FNF Coaches Talk — An App That Could Change Football, Participation Trophies, Utah’s Culture

FNF Coaches Talk

Thanks for coming back, Coaches. Here are three stories we’re discussing today.

1. Inside the tech experiment that wants to change football forever (ESPN)

The app, Your Call Football, is supposedly set to change the way the game is coached and played — if you believe the YCF founders.

iYCF is part football, part gaming, part fantasy and allows fans to decide how an actual in-progress game is played, as if Madden came to life.

Here’s how it works: Every Monday night for four weeks in the spring, fans get a notification at 8 p.m. to open the YCF app. As the game starts, they are given a coach-selected “bundle” of three plays to choose from. They’re presented in typical play formation sketch, with all the idiosyncratic names football fans know, and each fan has 10 seconds to decide what the team’s offense should do next. Is it time for a slant-and-go or a stick-hitch? Do you want a smash-thru concept, a slant drag or an inside gap strong?

The game is free to play, and there are cash prizes into the tens of thousands of dollars. Fans are awarded points when they select what the coach wanted and when their play selection is successful, and fans who don’t pick with the majority are awarded points when the majority-chosen play results in a negative play, like a sack or an incompletion. At the end of the 10 seconds, the play is transmitted to offensive coordinators on the sideline and radioed into the huddle. From start to finish, the whole sequence until the huddle breaks takes 19 seconds.

ASHLEY GUINAN, A 30-year-old software engineer from Salt Lake City, was the first YCF game winner when the series debuted last May. She won $5,000 for her playcalling skills. “I remember just trying to play what I think the coaches would have played in that game,” she says.

Coaches — How would using the YCF app sharpen your play-calling skills?

2. We’ve Been Handing Out Participation Trophies for 100 Years (Slate)

For many coaches, the participation trophy is a symbol of what’s wrong with America: the disappearance of toughness, discipline, and accountability; the lack of will, determination, and hard work; the creation of coddled children who are taught that they are special, who never learn that you have to earn it, who are being set up for failure.

But if you think the participation trophy is a recent symptom of the diapering of America, think again. We didn’t start handing out participation trophies when Baby Boomers became parents. We started handing them out after World War I.

The first print citation for “participation trophy” that I found in newspaper databases is from the Feb. 8, 1922, edition of the Evening Independent of Massillon, Ohio.
Headline: “Many Trophies for Tossers in State Tourney.”
“Trophies galore will be offered for the second annual Ohio State invitation high school basketball tournament,” the paper reported. “Members of the victorious outfits will be given individual trophies. A participation trophy also will be given each athlete playing in the series.”

The writer of this column comes down on the side of many coaches — that participation trophies are dumb. He says the players gain from their participation through the lessons learned by competing, working hard, and winning or losing. Maybe NOT getting a participation trophy sends a better message than getting one.

Literal participation trophies or medals are indeed dumb. Not because they send a “dangerous life message,” as a high school student wrote in the New York Times, or because they constitute “child abuse,” as a local news anchor in Washington said. They’re dumb because they inevitably wind up collecting dust. It’s fine to give a memento to children under the age of, say, 9 who complete a season of a sport or participate in some other competition. Just give them something useful, like a hat or a piece of equipment.

How do you feel about giving participation trophies to youth league players?

3. Family on the Field: How Utah Establishes Culture (The Daily Utah Chronicle)

We all want to establish a culture of unity and togetherness, and the Utah football team under coach Kyle Whittingham seems to be as good of an example of that as any program in the nation.

Social media has played a large role in helping the “Utah Football Family” mantra seep into the public eye, but for Utah football players, it is hardly a recent lifestyle.

Current NFL safety Eric Weddle, who played for the Utes from 2003-2006, touched on this point when he said, “The importance of family and the importance of doing things right on and off the field really made an impact on me while I was at Utah. It is during that time that getting good grades, treating people with respect and holding yourself to the highest value and accountability really takes shape.”

Utah football and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have had rich histories that continuously cross paths. A common belief that bonds the two together is the importance of family. Many of the boys in red and white at the Rice-Eccles Stadium have a background in the church. This background has helped strengthen their lives on and off the football field.

I grew up with values and the importance of living right, my parents did a great job of making sure of that.” Weddle said, “When I got to the U, I had a bunch of success, but it felt like something was still missing. I didn’t have to make any dramatic change in my life, but seeing the example of my teammates, and then getting baptized going into my sophomore year stressed that importance of what life is all about for me.”

What team-building exercises help your players establish a positive culture?

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk!