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Friday, February 27, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 3.0° F  Fair
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High-decibel youth coaching

Mr. Fuglesten coached my elementary school's football teams in the days before youth sports were largely privatized. Without assistants, he marshaled 18 boys of varying athleticism, employing healthy amounts of shouting and sarcasm. But he seemed to go out of his way to avoid cursing, preferring "gosh dangit!" as his default exclamation.

Such was not the case with Mr. Kjos, who single-handedly coached my junior high squad, composed of 25 smartmouth adolescents. "Grab-ass" was his favorite term, and he used it as both a noun ("Quit playing grab-ass!") and a verb ("Stop grab-assing around!")

Kjos liked to deliver feedback on the quality of my play in harsh tones from across the field. "How about you quit playing like Joyce is your first name instead of your last name?" he'd holler.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the two coaches I remember most fondly were the loudest, mostly because they handed out praise at the same volume as criticism. I thought about that after reading an email from the dad of a player on my son's eighth-grade football team, which I help coach. He didn't think the kids were mature enough to handle all the yelling that takes place at our games. Admittedly, when a 13-year-old is more interested in attempting to fart the melody of "Moves Like Jagger" than lining up with the starting offense, a coach can get kind of exercised.

But I've found that not only are the kids mature enough to handle the resulting tirade, they expect it and even welcome it. I know I did. All the bellowing probably sounds ridiculous to onlookers, but along with cracking pads and the referee's whistle, it's part of the game's soundtrack. Plus, a coach's expectorations give teammates something to mutually complain about and bond over while running laps.

And, as a good friend who is also the mother of a fourth-grade football player put it, "It ain't synchronized swimming!"

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