How does the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal affect youth football? Probably a lot more than you might think. No matter where you come down on your opinion of the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal and the suspension of defensive coordinator Greg Williams, we all have to acknowledge and understand how this action affects the youth football game.
What happens at the upper levels of the game impacts the lower levels. Many parents are not savvy when it comes to the game of football. Many parents think what they see on television on Saturdays and Sundays are microcosms for what happens at all levels of the game. Even though parents can see that one game is played by super freak athletes in large stadiums and junior is playing in a minimum play league with 50 people in attendance, to them football is football. If you don’t think that’s the case, then why do you hear about the need to run pro based schemes? Why do so many parents think their kids will be playing on Saturdays and Sundays when their kids aren’t in the same universe talent wise and never will be when compared to the College and NFL guys? Many parents and football moms are clueless.
When the game of football is tarnished at one level it affects all levels, including us. Many parents don’t have the time or the ability to discern the differences in the levels of the game and think what happens at one level, probably happens at another. In today’s internet and social media age, any youth football problem in Timbucktoo, Vermont is front “page” national news within hours. While 99% of youth coaches are doing the right thing most of the time, those 1% outlaws are the ones getting all the headlines. That 1% is what many of the public see and moms and dads are basing their opinion on what the game of youth football is all about on the actions of those 1 percenters.
This isn’t the fall of 1970, where the only choice for most boys was youth football. Today there is soccer, fall baseball, BMX, skateboarding, martial arts, select basketball, video games, the internet, doing nothing and many other choices. These are all competitors to youth football that for the most part didn’t exist 40 years ago. If the PERCEPTION is that football isn’t a reasonably safe activity for Junior to be playing there are lots of other choices for mom and dad these days.
Football seems to be getting all the bad press, much of it well deserved and some of it probably due to the fact there is a subset of people that would love to see our beloved game go away. These people view the game of football as an archaic simple minded misogynist American tradition beneath the level of what enlightened educated worldly civilized people should participate in and they would like nothing more than deny everyone else the right to play. These football haters would prefer that young boys be attending ballet class or playing co-ed soccer at the YMCA where every game ends in a tie and both teams join hands after every game, sing KUMBYA, discuss current events and their their feelings and drink juice boxes together.
Has it really come to that? It’s getting there and look for the hate football crowd to use the bounty scandal and the concussion issue to further their cause. What can we do? If we don’t police ourselves, someone else will do it for us. Is it good to tell your players to play physical football? Absolutely. Is it ever acceptable to tell your players to injure another player or “take him out” ? Never, it’s reprehensible. Youth football players don’t understand figures of speech, they will almost always take you literally. So don’t talk in that way and quite frankly in spite of what many youth coaches think, those spittle raining get in your face, play physical “pep talks” go in one ear and out the other for most youth players today. Personally I haven’t used that approach in a pregame speech in over 16 years. Today’s player wants you to keep it real and they see right past cheap theatrics, you lose face with them when you resort to these type of shortcuts.
Go the extra mile, if you see a coach on your staff or in your organization acting in an inappropriate way that damages the game, do something about it. Respectfully talk to him, reason with him and if he’s way out of line and won’t change his ways, help get him moved on to something else. The game should be bigger than any one person. Let’s protect the game for our kids and future generations of kids who need it now more than ever before.
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