In mid-October, a link to video of a fight between two youth football coaches in Kenosha arrived in my email inbox. In it, the two teams line up to shake hands at the end of a game; when the coaches meet, words are exchanged and fists start flying.
Fortunately, such behavior is not typical, and it doesn't have to be part of the game.
This fall, I helped coach my son's sixth-grade football team in the Dane County Area Youth Football League. Between early August and late October, we spent three nights a week practicing, with games each Saturday morning. It was a fabulous experience.
After spending all that time watching the kids work hard and gel into a team, it's frustrating to endure blown opportunities and occasional bad calls. But it's just as important to teach kids that playing a competitive game doesn't give anyone an excuse to fly off the handle.
At the league coaches meeting in August, programs with enough players to form multiple teams per grade level were specifically warned against creating A and B teams. One league official even said he'd be paying attention to the standings, and if, for example, one sixth-grade team from a club was 6-1 and the other was 1-6, there would be an investigation.
That sets the tone for a league to concentrate on teaching kids how to play football, not win at all costs.