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Pass It On: FF and Kids

There are so many things that are passed on to our kids. The color of our eyes. The color of our hair. A love of books. Phrases and words. Loyalty to a favorite NFL franchise. Sometimes even things we wished we did not pass on to them. An anger streak. A touch of impatience. Phrases and words. Our children are the recipients of the very good in us, and sometimes the bad.

If you are reading this article, that means that there is something important to you that you may have never considered passing on to your kids. And by now I think you know where I am going here. Why not pass on fantasy football to them?

I have a ten year old son. His name is Nate and he is a great kid. And over the last three years, we have gradually introduced him to fantasy football.

Now I am not saying you have to follow my game plan here. You have to know your child and how responsible he or she is. But this has worked well for us. Even if you come away with one or two ideas on how you can share your love for playing fantasy football with your own kids, that is awesome.

His first season when he was seven, we set him up on in a public league. The goal of the first year was for him to get a feel for how to play the game. To learn what it means to maintain and upkeep a team. And for him to get a feel for the responsibility involved in playing. It was an autodraft league, so he did not have the pressure of participating in a draft his first season. There are other places than that you can start your child in. Sports Illustrated for Kids has a fantasy game area. And rather than playing adults, kids play against other kids.

He had a lot of fun the first year, and demonstrated that he could keep up with his own team. He faithfully made roster changes and adjustments. So the next year, when a spot came open in a league that my brother is the commissioner of, we were comfortable with him joining the league. Nate was thrilled. He made up his own rankings. He had his own plan. He had listened to my husband and I discuss and debate players and was well informed. During his first draft, I sat next to him. I did not want to tell him how to draft, just to be a sounding board. He would whisper to me or point to a player on his sheet that he was considering drafting. And he did well. He drafted a better team than some of the men in the league.

He likes trading for the sake of trading. And I am a firm believer that trading should not be heavily commissioned because learning from bad trades is what makes one a better fantasy football player. But I once in a while had to help him negotiate trades; to be sure he was getting a fair deal. And to teach him what I have learned in my years of playing. That season, he made it into the playoffs.

His third season was similar to the second. He built on what he learned in his first two seasons, and did not require any help at all during the draft. He did not place as well that year, but did have a competitive team.

And now this year, he is going to be starting his own league with some friends. We are keeping the league's settings as simple as possible. Because this will be the first introduction to fantasy football for his friends. And we are setting it up as an autodraft league as well, so as not to overwhelm them at the start. What we have found is that it is important to have good communication with his friends, and their parents. Letting them know what exactly is involved. We are going to send out a letter before Nate sets up the league that will go over what we have already verbally shared. Telling them that it is a commitment and if it is going to fun and competitive for everyone, they will have to spend some time every week adjusting their lineups. And we are trying to be as choosy as possible about who is invited, we want it to be kids who will be responsible and are excited about it and who have the backing of their parents.

There are so many great things that kids can gain from playing fantasy football. A sense of responsibility. Reinforced math skills. Prediction skills and critical thinking skills. Reinforced reading skills. When the Footballguys magazine came out, Nate read it from cover to cover. And thoroughly enough to notice that one of the names of the teams in the Draft Dominator screen shots was the name of one my teams. And this year as a commissioner for a league of friends, he will gain some organizational and leadership skills.

And not only that, it is the sharing of a hobby that you love with your child. A shared interest that you play together. It gives you an opportunity to talk with your child, engage them in conversation about something you both love.

Pass it on!

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