Review of Esquire Network’s Friday Night Tykes
By Lacey Herbert
Esquire TV Network’s show Friday Night Tykes showcases the challenges and triumphs of the rookie division of the Texas Youth Football Association (TYFA) in San Antonio. The league is meant for 8-10-year-olds; however the amount of stress and pressure put on the need to win feels more like college athletics. The docu-series gives the audience an in-depth look into TYFA practices, games, coaches’ lives and the home lives of the young athletes.
The first episode of the first season is called Weakness Leaving The Body. The name emphasizes the lifestyle that the young players endure for football glory. The line was grabbed from a scene where one of the head coaches was encouraging his 8-year-old player to continue running with his team after repeatedly throwing up.
The episode focuses on three of the top championship contenders – the Jr. Broncos, Northeast Colts and the Outlaws. The teams appear to consist of multiracial rosters with a diverse set of coaches working to see how hard they can push their players to gain success.
There is no question that the south is known for breeding some of the best and biggest football stars known throughout history, but you do start to question, at what cost? Is the intensity and anxiety that the show portrays a positive thing for children?
“We want every kid to be tough, aggressive and physical because that’s the way we play football,” Outlaws’ Assistant Coach Eric Nolden said.
One thing that is not mentioned in the episode is the concern for concussions, long-term injuries or possible mental effects later. The coaches, parents and players all fail to acknowledge the fear of tackle football’s physical consequences to the human body.
The TYFA kids are not on football teams to fulfill an extracurricular requirement, they are playing to win. This is not your average youth football association. Who wants it even more than the players? The coaches and parents.
“This organization is pretty much everything I have,” Northeast Colts Head Coach Marecus Goodloe explained.
The coaches are the focal point of the show. It is through their eyes where the viewer understands why they push the kids as hard as they do and the methods they use. Outside of the exhaustion and sickness we see the players endure in the episode, the emotional aspects are found within the coach and parent dynamic.
The Armmer family have one son, Jaden, playing for the Northeast Colts. The parents battle with allowing their son to have childhood freedoms and playing for Coach Goodloe. They prioritize school and family before the team but still recognize it in the top five. When Jaden was scolded for missing a few practices due to his family vacation, his parents watched from lawn chairs on the field with concern. No matter how hard the workout appeared, they remained off to the sidelines to let the coach carry out his punishment. The hands-off approach seems to be one of the more popular mindsets of player’s parents.
The passive mentality is juxtaposed with the over-involved parents. Lisa Connell is the Jr. Broncos general manager and self-proclaimed “momager.” She says she is there to look at injuries, be a contact point between the coaches and families and provide moral support to the players. Although her son Colby does not get much field time, she still wants to see the team win at any cost.
Aggression in youth sports is not a new concept nor is it specific to the TYFA teams but the importance of football in life is unique to the show. “Schoolwork, church and family first then football,” Kinton Armmer, a player’s parent, said. In the following scene, Goodloe responds “Family first but at the same time, I’m your family too.”
The culture of competitive football in Texas speaks to larger themes like manhood, gender norms and the philosophy of raising children to succeed. Friday Night Tykes proves that in the TYFA that means working harder and smarter than the next 8-year-old on and off the field.
Lacey Herbert is a senior at Merrill College. This review was an assignment for JOUR549G.