By: Staff Report
The premiere of Friday Night Tykes this week provided a terrifying look at the world of extreme youth football where abusive coaches reign – cursing, berating and humiliating their players – all in the quest for wins.
This docu-series, which airs on the Esquire Network, is providing an all-access account of five youth football teams in the San Antonio area as they navigate their seasons.
And the program has rocked the youth sports landscape as it represents everything that is wrong with organized sports for children when the adults in charge forget that it’s for the kids.
“This show highlights how far down the wrong path that we have come,” says John Engh, chief operating officer of the National Alliance for Youth Sports, which since 1981 has been America’s leading advocate for positive and safe sports for children. “These 8- and 9-year-old boys are obviously still developing. When the message is win-at-all-costs and that championships are the only reason why we play, then we need to rethink the message.”
The coaches are shown treating their players in unimaginably horrific fashion – all in the pursuit of league championships and to inflate their already oversized egos – while the parents incredibly stand by and watch their children subjected to the nonsense.
One coach is shown yelling at his players: "You have the opportunity today to rip their freakin' head off and let them bleed” and "there should be no reason why ya'll don't make other teams cry!”
Shockingly, those affiliated with the program see nothing wrong with coaches swearing at kids, yelling across the field at other coaches and treating every game as though it were the Super Bowl.
“In Texas it’s going to be perceived very well,” Texas Youth Football Association CEO Brian Morgan told For the Win. “Outside Texas, where football is not king, those people are going to be taken aback by some of the kids out there exercising in 100 degree heat, how the fans are fanatical like it’s an NFL game and by some of the coaches and the coaches’ tactics.”
Those coaching tactics Morgan is so fond of include kids being benched for entire games; a child being told to purposely hit the opposing player before the ball is snapped and then act as though it was a mistake; and an overweight child being forced to run laps for an entire practice, where he’s shown struggling to breathe at the end of the torturous ordeal while the coaches laugh about it.
And the season is only a week old.
Says Engh: “It’s laughable that their defense for this mistreatment of these kids is that it’s Texas and because football is popular there, as it just so happens to be in plenty of other states, that it somehow makes everything these coaches are doing perfectly acceptable. Based on that warped reasoning then it would be okay for youngsters playing basketball in Indiana to be abused physically and emotionally because that sport is king there? And the same goes for children playing hockey in Minnesota? And volleyball in California? It’s ludicrous.”
Well-respected ESPN college football analyst and dad Kirk Herbstreit tweeted: Everything wrong with youth sports in one show!! Parents/Coaches should be embarrassed.
“We have long seen that adults involved in youth sports bring their own experiences in sports and in life with them and apply them to their sport philosophy, all the while forgetting the age group that they are coaching,” Engh said. “So when that is combined with parents who want their kids to be tougher than they were, and administrators running the league like it’s the NFL, I think it’s safe to say that these programs are draped in the emotional and physical abuse of children.”
The National Standards for Youth Sports were developed by recreation professionals across the country who determined the best policies that should be in place to help ensure that every child who enrolls in a youth sports program has a safe and positive experience. They were first developed in 1987 and updated in 2008, and serve as a blueprint for what is best for children in a youth sports setting. These Standards are used and adhered to by thousands of recreation programs across America that are run by program directors who put the well-being of children as their top priority.
The Standards promote equal playing opportunities for kids, especially under the age of 10. They also emphasize the importance of playing in a safe and positive environment.
These days there is also increased awareness and attention being paid to protect kids when it comes to concussions, and also ensuring that bullying isn’t taking place with coaches or players.
“We are concerned about the effects of concussions at all levels of sports, but when you see just a glimpse of what goes on in this program with the vicious hitting during their practices, who is to say that these young children are not going to be facing the same long-term effects as we are seeing affect the lives of so many others – all in the name of untrained coaches who encourage it,” Engh says. “People in communities across America who pay tax dollars for the facilities these games are played on in most cases must stand up and say ‘no more.’”
At the end of the show one of the coaches who lost on opening day is shown absolutely devastated by the game’s outcome. He says, "Today was the biggest day of my life and it didn't meet up to my expectations that I wanted it to be."
That’s exactly what’s wrong with this league: Coaches believing it’s about them when it should be all about the kids.
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