Unfortunately in youth football there is a wide variety of coaches with a wide variety of skills and motivations. This variety will often manifest itself in situations where coaches will score an inordinate amount of points, on purpose without letting off the gas. I’m sure you know a coach or two in your league who given the opportunity will try and score as many points as possible and throw any regard to sportsmanship out the window.
I remember seeing a game in 2003 of the Boys Club playing a team from Bellevue in Omaha. The score was 50-0 and the game was winding down. Boys Club took a timeout with just 7 seconds left, put their kids in a spread formation and threw a bomb that nearly went for a score on the last play of the game.
My first year of coaching I saw a similar incident. I was an assistant coach that first year, we were an expansion team with all rookie players and our first game was against the defending league champions. They totally outclassed us and they were up by something like 34-0 in the fourth quarter. We were driving the ball toward the goal line, on every snap as we got closer and closer to scoring, our kids were getting more and more excited. It looked as if we were apparently going to score our teams very first touchdown of the season. But wait, there was timeout called and the other teams head coach subbed all their first team defense back in. Of course thay crushed our drive and the spirits of those first year players. They stopped us on the 10 yard line as time expired to preserve the shut-out win. Our kids were more crushed by that stop than they were losing by 34 points.
A couple of years later we had our chance at revenge and a test of our integrity. Now as the head coach for this same group of kids, we were playing this same team, but now our kids had similar experience levels. We ended up winning by a very big margin. It was tempting to try and run up the score, but we didn’t, we played our backups. Our kids remembered, we remembered, but we didn’t retaliate. We talked with our players about our response after the game, many of the kids really wanted us to pour it on. That’s a “teachable moment” guys, once we explained why we did what we did and why, our kids “got it”. I never forgot the dejected feelings that group of first year players had after that opening game of their young football carrers and vowed I was not going to be that kind of coach when I was in those same shoes.
Time for Revenge or Not?
In another game in 2002 the first year I ran the Single Wing, we played an extra game at the end of the season. We were 11-0 and had beaten everyone rather handily. We played a team that had comparable scores with common opponents, but we were blown out 46-6. The other team had their first team offense in and was throwing for touchdowns on their last two possessions. While we were disappointed in the magnitude of the loss and the actions of the other team, we kept our composure and gave the other team their due. In 2003 we played this same team in the championship game of our league and won 46-12. We were up 46-0 at the end of the 3rd quarter and let off the gas completely. Was it tempting to throw for another touchdown (we had already thrown for 2) ? Not really.
Retaliate of Not?
Why shouldn’t you retaliate against teams that run the score up on you?
Unfortunately many of these youth football coaches, when they see you retaliate it gives them more justification for running up their own scores in the future. The probably think “he did it, why shouldn’t I?” These bully coaches simply won’t “get it” that you can do the same to them.
When you show the bully coaches a different way, letting off the gas, putting your subs in, calling plays you know won’t score, not calling blitzes etc the other team at least see’s a different approach to coaching the game.
Why penalize a group of kids for the sins of their coaches? The kids are just doing what the coaches tell them to do, why should they get their noses rubbed in the concrete for something they had no real part in making the decision on? That is who you are punishing when you retaliate against that knucklehead coach.
What does this teach your team about retaliation? If you retaliate as a coach, why shouldn’t the kids retaliate when they get cheap shotted in the game? How about when they get pushed or called a bad name in school, should they retaliate every time? You have no moral authority to tell them not to retaliate if you retaliate against the bully coach.
What does retaliation teach your kids about compassion? I’m all for finishing a team off when you have them down, But when you are up 34-0 in the fourth quarter, your ego requires that you need a shutout? You’re so fragile that the score of a youth football game is going to determine your self worth? The other team scoring a meaningless touchdown against your backups is going to somehow make you less worthy as a person or as a youth football coach? OK, great.
I like to use youth football to teach life lessons. In life, retaliating in most instances is a very self destructive action. My teams play to our fullest potential, we play to win. We are competitive and have gone 78-5 over the last 8 seasons, this isn’t YMCA football, everyone drink juice boxes together and sing Kumbaya stuff, BUT our kids know how and when to be compassionate. We never score more than 50 points and trust me we could do it. In about 70% of the games we’ve played in the last 2 seasons alone my teams have scored 3 touchdowns in the first quarter of 17 games, you do the math. That’s 12 TDs a game we could have probably scored in those 17 games, 72-84 points. We try to keep the score under 40 points but sometimes defensive scores ruin that intent. Our kids know that when we have a team down and out, we are going to let off the gas and they know why, it is compassion. We don’t want to be responsible for crushing a young persons enthusiasm for the game.
I guess it all comes down to what you want to teach your youth football players. How do you want to be remembered by them? By your opponents? The kids need to know they can’t control the actions of others, but they have 100% control over their own actions and are 100% responsible for their reactions to bad circumstances.
They will all remember, and learn from the situation no matter what decision you decide to make, right or wrong. You can take that to the bank. Guys, let’s think long term and NOT retaliate and sink to the levels of those that give our sport a bad name.
Copyright 2008 Cisar Management
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