View From the Press Box: Dion Clisso 1/28

Dion Clisso

By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Posted: January 28, 2014 - 11:38 AM

A couple of weeks ago I sat down to watch a new reality television show. I don’t watch a lot of reality TV but there are a few that gain my attention.
This reality show involved four youth football teams from Texas and was called Friday Night Tykes. The first week there were two episodes that introduced the teams, players and families of an 8-9-year old teams in a competitive league in San Antonio.
This show is a reality in the sense that it shows the reality that the producers choose. All reality shows are done that way. These shows are not just a live camera showing what happens in real time. The final product is edited and produced to give the viewer the desired look.
Going into a show like this and being armed with the knowledge of how reality shows are produced gave me the knowledge that no matter what you see it isn’t nearly as bad or good as you might think it is.
Even with the knowledge of the bias there were several things in that show that gave me pause. The attitude of the coaches and parents weren’t shocking but they definitely shine a light on some of the darker sides of youth sports.
In this show the teams are all part of the competitive league and the goal is to win. Not just win locally but win a state championship. Texas youth football is on a whole other level in terms of interest and exposure. To give you an example there is a statewide website that follows these teams along with a weekly internet radio show along with broadcasting live games.
That’s live games for 8-year olds.
Let that sink in. At PrepsKC we cover varsity high school football in the Kansas City Metro. We don’t cover junior varsity, sophomore or freshmen. We cover varsity. That decision is guided by ideals I have had in my 20 years of journalism and it is backed up by conversations that I have had with many veteran coaches I have come into contact with. If you give every level of athletics the equal level of coverage or attention there is no incentive to work to the next level. That is my belief and I will stick with it.
Friday Night Tykes shows that football is as popular as ever, especially in Texas. The parents want their kids in these competitive leagues so they can achieve at the next level. That is understandable when they are 13, 14 or 15 but eight is a different story.
There are all kinds of problems with these teams. From the coach who made the player run the entire practice because he missed some early practices because he went on vacation to the parent who put her son on a team for the level of competition and then was frustrated because her son wasn’t playing.
The one thing I take away from this show is I hope there aren’t too many of these types of situations in the Metro for children of this age. Even though that is my hope but I am sure there are a few.
I love football and I love youth sports. I just hope that everyone understands the positives can always outweigh the negatives especially if the adults involved focus on the goal of enjoyment and not wins. Leave the wins and losses to the high school coaches.
Dion Clisso is the Managing Editor of PrepsKC. To reach him send email to