Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Youth Football

I'm involved with Pop Warner in the Cheney area. My specific group is called the Mitey Mite Division, and consists of 7, 8 and 9 year old kids. We are the Eagles! Right now we're 0-2 (27-0 and 27-0) after playing the top two teams in our division. Me and my coaches are working to help them get better. Our first goal was reached, we got a first down. Now our next goal is to get into the end zone, then to win a game.

Helping the kids to have fun is the primary reason I coach. But it's a lot more fun when you're making visible progress and finally winning a few games. Coaches that make "winning at all costs" their goal at this age level are idiots. For example
  • To win a championship at this age really means a lot on one's resume. (sarcasm intended). 
  • College scholarships are not awarded at this age. 
  • College and/or pro coaching positions are not handed out based on the number of youth championships one has "earned."

According to the statistics I've learned over the years, 70% of the kids who participate in youth sports drop out by age 13 because of bad coaching and pressure placed on them by parents.

Which leads me to another fact. In my 20 years of youth coaching the number one problem has been... drum roll please... parents. Please insert any name in place of "my kid."
  • "My kid isn't getting enough playing time." (A parent who used a stopwatch to time her kid's playing time versus the other kids on the team.)
  • "Why isn't my kid the quarterback?" (Happens almost every season)
  • "My kid is so much better than the one you have in that spot, so you're a crappy coach because you don't see it." (A parent who was upset because her kid was promised a starting spot the previous season by the retired coach. The other kid was bigger, faster and stronger. Her kid played, just not as much.)
  • "The high school coach wants my kid to play running back. How come he's a lineman?" (An obvious bunch of crap because, in truth, high school coaches don't care about 7, 8 and 9 year old football.)
  • "My kid wants to quit because practices are boring. He wants to run plays, not have you guys show the linemen what to do." (A parent who never understood that coaching is not limited to his kid, but to all players on the offense.)
  • "My kid is a left tackle" (From a parent who's kid made the 6th Grade All Star Team.)
  • "You are punishing my kid! He was under the impression that he was 'the man!'" (This from a parent who was upset that their kid didn't get to carry the ball more. Never mind that the kid played 38 out of 40 minutes.)
I could go on, but I believe there's a limit to the number of characters I can post. But I think you get the picture.

Another problem is parents who want to coach so that their kids get to be "the star" on the team. These ego maniacs get their buddies to help them coach so that all of their kids can start and be selected to the All Star team. I've seen kids completely embarrassed by this. They know they're not All Star caliber, yet they are placed into that situation by their dads. One year I had a kid on an All Star team I was coaching come up to me and tell me he knew he didn't belong there. So we talked about it and he agreed he'd play, but not as much as some of the better players. So after he started and was pulled shortly afterward, his dad unloaded on me with cussing and name-calling. Thank God I haven't had to deal with that since. I never coached my own son, and actually coached against him one season. I have always had great assistant coaches and do so again this season.

I'm in this for the kids. Sometimes I'm too soft, but I started out as a hard-ass idiot who was looking to be the next Vince Lombardi. I ran off a kid in my first season because of my attitude. His mom came up to me and told me she couldn't let her kid play for me because I was so unreasonable and driving the kids too hard. She was right. A couple of years later I experienced a life-changing event that showed me just how stupid I had become. These are kids and... wait for it... wait for it... this is a GAME! It's not life-or-death, and it's not war like some coaches talk about. War is when some one is shooting at you with the intent to kill you. I haven't seen that yet in youth sports. But I'm sure some parents have wanted to throttle me. I try to be realistic. If I was such a great coach, why am I coaching little kids and not at a higher level? I realize that I'm not a great coach, but I like to think I'm a good coach.

So I'll try to keep up with informing everyone about the progress of the Mitey Mite Eagles of the West Plains Pop Warner Football Association. After kind of bashing youth sports parents, I want to finish by saying this is the best and most supportive group of parents I've ever had in my years of coaching. Hopefully this will finally be the year when I don't have a parent come up to me after the season to "rip me a new one." As long as they come to me with concerns as they come up and not let them fester for the year, I think things will work out OK.

Go Eagles!

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