Workplace Culture

‘Friday Night Tykes’: Here’s Some Tough Talk on the Show’s Tough Talk

By James Tehrani

Jan. 23, 2014

"Friday Night Tykes" is a new reality show on cable. Photo courtesy of the Esquire Network.

It’s time to punt away this “tough talk” is the only way mentality.

The other day I stumbled upon a show called “Friday Night Tykes,” which premiered this week on the Esquire Network. For those of you who didn’t have the pleasure of watching it, it’s a hard-hitting reality show about 8- and 9-year-old “rookie” football players who play for teams that are part of the San Antonio Texas Youth Football & Cheer Association.

Yes, I said 8 and 9 year olds. (You can watch the first episode below.)

As a parent, I was appalled to see the kind of abuse hurled on these youngsters. At one point, we get to see a kid throw up from being overworked by his coaches. Then, after he “blows chunks,” he is ordered to continue running drills. There’s not even a consideration of letting the kid take a break.

The coach’s logic? If he didn’t make the kid keep practicing, then the next time the kid would find a way to throw up again just to get out of running drills. Oh, yes, because throwing up is so much fun and it’s easier to hurl than turn on a dime. He justifies the tough-love approach by saying: “If you don’t push your kids, you’re accepting failure.”

Someone throw a flag on that logic.

The show opens with a quote from the coach that would make Vince Lombardi cringe: “You have the opportunity today to rip their frickin’ head off,” he said trying to “motivate” his team.

I’ve seen the same mentality in the workplace, too, where intimidation and berating prevail over human kindness and educating. A 2010 survey from the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 35 percent of U.S. workers have either been bullied or were being bullied at the time of the survey. Does it make you soft if you don’t yell at the top of your lungs or threaten workers when they make a mistake? I don’t see it that way. You can coach or correct employees without berating and intimidation.

And that has nothing to do with “accepting failure.” It has everything to do with treating workers with respect. That to me is a true team approach.

Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against football. I was superproud when my school, the University of Missouri, won the Cotton Bowl earlier this year. I also am looking forward to the Super Bowl, but those are adults. The players on the field choose to be there. It’s not always clear if kids want to play or if their parents want them to play.

I’m not naïve to believe that a person can become a good football player overnight — it takes years of hard work — but training kids to do something the right way is a lot different than training them to run roughshod over the kid on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Teach the kids to tackle — not knock the other kid out.

According to the Texas Youth Football and Cheerleading Association’s website, “The mission of TYFA is to create a league whose purpose is to instruct youth in the skills of football and cheerleading; where they can play, have fun, and make friends without fear of discrimination where their ‘dreams begin.’ ”

Really? Perhaps what I watched is staged or edited to show only the controversial parts, but what I saw was more like a nightmare — a nightmare that some young football players deal with on the football field and many workers deal with in the workplace.

James Tehrani is the director of content strategy at FlexJobs.

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