When coaching fails, parents need to stand up and speak up

By Janis Meredith | Posted 8/18/2014

With the kids tucked in bed and a bevy of snacks on our coffee table, my husband, Scott, and I settled in to enjoy a little alone time, which involved watching a youth football-based reality show (which shall remain nameless, wink).

About 15 minutes into the episode, I nearly choked on my Special K brownie bites.


Because what I heard was arguably the worst possible thing a youth head football coach could say to one of his linemen: “We’re gonna practice diving at the legs. I want you to dive at the bag. And tackle it.”

But wait.

There’s more.

The player does as told, which prompts an even more outlandish request from his coach: “I want you to put your shoulder into his legs.”

Aghast, Scott, a former NFL offensive lineman, looked on in disbelief.

It gets worse.

“You’re too high,” a different coach reprimanded in another scene, “so you ended up going helmet-to-helmet instead of putting your helmet into his gut, like you were supposed to.”

And then, after inquiring whether the child was dizzy – and, understandably, he was – the coach advised that “someone put some water on his neck.”


Yes, unfortunately, really.

This actually happened to someone’s child.

Upon hearing these ill-fated – no, that’s putting it mildly, let’s call these commands for what they really are: dangerous – directions, two things came to mind in rapid succession.

First, if that player were my son, I’d want nothing more than to suit up and tackle that coach myself.

And second, here, ladies and gentleman, is exhibit A as to why every single youth football league in this country needs to be part of USA Football’s Heads Up Football program.

The Heads Up Football approach to educating coaches, league administrators, players and even parents on how to fit equipment, understand concussion awareness and teach proper tackling – with players keeping their heads and eyes up, I might add – is, quite simply, a game-changer.

Just take a moment to envision what the words of those TV coaches would look like personified.

The textbook definition of the word dive is to “plunge into water, especially headfirst.”

But in this particular instance, take away the water and add speed, impact, the clash of helmets and a delicate part of the central nervous system also known as the brain.

The worst case scenario, of course, is that someone could be seriously hurt.

But, then, a very close second is the prospect of a youth football player carrying these faulty techniques with him throughout his career because bad habits can be hard to break.

We already know that we can’t protect our children from everything in this world. But if we entrust our child's well-being to a youth football league, we as parents and caregivers expect that the organization – and the coaches leading it – will place the utmost value on our child’s safety.

It’s the offseason now, and all is calm on the football field.

But now is a great time to prompt all the leagues in your area to join Heads Up Football and urge other parents to do the same.

Courtney Conover is a mom of two and the wife of former Detroit Lions offensive lineman and current Heads Up Football Ambassador Scott Conover. She has more Legos and NFL memorabilia lying around her home than she knows what to do with. She is also a certified yoga instructor and a contributing writer to the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. She blogs at The Brown Girl with Long Hair (http://www.thebrowngirlwithlonghair.com) and over-shares on Facebook. Follow her here. (https://www.facebook.com/thebrowngirlwithlonghair)