When should kids attend their first game at Sanford Stadium?

Finn Conner, 2, gives UGA head coach Mark Richt a high five as his dad Wes looks on during last year's Picture Day. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Finn Conner, 2, gives UGA head coach Mark Richt a high five as his dad Wes looks on during last year's Picture Day. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

I recently got a letter from UGA fan Barry Cochran raising the question of what’s the right age for kids to attend their first football game at Sanford Stadium.

Cochran writes: Bill, I have a son and daughter, both of whom are preschool (3 and 5 years old), and I’m looking forward to the day when both of them can accompany me to Athens for a glorious day Between the Hedges. I didn’t attend my first UGA game with my Dad until I was about 10, but my son will be 6 midway through this season and I’m wondering whether that would be too early to take him. Maybe for the Appalachian State game on Nov. 9? What do you think?

I know there are mixed views on this. When I recently posted on the Blawg’s Facebook page asking what would make a day at Sanford Stadium even better, my brother Jon commented: “Leaving kids under the age of 10 at home!”

And for certain games and circumstances, I’d agree. Those early-season games when it’s oppressively hot and humid are no fun for young children, and their inattentiveness and the need of their parents to constantly get up and disturb the folks around them by taking their children to the restroom or concession stand can be quite an irritation.

On the other hand, some kids are fully ready to watch an entire Georgia football game at age 6. My son Bill was one of them.

I think your idea of initiating your son to the joys of a football Saturday in Athens with a late-season low-pressure game (when Dad won’t be worried about the outcome) is an excellent idea, assuming that you’re pretty sure your boy would really enjoy spending three-plus hours at a game. If you’re not sure of that, I’d maybe wait a season or two.

And when you do take your son and daughter to their first game, be prepared for possibly having to leave early, just in case they tire of the whole experience by halftime.

The Dawg Walk is a great way to introduce kids to the fan spirit and excitement of a UGA football game. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

The Dawg Walk is a great way to introduce kids to the fan spirit and excitement of a UGA football game. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

A sort of interim move might be taking your kids to the next G-Day game, just to test out how well they do. Or taking them to Picture Day in August or during the season to the Dawg Walk, which I’m sure they’d get a kick out of, before actually having them attend a game.

Four years ago, I ran a poll alongside a Blawg on attending your first game at Sanford Stadium and the results were pretty well spread out, with 26 percent saying their first game was between the ages of 6 and 12, 26 percent saying they were college age, 25 percent saying they were between the ages of 13 and 18, and 14 percent saying they were under the age of 6.

Hopefully, when your son and daughter do attend their first game Between the Hedges, it’ll make for fond memories, like those that I shared in that first Blawg on the subject four years ago. Here they are …

My brothers used to tease me about the way I could remember details of our childhood in Athens. “What grade were you in? Who was your teacher?” they’d jokingly ask when I’d mention something from when we were growing up. And I could usually tell them.

But while I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of the Georgia Bulldogs, for some reason I’m not exactly sure when I attended my first game at Sanford Stadium.

In contrast to the fuzzy memories I have of my first game, my son recalls exactly when he and his sister first got to go with me to see the Dogs play. For young Bill, it was the 1991 game against Cal State Fullerton, when he was 6 years old, and for Olivia it was the Louisiana-Monroe game in 2005, when she was 11. Their mom is pretty sure she didn’t attend a game until she was a UGA freshman.

I have the vaguest recollection of being taken to a game when I was very young, but I don’t know when it might have been. The sounds of the band are about all I recall.

Larry Rakestraw was the starter at the first Georgia football game your Junkyard Blawger knows for sure he attended. (University of Georgia)

Larry Rakestraw was the starter at the first Georgia football game your Junkyard Blawger knows for sure he attended. (University of Georgia)

I don’t think I got to go to a game while Athens’ own Fran Tarkenton was the quarterback, but I’m not sure. The first one I can really remember was in 1963 when Larry Rakestraw was the senior starter at quarterback. I had just turned 11. I seem to recall sophomore backup Preston Ridlehuber getting to play some late in the game. I think it most likely was the game against Vandy, a 20-0 Bulldog win. This was before the stadium was double-decked and I remember we sat in the North stands and that the silver helmets that the Bulldogs wore glinted in the afternoon sun.

I went to a few games, not all, in 1964, Vince Dooley’s first year, and then started a 15-year run of not missing a home game with the 1965 opener against Alabama, the famed flea-flicker game. I think my middle brother Jon, who was 8 then, was with me and Dad at that game, but he doesn’t remember. The first game he recalls was later that season when he went with some boys from his Cub Scouts den and sat behind the end zone with the Y boys who used to play before the games.

My friend Dan also saw his first game when he was 11. He recalls: “We got faculty season tickets ($5 for a child). Good for all UGA home games, all sports.  It was the year the Coliseum opened because I remember going to the inaugural game there versus Tech. (Georgia won under Red Lawson — playing only five players the whole game.) As for the football game, I think it was Vandy. I do remember Larry Rakestraw was the QB and Johnny Griffith was the head coach. The stadium seated 40,000 and the male students wore ties and the co-eds wore dresses.”

Another friend, Keith, who was a year younger than me, says he remembers more about his first game than the ones he attended in the 1980s and ’90s. It was 1962 against Florida State. “Georgia lost 18-0, probably the only 18-0 game I’ve ever seen. My 9th birthday was about a week later and going to the game was my birthday present. I remember … I got a pennant, the small one, and a button with a bulldog on it with a ribbon and little gold plastic football.”

Rusty, a classmate of mine at David C. Barrow Elementary School near the UGA campus, can’t recall exactly when he attended his first game but he knows he was very young. “My family had season tickets ‘inherited’ from my grandfather, who was a local businessman and one of numerous guarantors of the loan to build the stadium.”

His first distinct memory of a Georgia game “was the Alabama game where we beat them on the flea-flicker from Kirby Moore to Pat Hodgson to Bob Taylor in 1965.”

Rusty was one of the kids selling programs (which I started doing the following year) and remembers sitting with friends on top of one of the concession stands on the South side (again, before the upper deck was added) to watch the game. “I didn’t see Taylor until he was in the end zone and the crowd went crazy. We all said ‘What just happened?!’ And, of course, we didn’t know because there was no Jumbotron. All we knew was we were suddenly going for 2 … and the rest is history.”

Johnny, a classmate of mine at old Athens High, recalls, “It was always a treat to attend any game at UGA when a kid.” He thinks he attended a couple of games in 1964, but he doesn’t remember which ones. The game that did stick in his memory, again, was the 1965 opener against Alabama and the flea-flicker. “Most Bama fans still swear that Hodgson’s knees were on the ground before he pitched the ball to Taylor. What I remembered about Kirby Moore was that he would hide the ball on his hip before he would pass.”

Johnny was also among the hundreds of Athenians who turned out at Ben Epps Field a couple of weeks later when Dooley’s Dogs returned from Ann Arbor, “after beating mighty Michigan up there. Now that was sweet.”

And unforgettable.

Feel free to share memories of your first UGA game and your thoughts on what’s the proper age for kids at Sanford Stadium.

Got something you want to discuss concerning the upcoming football season or UGA athletics? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at  junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

89 comments Add your comment

Ross

June 29th, 2013
10:00 am

I think it depends on the child. Some handle crowds and a lot of noise better than others. Expose them to things like that early enough and by 5 they could well be ready. However, that said, perhaps the best time to do it would be G day. Early exposure to a smaller crowd.

Bulldawg35

June 29th, 2013
10:11 am

When we have enough players in the secondary to field a team!!! Parris nonstick is injured fron then year…aswww hurt his little toe….also Richt is a coward…couldn’t even spike the ball geez

TheBuckeye

June 29th, 2013
10:11 am

I would never take my son to a dog game, no matter his age.

Marti Lee

June 29th, 2013
10:51 am

A great column on family tradition and the deep love and loyalty to our team, but the trolls just couldn’t resist…. Get a life, guys.

I.Crowell

June 29th, 2013
10:53 am

At what age should I take my child to an R rated movie?

“I don’t want to start a process where we’re going around arresting people,” Adams said during the monthly Cabinet meeting and media briefing Thursday. “But there was urination, there was defecation, there were 70 tons of trash.”

http://www.redandblack.com/news/under-arrest-adams-addresses-tons-of-tailgate-trash/article_e4a4add2-5a21-5c99-a56b-27365a45ceec.html

Rob

June 29th, 2013
12:06 pm

I am a 17 year old Georgia fan that has been going to games since I was 2 years old. My father says that I was always watching the field, but not always the game at this age. He said that I started watching the game and being attentive when I was 4 years old. This makes since to me because the first thing I remember about Georgia football is Quincy Carter. This would have been in 99 when I was 4. I think that you have to know how your children respond to crowds before definitively deciding whether they are ready for their first game. There is a lot to see at UGA games other than football (UGA, The Band, Cheerleaders, Video Board) so I think that younger children can definitely be ready to go much sooner than some people believe.

My-Guy

June 29th, 2013
1:05 pm

My first game at Sanford Stadium from I remember was Georgia vs. LSU 1999 when I was a young kid with my dad, aaaahhh the memories!

dawgfan

June 29th, 2013
1:09 pm

1996 Tennessee game. Peyton Manning threw for 3,000 yards and Tennessee won 556-3. It was typical Jim Donnan football.

Jtsdawg

June 29th, 2013
3:52 pm

I have four young children that do pretty well during the games except when it is very hot. The disappointing thing for our family on game day is the lack of family friendly tailgating areas. The ones we have found are small and surrounded by non-family friendly drinking, language, and behavior. The University can do better.

Bulldawg35

June 29th, 2013
4:07 pm

A bunch of weak people that can’t take hot weather!!! What’s more disgusting is Richts coaching and our play on the field is what I can’t take….
SPIKE THE BALL!!!!!
SPIKE IT!!!!

Bulldawg35

June 29th, 2013
4:12 pm

Martin lee,

The only troll on here is you….take off those rosé coloured glasses and realize that Clemson is going to hang 40 on us!!!! Have u seen the lack of depth in the secondary?????????? Connor Norman come on down! Lol! Richt should og spiked the damn arse ball!!! Damn him to Iraqi!!!

Ckgator

June 29th, 2013
4:47 pm

When? As soon as they start losing teeth. They’ll fit right in with the general population.

:-D

>”—,,—,,—–/

P-Man

June 29th, 2013
5:06 pm

My first game was the first one I played in as a member of the Redcoat Band… Labor Day night 1982 vs. Clemson. Truly a great season. My kids have been various ages. I think my oldest was 2 1/2 for his first game, the other kids a little older. My youngest son did get to be the tee retriever for the Kentucky game in 2011, and I think that was his first game.

Bulldawg35

June 29th, 2013
5:17 pm

Richt keep calm and spike it!!!!!

lucky dawg

June 29th, 2013
6:45 pm

Some of you need to get a life – that’s you Bulldawg35 and naysayers,
So when is the best time to take your son to a UGA game,
Its when he is out on the field playing between the hedges.
It is a feeling like no other.
I have that honor. See you at the games, and I’ll have a smile on my face.

Bulldawg35

June 29th, 2013
6:57 pm

When your kids are able to tell what mediocrity looks like!!!

Bulldawg35

June 29th, 2013
7:01 pm

Richt….why didn’t u spike the ball Richt

Why Richt why?????????????????????????

NCDawg

June 29th, 2013
7:07 pm

I’d say the first game should be G-day as soon as they REALLY show interest in the game. If they play youth football (even as young as 6) then they will enjoy the experience more than a child that hasn’t developed a personal interest in football.
The sight and sounds of a game in the fall will be exciting but also scary and very tiring if they don’t have any interest other than going somewhere with Mom and Dad and getting treats. They will remember it forever if they are engaged in the action.

NCDawg

June 29th, 2013
7:15 pm

Bulldawg35 – did you forget your meds today? Take a chill.

Strange Murphsy

June 29th, 2013
9:03 pm

Bulldawg35 is St. Simons

Dog4Life

June 29th, 2013
9:42 pm

I was a teenager but the first live game I attended was the Sugar Bowl against Pittsburg. Being from Savannah, we wanted to see the Kelly boys from Benedictine win a national championship–alas that didn’t happen. After that, I attended several Ga/Fl games–I still have the ticket stub from the 1985 24-3 thumping of Emmett Smith and his Number 1 for one week gators. I graduated in 1987 and have attended many as a student (UGA ‘87 and 92) and as an alum.

Flo- Ri - Duh

June 29th, 2013
10:12 pm

Buckeye – just shut up!

tneck

June 29th, 2013
10:46 pm

I took mine while they were in diapers and they were well behaved. I hated changing diapers though. They have that memory today. They remember the atmosphere not the actual game. I like seeing little kids in their jerseys and little cheerleader outfits.

SickandTired

June 29th, 2013
11:43 pm

A child should be at least 15 years old before he attends a game in Sanford Stadium. From the coeds throwing up and passing out to the older generation being drunk before they get there and start cursing at the first missed tackle or dropped pass. The vulgar language is rampant at Dawg games. Plus, younger kids cannot process people cursing and fighting in the stands when they are cursing and fighting each other over the Georgia players ineptitude. Keep the kids away, they generally can’t hear the cursing on tv unless there is an open mic around the Georgia bench and the head coach is admiring his moral programs coaches dropping the F bomb. Sanford Stadium. Not child friendly.
Georgia: the Wisconsin of the SEC

Buzz-off

June 30th, 2013
6:53 am

BullDawg 35
He didn’t spike it because the receiver was open, Bama was on their heels and couldn’t substitute and it would have wasted 25% of our remaining plays with 16 seconds on the clock. Does that help? Damn I had second guessers and obnoxious ignorant idiots. Would the doubters be saying “spike it ” if Murray hit the receiver for a TD? This is not like GT spiking it on 4th down!!! Give it a break and I totally agree with attacking while the enemy is running. Attack, attack, attack…..oh yea, and go DAWGS!!!

Buzz-off

June 30th, 2013
7:06 am

Bill,
Great article and brings back wonderful memories. You and I are the same age and attended UGa during the same years. I grew up in Atlanta and my football memories go back to the 50’s when my father would take me to the Scottish Rite Hospital GA-GT freshman game on Thanksgiving Day. Wow….what great memories!!! As you probably remember they were always at Grant Field, huge crowds and the bands from both schools would perform…..just like the varsity games. The fans were crazy and the “clean old fashion hate” was apparent even though it was only the freshmen playing. My only regret is I had been brain washed by my father to pull for the Jackets. Fortunately, I had an exorcism in the early 60’s that cleansed my body of the Techie demons!!!! Go DAWGS!!!

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

June 30th, 2013
8:27 am

Flo-ri-duh

why are you concerned about Bucky-eye

havent you realized yet that the Big 10 is the biggest joke conference in college football, the Big 10 is basically the MAC always has been

dawgmatt

June 30th, 2013
9:01 am

I took my son to the south Carolina game when he was around 6.todd ellis was sc qb and we lost that day.my first game I think was like 1962,i thunk it was against vandy.i’ll always remember my dad and I always went to the ga-ga tech freshman games.i still have the programs from those games.

NCDawg

June 30th, 2013
9:24 am

Buzz -off – you’re wasting your time trying to yet again explain why spiking the ball WAS NOT the right call at that time. All they can see is that it didn’t work and thus Coach Richt made a bad call. Most of these people are only going by Gary Danielson’s critique anyway. If the ball hadn’t landed in Conley’s hands there would have still been time for another play. I bet there would have been grumbling even if we had completed the pass. And gone on and won the BCS CG. Some people are never pleased with anything… they have ti complain no matter what.

Try local

June 30th, 2013
9:31 am

Why not try a high school game with your kid? See how they make it through that, see if he or she likes watching it on tv with you. My 8 year old did fine last year in 100 degree heat. The walk back to the car – that’s a different story…

1-4-GT

June 30th, 2013
9:46 am

Can’t resist!!!!!!!!!!!

NEVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bulldawg35

June 30th, 2013
10:44 am

Sick and tired…..I agree with you brotha!!! The vulgar language coming out of folks these days is terrible! UGA loses to Clemson by 10
UGA loses to SC by 17
UGA loses to Fla by 3
UGA loses to Lsu by 13
UGA gets upset by Tennessee by 7
UGA sqeuks by auburn by 3
UGA sqeuks by vandy by 2
UGA gets by tech by 7
I hope this year will hand Richt no spike his walking papers!!!!!!!

Bulldawg35

June 30th, 2013
10:54 am

The ice dawgs will have more win than the football team will. When is Richt going to announce the suspension of Austin long????

Moist Dawg

June 30th, 2013
11:52 am

UGA should encourage more kids. the younger the better, get them to be fans before they get fooled into rooting for loosers like tech and south carolina.
they could even make alot of money having weddings there and even letting parents give birth on the 50 yard line.

mark

June 30th, 2013
1:43 pm

His knee was on the ground, but that wasn’t the call.. Bama fans still don’t know the rules..Ref ruled he never had possession, watch the film and you will see he never pulled it in and and almost dropped the lateral. In other words, had he dropped it , it would have been an incomplete pass, not a fumble. The call was dead on correct. It was a glorious day in my 11 yr old eyes….Our Bama friends still cant figure it out…GO DAWGS.

DawginNY

June 30th, 2013
2:11 pm

For very small children, it has to be when temperatures are relatively mild. I took my 11-month old to the Citrus Bowl last year and he was okay once we moved over to the shady Nebraska side. He is mobile this year and I would be more worried about my enjoyment having to watch him or old him the whole time. I think that I will know he is ready when he can watch most of a game on TV with me. I went to my first game as a gift for my 8th birthday, vs. Ole Miss in 1984. I was definitely ready before then.

Woodstock Dawg

June 30th, 2013
2:46 pm

Bill,

Great Topic….My dad took me to my first game when I was 7 seven years old. I am 39 years old and been going to the games for 32 years. Rule #1 make sure they can see the game without obstructing the view of the person behind them. The game is no fun if you can’t see. Rule #2 Make sure they can go to the bathroom by themselves. I don’t mean unattended. Having to do the heavy lifting for a child in the SS Bathroom is no fun. Please gauge your child by these two simple rules, and GO Dawgs.

Bulldawg35

June 30th, 2013
2:56 pm

Give birth at the 50 yard line….haaaaahaaaa!!! Lol…lol..

Bulldawg35

June 30th, 2013
3:25 pm

This blog is all about history!! It’s a shame this is all we have….now everybody go worship your posters of Herschel walker…..geez

Bulldawg35

June 30th, 2013
3:27 pm

Long live 1980…. The first and last mnc we will ever have….geez pathetic

Bulldawg35

June 30th, 2013
3:32 pm

You hear that ladies??? Go have birth at the 50…much better than a hospital……..hahahaha!!!! Lololol

Bulldawg35

June 30th, 2013
3:33 pm

Terrible topic bill….a better one would of been about our chances of winning the mnc!!! Slim to none! Lol

Bulldawg35

June 30th, 2013
3:36 pm

Btw Mitchell was not open…he was smothered by a db blanket…oline actually let us down on that play! That non spike play will haught us forever

"Haught us forever"...

June 30th, 2013
4:37 pm

…it appears Bulldawg 35 and The Buckeye are joined at the lip…

Jon Pelham

June 30th, 2013
4:38 pm

Depends, if he is already athletic and runs a sub 5.0 40 then take him immediately. However if he is looking for a REAL education take him to Duke, Vanderbilt or some other school as uga is nothing but an sec football factory with the exception being Vandy.

NCDawg

June 30th, 2013
4:54 pm

I see you skipped your meds again Bulldawg35… according to you there is no reason to watch any game ever again so why do you come here and post, frankly, useless crap? Go apply for the head coach position if you think you can do a better job. Otherwise put a sock in it… What a waste of blog space…

NCDawg

June 30th, 2013
4:59 pm

Jon Pelham… join the complete useless, moronic, generalization club with Princess Leia. The quality of education received at ANY school is up to the student. I hope I made that plain and quite simple because you seem to need to be spoonfed.

hit a single

June 30th, 2013
5:57 pm

There is no certain age. You take your kid when you want to. Heck with some of the drunks and disrespectful teenagers a young child is the least of my worries.

Dog4Life

June 30th, 2013
6:31 pm

Mark, unfortunately, at that time, if one’s knee touched the ground then that player was considered down and the play is dead, and the catch was not considered a catch. It was not until later that a receiver could catch a pass while on his knees and it be considered a catch; he could not advance the ball. If I am wrong I apologize, but i think during the famous flee/flicker incident that was the prevailing rule.

Buzz-off

June 30th, 2013
7:06 pm

The ball was leaving his hands as his knee touched the ground. Legal lateral, TD Georgia!!!