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College student defies his mother’s ban on football |
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College student defies his mother’s ban on football

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Monday, January 21, 2019 1:30 a.m

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

My son is a wonderful young man, but there was one thing we butted heads on all four years of high school: He wanted to play football, and I wouldn’t let him.

Well, he just informed me that he plans to play intramural football at his university. I called the school and they confirmed there is a student-run tackle football program, and there is no parental permission required to participate.

My first impulse is to tell him that if he’s going to play football, then he’s on his own for paying for college, but I fear he would respond by saying, “Fine, I’ll get student loans,” and go right on ahead playing football and putting himself in debt for school, which I don’t think is wise. Am I running out of options here or is there a good option I’m not seeing?

— Not Seeing It

There is an excellent option, one so enormous that I can’t believe it’s not blocking your driveway: Let. Go.

He is an adult making adult decisions now.

Yes, you pay his tuition, but using that for leverage is for real emergencies, like he’s running a crime syndicate out of his dorm room. Football is a sport. Dangerous, yes, but a sport nonetheless, meaning it involves fitness, teamwork, a release from more serious things. And it’s a sport beloved, as it happens, by those who play it. The risk of injury is serious, particularly as a matter of repetition and accumulation, and especially on youthful bodies — so parents rightly can, and in increasing numbers do, veto it for their minor children.

Full disclosure, we told our boys no to any tackle football before high school, to allow both their bodies and their critical-thinking skills to develop before taking this on. (All reached 9th grade and opted out.)

But remember, youth football still exists — so some parents are reading the news and still saying yes for their kids. It’s informed risk, not a meth lab in the frat house.

And it’s not alone in the risky column: Skiing is dangerous, too, as is diving into pools, and riding in cars, and overeating, and loneliness, and overdoing social media, and walking through grasses in tick season. Being fearful is a risk. Being too compliant is a risk.

Add all this up, and you aren’t “running out of options”; you’re clean out, except to promise you’ll leave him alone if he watches “Concussion” with you. Then leave him alone regardless. He wants to play so he plays.

Re: No parental permission required:

Goodness I hope not. It’s a college campus, not an elementary school with a field trip to the museum. That statement alone makes me think you truly don’t understand what higher education is for. Hint: It’s not just about educating your child; it’s one of many experiences that help usher children into adulthood.

— Anonymous

Re: Football:

The son respected the mother’s wishes in high school. He didn’t have to tell her he was going to play intramural football in college. The fact that he did shows what a good relationship they have. The path of “no football or else” is the fastest way I can think of for that mother/son dynamic to break.

— Respect

Email Carolyn at, follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 412-320-7889, or via Twitter .

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