January 26, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013
Friday Night Tykes is a realistic if not hyper-kinetic look inside the frequently brutal world of Texas Youth Football. It premiered recently on Esquire television. This in- your-face reality show has a lot of what you’d expect. Hard-hits, high emotion, sweat, tears, a little bit of blood and a Texas-sized share of “motivational” coaching. Although, depending on what you consider to be motivational and coaching, it might just border on being verbal and physical abuse.
I’ll let you decide.
One of the league’s coaches who has been featured prominently in the first two episodes, Charles Chavarria, coaches up the Junior Broncos. He’s an adult. His football players are not. They are tykes, kids between the ages of 7-9.
Coach “C” prepared his players with the following inspirational talk before sending them out on the field. “You have the opportunity today to rip their freakin’ heads off and let them bleed.” Sensing he had the full attention of his pint-sized players, the Coach went on to make the following somewhat baffling but at-full-volume point, “”If I cut ’em with a knife, they’re going to bleed red, just like you!”
And then he capped it off with one more coaching maxim that no doubt would make legendary Coach John Wooden wince, “There should be no reason why ya’ll don’t make other teams cry! I could care less if they cry!”
You tell ’em coach. There’s no crying in football, certainly not at age 7, 8 or the ripe old age of 9.
We’ve also been treated to exhortations from coaches and parents to “go for the kill,” to identify where the other player is hurt and “finish him off” and nearly had fisticuffs between parents and coaches over concerns like playing time and play calling.
And this is about the point where I took a breath and realized that the growing epidemic of adult violence in youth sports it’s not all Friday Night Tykes fault. In fact, if you have ever been to ANY youth sporting event lately, boys or girls, in ANY part of this country, verbal and even physical bullying, abuse and intimidation seems to be as much a part of the experience as the coin toss, national anthem or seventh inning stretch. And nearly all of this abuse, this rage, this “thirst” for violence and victory at all costs is happening off the field. And it’s coming from adults, parents and coaches who should know better.
In Canton, Texas, a 45 year-old father who was barred from attending his son’s future high school football games because he had shoved and cursed at other participants at past games, shot and killed the head coach. He later claimed he just couldn’t take what the coach was doing to his son’s promising football career.
In Athens, Alabama, a fight broke out between parents watching Little League baseball. Apparently, one parent took exception to what he saw as ‘heckling.” The result was a near fatal stabbing of the “heckler” who needed over 100 stitches to his face and back.
In Hamden, Connecticut, 47 year old Mark Picard, enraged that his daughter was benched for missing a softball game to attend her prom, struck Sacred Academy’s head coach 6 times to the back of the head with an aluminum bat. The coach nearly died. Mr. Picard apparently was concerned that his daughter Melanie’s sports scholarship was at risk.
In Florida, upset over what she saw as an unfair line-up change, a furious mother of a swim team relay member tried to choke the coach while hitting his head against the diving board. Her daughter was 7.
And recently, a father upset that his 8 year old son was benched for missing too many practices attacked the head hockey coach and choked him. He too, saw future pro glory for his son and blamed the coach for killing that dream.
Geez, talk about parents who need more than just a time-out.
The numbers are no less alarming. 75% surveyed have witnessed at least verbal abuse in youth sports while 35% have seen or been the victim of physical altercation and violence. And 25% now have second thoughts about even allowing their youngster to play any organized sport because of growing concerns over verbal and physical abuse and violence.
And in responding to what the New York Times has called a growing epidemic of parental violence in youth sports, the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) claims that over 75% of its trained officials who quit cite “poor sportsmanship and abuse by parents” as the number one factor. It’s also why NASO claims that we have a shortage of trained referees at many of our sporting events at a time when we need more not les supervision. On and off the field.
Currently, 22 states have passed legislation making it a criminal act to verbally or physically assault a referee. That’s a start. Now 28 more need to do the same.
But mostly, we, the supposed adults in this life equation need to start acting like grown-ups. Whether we are perched in the stands as spectators or prowling the sideline as coaches we need to remember, kids watch every move we make, hear everything we say and then go out and copy us.
And to grown adults who claim highly competitive athletic scholarships or dreams at becoming a pro or just plain everyday stress as justification for their impossibly immature and violent behavior, I’d remind them of what John Wooden, a legendary coach and undeniable adult once said,
“Never make excuses. Your friends don’t need them and your foes won’t believe them.”
He also often told players, fellow coaches and parents the following;
“What you are as a person is far more important than what you are or ever will be as a player. Be the kind of person worth admiring and emulating.”
To parents and coaches in youth sports, “Are you being the kind of person, coach, parent, the type of adult, worthy of admiration and respect from kids?”
Maybe it’s time we all started acting like the type of adults we’d want our kids to one day become. On and off the field.
Because at our age we’re not supposed to still need time-outs.