I get hopeful every time I see people pushing back on schools. I think schools have way too much power in our society and I’m shocked by how many parents put up with it. And right now the group of parents pushing back the hardest are football parents. 

Parents are pointing to the data. Schools ignore all kinds of data if it’s bad for them. And for the most part, parents silently accept that. But parents are pushing back about football. The schools are saying the data isn’t that important, and the parents are taking their kids out of football anyway.

Parents see the schools as predators. Football coaches wander school hallways telling kids “you’re built for football” to get them to tryout for the team. The schools conflate leadership and football to create a pervasive peer pressure to join the team. But parents are pushing back, telling coaches to leave their kids alone because football causes concussions.

It feels like you’re leaving a cult. And these parents are talking about how difficult it is to push back on anything the school promotes, because pushing back on the school feels like pushing back on the community. The kids who ultimately quit are saying leaving football feels like leaving a cult. Which is exactly how I felt when I took my kids out of school.

The experiences parents are going through taking kids out of football seem so similar to what I went through taking my kids out of school. Administrators told me no one should homeschool, but they ignored the data I showed them. And teachers told me my kids were “built for school” as if every kid who tests well should be in school. And I felt over and over again that I was leaving a cult when people ostracized me for homeschooling.

And it turns out football is similar in that some kids need football so they have somewhere to go and somewhere to belong. When you see this argument in favor of football, you can really see how unequal the world is for kids: concussions are bad, but not worse than what these kids would face at home.

The football parent activists are forcing difficult discussions about the place of schools in communities and how we need to recalibrate the balance of power between schools and parents. This is exciting to me because they lay the groundwork for more wide reaching discussions in the future.