Players on the Nashville Cardinals peewee football team. Billionaire Boys Club. September 2016. From the project Nashville Cardinals.
Each evening on my drive home in Nashville, I would pass a field dotted with tiny figures in plastic armor, smashing into each other again and again. It was a Pee Wee football practice, the players five and six years old. As a Southerner, I understand that football is a rite of passage taken very seriously, but the daily sight of kindergartners wearing oversized helmets and shoulder pads was curious and complicated.
This photo essay looks at just one of the thousands of Pee-Wee football teams across America. I explore the tension between sweet, post toddler innocence and checks for concussions; between what it means to be a child and expectations for ‘what it means to be a Man.’ I try to understand how the dynamics between parents, coaches, and kids work to groom the next generation of professional athletes; how expectations of success and repeated physical contact impact kids early in their lives; how the industry of football establishes social norms of not only teamwork, discipline, and community, but also race, class, and gender for American Youth.