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A Young Boy's Treck into Fantasy Football (or, How Old Does My Son Have to Be to Play Fantasy Football?)
Tyler Van Prooyen and Tim Van Prooyen
August 18, 2008
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Hi, my name is Tyler Van Prooyen.  You might recognize my last name; my dad is Tim Van Prooyen, analyst for The Huddle.  He is the reason that I got started playing fantasy football four years ago. 

I’ve been watching football since I was a little kid, and I’d been watching my dad play fantasy football that whole time to, so when I was ten I told my dad I wanted to play fantasy football like he did.  He ran a league with a bunch of his friends so he signed me up for my own team.  He told me that he would help me where he could, but since he had a team in the league, and would be running the draft, he wouldn’t be able to help too much, so I had to prepare to pretty much draft on my own. 

The first ten rounds or so I pretty much drafted on my own, without much help from dad.  Then, about the tenth round I got bored, and my friends were out playing, so I asked my dad to finish my draft for me.  He wasn’t too happy about it, but he didn’t have much time to argue, in the middle of the draft and all.  Besides, I’d already drafted most of my starters, so I felt I did the most work.  That was the only year I didn’t draft all the way through by myself, as dad kind of laid down the law.  If I was going to play, I was going to draft my whole team.

I did pretty well the first year for a kid, finishing third overall out of twelve teams.  Dad helped me throughout the year with my waivers and rosters, but always gave me the final decision whenever choices had to be made.  I decided after the first year it was fun, mostly because I got to beat a lot of the grown up guys that were in dads’ league. 

The next year I finished in second place, losing in the fantasy bowl.  The friend of my dad’s that beat me talked a lot of smack.  The next year my little brother started playing and I beat him, so that was good for my ego.  I made it to the final again, but lost again…you’ll never guess who beat me.  Yup, the same guy who beat me the year before, and yes, he talked even more smack, fueling my first big rivalry.  (Outside of the obvious ones with my dad and my brother.) 

Last year I had a lot to play for.  I was a lot older and had a better understanding of things, and had already had quite a nice ‘career’.  I wanted to win though, as well as beat all my ‘rivals’.  I lost to my little brother in a blowout early in the year…not fun.  But, I did beat my dad finally, and took it to the guy who’d beaten me the previous years.  With that all taken care of, I got to face my brother in the playoffs with a chance to avenge the 114-67 butt whoopin he’d put on me in the regular season.  It wasn’t by as much, but I beat him for a third chance to play in the fantasy bowl.  This time I won, barely, by a score of 67-64, giving me my first fantasy championship at the ripe old age of 14.

You do have to study some, read magazines and stuff that you find online, and make smart moves on draft day especially.  Paying attention when the games are on helps a lot too when you’re making waiver wire picks and thinking about trades.  The old guys that are playing are paying attention usually, so you’ve got to be smart. 

I know I’ve had a good amount of luck to have been as successful as I have been, and yes, a little help from my dad, but I’ve grown to really love a game that I only liked when I started.  Playing fantasy football teaches you about the players and the NFL, making you a bigger fan.  It also gives you a good way to spend time with your dad during football season, and maybe even talk a little smack when you beat him.  Of course, don’t be surprised if he denies it later on to all his friends!

Now I’ll turn the rest of this article over to my dad, Tim for some advice for fellow dads out there.

Now, let me first say that ten is a bit young, probably, for most kids to start playing fantasy football.  When it is such a part of a kid’s life as it is with mine due to my almost year round fantasy analysis and writing, it makes bringing the youngsters in a bit younger more of an option.  

That being said, having my boys playing fantasy football with me has been rewarding and challenging all at the same time.  The challenging part is putting up with it when they out do me, which has happened a couple of times…and in Tyler’s case more than that.  I have two boys playing with me now, Tyler’s brother Taylor will start his third season this year, just prior to his thirteenth birthday.  He started out a bit rougher, but hit his stride last year and should give his brother a run for his money sooner rather than later. 

But, while it is challenging, it is rewarding as well.  Spending time with your sons doing something you love that allows for good, friendly competition, is a great way to spend a fall.  There are a few concerns some dads may have, however, that might be good to address here.  In no particular order, here are some thoughts that could help some guys out.

Q.  How much help will I have to provide throughout the season?

A.  Depends a lot on your son or daughter.  If they love the game and already know the players, the teams, who is good, who isn’t so good…that’s half the battle.  Buy them a good magazine (online subscriptions might be a better idea when over thirteen, but that’s something you could consider) for them to use for cheat sheets, research and notes, then guide them through a little bit the first year, but make them make their decisions alone…if it’s not going to ruin their year, let it go…make it their team, if it is catastrophic, tell them why and recommend a different direction.  During the season, assist in the use of the software if necessary, but tell them your recommendations and then let them decide what they want to do…it has to be their team! 

Q.  Should I pay for them to play?

A.  That depends on you and your child.  I would only play in leagues that require payment after the first year or two.  In most cases you likely are ‘throwing money away’ and we all know we don’t want to do that.  There are enough free leagues out there that it shouldn’t be a problem finding the right one.

Q.  What if mom doesn’t want them to play?

A.  Mister, don’t even think I want to touch that one…if you want to be happy, you know what to do…and that’s just the way it is.

Q.  The guys in the league are pretty brutal, both competition-wise and in language and such during the draft, what do I do?

A.  Well, the language part is tough…guys are who they are, but for the most part, guys will be respectful, at least from what I’ve seen, and do their best to limit the expletives without a fuss.  As far as competition…let it breed tough skin on your kid…not enough of that these days.

Q.  Will it interfere with school?

A.  It really shouldn’t, and if it does, don’t let it…school is way more important, but it could be used as a good way to teach your child about budgeting their time and prioritizing. 

So there you have just a few of the possible concerns a parent may have about starting their child in the world of fantasy football at a young age.  Bottom line, have fun with it…don’t take it personal and just enjoy it for what it is…a game. 

Now I’ve just got to figure out how to beat Tyler this year…

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