We at SportsSignup love connecting with sports moms, dads, coaches, athletes and organizations on Facebook and Twitter. We hit the trifecta with former NFL player and Super Bowl champion (with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) Roman Oben; athlete, sports dad and founder of the Oben Flag Football program. Roman has experienced sports from every possible angle and has some great advice for athletes and sports parents alike.
As a two sport college athlete, how do you feel about specialization in youth sports? What would you like to say to those that support specialization at a young age?
Besides the obvious dangers of repetitive usage injuries, specialization only benefits parents who want to coach their kids all year long, and youth sports companies & trainers who want to up-sell parents – it doesn’t benefit the kids in most cases. When parents started buying into the notion that you have to make the same “athletic investment” for kids as you do in other things (music lessons, academic tutoring, etc…), that’s when we all failed.
How did being a track and field athlete carry over onto the professional football field?
I still believe in track & field for teaching you how to run, be explosive & powerful (plyometrics) and wrestling for toughness & unilateral mobility.
What do you think makes someone a great athlete?
A great athlete has the best combination of speed, endurance, quickness, strength, and sometimes a rare size to do a lot of those things better than those smaller than him/her. Also a great athlete can just do some things physically that you can’t coach.
Some communities are considering (or already have) instituting a tackling ban in their U-14 youth football leagues as way to help prevent concussions. Do you think is a good idea?
I made a decision when my first son Roman, Jr. was born in 2001 that he doesn’t play tackle football until 7th grade. This was way before the concussion issues became prevalent. Youth tackle football isn’t the problem, but the leagues must belong to a national youth organization like USA Football where coaches and parents are educated properly. It’s really a community by community basis. There are a lot of states in the Southern & Midwestern regions where football takes precedence over every other youth sport. I think it’ll be hard to convince some of those folks!
Obviously you are quite the sports dad (not too many football parents have Super Bowl rings!), but how would you feel if your sons decided they no longer wanted to play sports?
I encourage my sons to play sports, not for a potential end result, but for the reasons you want to play: learning how to succeed, fail, be a part of a team, getting along well with others, etc… My boys play multiple sports so they don’t get burned out, but if they decided they no longer wanted to play, they would have had an enjoyable youth experience thus far.
What’s the number one thing you wish more sports parents would do?
Parents need to read more and become more educated in all matters related to youth sports so they & their kids can maximize their experiences. Too many parents play “follow the leader” and sometimes that leader takes them in the wrong direction
You took graduate courses in the off-season and ultimately earned a master’s degree. What is your advice for parents trying to help their kids manage school and sports?
You actually do better in school when you have more activities. You’re able to maximize that two hours you have after school. Teach your kids to be an athlete on the field, and a student in the classroom.
Why did you start the Oben Flag Football program?
I believed communities need to introduce their children to the game of football in a safe non-contact environment without the “sink or swim” effect of committing to a full season before they know if they’ll like it. And flag football is co-ed! Yay!