Learning Executive Functioning Skills
My husband has been in a family Fantasy Football league for several years. In recent years, he allowed our younger son (who loves football!) to help him make decisions on players and stuff. But, this year, our cousin who runs the league expanded it by two teams, so Brian now has his own team. Since they had to add 2 teams (needs to be an even number) I took the other new team.
So, needless to say, with three of us with our own teams, there’s a lot of football talk in our house. This is my first time playing with my own team. And can I just say? Wow! Sure, the NFL if a hobby or pastime, but there is a lot of educational value in Fantasy Football. I never realized it!
I love it when our kids get the opportunity to practice or learn a skill in a low-risk environment. And I’d say a Fantasy Football league is low risk. You can just gather up some friends and families, and most of the websites are free. Even if you’re a parent who knows nothing about the NFL, you can still play. The website will tell you how many players you have to pick for each position and so on.
There are even some social skills to be learned. Such as winning and losing. Fantasy football is based on how well each individual player does, not a team. Even the person who picks the most random players is going to pick some good ones and get points each week.
But guiding your child through Fantasy Football can also be a way to teach or practice their executive functioning skills. Here are 8 main executive functioning skills and how you can practice them using Fantasy Football.
Executive Function Skills taught via Fantasy Football
Emotional Control: It’s not going to be possible to pick all the players from only teams that you love or are emotionally attached to. You’re going to have to pick players that you may not like, and overcome that. I know this, I have Gronk on my team, ick. But if you do not look past your emotions, and only pick players that you like, you’ll never get enough points. In fact, diehard football fans tend not to do as well with their FF teams because they are too emotionally attached to their players. You’ll also win and lose every week.
Flexible Thinking: Again, you’re going to have to pick players that you don’t like, as they may be ranking higher than your favorites. The best player option you have that week might be someone from a rival team or city. It also seems silly at first to put two rival players on the same team, but that’s how it goes.
Impulse control: Throughout the season, you can add, delete and trade players. However, once play has started for that player, you cannot move them that week. Also, some bidding and trades takes place overnight. You have to learn patience. Last Saturday I put in a bid on a player that did not come through until after Monday night football was over. These are league rules to make it fair for everyone, but it can protect you from making impulsive decisions.
Organization: Managing a football team is a big job, even if it’s just pretend. You have to look at overall predictions, injury reports and select your best options every week.
Planning and Prioritizing: Same as above. Every week you want to play your players that will bring you the most points. That takes planning, especially since play one week can result in injuries that affect your entire team.
Self-Monitoring: I struggle with impulse control myself. And I’m a FF newbie. I made one rash decision and added a player from waivers, and it was a move that could be done instantly. I regretted it, as that player was on the injured list and I was stuck with him. My husband is constantly telling our 11-year-old, “Don’t make your decisions based on one game, everyone has a bad game. Plan for the entire season.”
Task Initiation: If you don’t stay on top of your team, you’ll lose. I get it, people get busy. But if a team has a bye week and you played them–you’ll get 0 points for them. If someone moved to the injured list and you didn’t bench them, you’ll get 0 points. Managing a successful team takes monitoring and task initiation.
Working Memory: I swear I’m not making this up, but FF is improving my problem solving and working memory skills. I know very little about professional football, believe me. I root for the home team (Go Birds!) and that’s about it. But, I want to do well at this. It would be fun to beat my husband too. So while it’s fun, doing these tasks and exercises is working my brain in ways it hasn’t been worked. Much like doing a word puzzle or sudoku, it’s good for you.
You really don’t have to be an NFL expert to play Fantasy Football. And you can learn and practice valuable Executive Functioning Skills. Set up a league, for free, today and start playing!