I always thought Pee Wee football was supposed to be about teamwork, not torture. But a group of California parents are claiming that coaches paid the kids to make "big hits" and hurt the opposing teams players.
I expect brutality from the NFL and even high school players, but 10- and 11-year-olds? Allegedly, coaches for the Tustin Red Cobras, one of the top Pop Warner teams, encouraged the violence, offering incentives to pummel players during games. Outrage doesn't even begin to describe how the parents of these children feel.
According to one of the pint-size players, "If we hit someone really like hard, the best hit in the game, we'd get paid ... paid some money." They were given $20 to $50 to knock opposing players out of the game. Another teammate said of the brutal blows, "We were targeting the best players mostly. Anyone could get hit, but like the focus was on the best players."
The scandal was first exposed by a parent and former coach Jon Zanella. He said that it started as kids getting cash for the biggest hit (and of course hits and tackles are a natural part of the game). But it grew into something much more sinister.
"Over time they started introducing other concepts, like bonuses for targeted players, extra money if you knock the kid out of the game," said Zanelli. "Even if you hurt a kid, you can get money." Parents back up his claims, which the coaches absolutely deny. However, one parent, who says his son got a concussion during a game, certainly believes it's true and has footage to demonstrate the over-the-top aggression. The Pop Warner league has conducted an investigation and found no evidence of a "bounty program." Now they are planning to re-open the case and have asked the coaches to step aside pending the outcome.
This is ridiculous. It's pee wee football for goodness sake -- not the Super Bowl. What are these coaches thinking? This flies in the face of everything that being a young athlete is supposed to do for our kids. It's supposed to teach them teamwork and sportsmanship, not brutality.
As the mother of a little boy with a blossoming interest in sports, my biggest fear is that he will want to play football -- in high school. I never thought I'd have to worry over a little league team. Our children should not be told to win at all costs, then get paid for the clearly unsportsman-like behavior. Just shameful.
Sadly, this is symbolic of a greater problem when it comes to sports and our kids. It's all about win, win, win even for those coaches that don't stoop so low as to pay. Many parents are guilty of this too. Is that really the lesson we want to teach our young, impressionable kids? What about having fun and learning to be a part of something greater than ourselves? Win or lose, that is more valuable to me.
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Do you believe these coaches paid these kids to inflict pain?