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Are Black and White Kids Coached Differently?

Rich Kids Are Soft, Poor Kids Need to Be Toughened Up

The subject here is coaching and sports. Could much of the same — how poor Black kids and rich White kids are treated differently — also be said about teaching and parenting?

Friday Night Tykes follows five teams from the San Antonio area. According to Executive Producer Matt Maranz, only one of the teams, the predominantly White Junior Broncos, draws its players mostly from the same neighborhood, one located in a more affluent part of the city. The Predators also are mostly White. The Junior Rockets have money; the team spends $16,000 on uniforms. The Northeast Colts are predominantly Black and middle-class. The Outlaws are the outliers. The team also is predominantly Black, but many of its coaches and players live in inner-city neighborhoods.

The contrast isn’t lost on the show’s producers. In one episode, a wrought-iron electronic gate slides open and two White children in backpacks stroll into a community with spotless streets and sculpted lawns. “The north side, their life is a little different,” Outlaws assistant coach Tony Coley says. “Three-car garages, they’re raising their kids different. I use the words ‘soft as Charmin tissues.’” Cut to the city’s abandoned Friedrich refrigerator factory. Cracked sidewalks pocked with weeds, cars parked in front yards, Black children playing on grass gone brown. “Over here on the east side, it’s a little harder,” Coley says. “When somebody gets hit, parents don’t break out and cry. They be like, ‘Boy, get the hell up. You better get ’em next time.’ ”

The supposed truism that rich kids are pampered and poor kids need to be toughened up informs just about everything the Outlaws coaches do, much of which isn’t pretty. The team scrimmages against 10- and 11-year-olds, a risky proposition given disparities in height and weight. The coaches run a version of the Oklahoma drill, in which two players charge at each other from close range. When Coley’s son, the quarterback, pukes during a game, his father snaps, “Stop your fucking cryin’,” and sends him back in. (He scores a touchdown, the ends apparently justifying the means.)

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