Let's play, kids....now go HIT somebody!!!

NFL head coach Sean Payton watches games from the sidelines this season, suspended for his participation in a “bounty scandal” which occurred last season. Payton and his coaching staff cooked up an incentive plan for the New Orleans Saints players which would financially reward them for knocking opposing players out of games with big hits. I’m sure this scenario has occurred on other teams as well, but Payton and his crew were “outed” and now they pay the price. With all of the pressures of winning in the NFL, I’m not surprised at this behavior. It’s a bit unnerving, however, when a similar situation takes place at the Pop Warner level.

A story is unfolding out of California in which it is alleged that two coaches for a team of 10-and-11-year-old players were offering cash incentives to their team members to knock opposing players out playoff games that were played last season. One of the players from the opposing team suffered a mild concussion after he was hit. It has been alleged that the player who did the hitting was paid for his actions after the game.

With the explosion of youth sports over the past several years, it should come as no surprise that things like this are occurring. The violent nature of football certainly promotes aggressive behavior. Certainly the overzealous actions of some coaches promote that aggressive behavior even more. I’ve known several individuals who are involved in youth league football who are interested in teaching the fundamentals to the kids. In the event the kids choose to advance in the sport as they grow older, they are knowledgeable in the basic skills such as blocking, tackling etc. I’ve also know several others who if they had to take a written test on the rules of football would fail miserably. Their sole purpose of coaching, I believe, is to rid themselves of their own personal inadequacies. Perhaps they were bullied as children or made to feel substandard in some other way, but the nature of their coaching philosophy is anything but pure. The emphasis of the game is placed on violent behavior and not the game itself.

To some youth league coaches, regardless of the sport, winning really is the only thing that matters. There is something about the thrill of victory that makes some grown men and women turn into absolute monsters. It’s also apparent that this same need to win is not quite as important to the participants (kids) who play the game. Somewhere along the line, the adults that coordinate these leagues came up with a philosophy that everyone should win and not just the winning team. How else can we explain the fact that most every participant goes home at the end of the season with a trophy for doing nothing more than showing up?

In youth baseball, for example, kids are often given verbal praise for taking three nice swings….this after whiffing at three bad pitches which resulted in a strikeout. “That’s ok!! Nice swings!” parents are often heard screaming from the grandstands. Huh? I’m sorry, folks, but your kid just failed. Maybe that’s one reason it is so difficult to hold anyone in society accountable for their actions, as they have been brought up in a culture where failure is not only recognized, but it’s praised.

As I think about this topic a little more, maybe a bounty system in sports isn’t such a bad idea. Perhaps by offering such incentives, it’s possible to remove certain aspects from the game that threaten the short-term and ultimate outcomes. Let’s take these coaches in California as examples. Should these charges be proven, I think I’d be willing to kick in a few dollars to see them knocked into the wall at their places of employment. I think there was a TV commercial a few years ago in which workers were suddenly obliterated by some behemoth-type co-worker. They were simply plowed right into the water cooler. Yes, I’d certainly contribute to such a worthwhile bounty for these two misguided pinheads.

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