FNF Coaches Talk — How a Coach’s Wife Defends Football, Iowa State Coach Prefers Multi-Sport Athletes, Massachusetts Coach Inspires Players Through Cancer Fight

FNF Coaches Talk

Welcome back, Coaches. It’s the day before the game, and we’ve got a few stories for you.

1. How a College Football Coach’s Wife Defends a Game Under Siege (Chicago Tribune)

Here’s a topic we all deal with at the start of every season — if not every day.

Football is said to be a game under siege because of declining participation and movements across the country to ban tackle football for children younger than 12.

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald grew up six blocks from his wife, Stacy, who used to quiz him on his playbook before high school games. Now, the couple has three kids who play youth football, and Stacy considers herself an advocate to the sport.

Stacy tells parents who inquire about football: Come to a game.

“They’ll ask: ‘Is my son going to get hurt? What’s it like?’ I say when they are younger, everything is low impact. That’s when you learn the proper technique,” she says. “They come out and watch it and say: ‘This really isn’t bad. They are learning and have a great time.’
“The camaraderie, being a teammate … you have to work as a group of 11 to make a play run. In basketball, four can spread out and one can drive. But that’s the biggest seller — it really isn’t what they’re seeing on TV.”

Last year Stacy completed a four-year term as president of the North Shore Trevians Youth Football Program. Her son Brendan weighs 100 pounds and says he loves the “physicality” of football. He’s bummed that more of his friends don’t play: “Half the kids, they say their moms won’t let them.”

The Chicagoland Youth Football Program adopted a policy in 2012 that any player who exhibits a concussion symptom — including a headache or dizziness — is removed from the game and cannot return unless a certified athletic trainer or licensed physician clears him.

More recently, kickoffs were outlawed. Each team gets two chances for an “onside kick” — a 10-yard, do-or-die play. Tacklers who engage in helmet-to-helmet contact are penalized and forced to leave the field for a two-play “cooldown.” If it happens twice, the player is ejected.

Stacy says these rule changes give her confidence that the game is safe for her boys.

“As long as he’s OK,” Stacy says, adding: “If it’s not illegal, he should be able to deal with it.”

What do you tell parents that express concerns about their child’s safety?

2. Iowa State coach Matt Campbell prefers to recruit multi-sport athletes (CycloneFanactic.com)

We hear this from coaches consistently, and the message never gets old. Iowa State coach Matt Campbell shared with reporters his philosophy about high-schoolers playing multiple sports vs. specialization in one sport. Like most coaches, he prefers to recruit athletes who compete in multiple sports.

“I’d rather have a kid who is … a four-sport athlete,” Campbell said. “The greatest ingredient you lose is competition and how to compete.”

He makes the point that while all football coaches and strength coaches try to inspire inner-team competition in the weight room, it’s not the same as competing on a track, basketball court or baseball field.

What advice do you give a player who is considering playing a sport in the winter or spring season?

3. Massachusetts football coach undergoing cancer treatment inspires players to work hard (WHDH)

We all want to demonstrate our toughness and perseverance to our players, but none of us wants to have to do it under this circumstance.

Belmont High (Mass.) football coach Yann Kumin was diagnosed with cancer in his throat this summer. Kumin said the diagnosis forced him to confront one of his greatest fears.

“I didn’t know if I was going to be able to coach this year and that was terrifying.”

Coach Kumin underwent five radiation treatments a week for six weeks at the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Radiation Oncology. Through all the pain, he said he was able to find strength and faith through football.

“Football is church for me, you know it really is,” he said. “It’s kind of an opportunity to kind of connect with whatever it is that you believe is the current running through the universe.”

Support for the football field fixture came from Belmont families and beyond. Kumin stared down mortality to teach life’s greatest lessons on the field.

“We preach love in this program,” he said. “We preach unconditional love and family in this program because we believe it is the strongest force in the universe.”

In what ways do you demonstrate your toughness and perseverance to your players?

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