By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - Two volunteer coaches of the eight- and nine-year old football players featured on the reality TV show "Friday Night Tykes" have been suspended for encouraging dangerous play or bad behavior, league officials said on Tuesday.
The Texas Youth Football Association featured in the Esquire Network series that started last month has drawn criticism from those who say the coaching borders on child abuse, but has been praised by others for teaching kids how to be tough.
"They were suspended for violations of the coaches' code of conduct," said Brian Morgan, the TYFA's chief executive.
Charles Chavarria, head coach of the Junior Broncos, was suspended for the entire 2014 season. Morgan said the coach "willfully encouraged players to injure other players" with helmet-to-helmet hits that health experts said could cause head and neck injuries.
"He pointed to a spot on the players' helmet and said, 'you hit them right here, I guarantee they will go down one by one'," Morgan said.
Amid rising concern that repeated hits to the head, even mild ones, can have long-term negative health effects including dementia and aggression, the National Football League last year banned helmet-to-helmet hits.
Chavarria wrote on his Twitter feed: "Just wanted 2 say thanks for all the support from friends & family. It's been hard, but I've learned a lot! I'm truly sorry."
Marecus Goodloe, the coach of the Northeast Colts, was suspended for six games - the entire spring season - for encouraging his kids to use profanity.
Goodloe also apologized on his Twitter feed.
The show depicts how the children are pushed to their limits, even crying in their helmets or sprawled out on the field after taking a hard hit from another player.
Chavarria and Goodloe will continue to appear on the TV series for the rest of this year's run, which was filmed during the fall 2013 football season.
"This has not been indicative of how our coaches act," Morgan said, adding that the suspended coaches may have been "caught up in the moment" of being on television.
Morgan, who has faced a raft of criticism of the league from viewers, concedes he was not a fan of reality TV before becoming involved in it, and said he is less of a fan now.
"We saw this as a peek behind the curtain of youth football in Texas," he said, adding, "knowing what I know now, I'm not sure I would approach this the same way."
The league is in talks with the producers for a second season of the program.
(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Scott Malone and Alden Bentley)
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