The style of the youth football coaches on Friday Night Tykes is definitely getting everyone talking. In this preview clip (start at 3:10), for example, an 8-year-old is told to “blow some chunks” during practice on a 99 degree day. Now obviously this is a “reality” TV show and over-the-top personalities are typically great for ratings, so more extreme coaches and parents are bound to get plenty of screen time. We’d hope that not every coach in this competitive youth football league is quite that aggressive, but you can’t deny that these football coaches exist, and coaches like them are in every other youth sport. These are the coaches the value winning above else, including player safety, and have adopted the tear-them-down-to-build-them-up approach to coaching their teams. The question then becomes–why do parents let their kids play for these coaches?
Dave Holt, a baseball coach, made a really interesting point.
You have to wonder what parents are thinking letting their kids play for coaches like this. I have to wonder if they basically approve of it and think that is the way coaches are supposed to coach. I dont [sic] think they realize that there are other approaches to coaching.
Dale Pyles, a coach at Gladden Community House, pointed out in the same LinkedIn discussion that “Alot [sic] of parents want to have their kids succeed so bad, that they stop seeing the abuse.”
Obviously every coach has their own coaching style, and not every parent is going to agree with their son’s or daughter’s coach and their approach every step of the way, but this over-the-top aggressive style of coaching gets so many people riled up and talking, yet it’s not as if these coaches are shuttled out of the league inside of a few seasons. Look at coaches like Bobby Knight–they make a life-long career out of their tempers. Is it because they win that we as parents and administrators are willing to overlook their approach? After all, Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice was fired after videos of him screaming and swearing at, pushing, grabbing, and throwing basketballs at his players surfaced. But he didn’t have the same record and dynasty behind him like Knight, who prospered for decades as a NCAA coach. Does winning excuse all kinds of behavior because it works? And do young coaches think that kind of coaching is what produces a winning team?
Or do some parents feel like if they want their children to really excel in sports, especially the highly competitive world of youth football in Texas, they believe these coaches are just part of the deal? Have we as sports parents convinced ourselves that the only way to the top is to take a more extreme approach to sports? Plenty of parents are signing their young children up for intense sports camps, hiring one-on-one trainers and coaches, registering for high-powered travel teams and more. Are overly aggressive coaches just part of the process then if you want your child to earn college scholarships or “go pro?”