The game of football is under attack. I have blown this off for many years because of the popularity of the game and because Texas is insulated from the rest of the football nation due to the culture and organization of high school football. I embrace this opinion now because I see the impact in the number of kids not coming out to play.
We always have our reasons/excuses why the numbers are fewer and fewer, spanning from safety issues, specialization, or that playing the game is too tough for some. I believe the way coaches are portrayed on shows like Friday Night Tykes and Last Chance U are also to blame. Then you throw in the reports of dehumanizing treatment of players by the coaches at Maryland and it paints a terrible picture of football coaches. These negative portrayals and real-life stories dominate the news cycle and create a stereotype that sets back the positive impact coaches are having within their programs.
Berating and cussing kids is not “coaching hard”. This is a technique that is present in the coaching world and needs to go away. When you do this, you are constantly breaking down a kid until there is nothing left, including a desire to play for you. If all I was told was how terrible I was at performing my job, I would look for work somewhere else. I would question my choices and maybe even change professions. I believe this is a large part of why kids are leaving football. Negative energy and input in the program creates a toxic culture. Once this happens, negativity spreads like a bacterial infection, making everyone sick and tired.
It’s important to remember the adage of taking seven positives to reverse one negative when we coach our kids. Just like in football, when you lose yards on a play it becomes a lot tougher to convert for a first down. The recent stories of how football is coached at Maryland have put our profession in a tough situation and now we need more positives to reverse this. We need more coaches like Nebraska’s Scott Frost dominating our stories. Coach kids up to perform to the best of their abilities, to not be afraid to try something. If they make a mistake, help them learn to execute correctly the next time.
I remember when I started coaching, many teams were converting their offenses to the spread in order to attract more kids and create an atmosphere of fun on their teams. Now the issue isn’t the type of football played, it’s the culture of the game as a whole. Coaches are in direct control of this. If we create positive energy in our programs, the negative stereotypes hyped up in the media will dwindle away. The stories of coaches hazing and dehumanizing their players will be a thing of the past. Our words and actions are powerful and they can either keep us moving forward, or set us back to an unrecoverable down and distance.