As many of you know the game of youth football is being assaulted from many sides. Many youth football programs numbers are suffering as the feeding frenzy instigated by a very small but very vocal group of detractors has gotten into the willful ear of their willing accomplices in media and even to a few politicians. Many are asking, what can I do? What can I do to help support the game that does so much in the development of millions of young Americans?
There is a lot you can do as a coach and member of the youth football family. While many of us have our differences, we can all unite together under a common cause to fend off this threat which is very real. It’s going to take a multi-pronged approach to be successful.
Start off by getting educated as to what the true dangers are in youth football. While there are legitimate dangers in playing the game, the statistics are on your side when comparing the dangers to what moms think. See the facts and statistics in my previous articles. Know what the Mayo Clinic and CDC says about youth football injuries and how they compare to other activities. Be ready to defend the game, citing some of these statistics and maybe just share with others what the game has done for the kids you coach. Practice your 30 second “elevator speech” as to why kids should get involved in playing the game.
To successfully get youth football a fair shake, people have to hear from the grass roots at the water cooler, in the baseball stands, at the backyard BBQ pit or at the local lacrosse fields. Make sure you communicate this message to your parents, you first want to make sure they are retained. In the end, it is often times the parents who communicate the message to other parents at school events, athletic events or the backyard barbeque. You have to make sure you educate them, I can’t emphasize this enough.
Work with your team, organization or league to get training for all your coaches on how to practice, tackle and block more effectively, safely and efficiently. Many dads and coaches do a great job of coaching youth football. However there are a minority of guys who can give us all a bad name. While these guys may have played the game, they don’t know how to coach it well. It’s up to us to either educate these guys or get rid of them. Many programs do a great job of policing ourselves, we all need to. All of us, including the lifer veterans benefit from coaching clinics, we all need to attend.
Leveraging the expertise of your best youth football coaches into all of your coaches makes for a stronger organization, stronger league and most importantly a better experience for the players. Many programs and leagues have gone to a “certification process” that insures that the coaches have met a certain minimum level of competency. That is a huge selling point to worried moms. Remember perception is reality for many and Coaching Certifications are a great place to start. Send your coaches to clinics or web sites or even to blogs like winningyouthfootball.com where they can learn how to develop competent, safe and aggressive players without having the kids in full pads or hitting for the majority of practice.
Make sure you know how to fit helmets and shoulder pads correctly from your equipment supplier. Ours was willing to give us a short class on how to do it properly and some even will come down and help you do it on site. Require good mouthpieces and inspect them every couple of weeks. There is research that show a good mouthpiece and strengthening neck muscles may have a significant effect on lessening the concussion rates in football players.
The internet is an amazing and at the same time dangerous and damaging tool. Those that would like to get rid of the game have used it to their supreme advantage. While the majority of Americans support the game and more importantly what it teaches, the majority is pretty silent. When there is something in the media that is negative towards youth football, supporters need to respond. Why do major newspapers and media companies now allow readers to comment on their articles? Because people read those comments. It’s often times like rubbernecking at an accident scene, you don’t want to look but somehow you feel compelled to. The comment section on articles are often times filled with hundreds of comments and they are often times dominated by those in the minority with an agenda.
When a casual passerby, aka interested mom reads an article critical of youth football, often times the only comments are going to be some negative comments from a guy who never played, never had kids who played and was picked on by some high school football players when he was 16. Or from some woman in Timbuktu who had a sisters friend whose next door neighbors uncles, workplace bosses in-law’s godson heard or read about someone that may have had a bad injury playing youth football. If you want to be part of the ready defense, go to google.com/alerts and set up an alert for youth football ban or youth football concussions. Then every day an e-mail will come to you with links to all the stories on youth football bans or concussion stories. There will be a short excerpt and a link you can click on to go to that article.
To comment on those articles most of them allow you to do so from your facebook account, without posting on your own facebook. You just click on the facebook or twitter icons to sign in or you just insert your e-mail address and put in a screen name. Simple stuff that doesn’t take you long but will have an amazing cumulative effect. There are over 60,000,000 living Americans who have either played football or had sons playing and most had a positive and reasonably safe experience, we are the majority. But if the elephant won’t speak, the little mouse wins. Use your social media accounts to let others know why youth football is good for kids and share the information you gather from other sources.
Right now there are bills in the New York and Illinois legislatures that would either ban or significantly restrict the playing of youth football in those states. Like anything that is restricted and banned, it starts in one place, gains a foothold and then spreads. Let your lawmakers know via e-mail, text, phone, letter and social media that banning or significantly restricting youth football is bad for kids, bad for America and you wouldn’t feel comfortable supporting those candidates who came out against the game. If I were in New York or Illinois, I would be organizing letter, phone, e-mail and social media campaigns with all my coaches, players, players families, former players, former players families, friends, family and supporters etc I would be on the ground organizing rallies, protests and press conferences to let those opportunistic politicians know that they are not going to go unopposed by the silent majority on this one. If you are in leadership and know your facts, ask to go on local radio programming to share your perspective. Local radio programs are always looking for guests to fill up air time. The local sports talk shows are great about that.
Don’t underestimate the foes of youth football. We all have to do our part if we are going to help moms and others have a realistic understanding and perception of what youth football is truly all about.
Copyright 2013 Cisar Management, all rights reserved. This article may be republished but only if this paragraph and link are included. http://winningyouthfootball.com