Friday Night Tykes documents a season for the pee-wee division of the San Antonio Texas Youth Football Association. Should you be watching this?
Several months ago, Netflix had a fascinating self-created double feature available: Varsity Blues and a documentary called Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football. What made this double feature interesting to me was that the former came out while I was in high school and seemed like a completely foreign experience; the latter is about what was my high school experience, though the football culture while I attended Fordson was just as foreign to me (I was a theater nerd). I didn’t really get into organized sports until I was in college, or to be precise: a consenting adult.
Despite participating in and coaching at the college level for a handful of years, Esquire Network’s Friday Night Tykes still feels like a completely foreign, yet enthralling, world. This documentary series tracks five teams in San Antonio’s chapter of the Texas Youth Football Association. The youths featured in the series are in the 8-9 year-old pee-wee division. From what we can see in the first two episodes, the training the pee-wees go through is not unlike what players go through at the middle school and high school level.
The show deftly balances the storytelling between the coaches, the parents, and the kids. Since this is being filmed documentary style, there are no goofy music cues or contrived situations. There was one scene taking place at home which read a bit like a reshoot, but that was the exception that showed how real what we are seeing on the screen is. The first two episodes seemed to focus a bit more on the coaching, but the structure of the episodes seem to suggest that the narratives will shift as the season (both television and football) progresses. The main sources of conflict at this point involve parents concerned about playing time, kids overwhelmed by training, and the apoplexy the coaches experience every week. However, all parties seem to understand what they have signed up for, allowing for the truth of the situation to come to the surface.
Honestly, I approached this series with a sense of dread, worried that kids may be exploited while parents and coaches mugged for camera time. However, the Texas football culture and the stakes for all involved parties do not permit such distractions, allowing for the art of the show to emerge. Get your season tickets for this show.
Friday Night Tykes airs on Esquire Network Tuesdays at 9pm.