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Originally written September 28, 2012 on Larry Brown Sports:

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Those of you who thought the Saints bounty scandal was disturbing probably won’t even want to read this. A recent report from the Orange County Register revealed that a pair of Pop Warner coaches who coach 10- and 11-year-olds in Tustin, Calif., have been accused of paying their players to injure opponents.

The coaches, head coach Darren Crawford and assistant coach Richard Bowman, allegedly led their team to an undefeated record in 2011. Now they are being accused by an assistant coach, a parent and multiple players of instructing their team to target specific players on several opposing teams. Tustin Pop Warner league officials have denied a bounty program took place and Crawford admits he told his team to target opposing players, but claims he never said anything about rewarding his players for hurting someone.

“My son said he had won the prize,” an anonymous father from the Tustin Red Cobras said. “He had a good, clean hit. The kids voted his play as the play of the game. He showed me one $20 bill. He said the coaches, plural, gave it to him.”

Crawford and Bowman insist the accusations stem from “disgruntled” parents who are lying and manipulating their children to do the same. Crawford said he may have given a kid money to go to the snack bar before, but never as a reward for injuring an opponent.

“It’s amazing what disgruntled parents will put their kids through,” the head coach said.

Statements from six players and four parents allege that the coaches offered bounties from anywhere between $20 and $50 during the three playoff games at the end of the 2011 season. Three players and two parents reportedly met with the Register earlier this month and described the origin of the bounty system in detail, claiming Crawford was frustrated when his team lost in the playoffs in 2010 and was determined to win the Pop Warner Orange Bowl and Pop Warner Super Bowl in 2011.

Two players said the team was excited when the coaches informed the kids that they could earn money for knocking opponents out of games.

“We were like, ‘OK! We’re going to go hit them! Wow!’” one player explained.

“When we were after practice, getting our gear off, we were guessing who was going to get the money,” another player said.

Leading up to a game against Santa Margarita, the players say the Tustin coaches targeted three opposing players and taped their numbers to a tackling sled during practice. In regard to the payments, they were instructed to not go “bragging about this to anybody.”

If the accusations are true, it would be hard to defend the actions of the coaches as anything less than despicable. Stories about bounties like this one from the Saints or this one from college football have become all too common over the past year or so, and those are grown men who are capable of making their own decisions. Manipulating young children who look up to their coaches and feel pressured to please them would bring the issue to a new and even more disturbing level.


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  • If true, those coaches are criminals and should go to jail for a long time.
  • not only that, they should be sued by the parents of any injured kids, hit them where it hurts? what are we teaching our kids????
  • and, hope the parents of injured kids sue them, hit them where it hurts. what are we teaching our children???
  • I coached Pop Warner for (13) years. During that time we won (2) national championships, national runner up three times. My teams records were 198 wins 18 ties and 2 losses. We did this by teaching fundelmentals and stressing to stride to do your best at all time. We always stressed sportsmanship. We taught that you hit the other player as hard as you can and then help him up. We taught that you never do anything on the field or off the field that would embarrass you, your family or team. Coaching young kids you suppose to be a life learning experience. These coaches and the program should be banded from Pop Warner. This is not what Pop Warner is about and they are a disgrace. This is the problem when you let thugs coach football.
  • it doesn't surprise
    years ago when my kids were playing the coaches, especially one, would deliberately place undersized kids on the line, knowing they would be beat up, so to speak - then he wouldn't have to play them. No money was involved, but still unethical. A lot of coaches are frustrated players.
  • parents need to have coaches like these fired. period.
  • And we wonder what's wrong with society when dirtbags at this level start corrupting kids sports.
  • and our kids.
  • this is ridiculous. people better wake up before it's too late. this country is turning is turning into two classes !!!!!!!!!!!! those who have and those who have not. look at how morally wrong this, first think about what this does to the children. don't they have enough to deal with already...come on people! i have seen what will soon be in control of our country. it's scary!!!!!!!!
  • Knocking opponents out fo the game and targeting are two VERY different things. Of course you want to traget the best players on opposing teams and try to stop them from gaining yards...and generally at this level it is 2 or 3 players that have the ball most. If they did tell the kids to knock them out of the game they should be fired. Targeting = good hits, knocking out = illegal hits. Did any of the other teams complain about injuries??? Tough to tell who's telling the truth here.
  • And just how is an 11 or 12 year old supposed to discern how hard to hit a target hit as opposed to a knockout hit..until after the fact?
  • The NFL said that it is OK to put bounties on oppooint players so why not have it permiate down to Pop Warner football. If the NFL would dosomething but do nothing to those guilty from the NFL partisipating in the bounty program it would stop the process or at least put a sigma on it. No the NFL doesn't care!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • I hate to say it this has been going on long before I ever started playing any sport back in the 70s. When i got in High School I always had a bounty on me. coaches would offer steak dinners cash or hotel rooms for them and their girlfriends if someone could knock me out of the game. How I know that. i was in the Dr. office on a saturday after the game the night before and so was a few guys from the other team along with other teams were at the Dr. office. maybe 30 guys or so getting therapy and someone herd my name when it was called and there was a big fight at the Dr office and I was not aloud to go in the main entrance any more because i had a bounty on my head and they want to put me out for the season. the coaches didn't care if they were cheap shots of not. After 3 years of playing I had 1/2 the football team jump me on the field and tried to beat the crap out of me my senior year. They put me out for a few games but it was still a blast.
  • As long as we let corporations own sports teams and jack up the players salaries, there will parents who will stop at nothing to make sure their kid's team and their kid wins at all cost. Sick, but true.
  • Why is anyone suprised?? The same unethical and greed tactics used in the Pros are bound to trickle down to the Pee Wees. (And don't even get me going regarding the long-term neurological problems that many will have due to head injuries...just look at Mohammad Ali and some of the retired football players!)

    Our culture places--WAY--too much importance on organized sports these days, and many parents even encourage it. When was the last time a lot of parents spent some REAL time with their family, (other than a sporting event), to create meaningful lifetime memories instead? ...Yeah..that's what I thought.
  • amen to that.
  • Woah. Woah. Woah. First, I can agree that things that happen in the pros can often trickle down to the younger players. I'll even go so far as to say that I would never put my young son(or even daughter) in a pee wee football league. My husband played football in middle and high school and said he would never allow our boys to play pee wee. Their bodies are not even close to physically able to handle hits or deliver them correctly. Plus, they tend to get burned out before they get to high school.
    However, I take issue with the "organized sports" and it not being "real time" with your kids. While my kids are not in "sports" so to speak, they are involved in a class 5A marching band in Texas. They work just as hard, imo, as any "athlete." Going to the football games and competitions is what we do during the fall. My husband and I volunteer and ride the bus with the band. We help with fundraisers, etc. We are spending quality, meaningful, lifetime memory-making TIME with our kids...and every minute of it is "REAL." Don't try to disqualify it just because you don't happen to do it in your family. My daughter is about to graduate from high school. If you could ask her, she would tell you that her best memories are the ones she made in band and how thankful she is that we were there at every single event, filming and taking pictures, clapping, crying, and cheering. You think she won't remember it for the rest of her life? I think you're wrong.
  • Having been a youth sports coach for well over 30+ years, this apalls me but really does not surprise me. I got out of the local yout football scene several years ago for somewhat similar reasons as to the direction the program was goin along with some other major issues which I will not bring to the table here. Coaches, like the men in questions or any coach of youth sports that would even attempt to solicit something of this nature should pack his duffle bag and go find aother venue to spout his crap. I learned very quickly that the kids are very, very impressionable and need to be constantly shown the proper direction and the righ attitude, especially when it comes to any of the 4 major sports. They see these pro players playing as they do and the wanting to emulate their sports heros They tend to overlook, at times, the problems that a lot of them have outside of the sport. But for what ever reason, they seem to think that what is done while playing the sport is OK. When coachs add this sort of input to very impressionable minds, then any and all youth leagues and sports, really need to take a huge step back, and re-evaluate their programs and the coachs that volunteer their time. A much deeper look into a persons background is needed and the leagues need to take much more aggressive interview process with all respective coaches before givng the OK. The NYSCA/ NAYS is a big part of th youth sports movement and shouldbe an ongoing resource for any and all youth leagues to turn to coaching classes, parent classes where youth sports are involved.
    Coaches should be held fully accountable for their actions on and off the field of play. My opinion in cases like this is, that the coaches in question should be suspended from a further involvement until a solid investigation and decision is reached by the Leagues authority. Be it POP Warner or even just the local City recreation programs, there is serious need to make sure issues such as his never, ever arise.
    Now so far this is a "he said, she said" type of thing and is under investigation. If it is found to be factual, then POP Warner should drop the hammer hard and set a prescedent for all others. The PAYS program is another and isfor all parents of ther kids getting into sports. I believe it should be a mandatory class which will hold all parents accountable for their own actions.. We have all seen the major issues there over the past couple of decades, (and beyond) which has produces it's own troubles.
    Sorry to be so long winded here but I am still caching and will be for as long as humanly possible so things like this hit close to home.... This is just my opinion on things and is always subject to comment. For those that tend to agree with what I have said, thanks, For those that will disagree I am fine with that. This is a free society and everyone is allowed to have their own say . That's why this country is so great.. Freedom to speak your mind.
  • The article says the League doesn't believe this happened, so I doubt there will be any type of investigation and these Coaches will still be out there giving the few really great Coaches a bad rap.
  • Guess I'm lucky - my kid has excellent coaches who, while encouraging good, solid, clean hits, will seriously chew a kid out if the hit is excessive or illegal (at practice or game)
  • Now, come on folks-- this is capitalism at its pinnacle!! Those who produce get the rewards of their efforts-- no shoddy teamwork socialism for this team-- you've got to take out the other guy and get results in order to get paid!! A lot of 10 and 11 year olds get broken legs and life time sustaining injuries playing in their own backyards anyway-- so what's the big deal if another kid helps them along with those injuries and makes a buck at the same time?-- seems like an educational effort in Economics 101 to me! Now if the coaches can just get the NFL to pitch in a bunch of steroids to help "bulk up the boys", then things would really become something-- you've gotta admire people who copycat their athletic idols-- coaches and kids alike!!
  • Inkyaiken--God help if you have any kids! You are the kind of person that contributes to the problems with narcissism and greed we have in our culture today. Grow up. Read my previous comment.
  • I think Inkyalken was being srcastic
  • That was just the most ignorant, idiot comment I have ever read. I, along with many others are now dumber for having read that. You're a moron! Go comment on another page about famous overpaid celebs and their problems.
  • The Raiders are just bada*****, a lot of criminals, but don't have the money to pay extra for "head hunting". They just do it. The other teams have to pay for it, just to win. I don't condone it, I am against it all. I've coached youth sports, including football for years, and would like to think I coached in a positive, constructive way, as I had almost every parent of every player I coached, compliment me and the way I coached and taught their children.
  • I have been a youth coach and find this sort of thing despicable. If these coaches are found to be guilty of paying bounties for taking out players they should be banned for life from coaching young people. I don't care how well they know the game and can teach it to their players, the very fact that they may be teaching players to intentionally injure other players should diqualify them as coaches. Adolescent players should be taught the fundamentals of the game and how to participate in it. Kids learn life lessons while they are learning to play sports. They need to learn how to be team players, how to exercise and train their bodies to compete safely, respect for rules, referees, coaches, and other players. Sports can instill a strong work ethic, pride in self and teammates, how to win and lose with dignity and humility. Sports can get kids on a lifelong track of health and active living. Unfortunately, coaches that teach kids how to cheat, disrespect authority, injure others, and to win at all costs run the risk of adversely affecting the lives of their players. These players don't deserve to be coached by men like this, regardless of their win/loss record. Young players need to learn to play fairly and honorably, putting forth your best effort, striving to acheive the win. There's no way to know how many budding atheletes have had their competetive futures shortenend or ended because some coach somewhere taught, or worse yet paid, some youngster to deal a punishing blow to gain an unfair advantage?

    Character is built through participation in sports. Our coaches should be building good character and values, not bad. If they are guilty, throw the book at them and kick them to the curb. At least the kids would learn that this type of behavior is unacceptable.
  • I don't buy the coaches B.S. for a second... "I may have given a kid money to go to the snack bar..." During a game??? Who are you kidding. I watched crap like this when I was coaching flag football, 3rd graders. one team in particular, i knew the two coaches, th biggest jerks, hot headed, foul mouthed, ruined the game and the fun for so many. They cheated through every game, may differnt things.

    I know as does every parent and coach these 3rd and 4th graders were told exactly what to do and who was going to do it. I had the rules memorized, had a copy in my pocket at all times, and one game against this particular team, after protesting to the ref 4 times showing and explaining the rules, he started throwing flags and penalized the crap out them. Then when one of their coaches went to one of the kids and said quietly, softly, "hey buddy, you can't do that, o.k." I, along with my wife and other parents about puked.

    This ego maniac and his cronie, did nothing more than scream, yell, curse, and demean children, it was all show. We, and I knew damn well he had told that kid to do what he was doing, the look on that poor boys face was pure confusion when his coach now said he couldn't do that anymore. You could physically see that child was lost, didn't know what to do now.

    We had fun, I even had one of my daughters on my team and she was my secret weapon. she's slender, but stronger, tougher, faster, more athletic than every boy/girl/player... when i needed a big play or a touchdown, I would usually run a double reverse, get her the ball and let her do her thing. she was never stopped once. she was talented, gifted, had the "eye"; she could zig, zag, cut back, and once she was just one step ahead of everyone, she was gone, no one was cathing her. the other teams coaches would be screaming and cusing at his players to get back over to the sideline before she even crossed the goal line, because they knew there was no catchin her on offense, and they knew on defense there was no getting by her, she was more aggressive too.

    She flat out embarassed every team we played. i had many, many good players on my team, and passed the ball around as eqaul as I possibly could. Never got upset with kids or yelled at them, I positively encouraged, and when they made a mistake, we all, even I, learned from it, moved on, and had fun making the other teams mad in a sense. mostly those 2 idiodic coaches i dealt with for 3 years, multiple games.

    This crap goes on by the coaches at an early age. like i said at the beginning i don't buy the coaches B.S. for a second. It's not the "parents lying, and influencing their kids..." it's his ego and pride. that's why it's coaches and parents getting into fist fights at little kids games with one another or refs, becuase it's the kids not them... BULL S***!
  • If noone got hurt then whats the big deal? Aiming at 1 or 2 players on the other team is how you play the game. Rewarding kids for playing hard is ok. They got paid each game for having the best hhit of the game,not whoeever hurt the other kid. My high school handed out a femur bone each week to the player with the hardest hit of the week,so what? It was a honor to carry that thing around,you knew you were doing something right. And not too many kids get that kinda praise if any at all.Keep it clean and noone hurt and no problem here.
  • its football,a rough sport. go to the indoor futbol league with your lattes if you have a whiny kid. Plus whole story sounds a little fishy. And not one injury was ever mentioned. Hitting is what footballs about,period.Hit em as hard as you can and keep hitting until the whistle blows.Football should not be played until middle school either. Pop Warner is a joke and completly for parents to relive their "good ol days". Parents r the problem in this one!
  • Personally, I think the NFL needs to change the way they play the game or improve protective gear (if possible). I hear the increased speed of the game and increased size of the players has made this sport too dangerous.I mean geez why don't you just throw them out there with some lions. You see McMahon lately ?
  • If you have ever been involved with youth football, "the ole disgruntled parent" excuse is getting really old. Four parents and six players disgruntled over a winning (did I see undefeated) prior season. COME ON COACHES, you did it and you asked the players not to talk about it off the field or with their parents. More would probably come forward if not for the back lash they would most certainly receive from others in the league.

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