“Friday Night Tykes” provides an “authentic and provocative glimpse into an independent youth football league in Texas.” An Esquire Network spokeswoman added, “We believe ‘Friday Night Tykes’ brings up important and serious questions about parenting and safety in youth sports, and we encourage Americans to watch, debate and discuss these issues.”
Twitter exploded as well as the comments page on the network page dedicated to the reality show:
“I’m not sure what Friday Night Tykes is going for but it comes off like a tragedy. These coaches need to get a life and a grip.”
“If you would like to lose faith in humanity and be terrified for children’s lives all at the same time, may I recommend #FridayNightTykes?”
“This @ESQTV show on youth football is basically child abuse. I can’t believe what I’m seeing…”
What can we, as parents of athletes, learn from such a revealing show?
Friday Night Tykes exposes 5 things we can discuss. Brace yourself. We can gain some positives as well as negatives:
There are 3 styles of coaching: Authoritarian, Authoritative, Indulgent
Indulgent: coaches holding low expectations, low demands, high praise given for little accomplishment, catering to the wishes and direction of the child. The focus is on the comfort of the child and the child’s returned affection. They would be considered “soft” coaches. Children coached in this style will not develop the character or skills necessary to participate in organized groups productively.
Authoritarian: highly demanding, restrictive, punitive coaches. They demand compliance without attending to the legitimate needs, age appropriateness of expectations or concerns of a child. The focus is on performance and status. This style would be considered “hard” coaching and is fear based. A majority of children will break-down emotionally and/or physically and not achieve longevity in the sport under this style of coaching.
Authoritative: holds developmentally appropriate high expectations, demands and standards. With an understanding of children, these coaches teach, guide and lead with respect. They hold the child responsible for character developed and closely monitor progress, objectively providing feedback on performance and providing measured and consistent consequences to correct actions. The goal is to develop inner strength, maturity, and longevity of excellence.
The best coaches are demanding. They push hard to get more out of an athlete than they thought they possible. They may get angry and yell, but they balance that with care and belief in their athletes. There’s a high degree of understanding of the developmental age of their athletes and what an individual athlete can handle mentally and physically. Parents should ensure their child has a coach with the most authoritative style possible. With that said, finding an Authoritarian or Permissive free coach is difficult.
2. Age appropriateness:
Elementary: Kids should be exposed to as many opportunities as possible and allow kids to follow their interests. It’s a time to play, have fun, explore, and discover while building fundamental and foundational muscle and skill, character, mental, emotional and social development. Development should be incremental and increasingly focused through age 14.
Middle-school: Kids will be going through a transition from 13-15 years both physically and mentally. They will be evaluating the ownership of what they are interested in pursuing as their bodies go through puberty and change. The focus at this stage is to allow kids to decide if they will remain in or narrow the focus of a pursuit. At this point, the finer skills of a sport ought to be the focus. Attention to mechanics, character, strategy is essential over performance and winning.
High-School: By this point, a child’s body and mind are ready for the rigor of training and performance. They are also emotionally developed enough to make personal decisions about matching their level of investment and intensity with their goals.
Pushing kids to perform too early only serves to undermine longevity in a sport. Many young phenoms never make it in their sport past puberty due to burn-out or physical or mental development that limits their ability to progress to the level they expected. So, it’s wiser to keep perspective on what’s age appropriate. They succeed far better, far longer.
It IS important to develop tough-minds and strong character in kids. In general, our culture has become one that errs on the side of being permissive and indulgent. We have gone off the deep end by calling anything less than coddling and immediate gratification, child abuse. As adults, we need balance, common sense and good judgment. We need to arm our kids with survival skills by developing courage, perseverance, reasoning, responsibility, commitment, endurance, grit, ambition, determination, self-control and a myriad of other character traits we can teach them through athletics. Pushing them, holding them to high standards, holding them accountable, letting them experience negative consequences are essential to them being successful. They need to learn that reward is on the other side of hard work. BUT, these are best taught in incremental, age-appropriate degrees with an authoritative style.
Boys gain validation through physical conquests. Providing boys with demanding physical play, challenge and contests is essential to their well-being. Boys must be given ample opportunity to be physically aggressive in safe, structured productive pursuits. So, challenging boys extremely hard and showing them they can break through perceived limits, discomfort, fear, and desire to quit is positive. If boys are neither guided nor given opportunity for this, they will find destructive, harmful ways to vent their aggressive nature.
5. Living Vicariously
When we had kids, we parents shifted our attention and priorities to the needs of our babies. Many of us gave up the personal lives and pursuits we had to attend to raising our kids. As they grow and need us less and less, we have the opportunity to shift back to our own pursuits more and more. Our kids need us to do this. It allows them to grow in independence. It allows them to watch our model. It takes the pressure off them to accomplish things for our personal needs of accomplishment and allows them to enjoy the satisfaction of what they accomplish on their own. The perfect balance for an athlete is to have a coach and parent who all invest the same level of intensity. If any one of the three wants success more than the other, it’s out of balance and won’t ultimately work. Athlete, coach and parent must all be working in sync for the same goal and degree of investment.
Does Friday Night Tykes have any redeeming qualities?