Lately, we found ourselves looking for something to watch on Netflix (@Netflix_CA) and stumbled upon a new series – Friday Night Tykes! This show focuses upon specific football teams in the Texas Youth Football Association (TYFA). The cameras take viewers inside the world of youth football in Texas, showing them how competitive the parents, coaches, and athletes are!
As we’ve watched, we’ve found ourselves both enchanted and disturbed by the action we were watching. On the one hand, we love seeing how dedicated these coaches, parents, and youth are! In this day and age, it’s rare to see entire families coming together on a regular basis to support their child and/or sibling! However, on the other hand, it’s hard to see coaches yelling at these young boys and girls until they cry, or to make them run so hard that they puke on the sideline.
Although we’ve often wanted to simply critique the show for not protecting the safety and wellbeing of the youth featured, we want to start by focusing on the positives. One of the most inspiring moments in the first season of Friday Night Tykes came courtesy of Coach Marecus Goodloe (@CoachMarecus), head coach of the San Antonio Colts! After defeating another team 50-0, the Colts came together to help one of their teammates, Grayson, who has autism, score a touchdown! On this play, Coach Marecus ran all the way down the field beside Grayson, helping him to feel safe and secure on his way to scoring his first, and likely only, touchdown!
This moment, in and of itself, is exceptionally touching, but it was the reaction of Coach Marecus – a coach known for his hardnosed approach to football – who was left in tears after the play, that makes this moment truly special. It is this moment that reminds fans of the show, but also football fans in general, that sometimes it is about more than just the game on the field. Because of this moment, and Coach Marecus’ overall approach with his team, the Colts are widely considered the series favourite on social media! It’s not all about winning the final game, but rather about how the team reacts to wins and losses that makes them the favourite! It probably also doesn’t hurt to have a star like Tadion Lott, who it’s impossible not to cheer for every time he makes a run down the field!
Moving beyond the positives, this series has also raised some questions regarding the safety and wellbeing of these young boys and girls! The number of helmet-to-helmet hits we witness, the savageness with which some of these boys approach tackling, and the questionable calls made by some of these coaches regarding potential injuries, is enough to make viewers pause. People Magazine (@people), NESN (@NESN), and Forbes (@Forbes) have all written articles about this docu-series – bringing attention not only to the Esquire TV (@esquire) series, but also to the dangers of youth football.
From watching players being taken away from the field in an ambulance, to hearing from the parents of players who are suffering seizures because of previously obtained concussions, viewers need to consider whether or not these youth are coached safely, with their wellbeing consistently being considered. Although this docu-series is aimed at promoting the strength of the TFYA program (and we won’t deny that it is an impressive program), the league is also gaining negative attention based on potential safety concerns.
In large part, thanks to this Christmas’ blockbuster film “Concussion” starring Will Smith (@iWillSmith), all sport fans are more concerned with safety, especially with youth sport! Social media gives fans and viewers an additional platform with which to make their approval and critiques heard. Although many are praising this series and the youth featured in it, others are also commenting (and rightly so) on the benefits (or lack thereof) and dangers of tackling, especially for youth (ages 8-9)! We will continue to monitor the conversation on social media as we make our way through the rest of the series, looking for others who feel like we do and are questioning TYFA’s overall approach to youth safety and wellbeing!