In the very first clip of the debut episode of “Friday Night Tykes,” a Texas youth football coach screams to his eight and nine year old players, “You have the opportunity today to rip their freakin’ head off and let them bleed!”
“Friday Night Tykes” follows several youth football teams in the gridiron factory of Texas. The first episode focused on registration, training camp conditioning and the first game of the season.
Much of the drama we see is a familiar sight in youth football, such as players vomiting, crying, and being upset with playing time. Coaches show tough love, and in some cases exhibit the controversial intensity we see around the country in all youth sports.
A multitude of parents both onscreen and offscreen are speaking out against the Texas Youth Football Association and the nature of the game itself, questioning whether it is too violent for kids.
Among other scenes in the pilot episode, we see a violent collision that ends with one eight-year-old player lying face down after taking a hit to the head. He is given some water and is eventually determined by officials to be alright.
“The program is definitely troubling to watch,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president of health and safety policy in an official statement. “Our understanding is that this is not a league that signed up with USA Football to be a part of the Heads Up Football program.
Thousands of youth leagues registered for Heads Up Football training this past season, meaning their coaches are certified and teaching the game the right way. We hope this league and many more will join them this year.”
There is also concern about the language and violent imagery used by coaches. In the program, they are often seen cursing at their players and encouraging disdain and violence towards the other team versus respect and veneration.
In my opinion, I do not see the coaches’ behavior or coaching styles as out-of-the-ordinary or troublesome.
The important thing to note is that “Tykes” is a Reality series, not a documentary, and reality series’ in this day and age are hardly undramatized.
I began playing youth football when I was nine years old, and my experience was remarkably similar to that of the young athletes on “Tykes.”
Football is a physical game, and kids need to be prepped for that from the moment they sign up.
The rules of the game are taught before anything else, so even at nine years old I knew that when my coach told me to go out there and “knock that kid’s head off,” he’s not telling me to spear him with the crown of my helmet or start throwing punches.
Instead, he’s telling me to go hit that player hard enough to knock him to the ground and stop the play.
I got chewed out, cursed at and even hurled a few chunks, but I never quit. I came out better for it, and so will young boys and girls who participate in competitive, organized sport