By: Greg Bach, VP, Communications
National Alliance for Youth Sports
During Sunday night’s drama-packed Super Bowl telecast there was a shot of a young girl sitting in the suite of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
This 9-year-old was given this prized Superdome seat because she plays youth football – and she happens to play it really well.
So well in fact that her face adorns a Wheaties cereal box and she has been interviewed on ESPN, the NFL Network and Good Morning America, among others.
Her name is Sam Gordon and in the past 90 days she has emerged as the poster child for everything that’s right – and I’ll also argue wrong – with youth sports these days.
It all began when the youngster’s pr savvy dad uploaded a nearly 6-minute video on YouTube of Gordon dominating in a Salt Lake City-area youth football program comprised of boys. The video features clip after clip of her breaking off huge runs, leaving would-be tacklers grasping at air and scoring touchdowns in bundles, earning the well-deserved nickname “Sweet Feet” in the process.
Apparently the youngster ran for a mind boggling 1,911 yards and racked up an astounding 35 touchdowns during the season.
Pretty impressive numbers, for sure, for this fleet-footed young athlete.
Now, I’m not looking to turn a feel-good story inside out because yes, Sam has obviously been blessed with athletic talent, so good for her. And if her story inspires other girls to pursue strapping on a helmet and playing against the boys that’s great too – the more kids that get involved in sports the better. And the more girls that want to compete against the boys, I’m all for it.
But let’s take a step back for a moment and look at the bigger picture.
Someone is seriously keeping rushing statistics for a 9-year-old? Are you kidding me?
But since they are, here’s the stat that is most revealing – and disturbing – of all: According to reports, Sam carried the ball a jaw-dropping 232 times during the season and scored every one of her team’s touchdowns.
Apparently the offense is all Sam, all the time.
Obviously, I don’t blame Sam. She’s a sweet kid who loves football and when a play is called for her she runs hard – and usually for big chunks of yardage. But I do blame the coaches because there are a lot of other kids who signed up to play because they love the game, too, and I don’t think their experience was as rewarding as it could have been.
So it’s ultra disappointing for me to see coaches overlook a pretty simple fact that they have a responsibility to ensure that every child on the team has a positive experience. It makes me wonder how many of the other kids on the team would have loved scoring even one touchdown.
If the ball is continually being handed off to Sam because she happens to be the best player on the field and she’s dominating every game – that’s great for her (and her YouTube posting father).
But you know what? That’s not so great for her teammates who are missing out on special opportunities.
And that’s not what youth sports are all about.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Alliance for Youth Sports.