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Update: After getting a bunch of grief, John Curley says he’s now reconsidering his plan to reward his youth football players with cash.
The Eastside’s most notorious youth football coach is back for a second stint and he’s armed with a fistful of cash to get the most out of the kids.
KIRO Radio’s John Curley is returning to the sidelines this fall with the Eastlake Youth Football league, weathered and wisened by his first go-round coaching the 7 to 9-year-olds.
Curley’s initial foray drew plenty of attention, in large part when a KIRO Radio investigation revealed he was paying $200 a game for people to scout future opponents.
He took some good-natured grief (mostly from colleagues), especially since the investment hardly paid off. His team won just two games all season. Still, it was a thrill he missed when he didn’t coach last season.
“Every Saturday morning, rain or shine, I would wake up with butterflies in my stomach. I couldn’t wait to get up and get on the field,” he says of his motivation to give coaching another shot.
Despite the record, he considers his first attempt at coaching a success.
“Nobody quit and everybody that played on my team came back again the next year, which is the main part I think of a rookie coach,” Curley says.
But after plenty of reflection, he’s changing some things up. First and foremost, he won’t be yelling at the kids or running a bunch of brutal drills to try and toughen them up.
“You cannot throw that switch to make them aggressive, you just simply need to make it as fun as possible.”
That means a fast-paced, no huddle offense, and everybody gets a chance to carry the ball. And then there’s his ace in the hole: cash payouts to the kids.
“I used to give out frozen yogurt gift certificates. But that didn’t seem to really light a spark,” Curley says. “So like if you’re a little kid and your coach says ‘If you score a touchdown on Saturday, I’ll give you $20’, I think you’re going to try a little harder.”
Morally ambiguous? Perhaps. But Coach Curley figures it’ll be the best $3,000 he’s ever budgeted.
“If I can incentivize them in some way, you know $10 for tackles or $5 for fumbles. On a Monday, I’m going to be just like an ATM machine, just spitting out dollars to these kids.”
Undoubtedly he’ll draw some criticism from opposing teams, but Curley figures the kids will learn a valuable lesson.
“If you do well, you will be rewarded for it. There you go, go buy yourself a bike. It’s not unethical, just ethically wise,” he laughs.
The payouts won’t be limited to the players. Curley is also offering to pay someone $800 to scout opponents throughout the season.
“Everybody scouts, but a lot of times you have dads who would rather see their kids play,” he says. “You’re asking a lot from somebody to drive all the way to Woodinville or wherever and watch a bunch of kids play football for an hour. I figure why not pay?”
Whether all that cash translates to wins remains to be seen. Coach Curley won’t make any predictions.
“Our main thing is fun and if we win a few games, that’s great.”
With all that money in play, Curley admits there is one thing he’s not prepared for.
“I suppose a kid could pull a Marshawn Lynch and holdout,” he laughs.