There was a story on the Today show yesterday morning about a new television series that documents youth football teams in Texas. The series is called “Friday Night Tykes,” and it airs on the Esquire network. The young football players are between 8 and 9 years old. The show is drawing a lot of attention due to the style of coaching featured on the show. The series is also raising serious questions about the safety of the young players and the fact that they are being exposed to risks of injury.
The report then showed a clip of the series. A young boy was doing a drill which required him to crawl across the field on all fours while suited up in full football gear, i.e., shoulder pads, a helmet, etc. The boy was crying, and the coach next to him was telling him, and at times yelling, “Go faster. Come on. Let’s go.” The boy continued to cry and said, “I can’t. It hurts.” At that point, another coach came over to say, “What’s the matter? I don’t care how much pain you are in. You can’t quit!”
Even Matt Laurer, the host of the Today show and a parent himself, felt that the boy was being pushed too hard. The mother of the boy was on the show and responded that she did not feel her son was being pushed too hard. She knows her son and what he is capable of doing. She went on to say that she wants him to learn the lesson of having self-confidence and that he can push through when things get hard.
The mother may have a valid point. Many sports leagues give out trophies to everyone, and there are no losers in games. More and more kids do not know how to lose or handle disappointments. However, there is a fine line between teaching a child a lesson about pushing through tough times and pushing the child too hard and exposing him to unnecessary risks of injury.
A clip that alarmed me involved 8 year old boys tackling each other during practice. These tackles were hard, tough hits. Kids are starting to play football at younger ages. They sometimes start at 4 or 5 years of age and start learning how to tackle at age 6, which in my opinion, is too early to have young boys really tackling each other.
The coach who was interviewed in the segment said that they instill proper tackling techniques. Though it is crucial to teach proper technique, I feel that 6 year old boys are way too young. Many young boys lack impulse control and may unintentionally hurt and injure another player when tackling them.
As a sports injury lawyer, my colleagues and I have first-hand knowledge that injuries sustained while playing football can be serious and permanent. Such injuries include concussions, mild traumatic brain injuries and traumatic brain injuries. Sometimes, the injuries are due to the coaches and the teams’ negligently exposing players to risks of injury.
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Ultimately, parents are the ones who make the decision to let their children play in youth football leagues like the ones featured in this television series. They need to consider whether their young kids are being exposed to unnecessary risks of injury when tackling each other during the game and practice. Parents need to do what is best in the interests of their child.
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