Article from the Ponte Vedra Recorder - Posted Thursday, January 14, 2016,
Reported by Carrie Resch
One of Us - Jerry Norton
Stephen G. Norton, known by most as Jerry Norton or Coach Jerry, is a Ponte Vedra resident, retired aerospace engineer, lifelong youth sports coach and long-time sports writer for the Ponte Vedra Recorder. Norton lives in Nocatee with his wife, Marylou. His youngest son, Christopher, also lives in Nocatee. The father and son duo regularly pair up to cover local sports for the Recorder with Chris taking the majority of the photographs and Jerry writing the articles. Norton is also the Founder and President of Junior Development League Football, Inc. “It’s a concept of organizing sports,” Norton explained. “You keep the rosters small, you keep the instruction fundamental, you do not have coaches competing against coaches. You have kids competing against kids under the direction of a single coach – one coach coaches both sides. So he has no stake in the outcome of the game, so hopefully what you get, is he’s teaching kids to play, he’s making sure all of the kids play and that’s a concept that can be used in any sport.”
Norton has written two books, Mom, Can I Play Football? published in 1999 and a brand new book, UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: How Adults Took the Fun Out of Youth Sports, published last month. Norton will be at Bogey Grille on Saturday, Jan. 9 from 2-4 p.m. to sign copies of his new book. Visit www.coachjerry.com (http://www.coachjerry.com) for more information about Norton’s books and appearances.
Where are you from originally?
Long Island, New York. I worked for most of my life for Grumman, — now called Northrop Grumman. I worked there 40 years. I’ve been retired since then, and I’ve been working for my leisure for the Recorder. I started for the Recorder in 1995.
How long have you lived here?
I moved to Florida in 1986. Grumman opened up a new plant in Melbourne, Fla. I moved there and worked on this airplane called Joint STARS which is an Airforce Airplane. I worked on that for six years until 1992 and then I retired. I moved from Melbourne up to Ponte Vedra.
You’ve written two books?
This is my second book. One of the final things I did at Grumman was write a technical journal on the development of the airplane Joint STARS. My first [sports] book was written in 1999. The name of that book was Mom, Can I Play Football? I wrote that because my sons were pushing me to recapture some of the fun stuff about football, my experiences in sports and coaching.
Tell me about your new book.
This is a completely different book from my first book. That was a lighthearted and humorous with a lot of funny stories in it. This book was written to try to make some changes in the paradigm that is youth sports. That paradigm is flawed, severely, and I’m trying to change that paradigm. Paradigms take a long time to come into being and they take a very long time to get changed.
You are clearly passionate about youth sports.
I have a passion about kids’ sports because I’ve been involved with them for as long as I’ve lived. Kids sports have to be about fun. You’re competing of course because kids are always competing. I’ve always had the opinion that they will always compete and competition is not bad. The problems develop when the competition is not at the kid level, it’s at the adult level, and that’s the primary problem with the paradigm.
How has Junior Development League Football grown and changed?
In Ponte Vedra, when we started the program with 26 kids, it wound up with 1,600 kids in two to three years, some in Ponte Vedra, some in another program like it in St. Augustine and in Julington Creek. Now it’s trying to spread. The P.A.L. in Austin wants to start it and in Michigan. It’s going to spread and when it does, that’s when we will start to make changes, but it takes a very passionate leader to start it and make sure it doesn’t go off track.
Coach Jerry's Books
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Mom, Can I Play Football? This book describes the experiences of a volunteer youth coach who has managed to make competitive sports fun, exciting and enjoyable for children for 35 years. The author relates, in word and amusing illustration, humorous anecdotes from his past, then translates these experiences into specific instructions for coaches and parents. While focusing on football, the author provides advice, appropriate for any sport, for coaches, parents and administrators. Team poems and dozens of amusing illustrations complement the anecdotes to reinforce the message that sports for children can and should be fun, and it is the coach's responsibility to make them so.
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES--How Adults Took the Fun Out of Youth Sports is a look at the deplorable situation in youth sports through the 84-year old eyes of photojournalist, youth coach, referee and league administrator Jerry Norton. Norton makes the case that youth sports have become more about winning than playing and more about adult egos than kids' enjoyment and participation. According to Coach Jerry, the evidence is clear and the verdict is in. Adults--whether malicious or well-meaning--are deemed guilty of hijacking youth sports' most noble and worthy objective--fun. Win-at-all-cost coaches and demanding parents with unrealistic expectations are responsible for horrific acts of violence as well as untold incidents of child abuse that have become common-place in youth sports. The long-time youth sports activist offers constructive criticisms as well as solutions intended to make kids' sports fun again for all participants.