Fathers Day is a good time to reflect on some of the time us youth football coaches put into the game. About 80% of youth football coaches are coaching because their son is playing, thank God they take the time to coach or Youth Football flat out would not exist. The other 20% are saints who coach a whole team of surrogate sons, God Bless them.
As a youth football coach you are in a position of authority that the kids look up to, whether you like it or not. That means you have a tremendous responsibility to model behavior that is honorable and upstanding in front of your impressionable youth football players.
Depending on where you coach at and the unique situation each player is in, you may be the only positive male role model in some players lives. Today I coach in a rural area of �helicopter hovering� parents. But when I coached in the inner-city for 8 years, I drove 11 players to the games and took them out to a sit down dinners afterwards every week. Not one of these kids had a dad in the home, most of them were good kids, but clueless to what life was really like outside their little ghetto. 75% of them had not eaten breakfast by the 11:00 pickup time and many had not gone to bed until well past midnight. They closely watched my every word and move, it was a huge responsibility. The kids were very curious, the drive and dinner were full of endless questions that revealed their lack of knowledge of life and how it works. We are talking basic facts and social contracts that most of us take for granted that everyone knows.
For many of these kids we were able to make a positive impact on and there are many huge success stories, but also some failures as well. Johnny and Jose G had 4.3 and 3.7 GPA’s respectively and were the first ones to ever graduate High School in their family as well as first to go to college. He and his brother had both been arrested for burglary at age 9-10. We put a lot of time and effort in these two brothers including transportation to and from practice and games for 5 years as well as arranging part time jobs.
On another hand, one brother combination Marcus and Marvin S, that we also invested a lot of time in, carjacked two cars at gunpoint and at age 15-17. They are now serving time in adult prison, they never a dad in the house. We attended the funerals of two former players Richard Leslie and Antonio Witherspoon, gunned down at age 13 and 17 doing things they should not have been doing at times and places they shouldn’t have been doing them at, both were from fatherless households. This is a day I reflect on the impact we have on kids like this and ponder which players are going to end up like Johnny and Jose and which are going to end up like Antonio and Richard.
Some coaches wives complain a bit about some of the time we youth football coaches spend on the game, mine did too at first. Once she understood what a positive and significant impact we were having on many of the kids and how much they needed us, she became very supportive. I�ve coached youth football for 15 years and only 2 years have I coached my own kids. But now that we have our own kids playing, all that time now goes into both my own children as well as others.
This year at one of the private football clinics I did, the coach that brought me in for the clinic had me over for breakfast at his home. As he was in the garage getting together some of the equipment for the football clinic, his wife and I were talking in the kitchen. She said at first she was concerned that her husband was spending too much time preparing himself to coach youth football, she felt like he was obsessed. But then she thought about the husbands of some of her friends and aquaintances. Many of these husbands spent their free time out on the golf course with their buddies, drinking in bars, watching porn, doing drugs or chasing other women. She thought that spending time on youth football maybe wasn’t such a bad addiction for a faithfull husband to have, it involved their son and other deserving boys in the community. This is an activity her husband could often do in the comfort and safety of their home or with the entire family. She reluctantly but realistically became a big supporter of her husbands efforts and feels it has helped bring their family closer together.
To you coaches trying to get better for the right reasons, my hat goes off to you and my prayers are with you. While I have had success in my life: first one in our family to ever graduate from High School, named to my High Schools “Hall of Fame”, first in the extended family to graduate from 4 year College (100% self financed, worked), 6 Years Serving our Country as Army National Guard Medic, top producer in 3 companies I worked in before starting my own company (Inc 500 List 3 years in a row) and retiring at age 39, Founder and President of Youth Organization that grew to be the largest in Omaha proper, award winning philanthropist and a faithful evangelist. But those successes do not come anywhere close to the importance that I consider my greatest accompishment; that as a sucessful husband and father as well as being a surrogate father to many of the football players I have coached.
Keep your eye on the bigger picture, coaching youth football is much more than calling a bunch of football plays. Listen and watch your players and lend a helping hand and offer real encouragement to that weak player no one seems to care about. That is the memory you and him will keep 20 years from now, those league championships won’t mean a darn thing.
Best wishes to you all on this Fathers Day. For those of us that were blessed with Dads that spent time with us and raised us in the ways we should go, let’s be appreciative and thankful for them. For all those surrogate Dad coaches out there, let’s remember them too.
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