Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Tue 14 Aug 07 08:39
<<most of all the kids love the tournaments Isn't the issue, not that the tournaments are during the holidays, but that the Club system requires far too many of them? My sister's daughters had tournaments last weekend in Bellingham. Two weekends before, as I mentioned, they were in different tournies in Sacramento and San Diego respectively. The point is that less is more. If the Club system had league play for a reasonable amount of games with ONE important tournament (along the lines of little league baseball) where the best team (or an all-star alignment) moves on toward regionals then nationals, the accomplishments would be far more appreciated by all involved. [But then Regan wouldn't have had a book to write.] Last Sunday morning, both my 17 year old and 13 year old neices teams made the semifinals. My nieces didn't seem to be much enthused. When my sister told me, I thought, "and I'm supposed to be excited, why?" I have no idea if either team won. It didn't make the paper and it wasn't worth a phone call. I did save my sister a hotel bill, though, great brother that I am.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Tue 14 Aug 07 09:05
The club system, especially for soccer, sounds like a near-facsimile of the old Soviet and East German system of athlete development. Regan, can you tell us a bit how club programs got established in the U.S.?
Lisa Everitt (lisa) Tue 14 Aug 07 10:36
Regan, your book is terrific. I passed my copy along to friends from suburban Boston whose 12-year-old son is a soccer and baseball player. They are visiting Colorado this week, between the end of summer baseball and the start of school. Both parents have been involved with youth sports governance and coaching, have strong opinions on the subject, and were loving your book and this discussion. (Hi Barb and Skip! Post!)
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Tue 14 Aug 07 12:02
If the Club system had league play for a reasonable amount of games with ONE important tournament (along the lines of little league baseball)><< in my admittedly narrow perspective and experience that is just how the actual leagues work. holiday tourneys are extras that teams sign up for and pay extra for. Every team we've been on it's been a given that we do an additional tourney or two usually during thanksgiving week, christmas week or presidents day/mlk day. The parents get to vote on which tourney participate in. Maybe we're odd or maybe the soccer and volleyball worlds are a different culture.
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Tue 14 Aug 07 23:23
So sorry I've been out of touch today. I was on a gnarly deadline at the paper and had to go straight from work to an evening out with friends. Many families living the club life, especially in soccer and volleyball, spend every Thanksgiving weekend and every Chrhistmas break at tournaments. So that means no Thanksgivng at home with relatives. And it often means splitting the family members up, with siblings and one parent left at home while others are in a motel at the tournament. And it means before kids get to play with the presents they've gotten on Christmas, they hit the road on the 26th and don't come home till New Year's Eve. What about relaxing at hime with the family? Visiting with relatives? Hanging out with classmates who are off school? Where's the "break" in Christams break? I've had partents tell me of thier frustration that every three-day weekend of the year is given over to a tournament. "Can't we just have one for ourselves to do what we want?" a soccer mom asked. Those holiday weekonds scattered throughout the year allow people to get a break from their hectic work and school lives, maybe see friends and extended family, to do other activities like go skiing, go to the beach. I just think that coaches and team parents should consider giving back some weekends and vacations to families to spend together. This year we had plans to go skiing on the Martin Luther King weekend; it was the only three-day weekend where we didn't have a sports conflict. And then my daughter's volleyball coach sends out an email saying we've been invited to a tournament, and asking parents if their daughter could come. We replied that no, we had a ski trip planned. And I guess one by one everyone else refused to give up their plans for a tournament we'd never signed up for, and so our team didn't go. But many parents are intimidated either by the coach or the other parents and feel they can't say no. So they let the team cut into their family life and keep taking more and more chunks. Give 'em an inch and they'll take a mile. I think the demands made on families are often unreasonable. And unnecessry-- is going to 6 tournaments instead of four really necessary for the team to stay competitive or improve? I think parents should be asking that question. Jim Thompson of the Positive Coaching Allaince told me that when he was a basketball coach, he always thought, "Gee, if we could just have more practices we'd be so much better. So they'd add a day. And then he'd think, "Gee, if we added another day, we'd be so much better." And it just wasn't true, but he was caught up in a kind of greed about it, wanting more, more, more. His point was that the demand for more tournaments and more practices is something people get caught up in, but it isn't necessarily rational. He says athletes get great vebefits from having time off during training. He's a runner, and he normally runs every day, but if he skips a day, he finds the next time he runs he actually feels better because he's had time to relax and recharge hhis batteries. And these are children we're talking about. Not professional athletes. I think the parents shoud ask, are we doing this becasueit's the best thing for the team stats, or the coache's reputation, or for the children? Is this the best version of childhood we can give them? What I'm advocating for is balance. Yes, sports are great for kids, but there are other experinces that are great for kids too, like spending Thanksgiving with Grandma and sleeping in on a Saturday morning once in a while. A lot of parents will say, "Hey, it's only for a few years." But they already got to have a childhood. Their kid didn't. So if he's at a Thanksgiving tournament every year from 8 to 18, eating turkey on the road at Applebee's, that's his whole childhood without smelling the aroma of the cooking bird wafting from the oven throughout his own house, or his uncle's or grandparents' house. One of the young athletes I inteviewed for my book told me, at teh ripe old age of 15, "Childhood goes by so fast, you shold get to spend Thanksgiving with the people you love."
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Tue 14 Aug 07 23:38
Thanks, Lisa, for passing my book along to your friends. I get so amny grreat emails from sports parents and coaches. In fact the California Youth Soccer Association invited me to speak at their annual wrokshop in June. There were over 100 league administrators and directors of coaching and they gave me the warmest welcome. Some league presidents came up to me afterward and said they'd bought copies for all their coaches. I've been invited to speak to the annual workhop of CYO coaches in the Oakland Diocese in September. It's intersting that even coaches, who you might expect would be the most hardcore folks, think things have gotten out of whack. A college soccer coach I interviewed said he wished the club teams wouln't have tournaments on holiday weekends becasuehe misses spending that time with his family -- he has wife and three young sons. But he has to for recruiting. He said he's ften thought about getting the recuriters to agress not to go, so maybe the clubs would stop scheduling them that way. I think family time is valuable, and it ought to be part of the equation, part of the agenda. It ought to have a place at the table during team meetings and discussions of how many tournaments to go to. And the "If you don't like it , go back to rec," response shouldn't be the only response. I think there could be reasonable adjustments in the tournament life that would be better for children and benefit families without hurting the progress or threatening the success of the athletes.
Call me Fishmeal (pk) Wed 15 Aug 07 01:04
Is there anything that can or should be done in terms of public policy to relieve some of the pressure? Or is it just a matter of increasing public awareness of the problems associated with intense club sports programs? From the book, I get the impression that things are likely to get worse before they get better.
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Wed 15 Aug 07 06:28
i think as the book's title implies, it's got to be a revolution from the bleachers. Not a public policy. If enough parents do what Regan described on the MLK tourney and just say no, the over emphasis on too many tourneys may lesson. Or if more kids choose to play with their high school teams instead of club teams the pressure to be more accommodating may take place. Though I think you're right, paul in that it is likely to get worse before it gets better. In my case, we're doing tryouts for two teams over the next two weeks and are decidedly not going to take a slot on an A team if offered. we'll opt for a B level to keep the commitment just a tad less. That's our small contribution to sanity.
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Wed 15 Aug 07 08:14
re public policy: There's that Utah example of a state mandating a break for high school athletes. But of course that doesn't mean that those player won't be training and competing with club teams durring that period. I've found the argument that gets some parents thinking is the medical one: that this amount of training and competing is hard on their bodies and causing overuse injuries. When the excerpt from my book from the chapter that covered overuse injuries ran in The San Francisco Chronicle, many coaches and leagues and sports web sites posted the link on their sites. It struck a chord with them, and with many parents. My point about family time resonates with many parents, especially moms. Ever tried to plan a kid's birthday party during the fall soccer season? As I've said, many people signed up for this high level of committment not knowing what it would to to family life. The really appreciated someone holding a mirror up to that life and encouraging people to speak up for change and for family time apart form the team, especialy when they're given the opportunity -- like at a team meeting when parents vote on whether to go or not go to yet another tournament that wasn't on the schedule at the beginning of the season.
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Wed 15 Aug 07 09:39
I think it' simportant to remember that this club system with the constant tournaments has only been in place about 15 years. We invented it. We can tweak it or change it, particularly given new information that it can be detrimental to kids physically and psychologically, with all the added stress and the lack of downtime, which kids need to develop intellectually and creatively. Before this system took hold and came to dominate youth sports, somehow gifted athletes still rose to the top, kids still ade their high school team, still go recruited for college teams, still got scholarships, still made it to the Olympics and the pros. College coasches told me parents have forgotten a basic fact of sports, that crream rises to the top. They've come to believe that with the best training and playing at the highest level of competition will guarantee them some goal they envision -- a scholarship, a pro career. But in fatc the club system is a pay-to-play system, so often the kids on those teams are the ones whose parents can afford it, and whose parents are willing to live, and pay for, the tournament life. Shining stars who play Little League or Pop Warner or street basketball can still make it to the high school team and develop as great players. I've seen it over and over again. It's harder for in soccer and volleyball to break through the club dominance, but it still happens.
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Wed 15 Aug 07 11:59
I'm really looking forward to Ethan getting to high school an having the options for more and different activities. wrestling and track and drama and math club. heh The worm turned for me when reading interviews you had with pros and college level coaches and players who routinely mention that they didn't find their sport till high school. when their bodies and interests matured. Ethan loves hockey but likely won't play much past 15 or 16, this being California and not Toronto. I just want him to have fun and keep that body fat down to 0 or less.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Wed 15 Aug 07 12:19
>>>I think it' simportant to remember that this club system with the constant tournaments has only been in place about 15 years. We invented it.<<< I could believe "we invented it" with regard to club volleyball. It's more difficult to believe we invented it for soccer. Surely the model came from somewhere.
Lisa Harris (lrph) Wed 15 Aug 07 12:53
It's true that parents and kids will have to be the ones to start the Revolution. Unfortunately, many parents still think they are doing the absolutely best thing for their kids. They will fight tooth and nail to continue these practices. It's too bad for their kids.
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Wed 15 Aug 07 21:42
Steve: We definitely invented this verision of the youth soccer life. The game was invented in England, and existed here on the East Coast in the 19th century, played by workers in the textile mills and each new wave of Euopean immigrants. But soccer didn't start to catch on nationally until the mid-1960s, starting in Southern California. The big boom came in the 1980s, and the club system rose to dominance in the 1990s. So it is in fact quite a recent phenomenon. Elsewhere in the world it's played as street ball in pickup games and on school teams. And in England, the pro teams have soccer academies that they offer scholarhops to. So it's aboslutely not the same phenomemnon of parents going into hock to support their kid's soccer career. If they demonstrate special talent, they will be picked up by a pro team and groomed from teenagerhood in what amounts to boarding school with a sports emphasis. The parents don't have to pay, and they don't run them around to tournaments every weekend. The Europeans look at our system and laugh. They're applalled that there are no pickup games. Here, if kids are playing socccer, they're in uniforms and there are cones and an adult reffing. It's not a casual game here, it's an organized, formalized activity that costs money. Except in the Latino community. They play it as street ball and on organized teams. And when their rec team goes to a tournament they kick ass on the fancy club teams with the expensive personal trainers. In fact, they're so good, clubs in Southern California tried to ban them from their tournaments!
Lisa Everitt (lisa) Wed 15 Aug 07 22:06
What surprised me, when my son started high school last year, was the emphasis on competition in the performing arts! I knew the marching band was a point of pride, and the kids sacrifice a big chunk of summer plus the whole fall, rehearse every day, etc. We knew that was not for Mark. But the pile of trophies in the choir room knocked me for a loop. That plus the strategy to create six "chamber choirs" and "show choirs" filled with the best singers, then put the leftover kids in a mixed chorale with almost no guys. The other choirs competed and sang in public, but the chorale kids were told they weren't balanced enough to perform. (If they didn't have a freshman show choir, they would have automatically had 12 more guys for the chorale.) And the show choirs include choreography -- so guess where the heavy girls end up.
Lisa Everitt (lisa) Wed 15 Aug 07 22:09
Regan slipped. We went to Chihuahua on a mission trip and our kids played football with the orphans, who play with hand-me-down balls on a concrete surface, barefoot. No cones, pinnies or whistles, just choose up sides and play. And they kicked our kids' butts!
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Thu 16 Aug 07 06:08
The Europeans look at our system and laugh. They're applalled that there are no pickup games. Here, if kids are playing socccer, they're in uniforms and there are cones and an adult reffing. It's not a casual game here, it's an organized, formalized activity that costs money. <<< This is the larger issue. The modern wave of parents fueled on milk carton fear of their kids being stolen (more often than not, it's a custody issue when I child is abducted) are loathe to let their kids out of the house to just hang out and play. Something that was not only natural for our generation but required -- who wasn't thrown out of the house during the summer by their mom and told to go ride your bike and find some friends to play with? Couple that with the tremendous competition for and expense of a college education and you have a perfect cocktail of parental over-management. I see the club system of sports as a symptom of the overall malaise of fear-parenting and social management.
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Thu 16 Aug 07 07:43
I dare you to make less sense! (jet) Thu 16 Aug 07 08:15
<lisa>, I did marching band for 3.5 years, and it was great. A lot of hard work, and a lot of my summers, but I got a lot out of it. It was kinda like civilian JROTC -- I learned to work on a team, to be managed, to manage, to take individual responsibility for my own actions and to help others who were having problems. Uniforms looked better, too.
Call me Fishmeal (pk) Thu 16 Aug 07 12:23
> fear-parenting Except it's totally irrational if you can think quantitatively about risk. I see parents who keep kids on a very short leash because of their fear of that 1 in 1,000,000 chance of an abduction, yet don't seem to worry about the 1 in 3 probability of obesity or diabetes. It would be interesting to compare per-mile injury stats for driving v. walking to and from local activities. Parents may actually be exposing their kids to more risk by picking them up by car, independent of health and exercise issues.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 16 Aug 07 14:35
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put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Thu 16 Aug 07 15:36
It would be interesting to compare per-mile injury stats for driving v. walking to and from local activities. Parents may actually be exposing their kids to more risk by picking them up by car, independent of health and exercise issues. <<< reason #4,227 that i love the WELL.
I dare you to make less sense! (jet) Thu 16 Aug 07 15:44
An answer to an unasked, but related question: <http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07093/774604-51.stm> Life Support: Let the children go on foot and on bike Tuesday, April 03, 2007 One sunny afternoon as our children played nearby, I asked a neighbor at what age she would allow her son to bicycle around the block by himself. "I don't think I would ever do that," she replied. "The world is a very different place now than it was when we were growing up." [...] Meanwhile, as rates of child abduction and abuse move down, rates of Type II diabetes, hypertension and other obesity-related ailments in children move up. That means not all the candy is coming from strangers. Which scenario should provoke more panic: the possibility that your child might become one of the approximately 100 children who are kidnapped by strangers each year, or one of the country's 58 million overweight adults? In 1972, 87 percent of children who lived within a mile of school walked or biked daily; today, just 13 percent of children get to school under their own power, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a significant parallel, before 1980, only 5 percent of children were obese; today that figure has tripled, says the CDC. [...]
Lisa Everitt (lisa) Thu 16 Aug 07 17:44
Jet, I agree that band -- like sports -- is a great activity that teaches all kinds of useful life and social skills. My autistic 15-year-old would hate it. Right now, the only thing he does voluntarily is play video games, and all other activities including homework, exercise and socializing merely impinge on gaming time.
I dare you to make less sense! (jet) Thu 16 Aug 07 18:09
(Sorry, didn't know about the autism. My bad.)
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