Friday Night Tykes shows scary outcomes of untrained coaches
It’s quite simple: a well-trained coach leads to successful, healthy and confident players, while a poorly trained coach results in a team that does not reach its potential. The consequence of a coach that hasn’t undergone proper training isn’t only a lack of wins, but also an increase of injuries -a fact that is made more obvious by Esquire Network’s new docu-series, Friday Night Tykes.
The show, which is available streaming online and through certain DirecTV Sunday Ticket packages, documents five select teams from the Texas Youth Football Association. In the first episode, which premiered on Jan. 14, we watch as one player is forced to run for the entirety of practice in 104 degree heat, simply because he missed a few weeks of training to visit his grandmother. Another coach then encourages his players to, “Rip their freakin’ head off, and let them bleed,” and even advises, “I want you to stick it in his helmet — I don’t care if he don’t get up.” Keep in mind that both the players and their opponents truly are “rookies,” ranging from 8 to 9 years old.
While there are many coaches in football leagues who inspire and positively encourage their youth teams, the coaches shown in Friday Night Tykes appear to be of the mindset that they’re running their own personal NFL, so much so that they often disregard common sense in favor of winning the game. This style of coaching is shameful and needs to end, before it has serious, irreparable consequences for the future of youth football. Which, thanks to the emerging science, is already under attack due to the threat of brain injury.
Participating in sports usually has a great effect on young athletes, specifically on their physical, emotional, social and psychological development. Whether these are positive effects depends largely on the coaching abilities and techniques of team leaders. While participating in youth football, athletes can learn beneficial skills such as leadership, appreciating fitness and staying active, as well as how to work on a team. Since athletics can also lead to moral development, social competence and a feeling of self-worth, it’s no wonder that so many parents find sports a fundamental part of their child’s activities.
The most troubling side-effect of poor coaching is injury due to either pressured aggression or unprepared plays. Studies show that 48 percent of youth sport athletes have experienced at least one injury during an athletic season, the most common injury being concussions. These young athletes may become injured or mentally burnt out as a result of excessive stress and pressure from parents and coaches. Even worse though, through poor coaching, some players may actually learn inappropriate behaviors, like violence and poor or none at all sportsmanship.
While there are programs, such as the Heads Up Program, which aim to create a safer youth football culture, far from the concussion-prone culture shown in Friday Night Tykes, where the change really needs to begin is from inside, with the training of the coach. A coach is a significantly influential person in a young athlete’s life and trained coaches are better equipped to create a positive sports experience. However, according to Coaching Education in America, less than 5 percent of volunteer coaches receive coaching education.
What is showcased in Friday Night Tykes is not entirely the coaches’ fault, though. The parents are also to blame. The show demonstrates a worrisome combination of high-pressure parenting and poorly trained coaches which can have disastrous effects on both the sport and the athlete.
Since a coach is a significantly influential person in a young athlete’s life, parents should be proactive when placing their child on a team and make sure the coach is trained or educated in the basics of youth coaching. Parents also need to be aware of the effect they have on their young athlete. Low-pressure attitudes towards winning, and emphasis on participation, sport development, effort and enjoyment of the game will help promote a healthy sense of competition in youth athletics, whereas overemphasizing winning, forcing a child to play a sport, or criticizing young athletes excessively may actually lead to anxiety and a lessened sense of sportsmanship.
This change in the culture of youth sports begins and ends with the training and preparation our nation’s coaches receive. Coaches need education, which is available from USA Football and similar programs, in order to properly lead impressionable young players. Coaching should also focus on encouraging the physical, psychological and social development of young athletes, as well as having fun while playing the sport. I wonder how many youngsters will be turned off sports thanks to their experiences with these horrifying coaches.
Thanks to our Guest Author: Kate Voss is an entertainment writer living in Chicago. While in high school, she participated in volleyball and crew. She has always had a passion for sports. You can follow Kate online via her Twitter account.