Trent Dilfer coaching video sparks strong reactions, on each side

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In today’s America, every incident sparks a reaction on both sides. Even when it shouldn’t.

The video of Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer, now a high school football coach, grabbing the son of former NFL kicker Phil Dawson and pushing the boy backward before shoving him away has prompted both criticism and support. If, as the Dilfer defenders are arguing, the moment was sparked by Beau Dawson being disrespectful to Dilfer, the reaction was proper.

The reaction was not proper, regardless of what caused it.

Long gone are the days when adults can lay hands on minors as a gesture of anger or an act of discipline. This isn’t a matter of dispute or “both sides.” It’s a bright line that should not be crossed.

Some of us (like me) grew up at a time when, for example, laziness on the practice field prompted a cleat in the ass from the coach. Being out of position resulted in the grabbing of the facemask and the forceful yanking of the player into the right spot.

And God forbid if a player had a chance during a special-teams drill to block a punt but recoiled from the ball or the leg. I still can picture the moment from the eighth grade in October 1978 when a teammate pulled up after breaking free toward the punter. The coach ordered the player to run multiple times toward the coach as he kicked the ball directly into his head and face and body, repeatedly.

(At least the kid had the protection of a flimsy, ill-fitting helmet with a single bar across the bottom of his face.)

Those days are gone. Period. Full stop. That’s it. No debate. Coaches don’t touch players. It’s clear. It’s indisputable. Even if people are somehow coming up with ways to try to dispute it.

This also isn’t a question of whether Dilfer should be “canceled.” (Quick question: Canceled from what?) It’s a question of fitness to have the health and safety of youth football players entrusted to him. If you can’t control your anger when a player sasses you back or whatever, you shouldn’t be coaching children. And if pushing and shoving is one of your devices for inflicting discipline, you definitely shouldn’t be coaching children.

I’ll admit (although I’m a bit ashamed to do so) that part of me is a little conflicted about the subject of physicality in youth football coaching. To this day, I don’t stand still for very long because of all the times I was kicked in the ass by the coach and/or jerked around by my facemask. It has kept me from ever doing anything that could be characterized in any way, shape, or form as lazy or half-assed.

The fact that I still can vividly recall those moments means that it worked a little too well, however. It probably amounted to a series of small emotional scars. And it probably has contributed to what ultimately has become at times an unhealthy obsession with working and working and working, so that I never stop long enough to get kicked in the ass.

Obviously, there has to be a better way to teach kids about work and effort and respect and responsibility and everything else that football coaches at their best can impart to their players. The easiest way to move in that direction is to realize that it’s the 21st century and that coaches should never be pushing or shoving or kicking youth football players, at any time and for any reason.

44 responses to “Trent Dilfer coaching video sparks strong reactions, on each side

  1. Anyone over 40 has had similar things happen. Today’s generation gets all these protections. Guess which generation accomplishes more, isn’t lazy, and doesn’t expect everything handed to them? Asking for a friend.

  2. This game will eventually die, and this reaction to a coach coaching will one of the reasons why.

  3. If i had a son this would be the kind of coaching i would want …learn respect learn discipline and to be tough and be focused at all times, American youth sports and discipline has gotten soft over the years with participation trophy’s and such…Good job Coach.

  4. (Quick question: Canceled from what?)

    You know, like you guys do with the unvaccinated vs. vaxxed players (or any people for that matter)

  5. That’s why today’s young boys are not young men. They don’t want their feeling hurt. Weenies.

  6. What a fantastic and deeply personal story. Thank you for sharing. I tried turning to sports to escape and abusive father. My coaches were hands on and just absolute masters of the craft of verbal abuse. Sports were no different from home.

    No coach should ever lay hands on a player, or student, without facing immediate and permanent removal not just from sports but of their job as well. Male or female, you touch a student you immediately lose your license to ever teach again.

  7. You don’t put your hands on anyone. It may not have always been the rule but it should have.

  8. oh please. did you even watch the video? you’re trying to make this out like he’s bobby knight. hella soft.

  9. It was a little too much from Dilfer. If he hadn’t shoved him I would have been on the Dilfer camp but we live in a PC world so stay off the physical shoving and grabbing

  10. Tough to say what happened based on the video. If the Dawson kid got into Dilfer’s face and started to push him around because of a bad play call or something, then Dilfer was justified. If Dilfer was mad at the kid because he made a bad play on the field, then Dilfer was out of line. It’s all about the context.

  11. Shouldn’t we all just kind of butt out? Isn’t this between Dilfer, the school, the kid and the dad? The dad is on the staff, I am sure there is a close relationship between the kid and Dilfer. Anyone who has coach before knows having a personal relationship changes the dynamic, its not just coach and player.

  12. “Those days are gone. Period. Full stop. That’s it. No debate.” Frightening language.

  13. gone are the days when journalists simply report the news…now they tell you what you need to think as if they are some kind of authority figure (theyre not) and make themselves somehow victims as well.

  14. Anyone with any intelligence knows that positive reinforcement is the most productive way to teach children. Physicality, screaming, and generally acting like a lunatic is not only wrong, it is also counterproductive. The abusers on their individual power trips have no place in youth sports.

  15. It’s times like this when you realize that this country and furthermore this world is simply doomed. As if the last year and a half surrounding COVID wasn’t enough evidence. People don’t even agree on right and wrong anymore because they loudly want to be wrong. If Dilfer was right, why did he apologize? He shouldn’t have said a thing if he was right. He knows he was wrong, and the morons defending him because they want to take a misled dig at younger generations that has nothing to do with this are just as wrong.

  16. Well, that all starts with the parents & environment the kids grow up in… if they are never taught right from wrong or explained to the difference why should we expect them as individuals that have been given those things to understand?
    I’ve actually heard a parent say in conversation with another that it’s the teachers/schools responsibility to teach the kids how to be able to do their homework, not mine…..point being many teachers & coaches have the deck severely stacked against them before they even get started on working on those kids that come from families or environments that believe the same thing as what I heard said…..& kids, even well behaved & educated still love to push things to see how far they can get or what they can get away with….

  17. way to go…. this article is the antithesis of talking out of both sides of your mouth.

  18. He should let the entitled kid do whatever he wants so he can grow up with no discipline and probably turn out to be a total jerk. Unreal we are even talking about this video.

  19. Here’s a simple question. Has respect and discipline in this country gotten better or worse over the last 30-40 years? Here’s your reason why.

  20. @realfootballfan – he apologized because “morons” such as mike and yourself are trying to get him fired. I’m sure he didn’t want to.

  21. And this is a major reason why many young adults have no respect for teachers, law enforcement or figures of authority in their lives, they’ve never learned or been disciplined.

  22. Obviously, you haven’t been paying attention to the last few generations and the absence of work ethic that comes with them. Additionally, respecting authority is 50/50 nowadays.
    You should be thanking those coaches for your work ethic.
    Tough coaching/parenting makes tough kids that can handle the rigors of the world. “Everyone gets a trophy” has proven to be a disaster.

  23. I’m surprised at how many commenters seem to think the only way to discipline a player is to scream at him and shove him around. Come on. It doesn’t take any real imagination to come up with dozens of ways to deal with a kid acting out or not doing the right thing. If the only thing in your toolbox is screaming and physicality, no wonder we see so many adults whose first resort to a disagreement is the same thing.

  24. Pansies.
    It’s football. He’s the coach. Get ready to get yelled at and work hard.

  25. Don’t make judgments since we only see the end of the incident. Like a video of a cop tackling a protester…..when the video omits the protestor punching the cop in the face first.

  26. Great subject matter and writing. I was taught that the very definition of being an adult was controlling your emotions and not letting them control you. Reinforce the positive emotions and control the negative. Difficult situations in life are best solved by thinking. For a coach that can think on their feet anger, a load voice and physicality become tools that are used by a person under and in control. Physicality can be an approving pat on the back or a measured grasp of a face mask. Road rage incidents are an extreme example of not growing up and controlling negative emotions.
    Even the fiery Vince Lombardi used his ire as a tool. John Wooden is an example of coaching excellence at all levels and he exuded confidence and control. Hopefully most of the readers know who he was.

  27. The comments here display exactly what I’m talking about. Yeah, the coach putting his hands on him is going to set him straight. Never mind what’s going on at home. It’s up to the coach or the teacher or something in society, my favorite catchall, that has nothing to do with why he actually is acting entitled and spoiled. You people sound like psychopaths. The bottom line is that Dilfer is the grownup. So he doesn’t have control of himself is what you’re saying, and yet somehow he’s going to set them straight. The height of idiocy.

  28. I give you something to cry about Petunia. Really, let’s stop being a bunch of pus….

  29. amaf22,

    Yeah, I’m worried about ending a guy’s high school coaching career. I got the pitchforks out. The worse thing is that you actually believe that nonsense to justify your wrongness.

    Also, the guy talking about it works for the Marines is funny. The military spits out some of the most dysfunctional people in the world. Go have an actual conversation with many of them struggling with mental illness and adjustment issues to the civilian world.

    The bottom line is that he’s the grownup, and he’s setting losing his cool as the example to follow. Why not kick him off the team if he can’t control him? That works pretty well.

  30. Coach Dilfer did the right thing. Period. And why not mention the kid? He has no respect and thinks he is above all else. Thank you Coach for being a coach and real man!

  31. “Marine boot camp has remained essentially unchanged for many years because it works.”

    ….Oh, come on! The Marines are also trying to train these young men to kill when so ordered.

  32. kyzmyn2 says:
    August 31, 2021 at 8:45 am
    Marine boot camp has remained essentially unchanged for many years because it works.

    How would you know? You’ve never been there.

  33. You built a media empire out of sweat and tears but you don’t like where the work ethic came from.

    Sorry, that sounds a little Ivory tower to me.

  34. Fan of Dilfer. Thought he handled this poorly. Video was not as bad as I thought it would be from reading the articles. In my experience at work and at home I’ve found positive reinforcement much more effective. Discipline is not meant to be punitive, rather I’m tring to discourage undesireable behaviour. When I’ve raised my voice its not as effecti e long term as having discussion with the other.

    Enjoyed personal story but Mike, as a lawyer this is not your area of expertise. Would prefer if you leave those opinions to those that specialize in this field or at least state it as a non professional opinion and not as facts

  35. minime says:
    August 31, 2021 at 8:55 am
    Soft country.
    Participation trophies for all.

    I coached youth sports grades K-8; basketball, flag football, and soccer. At the end of every season we gave every team member a trophy or a medal, regardless whether we won a championship or not. Those trophies signified the accomplishment of being part of, and contributing to, a team, as well as the individual accomplishment of the young person.

    Some of those young people are now as old as 30. To my knowledge, they are all smart, hard working members of society. Receiving the recognition of those trophies did not cause them to be “soft” at all.

  36. I agree with Gibson 45. And thank you, Mike Florio for sharing your experience.

    When I was in Little League I was afraid of the ball and would pull my head when swinging.
    The solution in the early 90s was to grab a bucket of balls and have the team take turns throwing them at the batter who was supposed to stand in the box and take the hits.

    I’m not sure that the purpose of the exercise was achieved…

  37. Even a coach has to earn respect, and obviously Dilfer hasn’t done that. I can see why.

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