Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

Overcoming Daddy Favoritism When Coaching Youth Football

 Daddy favoritism is one of the most common and deadly team killers in youth football. Almost all of us have seen it, the average player who is put into a no-win situation by a well meaning but selfish or delusional father. The average baseball player who would make a pretty good outfielder is made the starting short stop or ace pitcher by his dad. In football, the average player who would make a real good Tight End, who dad has named as the starting Quarterback. Nothing tears a team apart quicker than this type of favoritism. The parents and kids quickly lose respect for the coach and when there is no respect, there is no trust and without trust, forget about having a team that is “all in.”

How do you make sure this ugly problem doesn’t rear its ugly head in your organization? It starts first in the coaching interview process. Some organizations don’t allow dads to coach on the same teams their sons are on. Others will let them coach Jr’s team, but won’t allow dad to coach the position his son plays. You can often find out where a dads coaching motivation is by asking him a simple question like; “We have a policy against dads coaching their own sons directly, how do you feel about that?” It depends how many quality coaches you have in your organization as to what type of policy you can live with.

No matter which direction you go, you have to set expectations with your coaching staff. Have EXPLICIT written out position descriptions for each and every position on your youth football team, so EVERYONE is on the same page as to what “flavor” of player you are looking for at each position. List the requirements for each position; list the type of speed, quickness, body control, strength, aggressiveness and smarts needed to effectively play it. Then map your requirements into your evaluation drills and games. Next, make sure you accurately grade those evaluations.

If the top requirement for position “A” is that the player be able to run through traffic, if little Johnny wasn’t one of the top three players on the Gauntlet Drill, he shouldn’t be considered for that position. The simplest way to figure some of these positions out is to make the drills competitive and group the players based on results. Let’s say you are evaluating players for Linebacker and the position requirement said the player must be one of the best athletes who plays aggressively and can tackle consistently in space. You could figure out who the best choices would be by running the Three Slot Challenge tackling drill in 3 groups. You line up 3 groups all doing the drill, if a player wins (ball carrier doesn’t cross the line of scrimmage) he goes to the group on the right, if he loses he goes to the group on the left. At the end of 15 minutes all your best in space tacklers are going to be in group 3. If you want to make it very interesting just have the remaining kids in group 3 fight it out. The winners get to stay in, the losers are out. If dads budding little Linebacker is in group 1, forgetaboutit, he isn’t a Linebacker candidate. Look to the Evaluating Players thread in this blog for more ideas.

Make sure to have a coaches clinic and emphasize that the goal is to maximize the team dynamic which means you have to have the kids playing in positions that are appropriate for their skill set. Let all the coaches know that there can not be any favoritism whatsoever towards their own children. It’s best to be stern and upfront so you don’t have to deal with the problem later on.

Just remember when you are faced with this situation that it isn’t the poor kids fault, most of them know where they stand in when it comes to their peers- they know. In fact it’s been my experience that most of these kids would prefer, enjoy and even excel at a position or role that was more in sync with their skills. Too many of these poor kids get turned off of the game because of a few dads that are delusional about their own kids skills.

If you’re lucky like me, you will run into coaches that error on the other side of the equation. I had one head coach who had a son with great hands but he rarely threw to him. I ended up having his boy play for me one season, he caught 11 touchdown passes that year. When I asked the dad why he didn’t throw to his very talented son more often, he replied he didn’t want to appear like he was playing favorites. Doing competitive evaluation drills saves you when your son is a stud player- those drills will show everyone what is what and who is who. As a dad you have to be fair, I’ve coached my own kids a handful of years and there was never any controversy. I made sure they never got issued a new helmet or new pants, put them at the back of every line to the point no one knew I had a kid playing on the team until they saw the roster in print or saw me drive home with the boy in the front seat of my truck.

Copyright 2010 Cisar Management, all rights reserved. This article may be republished but only if this paragraph and link are included. //winningyouthfootball.com

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  1. Luciano

    Working as an Asst Coach last year, I saw the prerential treatment the HC son recieved. Absolutely textbook favortisin, was the starting QB, skillset was decent, but made a better RB than QB, his son did not have the demeanor for the role, lost it during sevral games and crying and throwing tantrums, including talking back to coaches and according to my son, during several games told his father in the huddle to shut-up.

    I decided to break-off from the team and one coach came with me and we had about 3-4 boys come with us as well. as a NEW HC, that was a very big concern for me, my son is not the starting QB, but a RB, I worked with him over the summer and assessed his skills and when our season started was overly critical with him, but other coaches and players realized that this was the right fit for him. I do admit that I am much harder on him and I have explained to him that he has to work that much harder and prove that he has earned this role.

  2. boboruba

    I was one of the players who was affected by daddy coach favoritism. This was over 20 years ago but sticks with me today as I try to help my son avoid being burned by it.

  3. Coach Herman

    I am a head coach in lake charles La. My son is four years old. I don’t have that problem, but I have seen it along the way. I have ACs who have sons and I clearly explained to them that its no individuality, its team first, I just made a QB change it was one of my coaches sons. The kid is an exceptional athlete with a rocket arm, and gd speed, but he has no discipline. I made the change his dad semi disagreed, then he saw his son not carring over teaching and the other kid was. It was not a problem after that. My advice to anyone who goes through that please take your son to another team.

  4. Coach D

    I’m a head coach in CT and in my 3rd year coaching my son. His 1st year I did not coach his team and did not know his coaches. They put him at QB the RB because of his natural talent and athleticsm. Your always going to have a few kids and parents chittering even if your kid proves he belongs in that position and their child doesn’t according to the evals. I agree you have to be tougher on your own kid to a point of not embarasing him but treat him as you would his RB counterpart (equally).

  5. Daren l -Arizona

    I have a son who played pop Warner last year. He was the quarterback and rightfully so. He was the second oldest on a mighty mite team one of the three fastest kids and he has a good head on his shoulders. He also played every down of every game. He was recruited by a couple of other coaches to play on their teams in pop Warner the next year. He didn’t know what he wanted to do the next year. He ended up switching to a team closer to home in a local league. A team that he had a friend playing on who seemed to really like his team. Turns out the head coach and really all the coaches have a big time problem with daddy favoritism. Hc’s son is average. He is the do everything of our team. At first he was qb, then when the fastest kid on our team wasn’t getting results. Dad moved him to tailback. He has done slightly better only because he will follow the blockers a bit better than our previous tailback. Meanwhile, my son who was a star player and now can’t even get on the field sits the entire season. We are currently 2-6. We started with 30 kids and are now at 25. Last practice only 18 showed up. The coaches routinely only play 13-14 kids in the game. That is 5 coaches sons and the are sons of coaches friends. We are starting a three team club next year with your system. Looking forward to improved morale and success.

    1. davecisar

      Daddy ball is something that unfortunately happens all to often in youth football. That is why it is so important to do your homework the year before anyone signs their son up to play on a team. While not all youth football programs will be able to tell you what team your son would be on the next season and who the coaches are going to be, many can. Even if you can’t be sure of the team or coaching staff, you can always get a good feel for how well the programs in the program are coached and how good the parents feel about the experience. Sounds like you should have stayed with the other program.

  6. Roger

    I have an assistant coach on my team that use to be a head coach that not only favors his son, but some of his former players. He talk about how great his son is, but looking at the tape from his former team, I didn’t see his son get much playing time. It sucks for the son because his dad is playing larger than he really is.

  7. Lincoln Washington

    One reason I like youth football and encourage my son is it contains many life lessons, most of which you can’t get in school. Dealing with favoritism is unfortunately one of those life lessons. We have all had that boss at one time in our adult lives, who received his position because of who he/she knew and not due to ability/knowledge/credentials. Did you quit the job, fall on your sword? Or did you continue to do your best, in spite of being discriminated against?

    We unfortunately had to deal with the HC’s favoritism towards his son. Of course he knew all the plays better, because he has been in the same playbook for 6 years. He has always been the star running back, so he knows that position cold. When new players come in from season to season and try to compete, day one they are behind and it is easier to put them in at a TE who always just blocks for the RB who runs around the end.

    I encouraged my son to continue to play hard even though he may think it is unfair, and sooner or later he would get noticed if he always put out 100%. And it did. Still may not be fair, but life isn’t fair. Hopefully he will never experience favoritism in the workplace, but if he does, he knows he can still succeed in spite of it.

  8. Henry

    My son played NT and enjoyed it, while I was the team mgr last year. I plan on being an AC this year and am prepping my son to again play tackle. He does not have the athletic ability to play a skill posn because of his size and speed. He does have a good head on his shoulders and will perform well in the trenches.

  9. Todd

    I have been on the other side of this as a coach. My son was the most experienced and possibly the most talented on our team. He was always the first player to rotate out of the game so that other players could get into the game. He also did not play offense at all despite all of the work that we put in doing drills and working to get better. It’s hard to explain to your son the reason why he doesn’t play as much as some of the other kids when he clearly is a pretty good little ball player! Was I doing the right thing?

    1. davecisar

      That happens too. That’s why I love the competitive evals we do in my book. The results are there for everyone to see. If your boy is the best, nobody can argue with that.

  10. Mitch

    I absolutely loved football when I was growing up. I wanted to be a running back and was pretty darned good if I do say so myself. I ran through most of the kids playing. However, the coaches son wanted to be a back and of course he got the position. He was terrible. Couldn’t hold on to the ball, couldn’t get through tackles. Never blocked when he needed to. But of course, he still got the spot. I quit playing because of 2 years of that. All too often I think head coaches with kids on the team ruin it for other players.

  11. JOSHUA

    I am a HC for the IE in California. My son most likely is the least athletic and unfortunately the smallest. He gets his min playing time on tough games and I max him out on not so touch games. he smiles, the kids treat him with respect and he tells everyone what to do! He is a leader, but definitely no starter or skill position player. Not all coaches are the same! he is my DL-Tackle, 2nd team! He is Happy and so am I!

  12. RK

    I’m an AC on a tiny mite team. My son is clocked at being tied for fastest and is second in weight and is as aggressive as they come. He wears me out about playing running back or quarterback but he’s the only kid we have that can reliably shotgun snap a ball in a game situation. We haven’t lost a game since we moved him to center. The down side for him is that due to the size of the team and minimum play rules he’ll play the whole game at center and not much else. He’ll get in for a play or two at DE and always gets a sack but then he stays out to make sure that the parents know he’s not treated with favoritism. He plays center for his team and knows its important to do his job for his team but that’s not his passion. Further more he puts in extra practice to get his snaps perfected because of the late start at the position. As a dad I’m a little bent about playing kids who do not show up for a single practice but have to play 15 of the games 35-40 snaps when I have other boys putting in 3 days of practice to earn a role on game day. In this case for my son being the coaches kid is a draw back.

    1. davecisar


      Good deal.

      However I would NEVER waste a talented player at Center. In non select teams you only have so many good athletes, those good athletes shouldn’t be wasted at a position many average kids can play with reasonable coaching.

      Ive coached a short shotgun offense for the last 19 years now and I’ve never wasted an athlete at Center. My strong suggestion is to get competent at training the snap and the center position and greatly improve your team.

  13. Coach B

    I have coached Popwarner and High School for 15 years, my son played for me in Popwarner and now is in HS. I didnt have the favoritism problem in Popwarner like i did last year when he played JV for the HS. The HS kids prior to pracrice and the season starting would say he only got to play LB because of me until the first day of contact at practice and then it went from favoritism to that fact that he could really play and was the best kid at the position. He also was voted Defensive MVP…i said that to say as a parent you have to let the kid prove himself and stop living through the child..


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