TODAY

TODAY   |  January 21, 2014

New series looks at safety of youth football

A 10-part documentary looking at the safety of youth football is making headlines. Brian Brashears, a coach, and Lisa Connell, mother and manager of a young player featured in the series, respond to claims that the children are being pushed too hard.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> with a new series documenting youth football down in texas. it's called "friday night tykes" on the esquire network and raising serious questions about things like player safety and just how far we should push our children. take a look.

>> it's going to be okay to quit in the classroom if you allow it on the football field . i want to see how fast and mean you are. let's go. you've got to push them. go! go!

>> the hardest thing is getting them past the field. once you make that first hit, you start liking it, craving it.

>> when i say rip -- you all deserve to be out here, it's a beautiful day . we practice hard, we sweated, now you're going to put it on somebody else instead of each other.

>> keep going!

>> colby ! are you quitting?

>> oh, man.

>> let's go. breathe. let's go.

>> what's the matter? i don't care how much pain you're in. you don't quit.

>> lisa is a mom and manager for the junior broncos. good morning to both of you. good to see you.

>> good morning.

>> let's start with you. that young man at the end of the take, colby , that's your son.

>> that's right. very proud.

>> you're proud -- as i watch it -- i'm a father, i've got three kids, i think he's being pushed too hard. i say --

>> you don't know my colby . as parents, we know our kids better than anybody else. and i know what colby 's capable of, i know it's not too much for him.

>> it's obvious right now, this is not one of the leagues you see a lot of these days where they don't make any cuts and everybody gets equal playing time and give trophies to everyone at the end of the season because everyone's a winner. this is tough stuff.

>> absolutely. but i'd much rather have colby learn this lesson now in life than when he's 18 and i can't get him motivated to get out there. he doesn't have the self-confidence to try things that are difficult and to push through and to feel that success when it actually happens.

>> and you never worry it's too much.

>> as a parent, you always worry. you have some reservations, but we talk to colby all the time. it's a conversation, not just a one-time thing, it's almost a lifestyle. and so we are constantly monitoring that.

>> you're a coach, your son also plays, i believe he's the quarterback for the team.

>> he's a quarterback.

>> this type of style of coaching, this in your face, push these kids style, you're happy with for your own child, as well?

>> well, everybody has their own style. i truthfully have my own style. what you saw on camera, i don't actually go that route. i'm more conservative. i do push the kids, but in a more sensible manner.

>> this -- these are 8 and 9-year-olds, right?

>> correct.

>> this actually starts earlier. kids start playing football at 4 and 5. they start tackling at 6, which raises the obvious question about the risk of injury. and some of these hits i see on this tape are pretty tough hits. do you worry about your son getting hurt?

>> definitely. i worry about that all the time. but the thing is as coaches, we've all got to instill the techniques of tackling. what you didn't see on some of these is where the coach pull them aside and correct them. you've got to keep your head up when you're tackling, see what you're hitting.

>> one of the coaches said, one of the hardest thing is getting the kids past the fear. i know your son came to you and i think your wife also and said, look, i'm afraid of getting hurt. how do you as a parent versus as a coach address a child who has fears.

>> well, that's when we do become parents. i comfort him. that was one of the first times he came to me because he didn't witness the injury the previous week.

>> you think he was nervous coming to you because you're also the football coach?

>> in some manner. but my kids are very open to me. i felt -- i felt glad he came to me and approached me in that manner.

>> i mentioned the series is raising questions. do you welcome the questions?

>> absolutely. i think these are conversations that we need to have as americans. are we pushing hard enough? are we not pushing hard enough? there's many aspects of "friday night tykes." and so far, you've only seen two episodes. there's more to come.

>> thank you very much. you can catch "friday night tykes" tonight on the esquire network.