put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Thu 9 Aug 07 06:34
But the trend now is to specialize. Many parents and club coaches will tell you the multisport athlete is a thing of the past. I bet your niece's prowess in basketball was helped by her development in those other sports.<<<<< I'll bet you're right. There are a lot of factors that play a part in her superior basketball skills. Jesse is in superb anaerobic condition from swimming and track, can jump like a gazelle from volley ball, but I think it was the years of family ping pong playing that honed her reflexes to a fine point. Every time I ever visited everyone in the house would end up in the garage in the midst of a massive ping-pong tourney. The competition was fierce and fun -- I always got knocked out by the first round.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Thu 9 Aug 07 08:04
Excellent conversation. Something I've wondered about is the long-term effect the club-team environment will have on childrens' enthusiasm for sports. Today's kids are tomorrow's potential season-ticket holders. What I mean is, the kids I grew up with in our neighborhood developed our love for baseball, especially, as well as other sports naturally. We went down to the high-school diamond on our own to throw the ball around and hit a few. When we had a quorum we played a game called "work ups," which most American men, at least, of a certain age will be familiar with. We let our imaginations run free: my best pal was Sandy Koufax; I was Willie Mays. This was long ago. I don't remember the last time I saw kids playing baseball on a diamond when a parent or adult wasn't also present. These kids who are run around all over hell and gone by their parents to participate in club sports: I wonder how many of them actually love the sports they're involved in? I wonder, too, how many of them will care much about those sports when they're grown adults?
Lisa Harris (lrph) Thu 9 Aug 07 08:10
Regan, thanks for this book. It was eye-opening, and reaffirming as well. I have 2 kids that both love to play and do sports. Graham has played soccer and basketball on rec teams for a single season each. He swims, did some diving, and currently is taking Tae Kwon Do. Emma did gymnastics, swimming and diving, and a very little tennis. Now she does TKD, too. They both want to play soccer again next time it's at the rec center. I was astonished to read about the money spent for kids sports in an effort to get a scholarship. I kept thinking, "Put that money in a 529 and your kid can go anywhere he/she wants!" (I'm on the road, traveling for fun, with my family. A lost art, I know. I'll check back in later.)
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Thu 9 Aug 07 10:07
re Where's the pushing to join travel teams coming from, parents, coaches or peer pressure? Often a kid goes up to a higher level of competition simply because his or her freinds are doing it. They don't know much about the commitment it entails, but they're friends are going to the tryout so they go to. Or their friends have moved up to a club team and they miss their friend and want to rejoin him, so they tell their parents they want to try out for that kid's team. Most parents don't fully uindestand the life-changing commitment or the financial investment at the outset, either. I asked every parent of a club player who I interviewed for my book, "When you signed up for the club team, did you know what you were getting into?" And to a person, each one said no. Often it's adult peer pressure that's driving it. A parent of a club player will see your kid at a game and say, "Why haven't you signed her up for the travel team? She's good enough to be picked at a tryout?" As one woman says in my book about such a conversation she had about her kid who was enjoying playing soccer at the rec level, the friend (a dad coach of an elite club team) clearly thought the only consideration regarding this big decsion was if the girl was good enough to play on a club team, she should be playing on one. The fact that the 11-year-old was happy on her current team, where she had many freinds and was content with the level of play and the number of games and practices and the length of a discrete season (as opposed to playing virtually all year round in club) didn't matter to him. The mom also considered teh effect of that kind of schedule on her family of four. Giving up her Saturday mornings for the length of a soccer season was what she felt they could handle. She did not relish the idea of giving up most of her weekends for the whole year, especially when her daughter was not asking her to and soccer was not the be all and end all of her life. Sometimes a kid is so talented, they need a higher level of play or they'll be bored. So in that kind of a case, the parent is taking the lead from the kid, which is appropriate. Sometimes the pressure comes from the parents because they have a dream of a college scholarship years down the line, or because they want to encourage their child to be the best they can be, so they want to give them every opportunity and get them the best training. But sometimes the parents' heavy financial investment can be a factor taht prevents a kid from quitting when he or she has lost their love of the game, are tired of the demanding schedule or want to do other things with their time, like try a new sport or drop out of sports and do music or art or hang out with their friends. I interviewed a girl for my book who had been a top soccer player in middle school and was in the Olympic Development Program, how many people on her Class I soccer team in eighth grade were there because they wanted to be there, and how many were there because their parents wanted them to be there. And she said out of 15 girls, at least five or six wanted to quit but felt they couldn't because their parents would be upset with them. Some of the kids who make this intense comitment all through grade shcool and middle school may burnout by the time they get to high school or cllege and drop the sport altogether, which disappoints the parents. I talked to a mom of to athletic high school boys who said she was seeing it more and more -- that her sons' friends who'd devoted all those years to elite soccer got to high school and informed their parents they were switching to lacross or football. And the parents said, "What? After all we've invested in soccer???" I've heard the same thing from kids who make that kind of choice when they go to college. One club and high school soccer star told me his parents didn't expect him to get an atheletic scholarship, but they were absolutely dumbfounded when he didn't go to tryouts as a walk-on in his freshman year. His attitude was: I've been doing nothing but soccer my whole life. I'm done. I want to just be a student and see what that's like. I want to know what it's like to have a social life and be a regular kid and not have to go to practice every day after my classes. The men's soccer coach at Lehigh University, a D-I school, in Pennsylvania told me that every year since he's been there, which is about 15 years, as I recall, at least one of his freshman recruits will come to him and say, "Coach, I have to quit the team. I've been doing this since I was 5 and I'm burned out. I've lost my love of the game. I'll be no good to you or the team if I stay." So I think there are costs to this intense sports life that parents need to consider along with the gains. And one of the coasts can be burnout.
Call me Fishmeal (pk) Thu 9 Aug 07 12:40
Good point up there about there being many more academic scholarships than sports scholarships. Anyone have some hard data on this easily at hand? My feeling is that math is so poorly taught in most schools, public and private, that going heavy on the math (we're home-schoolers) is the most effective (and for us, clearly the easiest) route to a good scholarship offer. FOrtunately he seems to like it.
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Thu 9 Aug 07 20:09
Here's one quote for you: In 2005, Tim Welter, executive director of the Oregon School Activities Association, a nonprofit that oversees high school sports, told O'Brian Meehan, a reporter for the Oregonian, "There is 30 times the money available for academic scholarships than for academic scholarships."
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Thu 9 Aug 07 20:11
Forgive my typo-- that sentence shoud read: "... 30 times the money available for academic scholarships than for athletic scholarships." (It's been a long day at the computer!)
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Fri 10 Aug 07 06:43
Lets talk about injuries and young bodies. Now I haven't experienced with my boy any repetitive stress injuries, What I've begun to notice (he's just about to turn 12) is the onset of growing pains and how the stress of skating hard is effecting his knee and ankles pain-wise. I experience the same thing from Basketball when I was the same age. I remember from age 12 to around 15 having days so bad I it hurt to walk but still getting pressure from my high school coach and my father to come to practice and at least shoot free throws when I knees were too inflamed to run or jump. I don't want Ethan to go through this. I think this has got to be bad for his growing body. The problem is if he stops playing hockey at 12 and then wants to start again at 15 he'll be so far behind in skill-sets and experience that he won't be able to compete -- in fact it would be dangerous for him to be on the ice with kids that can skate twice as fast and check twice as hard. And this not being Ottawa, there are not rec leagues for causal hockey or just pick up games on the frozen streets. If he was playing soccer, I'd ask him to try something different while his growth spurts are taking place. Like chess club or drama (which he's doing now anyway). he's not the only kid on his team I've noticed complaining about sore knees and ankles from the 2 hour practices a couple times a week. So part of me really wants to revolt. However as I found out last weekend when he was doing a stick time/scrimmage at Yerba Buena Center Ice Rink in the city (a really beautiful place to skate on a sunny Sunday morning, btw)and he skated to the boards to tell me his knees was really hurting, then got mad at me when I told him it was time to get off the ice and rest it. It's complicated. I'm afraid that next time he won't tell me it hurts so he won't have to stop playing with his pals. Mean old dad worrying about protecting his knees. I'm torn between making him sit out from something he's grown to really love (he's been playing with the same boys for 5 years, has formed really, really strong friendships and call his team his extended family and everyone who plays hockey a member of his tribe). It's kind of the opposite of what I described above about having a pushy father who made me play the sport HE liked rather than letting me find my own path. This raising kid stuff is hard sometimes.
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Fri 10 Aug 07 13:28
There are so many unique factors when it comes to hockey, some of which you cite, especially there not being a casual alternative or abundant places to do it. I would talk to a sports medicine professional -- an otheopedist or even a physical therapist about how to address the specific problem of training while going through growth spurts and get suggestions about how many hours of play is safe, and try to deal with limits and restrictions that will actually extend the young athelete's ability to play longterm. If his knees get damaged permanently when he's 12, he risks not being able to play hockey or other sports at all. The treament for overuse injuries generally is time off to rest and heal. This is hard for coaches, parents and athletes to accept. But it's really a simple concept. And I'm told it's more often the parent who resists than the child. When the doctor says, "He'll have to be off for 5 weeks," the parent quicky says, "How about three?" There has been a dramatic rise in overuse injuries that has corresponed to the rise and dominance of the club system, which ushered in year-round play in one sport as opposed to seasonal play in different sports, where kids use different muscle groups and get breaks between seasons. Kids in youth sports are training harder and longer than many college and professional athletes. The NCAA sets limits on hours gymnasts can train for example, but youth gymnasts typically train more hours than that. One doctor in my book said no professional would ever play six games in a weekend, the way club soccer kids do routinely at tournaments. So I think we parents need to look at the excesses and ask is this really the best thing for growing kids. It's always been our job to protect our kids from harm and to concedrn ourselves with their physical well-being. So why should we give up that mandate when it comes to youth sports? To prevent overuse injuries, the American Academy of Pedatrics recommends that kids not specialize in one sport until puberty, because before that their growth plates haven't fully formed, and that kids doing just one sport should take two to three months off from that sprt to give thier bodies (and minds) a rest. That's what used to happen: We called it summer vacation, when kids flopped around in a pool or went to the beach or paddled a canoe at summer camp for exercise. But that's been wiped out too, by year-round training and competition. it's worth noting that the state of Utah decided to address the issue by madating that in each high school sport, there must be a 10-week break after the season ends when there can be no trainng or coaching in that sport. That way the kids and the coaches get a break. Maybe we should listen to Utah. We should at least listen to the pediatricians and the orthopedic surgeons who see these broken young bodies in their offices all year long. We should also list to Major League Baseball, who I'm told are now wary of pitchers form the West who, because of our mild climate, have trained year roung all their lives, and the scouts wonder how long it wil be before their arm gives out. One of the most significant positive recent developments has been the adoption this year of pitch counts in Little League. This policy, which limits the number of pitches a player can throw, is designed to help protect young arms. Dr. James Andrews of Brimingham. Ala., the orthopedic suregon who pioneered the Tommy John surgery for pitchers, lobbied Little League for five years (!) before they would agree to creating the limits. I have to say I'm ballfed that parents are not more activist about protecting children's health when it comes to sports.
John Ross (johnross) Fri 10 Aug 07 14:51
That leads me to ask if there are some sports in which the overall level of brutality and potential injury are so great that they simply should not be tolerated. I'm thinking in particular of American football, which seems to kill a handful of high school and college players every year, and which does serious damage to many others. I have often thought that if professional football did not have the tradition and money surrounding it, OSHA would not allow it.
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Fri 10 Aug 07 20:22
Football isn't going anywhere, since there's too much money involved. It's a big revenue source for high schools and colleges, and of course there's the opportunity of a lucrative pro career. Parents are leading movements to make youth baseball safer, out of concern for injuries and death caused by metal bats. There's a movement to use softer balls (which already exist), and to have face shields on batter's helmets to prevent eye and face injuries. It's interesting to see when equipment innovations are adopted in resonse to injuries. if you look at football films from the 1920s, you see that the players are wearing almost no padding and slim leather helmets. That's a far cry from the enormous armor-like getups of today's players. And as I recall from my childhood, major leaguers only wore their batting helmets while batting and runnign to first. Now the players wear them as long as their on base. So changes occur. It just takes a while for everyone to agree that the problem is serious enough to take measures and do things differently than your parents or grandparents did them. Tradition is such a big part of sports, there's always resistence when people suggest change. But when our kids' young bodies are at stake, some things should be worth fighting for.
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Sat 11 Aug 07 07:01
I would hazard a guess that youth baseball has the greatest potential for repetitive stress injuries due to the repeated violent stress of the action of throwing. I'm glad to hear that pitching counts are becoming common for youth teams. Weirdly enough, I've known 2 guys who were pitching phenoms who got pro-contracts -- one fresh out of college and the other fresh out of high school. Both of them had pretty much done nothing but play baseball from the time they could stand and do a wind-up. Both of them came up with shoulder problems in their first season of triple A and subsequently got dropped by their team as not a safe bet for pro development. Shoulder problems at that young an age was a wildly waving red flag of over-use and a sure sign of no future. So putting your kind on multiple baseball teams, getting advanced coaching to teach them multiple pitches and playing year round could actually be hurting their pro chances.
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Sat 11 Aug 07 09:16
Yup. That's why the medical community is leading the charge to inform parents that more is not always better. Parents need to consider the ramifications of all this training and overuse that they've promoted for a good reason -- out of love, to support their kids and do what they thought was heloing them to be happy and successful. But now they need to consider the new information and abundant evidence that's come out. It's time to take a step back and look at the consequences of this path. There are risks as well as benefits. The approach needs to be more measured and rational. We should want our kids to be healthy for the long run. So many athletes are having serious mulitple surgeries and are left with debilitated muscles and bones. And many are told by doctors that they will get artritis early. What a thing to hear when you're in high school! And the orthopedists say nearly all overuse injuries are preventable.
Lisa Everitt (lisa) Sat 11 Aug 07 09:34
I wonder about the kids at the other end of the spectrum -- whose athletic gifts are limited (or nonexistent). They just want to play, and their parents want them to have the team experience and get some exercise, but the system focuses more on winning. My son Mark was essentially fired from soccer in second grade after we signed up for a postseason tournament weekend. The coach called me to say that they didn't want Mark to play -- they intended to use that roster spot for a player with some skills. He told me he didn't understand why Mark was playing at all, since he was so weak. (One of the other dads, not realizing who he was speaking to I hope, told me "Mark is worthless" on the sidelines of a game one day.) It was baaaad.
Ludo, Egro Sum (robertflink) Sat 11 Aug 07 09:54
Regan, you might be interested in an essay that Jose Ortega y Gasset wrote on the sportive origins of the state. I'll try to find a web reference to cite.
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Sat 11 Aug 07 15:29
Man, Lisa's story is awful. A mom I know told me a story about her daughter who told her after her kindergarten season in soccer that she was done with soccer because the coach favored more talented players and kept her on the bench too much -- in kindergarten! The irony is that the girl's older brother and sister are sports starts who both got college scholarships. So that coach might one day have wished he'd hung onto that player, who may grow up to be good at whatever she tries, as long as her coach doesn't give up pn her too early. i feel like my kids have learned a lot of life lessons when they've had to deal with a variety of skill levels on their rec team. Sure you'd like everybody to be great and win all the time. But the thrill of seeing a weak batter finally connect or a weak outfielder finally come through and catch the fly ball that kept the other team from scoring -- those moments are some of the highest sports moments we've had. And seeing a soccer player we might have privately written off as hopeless show up the next year with a totally different level of athleticism because they've grown or they've finally developed the skill and finesse or strength they needed-- it's exciting. "She's really good this year!" we'll hear on the way home...
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sat 11 Aug 07 15:48
I remember in the 70's when concerned mothers began pushing their young sons and daughters to play soccer instead of American football because it was believed to be so much safer. In college I was a student coordinator for several sports--flag football, soccer, basketball, softball, volleyball. By far, the sport where the most injuries occured was in soccer: broken legs, severely twisted knees, ankles. Someone compared it to karate where the black belts rarely hurt one another, but the white belts, with poor body control, routinely injured one another. American football has its share of injuries, but soccer is not some benevolent meditation on goal-seeking.
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Sat 11 Aug 07 23:32
i feel like my kids have learned a lot of life lessons when they've had to deal with a variety of skill levels on their rec team.<<< Ethan was a first year pee wee hockey dude last season. Pee Wee is the first year you can check and Ethan being young and inexperienced was getting knocked around pretty regularly at the beginning of the season. Two of the older kids, guys who really knew the score and were standouts took it upon them themselves to take Ethan under their wing and show him how to hit and more importantly show him how to take or avoid a hit. I'll never forget the first time he put it all together in a tourney down in San Jose and really put the hit on an opposing player. A clean check that knocked the guy clearly off the puck and really rattled the glass. Ethan's whole team stood up and cheered for him -- much back-slapping happened when he came off his shift. That one corner of the whole season contained so many positives: camaraderie, facing up to challenge and exceeding one's own expectations ( he was a big discouraged by his lack of checking skills at the beginning of the season) friendship and peer approval, teamwork and learning about taking on leadership roles. His team had a lousy year win/loss wise but it was the most fun he's had on a team because of the way the kids played together and treated each other -- on and off the ice.
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Sun 12 Aug 07 15:03
I've learned that the kid's experience of a game or even a whole season can be very different from the adults' view, especially when it comes to wining and losing. Someone outside the experience might look at the win-loss record and think it was a bad season, but your example shows your son had a great experience regardless of that. At one of my son's Little League games at the season this year, it was a miserably cold, foggy, windy day, and his team was having a tough time scoring and fielding and my husband and I were thinking our son would be in a bad mood after the game, which his side did ultimately lose. But, much to our surprise, he was in a great mood. He got in the car excaliming, "I love this team, It's such a great bunch of guys. It think we're gonna be realy good this year." We were stunned. There had been positive interplay in the dugout and on the field that we had no awareness of. I asked, "So you weren't too cold?" remembering how we had been forced to run to the car to see what extra clothing there might be there for us to layer on, and we even had to pass him a longsleeved shirt in one of the early innings to put on under his hjersey, but he answered simply, "No. Was it that cold?" He had been having so much fun he'd barely noticed. I shook my head and thought this was just a another reminder that it's his experience that counts. That's why Jim Thompson so the Positive Coaching Alliance stresses the importance of using the right words in a postgame chat. It's best to say something open-ended like, "So how did you feel about the game?" Rather than picking a kid up and saying, "Did you win?" or, if you had been there, making some statement about whether it was a good game or a bad game. We've blown it when from our point of view we thought it was a great game cause our son's side won. But it turned out he didn't have a good time at all because he hadn't hit well and he'd made errors. So it can work both ways. The key is holding back to hear how he felt about it first.
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Sun 12 Aug 07 21:31
That really is the key, remembering that it isn't about us, it's about the kids experience. It's not about us reliving our successes and/or failures through our kids. The first words out of my mouth after every game and practice or scrimmage is , "Did you have fun?" That is my mantra. The new season is starting in a couple of weeks for the NorCal hockey season but to tell you the truth, I'm more excited by the fact that Ethan is going to a clinic to get certified as a linesman/referee. I'm really looking forward to him getting to officiate games --and not just because he'll make his own dough and can buy his own new $110 sticks.... heh One thing his studying for the class and exam has done is really highlight how difficult all the split second decision the refs have to make. It's given us all a better understanding and respect for the refs. i.e. it's easy to make a mistake with the speed of the game and all the subtleties and judgment calls. We've all been studying the hockey rules bible. My only experience with understanding what training officials (coaches also have to attend yearly certification training) get has been with our sport. Do other sports referees, judges, coaches, etc have to be certified? I mean, like everywhere, you find father that coach teams that their sons are on but they still have to go though the certification courses for multiple levels. Even just to help out on the bench and be a door opener for shift changes, you have to attend a coaching seminar.
Call me Fishmeal (pk) Mon 13 Aug 07 00:35
>Do other sports referees, judges, coaches, >etc have to be certified? Competitive sailing is relatively anarchic in many ways, but for major events they want a "judge" certified by U.S. Sailing (the IOC-approved national authority for sailboat racing) The judge is in charge of protests and penalties, and sometimes also acts ad an on-the-race course referee. After years of officiating at local sailboat races I became a USS certified judge just this year, and the process was surprisingly non-trivial. There's a weekend of instruction from senior judges, a fairly hard written test, and requirements for a fair amount of race management and protest hearing experience. Coincidentally I spent the last three days as judge for the Laser class Pacific Coast Championships held here in San Francisco Bay. This involved about 75 boats, many of them sailed by teenagers, racing in some fairly rigorous wind and wave conditions. My job was to buzz around the fleet in a small powerboat and call "Rule 42" infractions. That is, catch people using body kinetics in illegal ways to make their boats go faster. It might seem that body movements should be part of sailing a small boat, but sailboats are supposed to be propelled by the wind, and if you pump the sail controls in and out and rock the boat like crazy you can make it go faster, sometimes much faster, which isn't how most sailors want the game played. The first two days it was so windy that everyone spent more time in the water than on their boats, and if they pumped to catch a wave (one pump per wave is allowed when there's a chance of surfing, but two or more is an infraction) then the surfing run was more likely to end in a spectacular crash than a gain in position. Today was a little more mild, so instead of playing rescue boat I called three racers on infractions and made them do penalty turns. Normally there would be four judges for a fleet this size, but since this was only a regional event, we only had one. It was a job for Mad-Eye Moody. No complaints about inconsistency, though, so I think I gave the illusion of fairness. One thing about the win-loss success-failure dynamics of sailboat racing, though: Only one boat wins, everyone else has to settle for something less. For a lot of us, coming in second can feel like accomplishing less than placing 2/3 down the fleet. I don't know if this is better or worse than team sports, where in theory your team wins half the time. New sailors can go many years before their first actual win in open competition.
Call me Fishmeal (pk) Mon 13 Aug 07 00:48
I uploaded a photo from one of the races on Friday: http://www.well.com/user/pk/photos/
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Mon 13 Aug 07 06:19
nice photo, paul.
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Mon 13 Aug 07 09:17
I'm sure every sports has a training/certification process for coaches and referees. I know soccer, baseball, softball, basektball and volleyball do. When you register your kid, the league lets you know that vlunteers are needed for these positions, and if you'd like to volunteer, here's what involved in terms of training classes etc.
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Tue 14 Aug 07 07:14
I want to swing around to one point of the book where I didn't agree with you, Regan. that is, where you come down squarely against holiday tournaments and advocate parents revolting against the system of clusteering travel tourneys around holidays from school like the Christmas break or mlk day. If the tourney's happened during non holiday, not time off from work weekends, It would be a hardship for most people not to mention we don't all want to pull our kid out of school just for some games. Traveling with your kid can be fun and bonding -- having lots of time for family time in the hotel rooms and dining out and squeezing in other activities on off days or days when you have an early game with nothing to do for the rest of the day and night. But most of all the kids love the tournaments and the opportunity to play a bunch of games back to back. This is fun for them and fun is the mission. If a parent doesn't want to have this level of experience then they need to re-evaluate the level they allow their kid to play at. There are always school teams.
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