Archive for the 'sports parents' Category

06
Jun
14

Macho Macho Man

via Nantucket-Bucket.com

So we’re wrapping up our inaugural lacrosse season here in New Jersey and while there have been some frustrations with communications, I’d say it’s gone well.

Alpha Tween has been playing excellently as a goalie—the most thankless job on the field it seems—and his coach has been very excited saying “He’s making saves on pure athleticism! Wait until he has technique!”

Which is a nice compliment, although it made me chuckle. It’s like saying “hey you’re really good with no idea what you’re doing!” It happens to be true as well, but it’s funny.

The Professor has been enjoying himself as well, and I’ve really seen a lot of hard work from him to improve.

Last night was the last official games for both and in the cases of both games, it got a bit physical and chippy towards the end. People likely don’t realize it, but lacrosse can be a tough, violent game at any level. And the more tired people get, the more frustrated and the more they use their sticks to hit and not control the ball.

At one point late during The Professor’s game, one of the kids got hurt—I can’t quite recall the circumstance—and was laying on the grass as coaches tended to him and made sure he was OK.

My wife—football mom that she is—yelled for the kids to “take a knee” as that’s what we do in Pop Warner when someone is hurt. You kneel down out of respect for the guy hurt and you clap when he gets up. This has been taught to Alpha since he started in football back in New York, and when my wife coached soccer last fall, she drilled it into the kids on her team as well.

It’s just good manners. I’ve never given it a second thought—all the other teams in our Pop Warner league do it and as a coach, I just figured everyone else did it.

Apparently not.

What I didn’t hear, but my wife did, was the gentleman to our left who muttered, “Why is it always a woman who shouts that?”

image via USAFootball.com

Now, maybe he was wondering “why don’t more men do that?” or maybe he was wondering “why women are so soft?”—I can’t say. When my wife relayed it later it definitely sounded as if she felt it was the latter.

I had echoed her shouts the first time, so it seems like an odd comment.

When the next kid went down a quarter or so later, she didn’t say anything.

I noticed no kid knelt down and no parent or coach said anything to motivate that.

I didn’t say anything, though I almost did—but it’s hard to be the lone voice. My wife didn’t say anything, which I found odd at the time, but now makes sense.

She didn’t want to be “that woman.”

I’m saddened for a couple of reasons. That she felt she couldn’t show compassion for a kid who was hurt (on our own team the

second time). That she felt like her consideration was marginalized because of her gender. That clearly the whole “kneeling down thing” isn’t widespread among all teams and sports in our town. That some guy (who for other reasons struck me as nobody I want to have a beer with anyway) felt the need to comment on how “it’s always a woman.”

There’s a lot to unpack here.

First, comforting a hurt kid is a human thing, not a woman’s thing. If you’re a dad and you think otherwise, I’m going to go ahead and suggest you rethink what being a dad means.

That doesn’t mean you coddle or throw your child in a bubble. It means you show compassion. Yeah, yeah, men aren’t supposed to do that, I get it, but you and I both know that’s crap. It’s one thing to roll your eyes when you or someone’s kid is whining for a new toy, it’s quite another when someone is hurt.

image via PrincipalsPage.com

This also gets into the whole macho aspect of sports. This is where I used to type “machismo of football” but it’s all sports, especially on boy’s/men’s sports. All athletes are taught to play through pain—it’s part of the game and there is something to be said for learning to fight through it. To fight through adversity and determine whether what you are facing (be it a sprained ankle or difficult math assignment or being overlooked at work for a promotion) and how serious it is.

And more importantly whether it should stop you, and how to keep it from doing so.

But one thing the organization I coach football for is big on is teaching the difference between being hurt and being injured—and being OK with admitting when you’re injured and can’t go on.

I hate when parents—and this goes for both genders, because I’ve seen it from men and women—tell boys to “be a man.” I mean, listen, there are times to tell your kids “oh grow up” and times to point out that what they have is a bruise not a broken leg and shouldn’t stop them from doing what they’re doing.  But when a kid is laying on the turf, not moving—and maybe I’m nuts—that’s probably not the time.

It irks me when parents comment like this dad did. It irks me that he saw good sportsmanship as a “woman’s thing” instead of good sportsmanship. It angers me that my wife felt like she couldn’t encourage that sportsmanship because she was being judged. And it frustrates me that I didn’t pick up on it and I was just as silent.

The idea that we shouldn’t be compassionate on the field or concerned when a player on any team gets hurt and is down on the field is garbage and I don’t care what gender you are. We’re supposed to be teaching sportsmanship as much as anything else and clearly, that’s not on everyone’s agenda.

image via PackersHistory.net

And here’s the thing—compassion for an injured player isn’t a woman’s thing. It’s a human thing. You want your son to “be a man?” You teach him that even when it’s your opponent on the ground, you treat it as if he’s on your team, you treat him with respect and you hope he gets up. You kneel, or stand silent or whatever it is your team does and you clap when he gets up. You play with passion and aggression, but fairness as well.

These things are not mutually exclusive. I cover the NFL and while some of these guys truly don’t like each other, the majority of the players in the NFL are friendly with each other even right after a game. And what do you see them do when someone is badly hurt?

They kneel. They pray. They worry about someone on the other team as well as on their own.

That’s being a man in my book.

15
Jan
14

TV Review—Friday Night Tykes Episode 1: “Weakness Leaving the Body”

via Hollywood Reporter

“You have the opportunity today to rip their freakin’ head off and let them bleed. If I cut ’em with a knife, they’re gonna bleed, red, just like you.”

“If you believe in yourself, you can do whatever it is you want to do in life.”
— Charles Chavarria, Head Coach, Jr. Broncos

There are a ton of quotable moments in Esquire TV’s new documentary series “Friday Night Tykes,” but those two—said by the same coach at almost the same time—perfect encapsulate the thorny and complicated series.

Which, in turn, perfectly encapsulates the complicated nature of youth sports in America in general, and football in particular.

Before we get too much further here, a few things you should know about the show and the world surrounding it.

In Texas, football is king. Roll your eyes if you want, but it’s true—you need only read Buzz Bissinger’s excellent book Friday Night Lights (which you can bet the title of this series meant to evoke) to know that it’s not hyperbole to say it.

Even before I started coaching youth football last season, I’d heard stories about the intensity with which the game is played at a young age in Texas. To be fair, I have heard stories from throughout the south which echo the same fanatical intensity you hear about in Texas.

So when you watch this show, you have to know going in that this is going to be ratcheted up a few notches beyond what 90 percent of anyone attached to youth football—player, coach or parent—has experienced.

Beyond that, remember that this is a “reality series” more than a documentary. Which is to say, editing for drama is a must.

Which also means we are not seeing well-rounded people—actual people—so much as characters. Because a multifaceted person doesn’t always make for compelling television.

Finally, this organization—the Texas Youth Football Association—does not appear to be a Pop Warner football league, though it may be associated with USA Football, which is the governing body of youth football in America.

They are not associated with the NFL’s youth football safety program, Heads Up Football, according to the website For the Win.

You can tell it’s not a Pop Warner team because not everyone plays—in Pop Warner, everyone has a set amount of plays they are required to participate in, based on the size of your roster.

My son has played youth football both on Pop Warner and non-Pop Warner teams, and both were good experiences, though it is hard to watch from the sidelines when your team is losing and you know you aren’t getting in.

The problem this show—and because of the show, youth football—faces is that most people won’t know any of the above. So this show—for good and ill—is now the face of youth football in America.

And yet, the uncomfortable reality is the picture isn’t all that far off.

In every league, in every city, you have the super-intense coach, the more “positive” coach, and the “lifer” coach. You have the parents who have their son playing because they miss it as much as because their kids want to play, the parents who are clearly uncomfortable but not wanting to make waves and the parents who don’t know enough to know when their kid needs to step away.

Watching the initial trailer, I was put off for a myriad of reasons—not the least of which is that making a documentary or reality show about 8 and 9 year old kids makes me uncomfortable—but as the first episode progressed I recognized that there was far more nuance than I expected.

That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to shake your head at.

image via Awful Announcing.com and Esquire TV

Jr. Broncos coach Chavarria may love to try and give a rousing speech like Vince Lombardi, but he’s far from able to do it.

While he comes off as a blowhard, as you watch the show you can see what he’s trying to do—he just doesn’t have the words or technique to pull it off. Nor does he seem to have the understanding that the way you might fire up or drive a high school kid isn’t likely to work well with grade schoolers.

The most over-the-top coach we see in the initial episode, Chavarria is the one who has a kid puking mid-practice and then praising him for “playing through it.” He’s the one telling his defensive player to jump a whistle and hit the center early to “set the tone” and the coach who is saying he doesn’t care if the other team gets hurt or injured.

Every series needs its villain and Chavarria serves as Tykes’ bad guy.

It’s hard to blame it all on editing either. You can’t listen to him for five minutes and not come away feeling at least a bit off about him and some of his techniques.

But—and here is a hard truth—if you hang around August football practices, you’ll see a slightly less intense version of some of what Chavarria does. Kids run in the heat, kids get banged around and kids sometimes get yelled at. Chavarria may take it to an extreme, but the work is hard and the expectations often high (though it can be said that for 8 and 9 year olds, these expectations are too high).

image via USA Today

The most disturbing moment of the episode is that aforementioned vomiting.

Colby Connell, a 9 year old returning player, gets sick running laps and ends up throwing up pretty violently. Chavarria praises Connell in a voice-over that ‘the kid didn’t quit’ but you’re left with the feeling that maybe the parents and coaches should have made his take a seat for the day.

And here is the difficulty the series will face—while we see a coach pull Connell aside, we don’t see any examination or steps being taken to make sure he is fit to continue playing. And yet, as a youth coach, I find it hard to believe that there weren’t precautions taken. There must have been some time taken to make sure that he wasn’t about to collapse with heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

You don’t see it though, so you’re left wondering whether the Jr. Broncos coaching staff didn’t care or if the editors and producers felt that spending time showing the staff making sure Connell was OK robbed the moment of drama.

And that, more than anything else, was my issue with the show. All too often I was left wondering how much was left on the cutting room floor. I’m pretty sure, for example, that the coaches spent time on proper tackling technique—if just so their own players aren’t hurt. You’d never know it though, as barely a minute is spent total on any sort of coaching beyond admonishing the kids to hit harder, faster and more brutally.

Having been on the practice field, I can tell you that any practice has moments during which a team or coach looks bad or harsh. The team I coached, we spent countless hours drilling the kids on proper technique but if you just filmed our tackling drills, I would imagine we’d look a lot like these coaches. If you filmed only portions of our practices, you might see us yelling at some of the kids (that we were dealing with 12 year olds is besides the point) but not see the positive reinforcement we constantly gave them.

You might see the kids who came early trying to lose weight so they could play sweating and moaning and stumbling, but you wouldn’t see the extra time, effort, support and praise we gave them.

I know all these things and even I had a very hard time trying to keep perspective on what was happening during this show. I can imagine that parents or people who are not or never have been involved in football will look at it and be horrified. And while some of that is certainly justified, some of it is also unfair as we know we aren’t getting a balanced view of anyone.

You’re left with the impression that most of these coaches are insane but the feeling that something is missing.

The show does have a counter-balance to Chavarria and the other coaches in Brian Brashears, the head coach of the Predators.

image via EsquireTV

image via EsquireTV

Brashears, while certainly tough and demanding in his own way, is far more of what people might feel is the “ideal coach” for youth football. While winning is important, he clearly wants his kids to have fun (he even says so—a rarity by any adult during this show) and seems to come across as there for the kids, not because he wants to be Bill Parcells.

During the final ten minutes or so of the show, the Jr. Broncos and the Predators square off and there is definitely a bit of a “good vs. evil” vibe to the setup. Chavarria is angry, grouchy and has a player take a penalty early to “set the tone” (which may seem like poor sportsmanship but is not an uncommon tactic). Brashears encourages his kids, tells them to have fun and comes across as supportive, relatively calm and cool.

In true Hollywood fashion, the white hats beat the black hats but even that feels a bit empty and staged.

Overall, the show is far more intriguing and nuanced than I expected it to be. I came into it assuming I would be disgusted and horrified for 43 minutes—and to an extent that was the case. However, while there are moments that make you cringe, there are also moments which were good food for thought and debate. There are concerned parents, struggling with how far to let their kids get pushed. There are kids who make you wonder how long they’ll be able to—or want to—put forth the massive effort required. There are coaches who go too far and some who seem even keeled.

While I mistrust a lot of what I see and feel that a lot of the events will be made out to be far worse than they are, I am interested to see if the show can strike a balance between the inherent drama of yelling adults and colliding kids with the positive aspects I have seen in my son’s three years playing. How kids can learn leadership, how they can learn to work as a team, how they can overcome adversity.

While Chavarria might seem nuts—and he does—he isn’t wrong when he says that you can learn how to overcome anything if you believe in yourself. You can learn that on a football field and I have seen many kids do so.

Whether we see that in this show is something I am interested in finding out.

My recommendation is to watch, but to take it all with a grain of salt. As I have said before, football isn’t for everybody and every team is very different. Don’t paint every one of them with the same brush as these teams.

Even watching this show, we really don’t know what’s real and what is manufactured.

You can catch the first episode at Esquire.com.

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?

02
Jan
14

Pee Wee Football Coaches Gone Wild!

I can’t begin to tell you how disturbed I was when I saw this ad this weekend.

First of all because:

The Esquire Network is a thing? Good Lord there are officially too many channels (sorry ESPN 18).

More importantly because this show highlights everything wrong with youth football.

Screaming coaches with no rational thoughts in their addled heads, parents telling their kids to play tougher, encouraging kids to hurt other kids, consequences be damned—every nightmare about youth football in one show.

And of course it takes place in Texas, home of the incredibly and frighteningly intense football culture (see the book Friday Night Lights if you don’t believe me). There’s even terribly dangerous, helmet-leading tackling.

I’m sure there’s some positive stuff in there….probably right after commercial break when you’re up grabbing a beer or something.

I’m sure this is an entertaining show, in a cringe-inducing, stomach-churning way.

I know leagues are like this in many sports. I know it because I’ve seen parents get into fights, scream expletives at their kids and take a game the child loved and make it into a way for the adults to relive their own playing days. I get that. And I get that the over-the-top insanity is compelling television. Would you feel like watching if it was all positive? Probably, but when it comes to “reality TV” yelling is selling ads.

But this is profoundly disturbing to me. Encouraging kids to hurt other kids? There’s a disconnect there.

I tell my kids to hit hard and I talk about making the other team want to give up but to physically tell someone to hit the other team so hard they don’t get up? That’s a really scary thing to be telling children.

And a scary thing for parents to see if their kids want to play.

There’s encouraging kids to play hard, to play through aches and pains, to attack the other team—and then there’s screaming at kids, making them cry and telling them they should be injuring other players.

This is going to make youth leagues wince because selling parents on the sport will get harder if anyone sees this garbage (assuming the preview is really indicative of the show). You already have to deal with worries about concussions and other injuries—now you have these coaches as examples of what youth football is about.

All I can say is, as hard as we are on the kids where I coach, we don’t do this. We go out of our way to provide a safe environment for our kids.

None of us are auditioning for the NFL like these coaches seem to be,

I mean, holy shit.

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?

07
Oct
13

What We Have Here is….A Failure to Motivate

Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

The pass was off, I’ll give the wide receiver that. Maybe he ran his pattern wrong as well, but the ball definitely floated.

So in many ways, the interception wasn’t that big a shock after you saw the pass go up.

The receiver standing there after the ball was picked off, unwilling to run after the ball? I’d like to say that was a surprise, but after two months with this player it’s not.

I don’t know how to motivate some of these kids.

There’s a point in anything—not just football, but any aspect of life—where you get metaphorically kicked in the teeth. At that point you either fold or you get off the floor and get back to work.

We folded. Well, not all of us, but enough of us for it to matter in a sport which requires your whole team to be on point.

Some kids it’s easy. They’re natural competitors, whether on the field or in the classroom.

Some kids, it’s not.

And I don’t know how to reach them. It doesn’t compute for me, at all.

That’s on me, because as a coach I need to be able to do that. When that interception happened, the air went out of our team and, quite literally, a chunk of the team quit. Shoulders were slumped, heads down, efforts became half-assed.

You can encourage them, yell at them, talk them up, bench them—but what I can’t seem to do is get them going again. It’s like a car engine when the carburetor is flooded. It’s just not starting again for a while.

The thing is, opportunity—again, whether in football or life—is fleeting. It’s there one minute, gone the next. If you spend time moping, you miss your chance and sometimes it doesn’t come around again.

I know of what I speak.

And I hate to harp on it because these are kids. They aren’t the people they’ll be next week, much less next year, much less once they’re grown.

But the ability to get off the mat, to pick yourself up when you get knocked down—to overcome obstacles—is something you can instill in a person early.

Forget football for a second, that’s a critical habit for life.

Because life is really, painfully, unfair. There are times it flat out sucks. It has no qualms about kicking you in the groin and then spitting on you as it walks away. Most of us get nothing handed to us. Most of us will forever have to fight tooth and nail for what we want or believe in.

We are promised nothing and things are constantly—painfully—ripped from our grasp if we aren’t careful.

So it bothers me I can’t reach some of these kids. It bothers me that I can’t manage to teach these kids to be resilient. That I can’t instill the will in a player that when something goes wrong he shouldn’t shut down.

Because at some point he’s going to need that skill.

Of course, I realize it’s not all on me. It’s not all on the coaches, not when you see a kid three or four days a week and it’s only been about two months. There’s only so much you can do.

It’s a combination of all the people around him (or her) daily—the parents, the schoolteachers, everyone—who will help a kid find their way.

I guess at the end, all I can do is my best. I can try to instill them with confidence, teach them that a bad play or moment isn’t the end of the world and hope that they hear me (which, frankly, is a whole different post).

Some of the kids will get it. Some won’t. And some might five years from now when the “light switch” goes on because of something else.

It’s frustrating though, as I think over the loss yesterday. Could I have done more to help the kids turn it around and keep their heads? Could I have done something differently, whether for the wide receiver (who never got his head back in the game) or any of the other players?

I guess I don’t really know.

All I can do is pick myself back up, dust myself off and work harder to get better.

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?

20
Sep
13

Two Whistles, No Waiting

image via MomsTeam.com

As you know, I’ve been coaching Pop Warner football since the beginning of August.

It’s been a rough season so far, which I’ll elaborate about at a later date, but a lot of fun.

Meanwhile, The Professor is getting ready for his soccer season and the league is short coaches.

Bravely, kindly (perhaps unwisely) my wife volunteered to be an assistant coach, making sure to mention she had only the vaguest ideas of how to play the game but could, in her words “herd the heck out of kids.”

There was no communication from whoever runs the league, so she assumed they didn’t need her after all.

She then got an email saying not only did they need her, but that they were still short head coaches and now some assistant coaches would be paired together to act as a co-coach.

She immediately knew she’d be one of the lucky assistants designated as a co-coach.

And she was.

She reached out to her partner, saying “hey I don’t know what the Hell I am doing, please help” and found out that her partner didn’t have the time to fully coach.

Getting the idea that this is going to go well?

On the upside, The Professor is thrilled she is coaching and we now have two whistles in the house.

This is possibly the greatest event in the history of our family.

No more do we need to shout across the house for the boys. We just whistle.

Didn’t clean up your room? Whistle.

Left your socks in the living room? Whistle.

Ate the last cookie? Two whistles.

In fact, mornings will get much more organized. Either of us can sneak upstairs and start blowing our whistles to wake the boys up!

And it’s all on the up-and-up. All official. Because we’re both coaches and as coaches, are duly licensed users of whistles.

There’s no stopping us.

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