COLUMBIA — The boys and girls stood nervously in crooked lines under the goal posts, waiting for their chance. One by one, the young athletes took their turns showcasing their skills.
The NFL Punt, Pass & Kick competition of Columbia was held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Cosmopolitan Park football field No. 4. The free program originated in 1961 and allows children ages 6 to 15 to compete in specific age groups and display their football fundamentals.
"I think it's good for all these kids to get together to find some common ground that they all enjoy doing," Toma Crane said. Her two sons are veterans of this competition, both starting at age 6. According to USA Football, 3 million children ages 6 to 14 play organized tackle football, making it one of the most popular sports for children.
"I think it’s really fun to do," Koen Crane, 7, said.
His mother was initially apprehensive about letting her sons participate in the aggressive sport of football, but it was something they wanted to do so she couldn’t say no. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, football is one of the activities with the greatest number of concussions.
"Things happen, bumps and bruises, but they happen in any sport," Toma Crane said.
She and her husband, Kent, agreed that their children get the physical activity they both need while the sport also draws them together as a family. Koen placed first in the 6- to 7-year-old age group.
Also competing were brothers J’Ron, 9, and Miguel Browder, 8. Both are year-round athletes who participate in baseball, basketball and football.
"At first I didn’t like" the event, Miguel said, "but when I did the kick, I started liking it."
Their cousin Amaya Daniels, 9, was also competing. Although she was hesitant at first, she still gave her best effort.
Amaya said she felt "kinda nervous and kinda excited." Amaya placed first in the 8- to 9-year-old age group. Carmelita Wright entered her niece and sons in the contest because both she and her fiance, Ron Browder, participated when they were children.
"They're ready for next year," Wright said.
Supervising editor is Jake Kreinberg.