I love doing coaches clinics, wherever I go, football is football. We were in Atlanta last week and did a large public clinic and a small private clinic the following day. I’ve done nearly 80 of these now and I can safely say, I’ve pretty much seen it all. Many of us youth football coaches seem to feel our problems are unique and overwhelming, but I promise you they are not. We all have the same parent, player and league issues, some just more than others. One thing that is constant, people can get ridiculous over youth football. Denial, jealousy and political infighting/maneuvering are alive and unfortunately well in youth football all across our beloved United States.
The great thing about coaching clinics is you can talk and interact with other youth coaches and find out your frustrations are not unique. You can take solace in that you aren’t crazy, you aren’t out on a limb, that there are crazy people hiding out in the cracks, crevices and even sometimes in broad daylight in many youth football leagues. I often times used to think that many of the stories I was hearing about youth football were exaggerated. But after coaching it for 20 years and hearing from thousands of youth coaches with very similar horror stories, I think most of those wild stories are mostly true.
While many coaches, parents and administrators have good intentions and are reasonable people, there is a small subset of malcontents that seem to be present in many leagues that simply rob many of us of much of the joy of coaching the greatest game on earth. Like my friend Russell from Atlanta told me at dinner Friday just before the clinic, some people are just crazy. He has a roofing business and he shared several stories with me of just insane behavior he had to endure from a tiny handful of customers. I’m talking certifiably crazy actions from about 10% of his clients. No matter what this very competent and diplomatic businessman did, he could not satisfy these customers in any way. He literally spent so much time with these people that he lost a considerable amount of time, money and sleep over each one.
The same is the case in youth football. If you try and please everyone, you aren’t going to please anyone and you will make yourself miserable. There is always going to be a tiny subset of people that will never be happy, no matter what you do short of killing yourself. Know going into the gig, that this is a certainty, a guaranteed event. You can minimize the percentage of crazies a bit by having player, parent and coaches contracts and having a mandatory parents meeting before the first practice where you set expectations and define your mission and approach along with team rules etc. You can minimize the number of Jerry Springer moments a bit by being proactive and setting ground rules and practicing good One Minute Manager techniques. But in the end, no matter how perfect you are, there are always going to be unreasonable parents, coaches, administrators and league officials. When you win and win consistently, fully expect the problem to get bigger, no matter how perfect your behavior has been.
When you go to clinics, you hear the same stories from your peers because for the most part, many of the crazies never attend clinics. They either think they know it all already or don’t care to put any effort into getting better. After a clinic, you can go home feeling secure that you are not insane and that silliness, pettiness, jealousy and poor decision making runs rampant in many places. Coaching youth football could test the patience of Job. But in the end, it’s for the kids and putting up with the vocal minority of crazies is something we all just have to expect and in my case, put up with for a single season before I send them packing.
You have to think past the malcontents to your end goal, making a great youth football experience for your kids. When you’ve done that, don’t worry about what anyone thinks, because you will never be able to make everyone happy. There is a tiny subset of people out there that are only happy if they and those around them are miserable. If you are coaching youth football for the first time, you will learn quick, it’s a lot more than just designing some great football plays or coming up with a great playbook. You have to be patient to navigate the minefield that is youth football.
Ecclesiastes 4:4- Again I saw that for all toil and even skillful work a man is envied by his neighbors.
Many thanks to the folks in Atlanta for their hospitality this weekend. Thanks to all the people that drove in from the Carolinas, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. It was great to see my buddy Russell again and break bread with new friend Devaughn and eat some great soul food at Gladys Knight’s Restaurant in downtown Atlanta. I got a big smile on my face hearing about Devon’s big turnaround season the first year running my system and hearing about teams like Mountain Park going from 0-8 to 8-0 last year in Atlanta. Keep up the great work guys, I appreciate all you do for your kids.
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