Youth football leagues have their issues as well

Photo by Tevin Stinson

Youth football leagues have their issues as well
June 20
09:44 2019

Last week I wrote a sports column about the issues that I have seen in the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) circuit. That column created a lot of conversation and I received many messages, phone calls and texts, thanking me for putting those issues out on the table.

At first, I wanted to write a follow-up article about how we can best fix the issues, but I felt I needed to obtain more information from those who are doing it the right way. I also wanted to speak with some parents to see how they feel the game can be improved, so I will hold off on that article.

After sitting back and reading comment after comment about the AAU article on social media, I began to feel it was incomplete in some way. Then it came to me that basketball is not the only sport that I have witnessed on a consistent basis, where issues are present at the youth level.

Youth football leagues such as Pop Warner and American Youth Football have issues that I have noticed they need to fix. I don’t mean to sound like I am on a tangent or anything, but I felt since I do have the platform to voice some of the issues, why not. Additionally, my hope is that maybe once a conversation has begun, then maybe we can start to turn things around.

First off, I would like to say that my perspective comes from two sides. Not only have I covered countless youth football games, but I have also been a coach for multiple leagues as well. I prefaced my column with that, so people will have an idea of where I am coming from.

As with youth basketball, one of my main problems with youth football is the lack of quality coaches to fill all the roles available. I have a bigger issue with bad coaching on the youth level in football versus basketball, because a coach giving bad technique in football can potentially be life threatening.

I have personally witnessed a coach teaching bad tackling technique to a young player around the age of 10. I’m sure I don’t have to tell anyone the dangers of teaching a player the wrong tackling technique. I cringed several times before heading over to the head coach and informing him of what I had witnessed. To think an incident like this is singular would be very naïve.

I would hate to see a kid become paralyzed because of bad coaching; that is a scary thought to say the least. Every coach has to take HEADS UP training, but is that enough? We have to do more for our kids so we can minimize the risk of the game as much as possible.

Another big issue that made me sad for the sport was the poaching of players from other organizations. Through conversations with coaches, parents and players, luring players from one organization to another is more prevalent than people think. With teams limited by age, sometimes a team is lacking in one area.  Instead of living with that shortcoming, some organizations with lure a kid to their team with the promise of playing time or even bad-mouthing the other team.

I find that sickening. Youth sports were created to teach the kids the game and for them to develop character and life skills. Some coaches have used the sport to live out their dreams and bolster their resume, which is sad. I understand kids change organizations for several reasons, but to bad-mouth another team for your gain is ridiculous. We need to get back to having the focus on the kids and not a coach’s win/loss record.

I grew up in an era where coaches grabbed your face mask, smacked you on the helmet and sometimes made you run until you threw up, so I am not sensitive by any stretch of the imagination. My problem isn’t with coaches disciplining or coaching their players, but with the excessiveness of it. It seems some of these coaches live through their players and if the team loses, they take it harder than the players.

I appreciate a coach who feels bad when the team does not win, but to belittle and demean his players in front of their teammates is something that I have witnessed way too often. I took it hard when my team lost, but I used that as a means to teach the kids something, rather than humiliating the child.

My issues with youth football are not limited to on-the-field issues. I have covered several games where marijuana was being smoked near the field and if I could smell it, I’m sure everyone there could smell it as well, including the police officers that were on site. I am not condemning smoking, but I am condemning smoking it around children at a sporting event.

Smoking weed is not the worst thing I have been made aware of, either. I have heard of gambling and even gunshots being fired at a football field. We must do better for our children, because it would be a shame for them to grow up thinking this is normal behavior on and off the field.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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