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article image'Friday Night Tykes' sparks controversy, Texans defend

By Natty Walker     Feb 3, 2014 in Sports
San Antonio - American television is full of reality shows starring young children and their overbearing parents. Some of these series include "Dance Moms" and "Toddlers and Tiaras." Usually, shows of this nature focus mainly on girls, but now it's the boys' turn.
Friday Night Tykes is a new documentary series on Esquire Network about the Texas Youth Football Association. Despite the playful title, the show's content has received harsh reactions from outraged viewers. Many people observed the treatment of the children to be too harsh, some even using the term child abuse. Esquire Network promises to give viewers an inside look into the "emotional fans, obsessed parents, and passionate coaches" of the Texas Youth Football Association (TYFA) in their 10-part docu-series.
A FoxSports reporter describes the series as "(...) the most depressing show on television." All of the boys featured on Friday Night Tykes are under the age of 10. Coaches and parents alike can be seen scolding the kids, yelling profanity, smacking the children's helmets, and encouraging them to injure their opponents. Esquire's description of episode 1 includes, "A player is forced to spend practice running laps in 104-degree heat because he missed four weeks of conditioning to visit his grandmother."
Despite the negative response from critics, TYFA representatives have been adamantly defending the methods and priorities of their league. Texas Youth Football Association President, Brian Morgan, stated, "We want a competitive league." He added, "It seems competition has become a bad word. The parents are looking for a league that is competitive and pushes their kids." TYFA accepts boys as young as 4-years-old to play flag football. Full pads and protective gear, with tackling and competition, begin at 6-years-old.
Winning is the primary goal of the football coaches, as well as the parents. According to Reuters, "The league sees itself as a distinct contrast to other youth sports leagues where the emphasis is on having everyone play and scores often don't count. These coaches and parents have a disdain for youth programs that give out participation awards and do not breed winners."
Esquire Network describes the philosophy of the show as, "Throughout, coaches and parents offer insight into why they believe they’re teaching valuable lessons about discipline and dedication, but also grapple with serious questions about parenting, safety and at what price we're pushing our kids to win."
Much of the controversy of the show is centered around the aggressive behavior of the coaches. During the premiere episode of the series, Charles Chavarria, coach of the Jr. Broncos, yells at his team before a game, "You have the opportunity today to rip their freakin' head off and let them bleed." He continues to try and motivate his team of eight- and nine-year-olds by saying, "If I cut 'em with a knife, they're going to bleed red, just like you!"
Parents on the show are being viewed as teetering on the edge of child abuse. A mother of one of the players states during episode 2, "When your kid looks bad, you look bad." Other parents have been quick to defend their choice to allow their boys to play TYFA football. One mom, Lisa Connell, said, "We were done with everybody gets a trophy, everybody wins. We wanted him to understand the value of working hard and the reward that comes with that." Another TYFA parent, Kinton Armmer, declared, "This is Texas. You can't go anywhere without football."
In addition to the parenting and coaching, the safety of the league is also under scrutiny. In brutal helmet-to-helmet collision. Players are encouraged to put winning first, safety last. Dr. Christian Balldin practices sports medicine at San Antonio Orthopedic Group. He stated, "You don't want to lead with your head. That is likely to result in helmet-to-helmet injuries, and also to spearing type injuries which can damage the spinal cord."
Even the NFL has weighed in on the controversial television show, stating, "The trailer is definitely troubling to watch." The National Football League spokesman adds that the organization featured on "Friday Night Tykes" is not part of the NFL's Heads Up Football Program, which aims to improve the safety of players in youth football.
Esquire Network has also been defending their choice to document the harsh football program. According to an Esquire Network spokesperson, "We believe Friday Night Tykes brings up important and serious questions about parenting and safety in youth sports, and we encourage Americans to watch, debate and discuss these issues."
According to Reuters, "Scott Hallenbeck, executive director of USA Football - a governing body for amateur football - said this week that what is going on in this league is not indicative of how the majority of youth football programs work." Other football professionals have also been negating the TYFA as an outlier that does not represent the values and methods of the majority of youth football leagues.
Esquire Network has been posting full episodes of Friday Night Tykes online, which can be seen here, starting with episode 1.
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