I don't think that participants do understand the risk. I think it's sad that the government had to get involved because coaches and parents seem far too willing to risk the health and safety of others.
I'm a huge football fan and both of my kids (boy and girl) played football until middle school. However, knowing the risks and knowing the sport, I had them play flag football.
I have plenty of friends and family involved in the sport and, on the strong advice of a friend who was also the head coach of a state championship team, there was no way I was letting play tackle at such youn ahead. Flag football still teaches the kids the theory and mechanics of the game.
There were a number of times when I was approached by adults involved in the Jr Bulldogs program trying to my son to play for them. I told them my reasons and was usually told that if he wanted to play when he was older he'd be competing against families who were involved and who had volunteered for years. I mentioned that I wasn't willing to risk my kid's health and safety and if they didn't choose him based on skill them so be it.
Football and brain injuries is a very real and very serious problem. This isn't just something that can be cloaked under "tradition."
If you haven't already watched "The League of Denial: the NFL's Concussion Crisis" I highly recommend you do.
For some reason we have begun to believe that we should expect our kids to train seriously at young ages and to focus on one sport in order to improve instead of having them play many sports, which allows their bodies and muscles to grow all over instead of stressing certain parts through repetitive movements.
We need to relax and take care of our kids' health first, our personal enjoyment second.
I respect the call you made in keeping your family safe.
Using Folsom as an example, I do think there are enough people on the practice field qualified to make the correct judgement call if a football practice or certain drills are deemed unsafe. The leagues the teams are participating in usually set strict standards for safety and practice (including practice time). The League officials, Coaches of all the teams and Board Members have always been liable for the athletes and could be sued at any time.
Going back to the game, being on a real football team is something special the children will always remember. Almost all of the athletes will remember the good and bad of the season and take the lessons and apply them to other activities in life. The discipline and preparation taught at the young age is priceless. The sport is also good for the athletes self esteem. That is one of the reasons it is important to preserve and protect the contact youth football avenue for families who choose to participate. Do believe age 9 to 10 is a good age to start. Some start at 7 to 8 which is OK because the ones that show up and make the team do very well. Plus, at the younger age groups it sometimes works out better to be on the small side because at the certain age quickness is important. When the kids get older you need to be big and quick.
The youth football season is short with the contact starting in August and the season concluding the last week of October. If the team is fortunate to make a playoff run, it would be all over by the second week of November. The season is not long at all and limited to one season of the year.