Coaching and Portrayal in the Media

Ryan Hetrick

UNST Popular Culture


Professor Bergland


 “I learned a great many things in the Marines that helped me as a football coach. The Marines train men hard and to do things the right way, just as a football team must train.”

-Hayden Fry


Football has been an important aspect of my life ever since I began playing when I was eight years old. Coaches in today’s society carry a negative connotation with their title and a lot of it has to do with negative media portrayal. The sport has truly helped shape who I am and has provided me with so many character traits such as teamwork, respect, leadership and work ethic. Now that my playing days are over I have branched over to the coaching side of the game and began as low as you possibly could at third and fourth grade contact football. Over this course of my life I have realized that youth football is the most important out of all the other levels because it where you truly begin to step into your own skin and learn life lessons that work with football, but more importantly translate to the outside world. Through these transitions in the player’s lives, the coaches play an extremely important role in shaping these kids and during the season, the practice field is almost like a second home.


Society today has taken a negative view towards the sport of football itself and for good reason. With all the news about concussions and injuries that has been surfacing over the past couple years, people are starting to recognize that as the dangers of the sport and the impacts have been immense. There is a lot more to the sport than just injuries and if coached correctly, injuries are much more rare and are just a little aspect of the game. These news stories are making a lasting impact on parents meaning that they are a lot more hesitant to let their child play football which in my opinion can take so much away from the child if they have a real interest in the game. As a coach I am hoping to help counteract these ideas and teach the game the proper way, however, with how youth football coaches are portrayed in the media it is difficult to be given the opportunity to become that change.


Coaches In The Media


Mainstream media is the main popular culture artifact that has portrayed and shown youth and high school football coaches in such a negative light. The first source that has done an excellent job of this is the show Friday Night Tykes that was created and aired by the Esquire Network. This is a show about a youth football league in San Antonio, Texas and the cameras follow them all the through pre-season to the very last game. In this show the coaches act ridiculous and do not treat the players with respect at all, which shows the negative side of the sport. Throughout the episodes the players do not seem to be having very much fun, which is a big issue when it comes to parents signing their kids up. Football is a game and should be fun, especially at such a young age where the kids are just being introduced to it and are making their decision of whether or not they want to pursue a future in playing. Many of the coaches portrayed are in it to boost their ego and not really in it for the well being of the kids. They also only really care about big hits and flashy plays, which are the opposite of what they should be coaching because those are the things that will get the players hurt easier. With all that being said, there are a couple coaches shown that truly care about the kids and ensuring that they have a good experience so that continue playing and can reach their full potential. I have an issue with how the coaches treat and teach their players and I believe that it is setting a bad example for the sport in the rest of the country.


Friday night tykes

There are also multiple movies that involve football, however, most of them take place at the high school level. Even at the high school level it is still important to look at the coaches because parents still have a say in whether or not their child continues on to play and if they want their child to play for that coach or transfer to another school. One movie that is famous for representing and old-school coach that is hard on the players is the film Varsity Blues written by W. Peter Iliff where Jon Voight plays Bud Kilmer, a small town high school football coach in Texas. The coach is so unruly and such a dictator on the field that at the end of the film his players say that the only way they will go back onto the field and play is if he does not follow. Another movie that is a little more light-hearted and comical is Little Giants directed by Duwayne Dunham. This is a movie about peewee youth football where two brothers coach against each other. One brother (Ed O’Neill) was a superstar and coaches a team that wins every game and seems well put together, but doesn’t seem like much fun. The other brother (Rick Moranis) was always the more un-athletic child, but knew the ins and outs of the game. This team is a rag tag group of kids who are horrible at football, but by the end of the movie come together and actually beat the other team. This actually shows coaches in a more positive light and that even if a coach is a little hard on his players, he can still care about them and they can have fun. On the other hand, a coach can have fun at practice and teach the fundamentals without being out of control and the team can still turn out good and the kids can have fun. Both of these movies represent football coaches in different aspects and can play an influence in how real life coaches are portrayed because when it comes down to it, media and movies have a big influence on society.


Another movie that has a great impact on the sport and this portrayal is the film Remember the Titans. This film is based on true events and it is about T.C. Williams High School in Virginia. The film is centered on segregation in the 1960’s and how this one football team is helping fight that. Herman Boone is an African-American head football coach and his main goal is to unify these kids through football and bring them together as a family no matter of skin color. “There’s a fine line between tough and crazy and you’re flirting with it.” (Coach Yoast, Remember the Titans). This statement right here encapsulates what being a coach is all about because you have to be hard on the players to a certain extent and it is easy to cross that line. Coach Boone is tough on his players and it is extremely apparent, but that is what football is about. He is tough on the players to unify them towards one common goal; he is not tough on them just to be a jerk. It is clear that his intentions are pure and that sometimes it takes being tough and hard-nosed for the well being of the players. The public could see this as being rough, but this is just the nature of the game and it is not always nice, but it will help someone become a better person and teach them valuable life lessons.

James Van Der Beek (left) and Paul Walker in "Varsity Blues"

James Van Der Beek (left) and Paul Walker in “Varsity Blues”

little giants


remember the titans

One of the last artifacts that I have found represents youth players in an extremely positive aspect and shows how much influence the sport can have. This article is not directly centered on coaches, however, players and coaches go hand-in-hand and when you talk about one it is extremely easy to talk about the other in the same regard. The news story is composed by CBS News’ Steve Hartman and is focused on the Mt. Olivet Eagles who are a youth football team. To give a quick summary, this team has a learning disabled player named Keith on its roster and the players took it upon themselves to make Keith’s season and help him score a touchdown during a game. None of the players told any of the coaches and they actually took a knee on the one-yard line in order to give Keith this special opportunity to score a touchdown. This one play and one act of kindness affected everyone in that stadium and changed Keith’s life as well as some of the other player’s lives forever. This is the impact that the game can have on its players and also on the community. It can bring people together in a way that nothing else can and that is truly magical. We have spoken a lot about community this term and being on a team is a perfect example of a community. Sports in general have such a crazy way of bringing people together and I am blessed to have the opportunity to be apart of that. The link for the news story is located directly below the paragraph.




After observing all of these different artifacts and doing the research on this aspect of my life, it is apparent to me that I am grateful to be given the opportunity to coach and to have the upbringing that I had in order to be able to try and teach the game right. Through mainstream media, it seems that the only stories that make the news or are talked about are the negative ones. Between the coaches in Friday Night Tykes and in movies such as Varsity Blues it is to be said that these portrayals carry a negative aspect along with the sport. The sad thing about all of this is that there are many coaches around the country that act like this and treat their players like this and it is a reality that parents and players have to live with. I was fortunate enough to be given some statistics from the Beaverton Youth Football organization about team sizes throughout the years. In 2006 there were ten teams within the program ranging from third to eighth while in this past year (2015) there were only six teams. There are many reasons why this could be the case and the problem with it all is that between the difference, there is about a 100-kid drop off. Injuries and danger are a big reason for why this is, however, after seeing the representation of coaches in the media; I feel that plays a big part in parents’ decisions also. Football is a hard sport and it is expected for coaches to yell and push their players, but the coaches represented are doing more than that and are treating the players horribly. Through this experience and mirror essay again I will say that I feel blessed to be given the opportunity to coach and be part of a community that doesn’t act negatively and focuses on teaching the fundamentals of the game and ensuring the kids have a good time and stick with the sport. The players learn a lot through the experience, but as a coach I am learning from them everyday and it is an opportunity that I would not trade for anything.

Learning Moments


One of the biggest learning moments that I value most from this class are the small group conversations and blog posts about community. Community is such an important aspect in everyday life that is taken lightly and I really appreciated that this class added an emphasis to it and how it is also a great learning tool. The class as a whole was a solid and diverse community of students who valued each other’s input and weren’t ever really afraid to say what was on their mind, but in an academic sense. Through these discussions I have learned that the term community has an extremely broad definition especially when it comes to what a community is classified as. The main definition I took from all the discussions is that a community is a group of people who have one common goal or value in mind. I hold the idea of community near to my heart and do not take it for granted when I am lucky enough to become involved in a community of people who have each other’s backs and are there no matter what.


Another learning moment that I took a lot from was the course blog discussion involving the Adidas’ advertisement. I am working towards a major in marketing and that discussion board gave me the opportunity to see what other students outside of my major thought about the advertisement and marketing in general. Thinking about the commercial also opened my eyes up to the different markets and demographics sports apparel companies are trying to approach and tap into before all of the other companies. One thing that I really valued from these blog posts, this one in particular, is the ability to see how different everyone’s thought process is. There were so many aspects in the commercial that people interpreted differently and no one was wrong which was the great thing. It provided an open-ended conversation which led to students being given the opportunity to analyze something that affects them all because it is clothing, but may be out of their major.



Friday Night Tykes Season 2, Episode 1. Esquire TV. Aired 01-20-2015 Steve Hartman, CBS News. “On The Road” October 25,2015.

Beaverton Youth Football. President Todd Valencia. “Number of teams 2006-2105” Retrieved on October 20, 2015.


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About Ryan

I am a Sophomore at Portland State majoring in Marketing. I am currently working as a handyman/contractor to help pay my way and I also help coach my little brother's youth football team.