by Jon Little #29

#3 Country Boys

There has been a lot of discussion and media coverage over whether football is healthy for kids nowadays. Many rules of the game of been changed/updated to make it a safer game. Equipment has improved, although honestly I’m surprised that further helmet technology hasn’t been implemented into the game already. I must admit that I’m not as enthusiastic for my son to play the game as I thought I would be, in part because of all the concussion awareness. Jake’s going into 8th grade and has already played 3 seasons of tackle football. I had the privilege of Coaching him for a few years in youth football before he got into middle school. I was able to instill a lot of 1990’s style Pilot Point football winning traits into his teams. Plus, it helped that we had 2 more kids on the team with Pilot Point blood in their veins (Asten Kirby and Ethan McCally). We didn’t have any kids over the weight limit which basically means: everyone was eligible to run with the ball, we didn’t have any “true linemen”, and we were a very small team compared to everyone that we played against. Most teams probably averaged 4+ kids that weighed over the weight limit. In addition, 14 of our 19 players were playing their first season of tackle football (in 5th Grade). Regardless the kids we had were tough as heck and we went 10-0 winning the league championship in our first season.    

I started playing tackle football in Euless, TX when I was in 3rd grade. I remember our Coach was focused on making us tough. We often played a game at the end of practice called “last man standing” in which everyone just took runs at each other at the same time from all angles hitting each other as hard as we could + trying to knock everyone else down. It was a royal rumble with football pads on. The “last man standing” obviously was the winner...or more like survivor. Looking back now I understand that my Coach had decent intentions, but lacked the awareness and education that most football Coaches have today. If I saw a youth Coach having his team play “last man standing” now I’d advise the parents to find a new Coach. There is no purpose behind having kids blind side hit each other. The main reason I wanted to Coach my sons’ teams was to ensure they had proper safety guidance and practiced/played the game with the proper intent and purpose.

Some things never change though. Typically, the toughest teams win football games when most other aspects are similar. So I was focused on teaching and instilling toughness into Jake’s teams. Look, old men look back and think/say “oh kids these days have it so easy, they would have never made it in my day” …and if we are being honest they are correct. I did not have to fight Nazi’s in WWII and then come home and live the life of a Peanut farmer like my Grandfather before me. There is no way I am or will be as tough as my Grandfather was. We are a product of your environments in many ways. I think that tackle football can be one of the very last beckons of hope in teaching young men the masculinity that they need. Football, rugby, wrestling, MMA…that’s about it for sports teaching toughness.  Young men need these things. On the flip side I think the reason soccer is not as popular in the US is because of the flopping involved.

Many years ago, I read Jon Krakauer’s book “Where Men Win Glory” about the late/great Pat Tillman who passed up on a multi-million dollar football career in order to join the Army Rangers post 9/11. Honestly overall I was disappointed in the book and its focus on politics, but there was 1 key chapter at the end of the book that I wish was mandatory reading for every American. It basically said that in certain parts of the world there are mothers raising their children to absolutely hate Americans so much that they will gladly die for that cause. We easily lose sight of that and meanwhile in America we are focused on giving out participation trophies to everyone and putting in measures to eliminate Alpha Males. This helped me think about the way I the way I raise my son and ultimately if he’s not going to be in the military then he certainly needs things like tackle football. If you haven’t figured it out this week’s edition is all about toughness. And 1980’s-1990’s Pilot Point football was all about toughness.  If you ever saw a well-executed PP “wall” punt return from those days you saw what a half-crazy country boy running at full speed could do to another human. Let’s just say it was an excellent outlet for aggression. There is just another level of toughness from country boys. If you’ve ever hauled hay all day in the Texas summer heat I guess you’d begin to understand it. I only did it a hand full of times and I still remember what hard work it was. I played with some seriously tough country boys as well. All our linemen were tough as nails. Seems like Kent “Big Head" Williams played half our senior season with a broken leg. Bob Erwin played the entire playoff run with a severe high ankle sprain. Teddy Mack was so country strong in high school he squatted so much max weight that the Coaches made him stop. I just remember it was well over 500lbs. We played some great football games against some seriously tough country towns back in 1992 and 1993. Kerens, Holiday, Jacksboro, and Goldthwaite come to mind. Goldthwaite oh how I loathe that word, but it will need to be the focus of next week’s edition…        

Go Bearcats!


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