selling.”

There are many other benefits you get from a team sport—working towards a common goal, dealing with success and failure.

However, the rigors of youth football can prepare a child for much more. I truly believe, in the right situation, it can build a child up with such confidence, they will believe anything is possible.

And that confidence will serve them well, regardless of what they do long after football is done.

It’s clear that I think highly of the benefits of youth football. I’ve seen the positives with my own eyes and believe it is a great way to build character, confidence and conditioning.

It’s also not for every kid or every parent. More than anything else, you have to make sure that the choice is the right one for your family and your child.

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?

image via


Questions to Consider Before Letting Your Child Play Youth Football (part 1)

image via How Stuff Works

So it’s that time of year, the time when many families are putting together their schedules for the fall and deciding what activities their children will take part in.

As a football writer and a huge fan of the game with two boys, I am often asked how comfortable I am having Alpha Tween play tackle football with all the concussion concerns at the collegiate and pro levels.

So a year and a half ago I was asked by a site called Bleacher Report to pen the article you are about to read. I’m reprinting the whole thing here, but you can always head over there to see it as well as all the other stuff I do.

And I am more than happy to tackle any concerns or comments you have as well.  (sidenote: I’ll be helping assist the coaches on Alpha Tween’s team this season.)

It’s a long article so I split it into two parts. I’ll post the other one later this afternoon.


It’s a struggle more and more parents are dealing with every year: Should I let my child play football?

I know it may seem a bit soon, but early sign-ups are just around the corner, and many teams (my son’s included) are running winter team workouts as we speak.

Once upon a time the answer was simple. If your son (or in some cases these days, daughter) wanted to play football, then gear up, pop in a mouthpiece and off they go.

No more.

We’re busier now than ever before and time is hard to come by. Children have a ton of schoolwork to keep up with and we are all worried about over-scheduling them at a young age.

Of course, there is the question of the physical toll football can take, something we’re more aware of now than ever before.

Image via Harvard Medical School

As the NFL and NFLPA learn about and discuss the long-term effects of concussions, and doctors and trainers publish articles on the dangers of focusing on one sport alone, all parents will need to do their due diligence before giving their child the green light.

There are questions you have to ask when your kid decides they want to play youth football. Today, I’m going to tackle some of the most important ones and help my fellow parents do the one thing they must do before making any decision: get informed.

First, a little background about me beyond what you see in my B/R profile. I have two kids, one of which began playing tackle football this past fall. He wasn’t going to do it—which was fine by me and my wife—but changed his mind mid-summer. So we did our research and dove in.

It was an eye-opening experience in many ways, despite the fact that I, more than many parents, know what is involved in a football season.

I’ll get into this more later, but for all the hard work and time-consuming aspects of this past season, it was an incredibly fulfilling experience for both my son and I. I’m not saying it will be for everyone, but it can be.

Hopefully I, along with some experts, can help you navigate your way to the right decision for you, your family and, most importantly, your child.

Here are the questions I think parents most need to consider before they gear their child up for a season of youth football.


Is there a Right Age for My Child to Become Involved in Tackle Football?

I make a distinction between tackle and flag (or two-hand touch) leagues, as the games are very different. I know, you’re thinking, “Well, yeah,” but if you haven’t played or know someone who has played, figure that even then you are underestimating how different.

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I do recommend having a child learn the basics in a flag league first, so they get a taste of it. I did that with my son and I believe it helped him get the basics—different defenses, offensive theories and plays—down so he was a step up transitioning to full-on contact.

There are two aspects of this question that I believe you must consider: physical and mental/emotional.

Like flag and tackle, these are two different entities and your child might be more prepared in one way than the other. In both cases, the answer varies from kid to kid, but there are some general guidelines.

“There are reasons for parents to be concerned about collision sports at any age,” I was told by Jene Bramel, a fellow staffer and a doctor who has worked on the sidelines as a team physician for a local high school football team since 2006.

“Younger kids aren’t as likely to generate enough torque and force to tear ligaments or severely strain muscles, but broken bones and concussions are possibilities at any age.”

Dr. Bramel suggests that parents consider their child’s development as they decide. Do they know how to protect themselves well when hitting or being hit? Do they know how to fall? Can they focus during practice to learn these techniques from their coaches?

“After that,” Bramel says,”every parent has a different comfort level with injury. Some parents are comfortable allowing their child to play football at the peewee level, others prefer to wait until closer to middle school age.”

Dr. Bramel says to remember that every sport—soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey, lacrosse, etc.—carries a risk of injury. Football may carry some more risk, but your child can be injured playing just about anything.

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For myself, I was worried about how my son’s body would hold up to the practices and drilling as much as the hitting. I knew it could be a grueling season for him and was determined to monitor him closely.

It was actually far more intense than I expected (more on that in a minute) but he rose to the occasion and was a lot less of an issue than expected.

Emotionally, I was also concerned for my son. He was a physical kid, prone to rough-horsing around, but aside from a few scuffles in the schoolyard, had never been hit. Certainly not like he would here.

A lot of parents forget that aspect of football. “Tackle football is a mental game more than physical,” Queens Falcons coach John Serrette told me.

Coach Serrette has been coaching in the Queens and New York City area since he was 16, becoming the President of the Rosedale Jets at 21 and coaching the Bayside Raiders to a Pee Wee championship in 1999.

He runs his own website,, on which he loads instructional videos and other footage to support his players and parents. In the interest of full disclosure, he’s also my son’s coach.

“It is a game where you have to conquer your fears at the door and believe that as one unit you will be trying to attain a goal and that goal is not winning,” he stated. “It is perfect execution of what you are taught. If you execute what you are taught on offense and on defense, the result will be what it needs to be. It is scary for the child at first but again, they get used to it and have to overcome their fears.”

This was my experience with my son.

I talked to him a few times about the rigors of a game and practice. How you can become exhausted mentally as well as physically and how it can be difficult to stay focused for an entire practice, much less a game.

I also wanted him to know that if it was too much, he could let me and the coaches know. While I’d prefer him to finish the season—he’d made a commitment to his team, after all—I’d never force him to do something he didn’t like.

In my opinion, this is critical and both Coach Serrette and Dr. Bramel agree.

Your child has to know they can tell you “enough.” They (and you) have no idea how they’ll respond to that first hit. Or the second. Or the 50th.

You may think your child is a tough little guy, and he or she may break on that first hit. You might think your child isn’t

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going to last a snap and they may fall in love with colliding with a ball carrier.

Either way, you have to give them an out. How do you know if your child is emotionally and mentally ready? Can he take instruction? Can he take criticism? Can he hold together when the going gets tough?

All those questions are ones you can answer. Still, you have to be prepared for those answers to be wrong the moment that first hit happens.


How Worried Should I be About Concussions?

It’s the hot-button topic of the decade in football, and it should be a concern for every parent. I don’t mean to scare you at all, but it has to be on your mind.

Dr. Bramel agrees. “There’s still much development that happens in the grade school and teen years. Head trauma, even when mild, can affect that development, especially when there are multiple injuries.”

Proper technique and equipment are vital. The technique is ultimately in the hands of the coaches, as will the equipment be at times. However, there are certainly some things you can do to help your child avoid concussions, including making sure they have a properly fitted helmet and chin strap, as well as wearing a mouthpiece on every play.

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I’ll go a bit further. My son’s league requires a mouthpiece for every player, on every play. I would hesitate to play in a league or team that didn’t.

As we know, players will get their “bell rung” on occasion, and Dr. Bramel says that a child who experiences that—even if they just have a mild headache—must be carefully watched and screened before returning to action.

“It’s just as important to have a healthy respect for head injuries and to keep a watchful eye for even mild occurrences,” says Bramel.

Of course, concussions aren’t the only way your child can get hurt. So I asked Dr. Bramel if there was any way parents can limit injuries, especially through other pieces of equipment like flack vests or rib protectors.

“Parents shouldn’t feel the need to wrap their kids in Kevlar before allowing them to play football,” he says. “If the concern is that high, football may not be the right sport for their child.”

Dr. Bramel did follow that up by saying that thigh and hip pads can help prevent bruising that can lead to other injuries, and “forearm pads, neck rolls and other pads can be helpful depending on the position the child plays.”

So while it is impossible to prevent every injury, we can mitigate some of them with a little extra precaution.

Still, one things must be abundantly clear: this is a collision sport. Players intentionally run into each other as hard as they can. People get hurt. Your child will get banged up and bruised, ankles tweaked and fingers crushed.

If that makes you cringe, I echo what Dr. Bramel said—this may not be the sport for you.


What Kind of Time Commitment Should I Expect?

Every league is different, but across the board I can say you will be looking at a significant amount of your child’s time taken up with practices. That’s your time too; you or your husband/wife will be shuttling your kid back and forth to practices as well as games, some of which are on the road.

If that makes you cringe more than the thought of your kid having a 125-pound tackle fall on them, again, this may not be for you.

I will be totally honest here. I knew it was a big time commitment and I was still under-prepared.

My son’s team practiced three times a week—twice on weeknights and once on Saturday morning. Then there were games on Sunday. The practices generally ran about 90 minutes and Saturday were normally two hours.

That’s a huge chunk of time. Consider that this is on top of school and schoolwork (which, for his organization, was a big deal. You don’t do well in school, you don’t play) as well as all other activities.

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Twice a week I scrambled to get out of work, drive to pick my son up from his after-school program, get my other son from his after-school program, then drive to practice, which was about 30 minutes away with traffic.

That’s a lot. Now factor in weather, feeding both kids, entertaining the one not playing, and the occasional team-building

bowling trip and suddenly you’re wondering when you signed up for football instead of your kid.

The truth is, you signed up the moment he did. This can be a serious time commitment, even for the littlest guys. You can help alleviate some of the duties by doing things like finding carpool partners, but it’s still a lot of time.

So the two things to consider here are the following.

First, can your child handle the time commitment? I mentioned what can be required of them—multiple practices on top of homework, school and other activities. Remember also that your child will be learning plays and schemes which will be mentally taxing in their own right.

Second, are you willing to sacrifice your time—your evenings, your weekends, your free time—to make this happen for your kid?

Can you find leagues that require less than ours does? Probably. That’s certainly another option. But I will say that the older your kid gets, the more frequent the practices get. So at some point, the question still stands.

Good coaches will give you the tools to help both your child and yourself.

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Last season, my son’s coach made sure the kids were doing what they needed to in school and was in contact with the parents via the team mom to make sure we knew what was going on at all times. He didn’t need us out there at practice, but liked us there because it gave our kids a visual reminder that, hey, we’re here for you.

Coach Serrette told me that, really, that’s much of what a coach wants.

“For a parent, I expect more of the mental support of reinforcing what we teach your child during the week. It is not easy and we will throw a lot of terms at them and we just hope that you help support the staff that way,” he said.

As I mentioned earlier, Coach Serrette utilizes a website to keep his players and parents informed of the goings on. There’s so much, and he doesn’t want anyone lost.

“I always try to keep my parents informed on the ‘why’ I do things. What to look for in the videos on—where I load all the game videos as well as instructional videos to help the players to understand our concepts—and how they can improve their child’s performance.”

Every coach supports their team and parents in different ways, just as every parent supports their child in different ways.

Together, parents and coaching staff have to have the child’s back when it comes to making sure they have the emotional, mental, as well as physical support they need.


So that’s the end of part one. Part two will post later and deal largely with helping your kids get mentally and physically ready, choosing what league is right for your family and what to expect you and your child to get out of youth sports.



Vacation, All I Ever Wanted!

Hey, it’s a family vacation!

My mother-in-law is in town for the week (hello!) and The Wife decided it would be fun for the family to get away for a few days down to the Shore. She found and rented the top floor of a house half a block from the Bay and a block or so from the ocean.

It’s pretty awesome, but then again, so is she.


Of course, I have some work to do and so does she, but it’s a helluva lot nicer to do it on a sunlit porch with a breeze than in our hot apartment.

Being awakened to un-plug a toilet notwithstanding.

We arrived yesterday and went straight to the beach. Omega Child played in the sand, looking for sea creatures while Alpha and I dove into the water and tried to (unsuccessfully) body surf. You could actually walk out pretty for in the water without it getting more than waist high.

The Wife and mother-in-law bailed to get some groceries, leaving me in charge of the pack.

"Hi, I'm Bob. I'm a quality control crab here at Innitech"

“Hi, I’m Bob. I’m a quality control crab here at Innitech”

It was a lot of fun. Omega kept finding things to pull me out of the water. We discovered  tiny teeny clams which dug themselves into the sand while you watched.

There was a jellyfish (not biting kind apparently) stranded on the sand that we dug up with a shell and rescued.

And we met Bob the crab.

Bob (who almost ended up named Alfred, I have no clue why but then, why Bob, right?) is a crab of unknown type and origin who, I’ll be honest, Omega might have thought was a Pokemon.

We had a good time with Alfred/Bob, who we captured on film for educational purposes only, and then freed.

Omega did refer to him as a mammal and a bug at different times, but he knew his crab facts. He’s a little professor and loves to “teach” people about things.

Bob, by the way, Like the mini-clams, immediately dug into the sand and disappeared. He was not interested in our offer to come by for dinner.

Here is our purely educational video of Bob, in which it is alleged I am trying to drown him.

We have a longer video which I’ll probably put on Facebook at some point.

I then convinced Omega Child to join Alpha and I in the water. Omega has a thing about the ocean and swimming – he thinks he’s not as good a swimmer but he is very good. It’s a confidence thing and we don’t push it too hard. He just needs more lessons.

So he doesn’t like to go deep in the water, even if he can stand.

He agreed to get a piggyback ride to the sand bar (I think mostly for the ride) and hung out there with his brother and I for a long time.

We had a blast.

There might be some changes coming to our lifestyles (more clarity next week) so it’s nice to have a minute to just enjoy the kids with no stress, no responsibilities (save keep them safe) and nothing but time.

We left the beach tired, but happy. We even made plans to bring my board out next year so I can teach the kids to surf (the beach near us is good for easy longboarding).

Then grandma sugared them up on Oreos while my wife and I went out for dinner.

All in all, a great start to the vacation.

As I will be dodging the heat off and on this week, we’ll have an irregular posting schedule – you’ll probably see a couple every day until Friday when we leave.

Hope you’re having a great week as well.

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?



Nothing Kicks More Ass Than a Seahorse Tattoo

This one will amuse my old friend Paul for reasons which will become evident to him midway through the piece if he reads it.

Omega Child and I were driving back from gymnastics recently when he announced that he had decided what one of his tattoos was going to be.

Yes, he’s going to have tattoos and yes he has thought about what they will be.


A little backstory:

When the Wife and I went to New Orleans back in January of 2011, I finally got around to getting a tattoo, something I had wanted to do for a long time but never got around to.

130701-195630I used to surf when we lived in California and while I had done it very rarely in the last few years we lived there as a family it meant home to me and I wanted to keep that part of my past with me, especially after having moved 3,000 miles away. Some might think there are easier or better ways that don’t involve needles and ink, but I always had wanted a tattoo.

We went to the well known and highly respected Electric Ladyland Tattoo parlor and the artist there designed a chain of sharks in a tribal design.

I’m very happy with it and one day I’ll get some additional work done as well.

Anyway the moment we got back from New Orleans, the kids went nuts over the ink (my wife got some work done as well). They began planning their own work right then and it continues to this day.

I don’t much care if they get tattoos when they hit 18 (in some places, 21) and my thoughts on tats in general will be for another column.


Omega Child announced that he was most definitely going to get a tattoo of a seahorse on his arm.

Hopefully this is the one he gets...

Hopefully this is the one he gets…

I asked, “why a seahorse?”

He replied, “Well because they’re cool!”

Really, how can you argue with that?

Then—and this is for you Paulie—he announced that his first tattoo was going to be a snake wrapping itself around his knee and going down his leg.

I admit that it’s not quite the same as my friend’s desire to have an octopus wrapped around his knee back in New Orleans when he was in college (which they wouldn’t do because of the Hurricanes. Not Katrina, the alcoholic drink).

But it was what I immediately thought of.

So, a seahorse and a snake.

I’m waiting for a theme to develop.

Or his interest to wain.

With this kid though, it’s likely neither thing will happen.

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?


The Dishes, They Are Multiplying!



In two days time, the dishes have taken over the kitchen.

Keep in mind, the boys and I have done more than one load and in fact have cleared them out more than once.

But there are three of us at home and that just builds up dirty dishes at a ridiculous rate.

They’re like bunnies. Dirty, dirty bunnies.

And you can read that last sentence in several ways, so have fun.

Seriously though, I don’t ever get the explosion of dishes which takes place when the rest of the house is home. Try as I might, I can’t get them to clear their plates and then put them right into the dishwasher. As you can see from the dish apocalypse in the kitchen, it hasn’t happened.

Mind you, today is compounded by the fact that Omega Child has a friend over, so 1) we have three extra people total in the house today rather than two and 2) he hasn’t done his daily chore which is load dishes into the dishwasher.

Still, that’s an inordinate amount of dishes for less than a 24 hour period.

We also have a cup infestation issue as well.

Yesterday, when the kidlets cleaned their room, we found five glasses upstairs. All half filled with water.

As we’re not about to be invaded by aliens, I assume this is just a sign people are being lazy rather than preparing for defending their family.

They have spread to the living room, the porch and the kitchen, where I am concerned they will link forces with the dishes and take over the house.

After Omega Child’s friend leaves, I’ll charge him with destroying the hordes of dishes by using the ultimate weapon: his hands and the dishwasher.

But even then, I know they’ll be back.

They’re always back.

If you don’t hear from me in 24 hours, send help. Or non-lazy kids.

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Reading: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher Listening to: The Heist, Macklemore Watching: Damages