Like most team sports, the window to compete at a high-level in MMA is limited. Unlike football, baseball, basketball, and others, the opportunity for most youngsters interested in mixed martial arts to dip their toes into the competitive waters doesn’t happen until they reach adulthood.
Of course, many children participate in singular martial arts—Karate, Jiu-Jitsu, Taekwondo, and Wrestling—but if their interest is in blending all the combative practices together, the opportunity for actual competition isn’t very viable. On the other hand, it’s nearly impossible to drive by a local park on the weekends and not see kids creating a rainbow of teams’ colors on the fields.
Sure, kids can train and develop their skillsets in a gym, but the process of assessing their abilities opposite a non-teammate remains absent.
The United States Fight League (USFL) is an organization that regulates youth Pankration, a much milder form of MMA and grappling. Although the USFL makes appearances across the country, locations are far and few between. Children who participate have dedicated parents, driving them hours on end for several minutes in a cage.
Before anyone decides to call Child Protective Services on parents who register their kids into USFL, it’s important to understand: competitors are required to wear extensive safety gear—headgear, a chest protector, a mouth guard, shin guards, and gloves with added cushion; there are no strikes permitted above the neck; and the rules prevent excessive punishment in any one position.
In addition to a set of protocols that push safety ahead of all else, the referees don’t hesitate to pause, or even halt, action during moments a kid could be compromised.
Since the families are so invested in events, the environment, regardless of who is locked inside the cage or the outcome, stays positive; whereas, there have been quite a few instances where the adults at a team sporting event have been known to push their job as role model aside, clearing the benches and attacking one another.
The sport of MMA itself has a rather youthful glow; therefore, as it continues to grow, the potential for organizations like the USFL could follow suit.
Prompted from the A to Z Challenge at: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/.