True Story Tuesday: Coach Pays 11 Year Olds to Injure the Opponents

True-Story-Tuesday
This week’s True Story Tuesday visits the often joyous and inspiring world of pee-wee sports. Of course we all have glossy memories of half time orange slices, post-game Dairy Queen, and of winning the $50-best-knock-out-of-the-day prize. Wait, that last one probably doesn’t fit, right?
For some young boys part of California’s Tustin Pee Wee Red Cobra football team, the idea of making some quick cash through injuring the opponent is just part of the game. Who do we have to thank for this invaluable life lesson? That would be the team’s head coach Darren Crawford.

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Coach Darren Crawford, photo courtesy of The Wall Street Journal

 
Investigations are currently underway on allegations that Crawford payed players of his team for intentionally injuring the opponent during games. Pop Warner Little Scholars Inc., the country’s largest youth-football organization, has now suspended Crawford as well as team president and offensive coordinator, Pat Galentine.
The accusations originated from a parent of a former player who claimed that team members would be awared up to $50 for hard tackles, after which the system evolved into rewards for players who took the opponent’s all-stars out of the game through unnecessary hard hitting.
Bounty programs like this are unfortunately not uncommon, leading some, including NFL star Tom Brady, to believe that football is too dangerous for children. Recently the New Orlean’s Saints faced a similar scandal and the NFL is currently facing thousands of lawsuits from former players who claim they received career ending or life-altering injuries through the sport.
It is unfortunate that there are adults in our society who take Pee Wee sports for more than what it is. The Red Cobra’s website ironically states that their league is meant to “enable children to benefit from participation in team sports and activities in a safe and structured environment. Through this active participation, Pop Warner programs teach fundamental values, skills and knowledge that children will use throughout their lives.” Clearly, Darren Crawford did not write this mantra.
Whether in football, or any sport, coaches should be encouraging children to play well and play fair. They must remember that they are not coaching a professional team, but mere youth who are likely there to engage in friendly competition, physical exercise, and social activity. Sure, some leagues may be more competitive than others, and some players may be more passionate about the sport than others, but the youth that come out of team sports as stand-up members of society are the ones who had good coaches to guide them there. Coaches who encourage cheating and injuring others for personal benefit, or even coaches who take their team so seriously it feels like the NFL, may win championships, but they are not growing a team – they are encouraging a fraud.
Though it may not feel like it, as university students and members of our community, we are adults. It is likely that some of us will become coaches, or maybe already are, in a youth organization. Let us remember that coaching is not about wins, points, or money, and coaching is not about us. As the coaches of the Red Cobras failed to remember, coaching is about teaching “fundamental values, skills and knowledge that children will use throughout their lives.” Cheating and lying is not a fundamental skill.

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