You have probably read a lot already about the new reality television series, Friday Night Tykes (FNT) which premieres tonight on the Esquire Network.
Like many of those who have weighed in so far, I am troubled, to put it mildly, about what it says about youth football, San Antonio, Texas-style. [For some of what I think, watch tonight's "Inside Edition" ]
But I also see educational value in the show because, in so many ways, it provides a perfect example of precisely how NOT to run a youth football program. I think the best thing I can do to enhance your viewing experience is to provide you this companion guide to alert you to just some of the safety issues raised in the first two episodes that Esquire made available to the press, and provide links to related MomsTEAM content so you can decide for yourself how the way the folks in San Antonio run their program matches up - or, in almost all cases, doesn't match up - to how we at MomsTEAM think a youth football program should be run, one which puts winning first, and one which puts safety first, and let you be the judge about which one you would want your child or grandchild to play in.
- Kids, at their very first practice, play in full pads and helmets in 99% heat.
- When they are overcome by the heat and begin throwing up, they are told to quit crying, put their helmet back on, and resume practicing.
- Kids do not take water breaks in shade.
- Kids told to "rip their [opponents'] heads off."
- Kids told that if their opponents' "heads fall off, so be it."
- Coach tells players, "If you slam them to the ground, oh well."
- Head-to-head helmet contact is routine
MomsTEAM related content:
- Kids told to keep playing even if get "bell rung" and crying
- Coach expresses view that if he lets player stop because of injury, you "weaken" him; kids need to just "shake off" injury
- Player returns to practice 2 days after taking a "bad hit" in practice; mother wondered why he didn't want to play X-Box
- $16,000 spent on new uniforms; manicured fields, concrete stands, but no athletic trainer or health care professional on sideline.
- Coaches screaming, swearing at kids
- Coaches teaching kids to use profanity [January 30 update: The coach who led his team in a chant that used an expletive toward an opponent was subsequently suspended by the league for the infraction for the six-game spring football season).
- Coaches threatening kids with physical harm if don't do what told ("I'm going to hurt one of y'a")
- Coach tells players, "I don't care how much pain you are in."
- Coach says he could "care less" if players cry
- Players forced to run laps as punishment
Winning versus having fun
- Coach says "Whatever it takes [to win] - I don't care who plays, even if same 11 [play every week]."
- Son of team's General Manager sits out both of first two games; seen hanging his head; mother doesn't says he doesn't understand what he did wrong, not having fun.
Later blogs in this series:
Brooke de Lench is Executive Director of MomsTEAM Institute, Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com, producer/director/creator of the new PBS concussion documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer," and author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers In Youth Sports. You can follow Brooke on Twitter @BrookedeLench.