Has Recruiting Ruined Youth Football?

The private coaches/team clinics I do all across the country for youth betfido teams are interesting to say the least. Many of the coaches share thought provoking stories of their teams, leagues and opponents. While I always enjoy working with the coaches and kids, what I enjoy most is going out to dinner with the coaches after we get done and just listening to these stories, sharing a few laughs and learning about the nuances of how things are done in their neck of the woods. The trip I’m speaking of and the story you are about to hear made me laugh so hard I think the waitress and patrons thought I was having some kind of attack or maybe had choked on some food and needed the Hymlich Maneuver.

A fairly recent trip showed me the extent youth football coaches will go to put a winner on the football field. I’ve been coaching youth football for about 15 years and coached in 3 different organizations in 3 different towns in 7 different leagues. I’ve been to football clinics from California to Florida and talked with literally thousands of youth football coaches, I thought I had heard it all, but this story takes the cake. During a very tasty dinner at a local restaurant, coach shared with me a rather amazing story about the extent one youth football coach in his league went to so his team could maintain their dominance in the league. Many competitive youth football teams have to recruit players every year to get enough kids to put together a team or teams. While it is a necessity for most, it is a year-round obsession for others and for some they go off the deep end.

This story starts out with a very big and fast running back that moves from the local area his team is in, to a town right at an hour away. This new town mind you is a hotbed for youth football and has plenty of quality teams the boy can play for. But instead of playing for a team in his new home and making new friends, the player continues to play for his old team over an hour away. In addition to this wackiness, the coach drives the hour to pick him up every Friday, has him sleep at his home and then drives him back home after the game on Saturday. This coach logs 4 hours of drive time every weekend so this player can play on his youth football team. Is it just me or does this sound lame to anyone?

To have such little confidence in your team and coaching abilities that you would spend 4 hours driving every weekend to pick up a kid to “carry” your team is just weak in my mind. This kid only came to games, he did not practice with his team during the week. Why not play a local kid, coach everyone up and make due with the team you have? What kind of message is this sending to this teams players and to this “superstar”? You guys can’t win without the star, football is a one man game, you don’t have to practice to play, teamwork counts for nothing etc etc. A good coach adapts and will figure out a way to compete with the hand that was dealt him, not rely on one superstar to carry his youth football team. This came from an organization that dominates this youth football league. But a coach this desperate for wins is vulnerable, obviously he doesn’t think much of his coaching ability and thinks talent is all that matters in youth football. What’s next, flying kids in for games?

This same “coach” often tries to pull the rug out from under the teams in his league. My friend learned this the hard way, this opposing coach actually showed up at the homes of several of his players to convince their mothers to come play football for his team. This coach actually drives by my friends practice field, goes into the neighborhood to ask where the kids live and shows up on their doorsteps with his song and dance about playing football for him. Fortunately for my friend, his players and parents just adore him so the only thing generated from these escapades in an immediate phone call from mom to my friend to report the shenannigans. This “coach” even had the audacity to “be in the neighborhood” when my friend put on his team barbeque, he even stopped by to say hello and talk some football. My friend is more patient with this person than I might have been.

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