Article first published as Pink Footballs on Technorati.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and for the fourth year, the National Football League is involved. The NFL continues its collaboration with the American Cancer Society to reinforce the importance of annual mammogram screenings with A Crucial Catch. Last year’s efforts reached over 151 million viewers, 40% of them women.
Hurray for the NFL’s willingness to support healthy habits for women. We are, after all, the mothers of all their fans, all their players, and much more.
Coach Mom: Corie Elkin
We are also youth football coaches and football players. In August, the NFL hosted an invitation only Youth Sports Health and Safety Luncheon during which I met Corie Elkin. Last year, she, along with four other women participated in USA Football’s pilot program: Coach Mom. As the official youth football development partner of the NFL, USA Football collaborates with the NFL to expand the game through educational programs and innovative resources.
More than 90 percent of youth football coaches are male. As youth football leagues are faced with the pressure of recruiting volunteer coaches, we saw an opportunity to widen the pool of potential coaches –USA Football
Coach Mom is in response to the challenges many schools and youth organizations face recruiting credible and responsible coaches. This program widens the pool of resources and makes it clear that, to deliver a positive youth football experience, education matters more than gender and prior playing experience. With USA Football’s hands-on training and access to its on-line resources, Coach Elkin led her team of 3rd graders to an outstanding season, finishing with a 7 and 1 record in the regular season making them number one seed for the play-offs.
Congratulations Coach Elkin and Asst. Coach Kathy Gutting.
Youth Sports Rock!
Many communities see youth sports as a proactive approach to child development because it gives kids the skills with which to avoid problems. Kids create healthy relationships, learn self-discipline and time management, and create confidence preparing them for the responsibilities of adult life.
But for the positive benefits to be delivered to the kids they must have a positive experience. The quality of adult leadership they receive determines the quality of the experience delivered. Often, the well-meaning parent volunteer is untrained, over emphasizes winning, and is ill-equipped to accurately rate the seriousness of sport related injuries. Without quality leadership, kids can’t receive the physical, psychological, and social outcomes that are otherwise possible.
Who is Behind the Clipboard?
Realizing the important role coaches play, many youth sport organizations, like USA Football, have voluntarily engaged in coach education or have developed selection criteria to qualify volunteers before handing them the playbook. But there seems to be an invisible gender barrier.
Coach Elkin describes her coaching experience using words like:
Awesome! As in the opportunity to stay connected with her son as he develops different interests.
Wow! As in the opportunity to experience herself in a new way.
She described a different personal experience as a mother coaching 3rd grade football. She noticed a general willingness in her community to accept male coaches without challenge while being outwardly skeptical about her ability to lead. Her suitability felt questioned even though she has a degree in elementary education, was fully trained and actively supported by USA Football, is physically fit, and had the benefit of Coach Gutting, who, by the way, has an exercise science and wellness degree and who operates a fitness training and wellness coaching business. Imagine reading about Coach Elkin’s qualifications without knowing her gender; words like over-qualified, excited, and lucky would come to mind, but certainly not doubt.
“THERE’S NO WAY IN HELL A FEMALE CAN BE CONSIDERED A LEGITIMATE COACH OF FOOTBALL”
The rants poured into the Washington Post when Natalie Randolph was named the head coach of a Senior High School football team in D.C. A similar sentiment was felt by Coach Elkin that she, as a woman, couldn’t hold discipline, instill a love of the game, teach techniques, or pump-up testosterone and “toughen up” the boys. Thankfully, by the end of the season she felt appreciated by the majority of her player’s parents though chose not to continue coaching this year. The time and energy required were more than had she expected.
I’ll bet its draining! Not only is it challenging to creatively engage 3rd grade boys to do anything, let alone learn and practice the fundamentals of safe tackling and team play, seems the whole job gets harder when battling public opinion just because you’ve given birth to one of the players.
It’s hard to change the cultural expectations of anything; football’s legacy is no different.
From the beginning, football’s proponents argued that the rugged athleticism, the near-savage violence, and the technically demanding teamwork required by the sport provided both a necessary masculine tonic to a post-Frontier American society and a valuable training ground for the future captains of modern industry. — Football in the USA American Culture and the World’s Game
Many former NFL players are telling their tragic stories about the consequences they’ve suffered as a result of football’s culture. Seems the past cultural pressure hasn’t been good for the men and yet somehow the traditions and expectations of collegiate and pro football have seeped their way into the minds of many parents and youth coaches. Even at the youth level, it’s considered a ‘man’s game’ even though the majority of its players are boys. Seriously, how can any coach of 8-year old boys, pump-up testosterone? The players don’t really have any yet? Perhaps adjusting the expectations we have for youth coaches can ignite a current of change that seeps the other way–up into the collegiate and pro ranks. That would be great for everyone.
So, during this month of Breast Cancer Awareness let’s also bring our awareness and appreciation to all the challenges women face and support Coach Moms, like Corie Elkin and Kathy Gutting, for braving new ground. Let’s also support the efforts of organizations like USA Football and the NFL for their holistic support of women—body and soul.
Also watch “Outside the Lines – Football at a Crossroad” Corie Elkin of Noblesville, Ind., a youth football coach and parent, spoke as part of an ESPN “Outside the Lines” panel discussing concerns parents may have about letting their children play football