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Jeff Dawsey
Ormond Beach Observer Thursday, Jul. 28, 2016 2 years ago

To play or not to play? I'm not sure I'll let my nephew play football — at least for now

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I have decided to keep my nephew away from game of football.
by: Jeff Dawsey Sports Editor

For the first time in my life, I became a guardian when I took in my nephew, Malik Cooper, 13, last July.

Coming from a horrible environment, Malik didn’t like to think, he didn’t have any drive and he wasn’t concerned about his future. It was probably six months ago, when I asked if he had developed a life goal, and he finally said, “I want to play football for Florida State (University).”

“Wow!” I thought. “This kid finally has a dream.” I was as proud as a first-time father who hears his baby say, “Da-da.”

But, as months have gone by, and I continue to study up on football injuries, I’ve decided to halt his dream — at least for the near future.

Honestly, it pains me to do so, but I believe I’m making the right decision for his overall wellbeing. I’ve seen him play, and I have no doubt he could eventually make a college roster, but, knowing the dangers of football, I’m afraid I can’t take that chance.

Is it possible Malik could navigate through high school, college and potentially the NFL without any major head trauma or serious injuries that could alter his life? Sure. But, if there are other options for him to succeed in life, I’ll feel more comfortable leading him toward those routes, which I am.

Malik has taken a liking to basketball, since playing in the Upwards league, where he led his team in rebounding. He’s made great strides in every aspect of the game. At any time on the court, Malik will be the most naturally gifted athlete, and it shows through his rebounding, defense and hustle. He reminds me of how Dennis Rodman played, not caring if he scored, only giving his best effort on every play.

Parents and guardians across the nation are struggling with this same decision, and I understand both conclusions. Soon, I will be publishing an article that will describe the good and bad of football,  and right now, I’m leaning toward the latter.

As Malik continues to grow and gain more size, I may change my mind, but I hope he continues to develop his love for basketball, because I don’t think I’ll be letting up any time soon.

Are you struggling with this decision? I'd love to hear any feedback from sports parents.

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