Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Posts Tagged ‘American football

It's OK to be a quitter

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It’s usually treated as some sort of national tragedy that, depending on what statistics are pulled out of what ass, anywhere from 70-80 percent of children in organized sports quit by the time they’re 13.

If you believe that all those quitting kids are a result of them being drummed out of sports they love because of too much organization and too many yelling coaches, then, yes, that’s a problem. However, I’m not sure that — if I may reach into my own ass to pull out some statistics — that 85 percent of those children leaving sports are doing so because they’ve found something else (hopefully productive) they’d rather do.

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“No mas.”

As a coach and a parent, I’m a big believer that a child, even in the face of a lousy coach and a poorly run program, doesn’t quit a sport he or she truly loves. Also, I believe that part of childhood is flitting about from activity to activity, taking what my wife cheekily calls a logical path of self-discovery (a term she coined for my peripatetic early employment career) to determine one’s passions. So, quitting teams becomes a fairly frequent occurrence.

That’s the mindset I brought while reading this Los Angeles Times article in which a mother wrings her hands over the ass-pullingly high quit rate as her 8-year-old son tells her he wants to quit football in an article titled, “When is it OK to let kids be quitters?”

The issue of kids quitting — music lessons, summer camp, sports — has long been tough on parents.

My own quitting dilemma began the way many parent-child negotiations do: with begging. My son Bob had been pleading with me for months for permission to play tackle football. He offered to take out the trash. Clean his room. He even promised to be nice to his sister. Finally, when his teacher told me that Bob had taught his classmates how to go out for passes, I caved. …

But the intensity of the conditioning was unlike anything Bob had experienced. The boys did up-downs until their faces turned purple. They were forced to run laps holding hands as a punishment. While there was an emphasis on teamwork — in theory, football is supposed to be the ultimate team sport — there was a profound absence of positive reinforcement.

So after 13 weeks, and just before the season ended, my son did what his gut told him to do: He quit.

“It’s not fun,” he said wearily. “And I’m tired of the coaches making me feel badly about myself.”

It was a difficult moment. I didn’t approve of one coach’s treatment of the boys, but was it really OK to quit? Would it make Bob a quitter? How does a parent know when it’s time to quit or when it’s time to insist that children stick to what they start?

My only ironclad rule, for my own kids, in quitting is this: Once you commit, you’re in until the season or activity is over. It’s fair to no one if a child quits in the middle of something. It also doesn’t teach your child anything about sticking out a promise, one made implicitly to you as parents, to coaches and to teammates.

At the end of the season, it’s a different story. My 12-year-old, my eldest, has been his three siblings’ sport and activity canary in the coalmine, trying out soccer, baseball, wrestling, basketball, volleyball and hockey, as well as theater, band, robotics, battle-of-the-books team, so with him in particular we’ve had a lot of conversations about quitting sports that ended with my son, indeed, quitting sports.

As a coach, I’ve dealt with players who clearly want no part of playing a sport, on a team, under any circumstance. Instead of the parents trying to convince their kids to stick with it, they would be better served figuring out another activity. It happens. My 12-year-old son, who quit baseball at 9 because, I thought, of a bad experience with a coach and teammates, will not play organized baseball, even intramural wiffle ball, again under any circumstances. He was never interested in playing catch, unlike his siblings, so it was clear he was wired not to care about baseball.

It also happens that sometimes there is a mismatch between the kid and the organization in question, that the child likes a sport, but not how it’s done in a certain league. The L.A. Times writer found a flag football league for her son that was much less intense, and he’s enjoying the game again. If you’re concerned that your child is quitting because of a bad experience, finding another league — if possible — might work, at least to find out for sure if your child just doesn’t like a sport after all.

So before you, as a parent, beg your kid to keep playing, ask yourself whether the child actually enjoys the sports, and the organized nature of it, or whether it’s time to bag it. Remember, you’ve probably watched your child play, so you have a sense of whether this is working out. If a sport doesn’t work out, there are a lot of activities out there for kids. A big reason for that stat on 13-year-olds quitting is not just because they’re weeded out along the way by zealous coaches and the youth sports-industrial complex. Children also weed themselves out in favor of activities they feel passionate about.

Quitting a sport doesn’t make your kid a quitter. It makes your kid a kid.

Written by rkcookjr

June 12, 2010 at 12:41 am

Football coach arrested for running prostitution ring

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As the philosopher Big Daddy Kane once said, anything goes when it comes to hos ’cause pimpin’ ain’t easy. It gets a little more complicated if you’re also moonlighting as a volunteer middle school football coach.

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Yeah, this song sounded just as offensive in 1989.

27-year-old Christopher Wayne Foster, a coach in Springdale, Ark., was arrested in nearby Bentonville (Wal-Mart world headquarters) on charges relating to abduction and running a prostitution ring after a 23-year-old woman told police she had jumped from his vehicle. Police said she answered an online ad to work as an administrative assistant. She told police she met with Foster in his car to get money she said she was owed for her work, and she was horrified to learn his line of business — pimp. The woman told police Foster tried to drive away with her and abduct her, whereupon she jumped out of the car.

Apparently Foster had no criminal record before, or at least one that involved sex crimes, because nothing turned up when Central Junior High did his background check. Hey, the background check is a look at your past record, not “Minority Report.”

Police had some helpful advice for anyone not wanting to unwittingly work for a self-styled pimp — make sure your job interview is done at an office. From KFSM-TV in Fort Smith, Ark.:

“Obviously anybody that is asked to come for an interview with somebody who claims to a stock broker or attorney and wants to meet you at a restaurant and not their office, your curiosity should be raised a little bit,” said Chief James Allen.

One more bit of advice: if that person also violates another unwritten rule of job interviews and orders something sloppy like pasta with heavy cream and marinara sauce, just drop your napkin on the plate and walk out that door.

Written by rkcookjr

May 23, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Tim Tebow's parents teach you how to raise your own divine child

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With Tim Tebow likely trading his biblical eyeblack (now banned by the NCAA) for sitting on an NFL bench, how are we are mere mortals supposed to get our divine guidance as to what He (Tebow) would want us to do (unless he can plop a Bible verse on the back of a clipboard)? How can we learn to be more like Him?

Fear not, my sheep. A few hundred tickets remain if you want to learn from Joseph and Mary themselves about how to raise and nuture your child to become Tebow-like.

On Sat., April 17, David Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., is hosting Bob and Pam Tebow to host a parenting seminar called “Bringing Up Tim Tebow.” Sure, Bob and Pam have four other kids, but can they run for a touchdown and heal the sick in one motion?

So what can you expect from Bob and Pam? Probably something heavy on the homeschooling, considering all the Tebow kids were homeschooled (and Tim’s allowance to play on his public school football team has inspired states to pass what are called “Tim Tebow laws” to allow other homeschoolers to play on school teams, which also makes him the only person not kidnapped and murdered to have state laws named after him). Lots of talk about their missionary work and ministry, given Bob is a minister himself, and both have traveled the world to spread their faith.

And, definitely, their No. 1 piece of advice in raising your own little Tebow: don’t abort him.

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If you’re among the 5,000 or so plunking down $50 apiece to hear Bob and Pam Tebow tell you how to raise your own golden child, your money might be better spent elsewhere. After all, the chance of your child being a Heisman Trophy winner/walker-on-water is probably pretty small.

If you want a parenting seminar that might be more practical to your child’s more likely future, I would advise you to sign up for “Bringing Up Ben Roethlisberger.”

Written by rkcookjr

April 16, 2010 at 12:25 am

If girls play football, boys will grow up to be wife beaters!

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Dave Cisar is an authority on coaching youth football, especially in the ways of the old-timey single-wing offense.

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However, I’m not so sure he’s an authority on girls playing football, a subject upon which his thoughts are as old-timey as that offense he borrowed from Pop Warner to dominate at Pop Warner, or some such youth football equivalent.

I think you’ll catch his drift with the headline on his piece about girls and football: “Should girls be playing youth football? NO!”

Sorry, I should have said “spoiler alert.”

Cisar, writing at EZine Articles:

In inner-city Omaha [where Cisar founded the free athletic program Screaming Eagles Sports] nearly 70% of our players have no man in the home. If you think I’m exaggerating, we have had games with 2 people in the stands and both were females, not enough for a chain crew. This was not a one time deal, we have had many games where we did not have 3 males to run the chains. Many of our players have no model of behavior in the house to “copy” of how to properly treat a woman. The kids often see first hand women being physically and mentally abused and of course they hear it in the music they listen to, on TV and in print. I’ve been coaching youth football for 15 years and the “dadless” house problem is getting worse every year. Tom Osborne in his book “Faith in the Game” claims this problem is increasing and is responsible for the majority of crime and problems with young males.

If we let girls play tackle football with boys, we teach the boys that harsh physical contact with females is acceptable behavior. In fact as coaches we would have to encourage and reward this physical contact. Our players would get in the habit and be used to being physical with females, the act would desensitize everyone involved in the activity of physical force being applied to females by males. The female in the meantime is learning that harsh physical contact with males is acceptable, it is now a habit. Now while having females on your team may help the short term progress of some of our football teams I’m not sure we are helping either the boy or the girl in their long term development as productive members of our society.

Now, I’ve coached co-ed basketball teams, so I know that, at least initially, boys and girls do feel a little weird about playing together, especially when there’s contact involved. And I don’t doubt Cisar’s sincerity that he wants boys to overcome a tough environment and treat women well.

But I think kids are capable of separating their on-field actions from their off-field actions. If that wasn’t the case, then Cisar would have been teaching the inner city boys of Omaha that it’s acceptable, off the field, to body block anyone who gets in their way.

His concern is based on an old canard: it’s not OK to hit a girl. I mean, it isn’t. But what I’m saying is, implicit in that statement is that it IS OK for boys to hit each other — which, off the field, isn’t supposed to happen, either. (By the way, it’s nice that Cisar wants to keep women free from the chains, if not of bondage, than of the first-down marker.)

So how does Cisar explain his no-gurlz-allowed policy to families who want to sign up their daughters for football?

In our rural program we have had no female football sign ups. In Omaha we have had a few moms try and sign their daughters up for football. After the initial disappointment wore off and the mom was told why we think it makes sense in the long run for females not to play, the moms were very supportive. I can think of just one case where mom didn’t “get it” and pulled her son out of the program because we would not allow her daughter to be pummeled by boys on our team. I can still see her today, a single mom with 3 kids that needed the program who refused to listen to reason. This mom had two missing front teeth, probably caused by the same cycle we were trying to help break.

She lost her front teeth because her significant male other played football against girls as a kid?

Dave Cisar may already be too late in his crusade to keep football girl-free, and not just because he might run into Natalie Randolph or Debbie Vance at a coaching clinic. For instance, he must have missed the memo that the Florida High School Athletic Association officially has declared football a co-ed sport.

Written by rkcookjr

April 2, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Mike Leach gets fired, or how not to handle injured prima donnas

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Texas Tech fired Mike Leach as its football coach on Dec. 30, ostensibly because he sent wide receiver Adam James to solitary confinement in a shed and electrical closet (says James’ father Craig, a former NFL running back and current ESPN college football analyst) or in a garage and a media room (says Leach and his attorney) after James was diagnosed with a mild concussion.

Of course, as clear by the argument over what to call where James was stashed, the situation is more complicated than that, with Leach accusing James of being a prima donna and malingerer, and his father of being overbearing like a “Little League parent,” players coming out pro and con on how Leach treated them, and the specter of Leach’s past, very contentious contract negotiations providing some insight as to why the Texas Tech athletic department thought him more pain in the ass than their previous feeling, savior of a generally hidebound program. (He’s the second Big 12 coach to make that fall in a month, following Kansas’ Mark Mangino, fired after players and parents alleged various mental and physical abuse.)

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Mike Leach shouldn’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

As a youth coach, I look at a situation like Leach’s and wonder, is there something I and other coaches can learn from this? Why, yes indeedy there is. While I am never going be fired before I get an $800,000 bonus (because I never will be getting an $800,000 bonus), I can see some lessons here on the relationship between a coach and a player who, for the sake of argument, was a prima donna and malingerer with an overbearing, Little League parent. There are three main lessons I see coming out of this, for youth coaches on any level — even (or especially) the college level:

1. You can’t magically turn a prima donna into a model citizen.

The speculation in the Leach case is that if James wasn’t being punished for being hurt, this was a chance for Leach to punish him for being an asshole. After all, what doctor recommends a concussion patient be sent to solitary confinement in a shed, garage, electrical closet, media room or Windsor Castle? Leach and other Texas Tech coaches portray James as being a prima donna, and apparently tried to hard-ass the prima donna right out of him.

My experience — at the kindergarten- to eighth-grade level — is that if a kid has a lousy attitude, you can’t yell it out of them. You can’t run it out of them. You can’t lock them in a closet out of them. One of the traits of a prima donna is a disrespect and distrust for authority, and you getting all Sgt. Hartman on them is not going to change that. Particularly at the youth level. You only have players for a short amount of time, and it’s not like you can threaten to take away their scholarship.

I’ve found the first step to dealing with a prima donna is to accept that the player is a prima donna. That way, you don’t overreact to everything and end up creating friction on the team. For example, on a basketball team I coached, I kicked one particular pain-in-the-ass to the sideline. Not only did that have no effect on him, but it also had his teammates wondering why they had to keep working when they were following the rules. I tried running the kid — same problem. It didn’t work on him, and his teammates were distracted because one of their own wasn’t doing drills with them.

The best I can do now is try to impress upon him the importance of being part of the team, and point out (which is true) that we win when his attitude is good, and we lose when it’s bad. I do this because I know his mood swings are subject to whether he thinks his team is good enough to be around him, and whether we’re winning or losing. You might find other ways to motivate a prima donna. But I don’t expect miracles, and neither should you. Your best hope is that, eventually, the prima donna gets to trust you and see it your way. Whatever I do with prima donnas, I tell them, whether they believe or not, that I like and respect them. Then I hope for the best.

I am a coach, not a magician, no matter how much I might like to think I have an incredible life force that turns children into the greatest human beings of all-time.

2. You’re a coach, not a doctor.

In Leach’s case, he had a team doctor to advise him on what to do, although team doctors are notorious for bending to the wishes of coaches to get players back on the field right away rather than their long-term health. Generally, unless you are a doctor also serving as a youth coach, it’s not up to you to judge whether someone is capable of playing. If they say they’re hurt, you have to lean toward taking them at their word.

That doesn’t mean you can’t teach them how to push through small amounts of pain. When my coed fifth- and sixth-grade basketball team had only five players show last week, I told them there wasn’t going to be any rest, so they would have to save being tired until game’s end. I also once had a kid tell me he couldn’t do a passing drill because his arm hurt. I said, OK, take a rest. When he went back out onto the court to shoot three-pointers, I told him he lost the argument about his arm. I’m no doctor, but if your arm hurts, you’re not shooting long bombs.

On the other hand, I have two asthmatics on my team. Even if they were among the five that had showed up on the day we only had five (and neither did), I would have never told them to work through the pain of being tired and losing your breath. I tell those kids to raise their hands immediately when they need a rest. I tell the referees to please stop the game when they do so. I also tell their parents to feel free to run onto the court if something looks wrong. They know better than I do.

3. You have to deal with parents.

It is every coach’s dream to have parents who drop their kids off at practice and games, and never make a peep. Every coach lives in fear of the overbearing parents who questions everything they do. Well, every coach has to get over that. You’re the coach, but you’re being trusted with somebody’s child. You will have many children under your watch for a short time. The parent has only that one child, or a few more, under their watch forever. Any parent who feels like a coach is risking their child’s well-being should speak up. That’s a good parent.

The problem with most parent-coach confrontations is that they’re confrontations. The parent comes flying in upset about something, and the coach gets defensive and tells them to pound sand. As a coach, you have to have this attitude: on first blush, the parents has every right to be unreasonable. It is your job as a coach to explain why you do what you do, and why you feel like that is in the child’s best interests. I’ve had a parent pull his kids off a team I’ve coached because he didn’t like what we were doing (he thought we weren’t intense enough). My reaction: I’m sorry to hear that, but they are your children, and you know best.

I’m not sure Mike Leach could make any reasonable explanation for locking a player in solitary confinement for any reason. But as a coach, you have to accept that parents have the right to ask you anything. You have the job of giving an even-keeled response. That might not help. The parent might not always be right. You might have to get others in your league involved. It’s a pain in the ass. But when you’re dealing with children, you’re also dealing with parents, so you had best accept it.

YouTube's small child football concussion videos

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In an earlier post, I talked about youth sports injuries in light of the NFL’s public efforts to look less like it’s giving its players early dementia and death through greater review of concussions. The hope is that if the NFL takes them more seriously, others will at all levels of football. Maybe that will happen. But given the pre-concussion youth football videos all over YouTube, I’m not sure.

I hate to post any of these, because I feel like a preacher airing porn films over and over and telling people, “Would you look at that filth!” But I have to show you a few examples of what I’m talking about — video all over YouTube and elsewhere of small children knocking each other into next week, which given their ages, is a comparatively long way to get knocked.

These videos are posted by parents or others PROUD their kid is the baddest badass on the block, when instead they make Malcolm Gladwell’s argument that football isn’t that far removed from dogfighting.

For example, this one is THE HARDEST HITTING 6 YEAR OLD IN THE GAME!!!, a video that’s recently made the rounds on sports blogs such as Deadspin and With Leather.

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The above video was a response for a two-year-old video, with 323,000 views (porn is popular), Football Hard Hits from a crazy 9 Year Old!!!!! (Note slo-mo replays, gratuitous “Bring the Pain” quote, and five, not three, exclamation points. Warning: Creed is the soundtrack.)

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Here is one uploaded today (Nov. 24). Apparently whomever did this promised this 8- and 9-year-old if it won its championship, he would post a highlight reel of its biggest hits. So they won, and so he did. (More slo-mo, but no exclamation points. But some great shots of small children writhing in pain!)

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Hey, I know football is a violent sport, and many of the hits in the above videos are well within the rules. But lest you think 8-year-olds don’t hit hard because they’re small, their hits can hurt bad if they are hitting other 8-year-olds.

I’m not going to pass judgment on any parents who would sign a 6-year-old or 8-year-old for tackle football. However, I do think any parents screaming, on YouTube or elsewhere, about what a pain-bringer their child is THE BIGGEST ASSHOLE ON THE SIDELINE!!!!!! (Yeah, that’s six exclamation points!)

Written by rkcookjr

November 24, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Massachusetts, if you can't play nicely, we're taking the football and going home

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Given I’m about to, for the third time in 10 days, write about criminal activity surrounding football in Massachusetts, I’m calling for a ban on the game in the state, up to and including the New England Patriots.

2265020491_86b6f3ce15Anyone still remember Spygate?

The latest case involving the Massachusetts constabulary comes from the suburbs of Boston, where authorities Oct. 30 charged a 17-year-old Arlington Catholic linebacker with misdemeanor assault and battery for allegedly head-butting a rival from Abington after a play was over — and after the Abington player’s helmet had already popped off.

The linebacker in question, James LaShoto, was suspended from his team for two games after the Sept. 19 incident (the minimum under state athletic association rules for unsportsmanlike conduct, though no penalty flag was thrown during the game). The Boston Globe quotes his lawyer describing him as an honors student and captain of the team. The attorney called the hit “an unfortunate play” and that charges were a “misuse of the criminal process.”

The charges were pressed by the parents of the player who was the head-buttee — Daniel Curtin, 17, who suffered a deep cut to his forehead that had to be glued shut, and has been told he’ll have a scar there the rest of his life. “We’re hoping that by doing this, this doesn’t happen again to anybody,” Daniel’s mother, Paula, told the Globe.

There’s only one way this won’t happen to anyone again — a ban on football in Massachusetts. With this, the East Lynn Pop Warner team with homeless beaters on it, and the coach charged after popping a parent, maybe the game is more responsibility than the state can handle.

Plus, it’ll stop ridiculous TV reports like one turned in by Jorge Quiroga of WCVB in Boston. I don’t care how many awards he’s won — what made Quiroga think  it was a good idea to have a fake POV shot through a facemask of his helmetless, hairless head, followed by a blurred shot of the field? If he was trying to let viewers know what being head-butted was like for Daniel Curtin, why didn’t he go all the way and have the camera head-butt him?

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Written by rkcookjr

October 31, 2009 at 10:04 pm

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