In Coaching: Good/Bad/Unfair, Problems in Youth Sports

He was new to football and big for his age for a 5th grader,
Maybe that’s why Coach paired him with a much bigger, stronger, more experienced 7th grader for the first day of tryouts.

The coach instructed the older kid to knock his younger partner onto his butt during their blocking drill, and when he got up, to do it again and again.


Coach knew how to teach mental toughness and he had decided that this big 5th grader was far too “soft.” So Coach was going to toughen him up by having him smacked around a little. After all, this is football and you have to be tough to play the game!

The 5th grader left practice terrified. He couldn’t eat and barely slept that night, dreading tryouts the next day. And the next day, Coach set things up exactly the same: Bigger, stronger, more experienced 7th grader against a now very scared, smaller 5th grade newbie to football. Why? Because Coach was a master motivator and was going to make this kid mentally tough because that’s what’s needed to play good football.

When the smaller kid couldn’t seem to get himself up fast enough so he could be knocked back down again, Coach yelled out his motivational encouragement for all on the field to hear! “Get off your ass, Dumbo! Don’t be a mamma’s boy! You’re acting like a scaredy little girl!” Why? Cause Coach was building mental toughness!

Maybe that’s why, by the third day of tryouts, and now two full nights without sleep and very little food, the 5th grader was so terrified that he peed his pants at the start of the blocking drill. In fact, he couldn’t get himself to move! This is what all animals do when they are in DANGER and trapped, and can’t protect themselves. They go into freeze and literally shut down.

Thank God that the 5th grader’s mother figured out what was happening to him and pulled him out of the tryouts. But the damage had already been done. The kid stopped playing football and now suffered from anxiety that seemed to follow him wherever he went, long after he entered high school.

Because Coach was a master motivator and knew how to “teach” mental toughness, and “prepare” young men to play championship football.


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