Bill Gosse column: Youth sports should be about maximizing fun

8:21 PM, Jun. 22, 2013  |  Comments
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On June 11, the 100th anniversary of Vince Lombardi's birth was celebrated by Green Bay Packers fans everywhere. Even ESPN celebrated the event by naming him the greatest coach in NFL history.

Lombardi represents an era of unmatched success in Packers history, and for that matter, NFL lore.

It has been well-documented how Lombardi's tireless work ethic coupled with perfectionist standards led to championships in five out of nine seasons, including a near-miss flawless 1962 campaign.

Whether he was an assistant or head coach, his teams never had a losing season.

It's no secret Lombardi was tough and demanding, just what a moribund franchise reeking of lack of discipline and underachievement, needed.

However, this was the NFL - professional football.

Is screaming and yelling the type of sideline presence we want in our youth football leagues?

Unfortunately, there are many youth coaches who forget some of the best parts of sports are the teaching opportunities surrounding strategy and the benefits of competition.

Coaches trying to relive their childhood through the films of Lombardi are missing the boat by expecting players to be their best without teaching them how to move past being their worst.

I brought a new jump rope home the other day, knowing that my soon-to-be 13-year-old has grown so fast over the last couple of years, he needs to get his body parts coordinated if he ever wants to be able to taste any sort of athletic success.

With almost size 13 feet, if I expect him to be able to accomplish great things without teaching the basics of fitness, he will sour on sports before he even gets started.

We need to help kids taste success a little bit at a time, and have patience doing it.

Ranting and raving like Lombardi was known to do, and having unrealistic expectations for developing youngsters is simply a poor way of teaching.

Lombardi's approach had its place and time for adults with a starving franchise, but that methodology doesn't belong on a youth football field in Green Bay, the Twin Cities or anywhere else.

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks commented how his former coach Tony Dungy constructively criticized him during film sessions for not making tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Brooks confronted Dungy, wondering if he would ever be able to please his coach. Dungy responded it wasn't about pleasing him, but about maximizing Brooks' talent.

That's what professional sports are about - maximizing talent. Youth sports should be about maximizing fun.

Lombardi relentlessly pursued perfection, fully knowing his teams would never reach it, but his players appreciated their preparedness for each contest. For how hard they worked, they knew they had an opportunity to win every game.

Youth football coaches, and coaches of all youth sports, should be relentlessly creative in making their practices challenging but fun.

These experiences are something kids will look back on many years from now - not 100 - but will they be looking back fondly or regretfully?

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

Retrieving results.
Watching practice is fine.(Your vote)
579 votes
I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
862 votes
I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
1025 votes
It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
1279 votes

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Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports