Are Video Games Hurting your Youth Football Team?

Madden 12 Video Game XBOXLouisville football coach Charlie Strong, blames a key loss to Pittsburgh on one of the most popular video games, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3. He says in a article, “…we let the video game take control of us.”

Video games may not rot your brain but they can change the way you think, a new study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America reveals.

Last Spring I heard a fellow coach tell his team not to play video games on practice days or game days.  I had already limited my two sons XBOX play to 2 hours day and seen an improvement in their grades, social behavior, and focus.  Although I love video games and grew up playing them from the earliest 1976 Radio Shack pong to Angry Birds today, I believe that excessive video game play like anything else done to the extreme hurts our children.  I’ve seen the negative effects of addictive video game behavior in myself and my two sons.

Personally I liked the no video game team rule, because I stopped seriously playing video games several years ago, and I sleep much better now and feel more productive during the day.  So I started telling our players to limit their video game / computer time on game and practice days.  I immediately saw a change in my son on practice days.  He was more focused and wanted to go outside.  He was also ready for practice on time.  Once you institute the no video game rule, you will easily find the video gamers.  The video game junkies look like zombies at practice.  The first hint is their eyes.  Their eyes will be droopy and red.  They will look tired like they just took a nap.  They will also take more time to warm up and become involved with team activities.  Plus they will usually be late or forgot something.  They will also find it hard to focus more than 10 minutes during a team discussion.

I do think video games are rotting our brains.  And there is evidence to prove it!

Here is some raw data on playing video games….  Visit the links for full articles.

How much are our children playing video games? According to the Entertainment Software Association, 67 percent of U.S. households play video games.  Drs. Anderson and Gentile’s research also shows that children are spending increasing amounts of time playing computer/video games – 13 hours per week for boys, on average, and 5 hours per week for girls (Anderson, Gentile, & Buckley, under review; Gentile, Lynch, Linder, & Walsh, 2004).

In the past some studies have said video games had positive impacts and in some instances this is true.  But, “Despite the hype, in reality, there is little solid evidence that games enhance cognition at all,” said Dr. Walter Boot, assistant professor in Florida State University’s department of psychology from

In fact Denison University psychologist Robert Weis recently conducted a study on young boys aged 6-9.  The results showed that males who were granted frequent access to video games are slower learners in the areas of mathematics and reading. From

Another study conducted in 2007 states “The results suggest that television and computer game exposure affect children’s sleep and deteriorate verbal cognitive performance, which supports the hypothesis of the negative influence of media consumption on children’s sleep, learning, and memory.”

Edward L. Swing and his Iowa State colleagues said they weren’t sure why television and video-game exposure would have any effects, but suggested exploring “rapid scene changes.” Such “exciting” changes in sights and sounds may “harm children’s abilities to sustain focus on tasks that are not inherently attention-grabbing,”

Most recently the evidence points to effecting cognitive skills and actually effecting brainwaves.  Baroness Greenfield, the former director of the Royal Institution, said spending too much time staring at computer screens can cause physical changes in the brain that lead to attention and behaviour problems.  Technology that plays strongly on the senses – like video games – can literally “blow the mind” by temporarily or permanently deactivating certain nerve connections in the brain, the Baroness said. Another study by Japanese scientists ten years ago warned that because video games only stimulate the brain regions responsible for vision and movement, other parts of the mind responsible for behaviour, emotion and learning could become underdeveloped.

Let’s not forget, Many studies have shown that kids who spend more time watching television [23] and playing video games are at higher risk of becoming overweight.  One in three high school youth do not engage in vigorous physical activity.  Less than 30% attend daily gym class [24]. Sprawling development that discourages physical activity and makes walking and biking difficult or dangerous is also a factor [25].

Video games are turning our children into Addicts. Gentile analyzed data collected in a January 2007 Harris Poll survey. He compared respondents’ video game play habits to the symptoms established in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for pathological gambling. Gamers were classified as “pathological” if they exhibited at least six of 11 symptoms. The pathological gamers in the study played video games 24 hours per week, about twice as much as non-pathological gamers. They also were more likely to have video game systems in their bedrooms, reported having more trouble paying attention in school, received poorer grades in school, had more health problems, were more likely to feel “addicted,” and even stole to support their habit. The study also found that pathological gamers were twice as likely to have been diagnosed with attention problems such as Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The video games actually rewire the  brain. The researchers do not know whether gaming causes the brain to change, or whether people are born with this brain structure which makes them want to spend hours playing. But they say it is a crucial first step in understanding whether video games could be addictive. Read more:

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) repeatedly has recommended that children spend no more than two hours a day of watching television and or playing video games.  If you are like our family, limiting screen time is pretty tough to do in the media driven economy, especially with tablets and cell phones driving more screen time.  We limit XBOX to 2 hours a day and it must be shut off by 7pm.

I think the key for parents and coaches is to get our children outdoors more and away from the television, computer screens, cell phones, etc.  Otherwise we are wiring and morphing our children into fat little couch Zombies.

Coaches, if you want to see your practices improve like I saw last Fall, then set a team no video game use policy on game days and practice days.    You might even want to consider a video game curfew on the night before your games.  Don’t let video games take control of your team!

Coach Parker
Keller, TX / Ft Worth Texas / DFW


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  1. “I think the key for parents and coaches is to get our children outdoors more and away from the television, computer screens, cell phones, etc. ”

    I think that’s the most important takeaway. You want to encourage your kids to get up, get outside and be active. Let them learn how to keep themselves busy without outside media to distract them. That’s an important lesson to learn.

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