Dealing with 'thugs' at youth level

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SUNS

#Firethecannons
Sep 30, 2010
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So it has happened twice this year. I wont mention the teams or players involved.

I am coaching an under 12's team who are one of the more successful sides in a lower division. I have coached junior/youth footy for a number of years but have not come across this until this season, and now it has happened twice. The weekend just gone was the worst.

While the ball was up one end of the ground our opposition took the 'physical' game to a whole new level. He started with the niggly small bumps, which progressively got to shoves and elbows in the ribs before my players started retaliating by pushing back. But as soon as this happened, opposition player started throwing full on haymakers at my players for pushing back. I'm not talking little jabs. Opposition player chased my boys for about 20m swinging his arms like a windmill. A few opposition parents laughed but most were very vocal in yelling out to the opposition player that it was unacceptable.

This then happened again in the final quarter of the game involving the same opposition player.

We spoke to the ground marshall who I now believe to be the father of said player. He did nothing. Did not want to know about it. We then spoke to the umpire, but as it happened off the play, the umpire wouldn't/couldn't do anything about it.

So now i'm just after some advice as to how I should get my players to deal with people like this in the future. Obviously we can't just say smash him back. But on the same line we can't say just ignore it. The player was fishing for a reaction and was getting progressively more aggressive until he got one, in his eyes justifying his terrifying response.

Parents who teach/encourage their children these tactics, especially into sub 12 year olds need to wake up to themselves.
 

kickazz

Norm Smith Medallist
Apr 12, 2010
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Not good to hear this, they are too young for that sh*t.

Do you have any good connections with other clubs/teams? Could be worth sussing out if they experience the same. You will have more influence if you have other clubs on side as well.
 

HTPunter

Norm Smith Medallist
Sep 27, 2014
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Can you ask the league itself to see if you can get another umpire to games or just another official? Plus just make a confidential report about this specific player...

Surely the league would respond, not like they are going to go in all guns blazing and kick this player out on the basis of your word, but just have an extra official watching?
 

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HTPunter

Norm Smith Medallist
Sep 27, 2014
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As for telling the kids what to do - I mean, what can you do? You can't have your players KO'd because they didn't want to be involved imo.

Until the league/officials do something, just have to have them prepared to defend themselves.

Also - I don't know about rules regarding taping games, but could you have someone ready to film incidents like these in the future - if for example one player is aggressive, get it on film your players walking away/the opposition escalating it - it will go a long way to added protection I'd think
 

Crawb

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Aug 11, 2012
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While the ball was up one end of the ground our opposition took the 'physical' game to a whole new level. He started with the niggly small bumps, which progressively got to shoves and elbows in the ribs before my players started retaliating by pushing back. But as soon as this happened, opposition player started throwing full on haymakers at my players for pushing back. I'm not talking little jabs. Opposition player chased my boys for about 20m swinging his arms like a windmill. A few opposition parents laughed but most were very vocal in yelling out to the opposition player that it was unacceptable.
There's nothing really wrong with a few small niggly bumps or just tightly marking your direct opponent - Growing up playing footy as a defender it was in fact how I was told to play against a forward. But of course anything else seems very extreme, aggressive and unnecessary - certainly as the case you described.

The story does sound very bizarre, so I'm just trying to piece something logical together that could lead and trigger such an odd circumstance. So did you actually see the incident over a duration of time? Or did you only see a small part/the end result and you're relying on the testimony of 12yr olds to fill in the gaps? I don't want to suggest any of your players were in the wrong or anything, but 12yr olds tend to be a bit selective in recounting events to suit their version of events - so perhaps there is part of the story missing or something? But either way ultimately there is nothing really excusing such actions of the opposition player in the end.

Not a lot the umpires can do if they didn't see it - in fact not really a lot they could do if they did actually. Seems you got quite unlucky with the ground manager being the child's specific parent. By the sounds of things opposition supporters weren't that thrilled with their player either, so I'm assuming it would be fair to say that there were at least some reasonable people around. Did you try talking to the the opposition coach after the game or something? I feel that would have been the most appropriate avenue - I mean it wouldn't lead to much, but perhaps a quick internal one-on-one chat with the coach at training about where the line is is what the player needs? If that failed then maybe try the league directly?
 

SUNS

#Firethecannons
Sep 30, 2010
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There's nothing really wrong with a few small niggly bumps or just tightly marking your direct opponent - Growing up playing footy as a defender it was in fact how I was told to play against a forward. But of course anything else seems very extreme, aggressive and unnecessary - certainly as the case you described.

The story does sound very bizarre, so I'm just trying to piece something logical together that could lead and trigger such an odd circumstance. So did you actually see the incident over a duration of time? Or did you only see a small part/the end result and you're relying on the testimony of 12yr olds to fill in the gaps? I don't want to suggest any of your players were in the wrong or anything, but 12yr olds tend to be a bit selective in recounting events to suit their version of events - so perhaps there is part of the story missing or something? But either way ultimately there is nothing really excusing such actions of the opposition player in the end.

Not a lot the umpires can do if they didn't see it - in fact not really a lot they could do if they did actually. Seems you got quite unlucky with the ground manager being the child's specific parent. By the sounds of things opposition supporters weren't that thrilled with their player either, so I'm assuming it would be fair to say that there were at least some reasonable people around. Did you try talking to the the opposition coach after the game or something? I feel that would have been the most appropriate avenue - I mean it wouldn't lead to much, but perhaps a quick internal one-on-one chat with the coach at training about where the line is is what the player needs? If that failed then maybe try the league directly?
So basically the first quarter was fine. No issues.

Second quarter one of our forwards, was lined up on the opponent (who I will call #12). #12 immediately got pushy at start of quarter, which as you said is normal, you get someone like that every week. Our players as forwards are taught to just walk around, don't retaliate and just do what you can to ignore it.

#12 was getting progressively worse as my player (#19) was ignoring. Went from your typical bumps from the side to charging elbows in the back and side when #19 walked away. After about 1-2 minutes (I know it doesn't sound like a long time, but I guess on the field away from play, it seems like ages) #19 give in and started to bump him back rather than walk away.

#12 then read this as an invitation to fight. He immediately started shoving from front on and swinging crazy punches at #19. #19, not really being the violent type ran away from the confrontation and I think it was the other teams runner who calmed #12 down.

Being the dominant team for most of the day the ball was down our end for the bigger part of the game. We had no more issues with #12 in general game play.

Then in the last quarter when the ball was at the other end, it happened again. At this stage we had #22 in the forward line and #12 was his direct opponent. #22 was much less forgiving and started to bump back straight away, once again #12 saw this as an invitation to punch on and the haymakers started coming again. We were much closer to it this time and our coaches yelled for the scuffle to stop. It did temporarily before #12's teammates spurred him on again and he went once more, not so hard, before the ball come down and spent most of the quarter up our end.

I hope this paints a better picture.

I guess in summary, I am agreeing with the bump/niggle approach. I teach my defenders to stick on their man like glue and to niggle away also. But this was way over the top. We had a similar incident in this years grading games, albeit it the other way around for whatever reason (our defender being harassed by their bear of a FF)
 

Crawb

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Very interesting. Very difficult position you're in. The kid is only 11/12 - so parental/coaching influence would be a significant factor in such actions and if the coaching structure is letting the player down there isn't a lot you can do to immediately solve the problem unfortunately. As someone said earlier a complaint to the league about one incident would only do so much. But if the league perhaps get multiple complaints about this particular player during the season they could perhaps ultimately do something more meaningful.

Maybe make a complaint to the league but acknowledge that you understand that there isn't much they can do and just alert them to watch out for any future complaints from other teams if this behaviour occurs regularly from this specific player. I'm sure league officials would appreciate someone acknowledging the practical limitations of a single complaint - would make the actual complaint more credible actually IMO (I'm sure leagues get all kinds of nonsense and crazy complaints).

Best of luck with your endeavour mate.
 

Angus Young

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Oct 3, 2008
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That is bullshit at that age or any age for that matter. The AFL has done a great job stamping it out and it simply can't be tolerated particularly at a young age. The player should be sent off immeditately, but if the umpire didn't see it what can he do. Shame on the parent for not telling his kid to pull his head in.
 

Fitzey

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I'm not from the coaching perspective that you are SUNS but today I was playing school football and one of the players from the other team (Won't name them) felt the need to do something similar. But this was a punch straight into the ribs.. From what I have been told the player on our team got back up and just gave him a push and then the other player punched him in the cheek.

It has only come to me now how disgraceful that is. We go on a footy field to have fun with mates, not too clown around and start a fight about it.
 

SUNS

#Firethecannons
Sep 30, 2010
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I'm not from the coaching perspective that you are SUNS but today I was playing school football and one of the players from the other team (Won't name them) felt the need to do something similar. But this was a punch straight into the ribs.. From what I have been told the player on our team got back up and just gave him a push and then the other player punched him in the cheek.

It has only come to me now how disgraceful that is. We go on a footy field to have fun with mates, not too clown around and start a fight about it.
I think after a few days of cooling down that it would be a mixture between over enthusiastic parenting and misinterpreting the job of what a defender is. He might see it on TV when his AFL heroes do it, and wanting to be like them tries to scuffle without knowing where the line is.

There is a lot of Pity for #12 but it's not his fault. Who os the coach who allows him to keep doing this. Who are the opposition parents (few might they be) who thought that it was a good source of entertainment. Who was his dad to think this was acceptable football and should not go punished or at least told off.
 
May 24, 2006
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Amazing stuff!

Unfortunately you'll cop the odd feral player or feral team in any level of football in the country.

If one of your players are getting targeted like this perhaps tell them to head up the field to the footy. Take their opponent to the play. The ferals get away with this stuff when there are no eyes on them. Put them in the spotlight.

You don't want your players to just cop it or to fight back. This way they've at least got some positive coping mechanism and might even get a kick or two.
 

pazza

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You would hope that the person who volunteered to be in the goals at that end would be able to make a formal complaint with the league, because that is certainly an option open in many competitions. Video evidence of it would have also helped.
 

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WCEswift

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Apr 3, 2010
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(under 10) My nephew calm placid kid outstanding defender always goes to the big forward. He has a general rule of if the ball isn't in his half of the ground no need for physcial contact no problem.... But once they figured out if he is near the ball they wont score, Its on. He has been punched several times, several scuffles defending himself. Had the opposition teams Runner make contact with him and drag him off the field after defending himself 3 on 1. Nephew didn't get suspended but the runner and opposition coach got a 3 game ban even after admiting the runner and coach did the same thing the week before.

We now have our club president attend every one of our teams games. I understand this may not be viable. The only other thing i can think of is to agree with above that recording is your only option.

(For those of you thinking it was him doing something the poor kid got home and cried into his nicnat eagles bear after the game :( )
 

Michaels

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Feb 4, 2006
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we had a similiar issue a few years ago with the under 16 side i coached. we were 1 of 2 teams who were fairly dominate, and there was always 1 of the lower teams that we (or anyone else for that matter) played against always ended up in a fight at some point due to them taking cheap shots.

believe me when i say it gets tougher as they get older.

we ended up going down the path of saying something to the league and demanding a league official attend any future game against that team. that club was spoken to and made aware of the situation and there was no trouble in the future games.

it was actually very frustrating as it got to the stage where (against my better judgement) asked my players to play bruise free footy. no hard tackles or bumps etc. just don't give them a reason to fight.
 

Lucas Jackson

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Okay.
As a junior coach of over 11 years, I remember an incident like this happening when we were getting on top of an opposition team in under 12's.
almost identical to what you described, opposition coach didn't seem to be doing much.
at the 1/4 time breaks, we had the inevitable discussion, my player asked me what to do. i told him not to lose his cool and that i'd look after it.
we were well on top by this stage, so i slotted my ruckman and toughest onballer into the forward line and switched one of my pockets on the ball, played a wing short. instructed my ruckman to fly for every mark with knees up.
full back attempted to push and shove our onballer (who may i add was a junior boxer) to be told "when the ball is down your forward line I'm going to punch you in the face and knock you down and no-one will see" by my player. of course he had no intention of doing this, it's just that the kid was so well trained in boxing that he knew he could back it up easily if provoked. the opposition player moved onto our ruckman who never got flustered.
ball is delivered into forward line, ruckman goes up with knees out, doesn't take mark but leaves imprints in opposition players shoulderblades. player goes down in a screaming heap, tears in the eyes, helped up by trainer.
goes back to mark my ruckman who turns to him and says "shame i didn't mark that but i'm going to keep trying for the rest of the match".
no more problems with the opposition player.
not once did i instruct my players to be aggressive, just put the right people in the right positions.
 

radiojake

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not once did i instruct my players to be aggressive, just put the right people in the right positions.
full back attempted to push and shove our onballer (who may i add was a junior boxer) to be told "when the ball is down your forward line I'm going to punch you in the face and knock you down and no-one will see" by my player. o
so your on-baller just threatened him on his own volition?
 

Damon_3388

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full back attempted to push and shove our onballer (who may i add was a junior boxer) to be told "when the ball is down your forward line I'm going to punch you in the face and knock you down and no-one will see" by my player.
Response should be, "And I will take that punch, and milk it for every drop it's worth. I'll play it like I've just been shot. We'll get stretchers, ambulances, news crews, ACA, police, lawyers, the works. How does that sound?"
 

ford71

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At sub-junior level, when things get out of hand, you stop the game, call your players back to a huddle and use the correct official to explain the situation to the umpire.
If nobody can agree to correct the problem, call the game.
An official report to be made whether the game continues or not, with a request for a League official to attend a future game.
 

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