Ready… set… hike!
These three words launch my family into an exciting fantasy football competition each fall. This year, the National Football League kicks off its 100th season of action-packed play, while my family begins our seventh season of football fun.
As a young girl, I loved watching football and faithfully followed my favorite NFL team. Now, with two teenage sons and a 10 year-old daughter of my own, our shared passion for the game—mixed with a little friendly competition—strengthens family ties while instilling important character traits.
Fantasy football becomes a fun family affair with just a few tweaks. Follow these six points to start a football tradition that bonds your family and scores extra points for teaching responsibility, respect and teamwork.
Turn Football into a Fun Family Affair
1. Recruit family and friends.
You can start a league with as few as four people, but in order to have competitive match-ups each week, fantasy football works best with eight or more participants. Invite neighbors, friends, and even far-away family to join in the fun. In our league we play with cousins, aunts, and uncles on both sides of our family. It’s a great way to keep in touch and make lasting memories.
Fantasy football isn’t just for diehard fans, either. Someone who is just starting to take an interest in the pigskin pastime will learn more about football and quickly develop an appreciation for the game.
2. Kick off the fun on draft day.
Drafting teams can be done over the phone, online, or in person. Since choosing players can sometimes take a couple of hours, depending on how many people you have in your league, throwing a draft day party makes for a memorable kick-off to the season.
You’ll take turns choosing running backs, quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends, kickers, and a team’s defense. Each person’s roster can be entered into a free fantasy football website, such as Yahoo! Sports or CBS Sports.
Don’t worry if you’re a fantasy football rookie; these websites do most of the work for you. They automatically churn out the match-ups each week, keep score, and rank the teams. They even keep records of the standings from year to year.
In my family, drafting our teams has become a Labor Day tradition. We enjoy snacks and drinks gathered around the computer while our out-of-state relatives join us online and over the phone to complete our rosters. Some of us pick the highest-ranked NFL players, while others choose hometown favorites. Either way, excitement runs high as teams such as the Flame Throwers, Blazin’ Bears, and Purple Reign are formed.
3. Bond over game stats and bye weeks.
In fantasy football, everyone acts as general manager of his or her own team and decides which players to start or bench each week. Fantasy football teams rack up points based on the actual performance of the NFL players on game day.
Kids learn how to be responsible managers by quickly realizing they need to pay attention to their starting lineup. Accidentally starting a player who is injured or on a bye week (a week when their team isn’t playing) could mean the difference between winning and losing that week’s matchup.
My husband and sons intently study game stats, injury reports, and bye week schedules together. Watching my husband share this bond with our teens is a touchdown in itself.
4. Model fun, friendly trash talk.
Beyond bonding, tweens and teens learn how to respectfully talk smack on our league’s message board—a fun element of the league and a unique way of keeping in touch with relatives.
Kids enjoy leaving funny messages for their weekly opponents, while I like the teaching opportunity it presents. Helping children decipher what’s acceptable to post, and how to appropriately respond to messages, is important for kids growing up in a digital world.
5. Score a touchdown with teamwork.
Watching points add up for defensive plays such as interceptions, sacks, and turnovers emphasizes the importance of every football player on the team, not just the ones who score touchdowns. Many kids are surprised to learn the players who have scored the most points in NFL history aren’t the highly famed quarterbacks or running backs, but actually kickers.
Teamwork is important in many areas of life. Seeing it unfold on the football field drives that message home each week.
6. Celebrate with a season-ending prize.
Many grown-up fantasy football leagues incorporate gambling, but in our family-friendly approach, we eliminate wagering and instead play for fun and a coveted season-ending trophy. A trophy, and subsequent bragging rights, goes a long way in a lively family rivalry.
Our fantasy football tradition gives my family something to look forward to each week as we bond over spirals, sacks, tackles, and touchdowns, but it’s the lasting memories we’re making that score the most points in my book.