Parents have a big decision to make about letting their children play contact sports. High-risk contact sports are a matter of survival physically and psychologically. Student-athletes can end up in the emergency room or even the morgue. If your children can end up getting busted up in a sport, then it’s a matter of life or death. I stopped romanticizing high-risk contact sports long ago because trying to knock the hell out of each other is serious business. There are a number of liability issues that can break you. The following article is about one of the most serious issues I’ve faced coaching football. It could cost you everything. I wrote it for Coachbook three days ago instead of Xs and Os articles about how to get complete a pass for a touchdown or how to sack a quarterback. Here it is:
Fighting in contact team sports
I had led over 2,000 practices as a head coach and this was the low point. It was the most embarrassing moment of my head coaching career – my most beloved streak broke. A hockey fight erupted during a football practice. The streak ended at just over two decades. Not one hockey fight during a football practice. We were preparing for a college game against a powerhouse from Buffalo, New York. One hour and fifteen minutes into an intense practice, two players started fist-fighting during a live scrimmage and broke my streak. Let me repeat that – a live football scrimmage that includes all the contact that players could wish for, hope for, and desire erupted in a hockey fight. A fist-fight. As it football isn’t violent enough to release frustrations, two players decided to break my streak of no-hockey fight streak and exchanged punches to each other’s heads.
Not only was it senseless, it looked foolish. Two football players pretending to be hockey goons. It was a pathetic sight. Humiliating. Two selfish players who were unable to control their emotions and just wait 8 more seconds until the next play to pound the hell out of each other, broke our most prized streak. The worst part of the fight – one was a fullback, the other was a linebacker. In 8 seconds, they could have tried to knock each other on their respective ass – legitimately and legally. And my streak would have been intact.
I ended the hockey fight with one sentence. Three words. No one physically broke it up. No one rushed to break it up like those hickey referees who jump into a melee trying to separate two grown men from exchanging punches to the face. One sentence. That was it. And that’s been it. A new streak started and this time it won’t be broken.
It’s never happened again. I have zero tolerance for hockey fighting in my football practices and games. Hockey fighting is banned on my football team. The ban is in writing. I have a page in our Code of Conduct the spells out the hockey-fighting ban on my football team. It’s as blunt as you can get. I list the reasons for the ban in the Code of Conduct. Players have to read it, sign it, and I verbally reinforce it countless times during every season. That’s how passionate I am about it. Here is an excerpt from our Code of Conduct:
Hockey-style fist-fighting is strictly prohibited from Niagara X-men practices and games. There is zero tolerance for hockey style fist-fighting. The reasons for the ban are as follows:
1. Punching each other in the head can cause brain damage.
2. Punching each other in the head is a criminal offense when someone gets hurt because the laws of our country make it clear – you can’t consent to assault causing bodily harm.
3. Punching each other in the head shows you can’t cut it in full-contact football practice. There’s enough full-contact in live football. Punching each other in the head is counter-intuitive and outright stupid.
4. If you want to punch each other in the head, get off the football field, quit the sport, and pursue boxing or MMA where true professionals learn to fight properly and skillfully. Fist-fighting in football is a threat because we don’t teach players how to fist-fight or how to defend themselves form fist-fighting, like true skilled fighters are taught. That translates to an insurance liability. YOU CAN’T DO WHAT WE DON’T TEACH YOU TO DO. Our insurance doesn’t cover injuries from illegal acts that are not legitimate parts of football. Our insurance doesn’t cover hockey-style fist fights. Get off the field, quit the team. I won’t jeopardize player safety and expose myself or my program to legal liability by tolerating potential brain damage that can happen by punching each other in the head. Find another program. You will be unwelcome here.
5. Fist-fighting wastes reps. Every nano-second of practice matters when you’re coaching underdogs. I have zero tolerance for time-wasting in practice because wasted reps are a threat to the team, a threat to player safety, and a threat to embarrass the program on the scoreboard.
6. Fist-fighting reminds me of drunken brawls that I used to get dispatched to when I was a cop. Every drunken bar brawl was life-threatening for everyone involved. Ambulances, hospitals, even morgues. And they were embarrassing. I refuse – repeat, refuse – to lower my football practices to the hell-hole of drunken bar brawls.
7. Football practice is our sanctuary. Our unique workplace. It’s sacred. Football practice is my personal refuge from poisoned workplaces that will rot your soul. I want each one of my players to experience a clean work environment. If you want to pollute our environment, you’re unwelcome. I’ll say it again – our football workplace is sacred. It will remain sacred.
My message to my team has worked because I have proved that I mean what I say. My Code of Conduct is not for entertainment. Hockey-style fist-fighting in football is an extreme disrespect to the sport of football.
I firmly believe that fighting in team sports is a joke. The only reason they fight in contact sports like hockey is because they know someone will break it up soon. If they ignored them and let them fight without a referee to jump in after a few seconds later after they get tired, fighting would end. Guaranteed. Here’s a great article about hockey fighting by the greatest NHL goalie of all-time, Ken Dryden of the Montreal Canadiens. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/dryden-case-for-fighting-in-hockey-continues-to-get-weaker-and-weaker/article15232138/
Gino Arcaro M.Ed., B.Sc., NCCP Level 3
Head coach – Niagara X-men football
Owner – X Fitness Inc.
Gino Arcaro is an extensively published author. His new books are 4th & hell: seasons 1-5. Season one is available. Season 2-5 will be released soon His website, blog, Youtube channel, and list of books are at: www.ginoarcaro.com