Not all youth football coaches are effective coaches. The obsession with youth sport in our society is unambiguous; many children will participate in youth sports this fall, and will be coached mostly by adult males. Parents bestow upon these men their child’s talents to be actualized. Yet, one significant issue is the lack of formal education in child learning theories, athletic training, and effective coaching strategies these coaches possess. We have to begin to ask: what comprehensive formal training have these coaches received? As is general knowledge, youth football coaches come from all walks of life. There are good coaches, mediocre ones, and some who should never engage children under any circumstances. I have collected a few negative coaching characteristics that should raise red flags with parents. The purpose is to help bring awareness to youth football coaches’ education and to empower parents.
Unfit Literacies and Languages
“This is War.” “Knock his head off.” “Punish him”. I hope this does not come as a surprise, but youth football is not war. Nevertheless war euphemisms commonly find their way into the youth sports arenas, and they should be prohibited. Moreover, the health and safety of young athletes can be compromised due to coaches’ literacies and languages. What languages are utilized to train your child are as important as the physical training drill. Let’s be absolutely clear, there is no room for explosive military lexicons in youth football training. Parents: listen to youth coaches and politely object to coaches using military euphemisms. Youth sport does not resemble war and neither should youth coaches’ languages.
Youth coaches cheat; not all, but some. They will deflate air from footballs so their players can hide the ball from opponents, or spray non-stick fluid on jerseys and pants, or deceive officials about a child’s age. As we know, youth football programs are headed up by very competitive and egotistical people, mostly males. For these individuals, winning is at the heart of what they do and winning at all cost is an admired behavior. One of the most important issues with youth sport, however, is its lack of formal regulation and oversight. These organizations ultimately are their own overseers. Sadly, if winning at all cost is a program’s philosophy then cheating may become a cultural norm. As a consequence, your son may become an unwilling partner in deception. Winning is not a replacement for moral character. Parents must be steadfast in not accepting the “winning at all cost” mantra and challenge coaches’ poor sportsmanship. Just remember coaches who cheat are also cheating your son.
All too often youth coaches who coach their sons are biased; it is difficult to keep the roles of parent and coach separate. Numerous parents have witnessed youth coaches place their own sons either at quarterback or running back routinely. It comes as no surprise these positions are the most prestigious at all levels of football. There is increasing concern that only a few players are being highlighted in youth sport, and as a result many players will be assessed as being not talented enough when that is not necessarily the case. This is not fun. All youth players should play, no matter what. I warn parents, however, that approaching a youth coach about his son’s unfair advantageous is sticky. Remember most of these programs have limited regulation and oversight and some coaches can become quite offended when their authority is brought into question. If you feel that a coach is providing an unfair playing field politely indicate your concerns and require an explanation. If it is not resolved take it to the league’s administration. Youth sport is about fun for everyone’s children, not just a select few.
I love youth sport, specifically football; however, these issues need to be addressed. Military languages used in training young football players are an absolute abomination. War is war, sport is sport, and there is no direct correlation between the two. Second, cheating to win a football contest is despicable and we need to run these coaches out of the leagues. Finally, the bias that coaches have for their sons playing more than other kids is a direct affront to all athletes. The obsession with youth sport will begin to dwindle by regulating coaches’ behaviors. Athletes and parents are the victims when coaches are undereducated and misguided.
Robert A. Williams, MS.Ed.
Robert is a former youth, high school, college, and professional football player. He has spent most of his life in and around football. One of his quests is to bring more holistic instructions and training into youth sport. He believes that many lessons are being missed because too many coaches have poor instructional and training habits. He hopes to bring his expertise to help bring a more fun and less competitive atmosphere for children involved in sport. Presently, Robert is a doctoral student in the program for curriculum and instruction in literacy education at Northern Illinois University.