Following my acceptance of the position as Head Rugby Coach at Quinnipiac University in 2010, I packed up my house to move from Colorado to Connecticut. As my moving truck was pushing the 3o minute late mark, I paced in my living room and checked my cell phone consistently. As I scrolled my phone for the moving company's number, I heard a faint knock at my front door. I sighed in relief assuming it was the movers. As I opened the door I saw no moving truck outside but instead, looked down to see a young boy no more than 10 years old standing on my steps with a clipboard.
Although I was disappointed that it was not the movers I smiled, opened the screen door and said, "Hi there, can I help you?"
"Hi ma'am, my name is Jerome and I am selling pizzas for my football team, would you like to buy one?"
This moment brought on a brief flashback of my door-to-door days selling candy bars, wrapping paper, coupons books and whatever else would help me earn more money for the plethora of athletic teams I had participated on.
Truthfully, Jerome had me at the word fundraiser but all the same, I wanted to make sure I was helping him grow in his salesmanship skills. I proceeded to make him earn my business by asking a few sales questions.
"I am quite interested Jerome, but as you can see my house is pretty empty and I am packing up to move so I will not be here when the pizzas are delivered. Can you give me your top reason why I should help your football team raise money?"
Jerome watched me as I searched for my checkbook in my backpack. As he realized this was going to be a sale if he could deliver, he responded without further hesitation.
"Yes ma'am, we are raising money to fight Title IX because the girls sports are taking away opportunity from our football teams."
For a brief second I paused and looked up from searching for my backpack. At first I felt mildly angry and a bit annoyed, but I suppressed the urge to reveal it through my facial expression.
I thought to myself; How many houses has this kid gone to and said this? He's got a few orders already on his sheet so does this mean there are actually people in my neighborhood who already shelled out money with THIS cause in mind?
Among the million thoughts floating around in my head, the last and most important was, ok Carlson, this is a teaching moment, don't be upset, just offer better information.
"Jerome," I said. "You are very polite and very confident. I have a few more questions before I decide to give to your fundraiser."
Jerome nodded for the green light.
"Ok, first, do you know what Title IX is and second, who told you that the girls' teams were hurting football?" I asked.
His confidence was on the verge of fading and he froze for a second but bounced back and responded.
"Um, I don't know what Title IX is but I do know the high school football coach told all our teams that we need to go out and raise money against it cuz' if the girls teams get more, football won't get as much or have as much fun."
There was a pause, I smiled and walked out onto my porch and sat down on the bottom step where he was standing.
"Jerome, I tell you what, I will buy 4 pizzas from you. You can keep the pizzas when they arrive and you make money, but you have to promise me two things. One: you and I come up with a much better sales pitch to tell people why you are raising money for football. Two, you and I have a 5 minute chat about what Title IX is so you know more about it if anyone ever asks you. Deal?"
"Deal." he said.
To this day, I cannot help but wonder how many young boys were released into Colorado neighborhoods with the goal to raise money to "fight Title IX".
Clearly the adult coach (es) involved were short on the actual definition of Title IX law. Despite this, the adults leading these kids felt confident enough to build a small entrepreneurial army of young boys to solicit funds in order to combat fairness. This was both baffling and disturbing, but, Jerome made off with a $40 check and shiny new set of facts on Title IX. I felt better about the tradeoff.
Today, there are countless articles that exist on Title IX that define and highlight the basic facts and cases surrounding the law. Title IX, in the most basic of words is a simple requirement that we treat our sons precisely as we do our daughters. In exact terms, the definition is as follows.
Embedded within this law are some of the most hotly debated points when it comes to discrimination. Unfortunately, while Title IX's opponents may claim the problem lies within the application or necessity of the law, the institutions that fail to recognize, respect and enforce it, are the real problem. As a result, when these entities are called out on Title IX violations, they feel the heat of non-compliance. In the midst of reports, allegations, charges, lawsuits etc. the constituencies these institutions serve suffer the most as they fight and debate amongst themselves. Division among the masses is the basic fuel to the Title IX opposition's engine. As a result, the next time you find yourself in the thick of a Title IX discussion, please consider the following points so you too, are not distracted from the truth.
1. Title IX is not girls vs boys or men vs women, it's right vs wrong.
Far too often, when a Title IX case against an institution is presented, the public swell of support can be divided and misdirected. We break down and calculate our resources. We compare and contrast as if it is the fault of the athletes and/or their sports for what they have or do not have. Instead of holding the administrative bodies and governance of these organizations accountable, we create and shape our own sides of the equality war.
In September of 2015, the state of Illinois' Pekin High School and its administrators came under fire when photos of their softball field were posted publicly alongside photos of the school's baseball field. What followed was an onslaught of published photographs and email exchanges attempting to expose discrepancy between the school's treatment of its male athletes compared to its female athletes.
The issue went viral where discussions on Facebook and Twitter began to weigh in. Parents and boosters from the high school football and baseball programs fired back over social media at those supporting girls' sports at Pekin.
Meanwhile, the very administrators who allowed these discrepancies for decades, avoided questions and inquiry while denying responsibility, which only further divided the community.
Rather than a community uniting on right and wrong, many took sides comparing girls vs boys which only allowed the administration more avenues in which to justify its history of inequitable choices. What the parents may not have realized is that every defense and visceral response justifying why male athletes are treated better than their female classmates, was an indirect vote of confidence in Pekin's lopsided administrative leadership.
Can you imagine the change that could occur at Pekin and any other high school if these divided groups lobbied together for equal treatment of its athletes? Surely there must have been some parents of Pekin football sons who also had daughters?
Could the same be said at the college level? If every coach and/or athlete, regardless of status, tier or budget were on the same page in efforts to truly promote equality, could the universities realistically still refuse to address the issue?
2. Administrations and leaders are grateful when we divide over issues of equality because it allows Title IX to absorb all the blame.
In December of 2014, University of Minnesota Duluth's, Head Women's Ice Hockey Coach, Shannon Miller, one of the winningest coaches in NCAA Ice Hockey, was fired after the university decided it could no longer afford her salary.
In this situation, rather than taking a step back and focusing on the fact that no male coach has ever been fired in the NCAA because he made too much money, critics of Miller and supporter's of UMD's administrative decisions, began to compare worth of the men's ice hockey program to the women's ice hockey program. Looking at the treatment side by side, the discrepancy continues to be apparent yet, most are distracted from the facts. Again, instead of determining right vs wrong, the male vs female subject becomes the focus.
3. Our responses to inequality are predictable and archaic
Sadly, most Title IX cases are simply accurate indicators that our progression in our social response to injustice, is slow. Much like in medieval times, where the commoners and peasants were taxed and starved to the point where they are robbing and thieving one another to survive. All the while, the kings or queens creating these circumstances, remain in power.
We are not so different from this system where presidents, administrators, and critics rush to defend themselves against Title IX when their universities or high schools are slapped with non-compliance. Instead of throwing salt at each other's sports or resources in response to imbalance, why isn't our anger and unrest mobilized and directed at the systems and leaders in place that actively harbor and perpetuate this imbalance? Our administrators and representatives who balance the books, allocate the budgets and make the decisions are too often let off the hook unless legal action is sought.
4. Title IX is not limited to sex discrimination, but also sexual harassment.
When someone says they disagree with Title IX, I enjoy removing sports out of the equation and asking them if they would be OK with their daughter or son being sexually harassed in class or on campus.
The answer is always no, followed by the occasional rebuttal that Title IX doesn't cover sexual harassment. When someone responds this way it's not surprising as so many fail to have a full grasp on the wide lens of the law.
In NCAA athletics, we are still miles from where we should be. While even the phrase Title IX has the capacity to instill fear in many athletic departments in education both interscholastic and intercollegiate, this in itself, is very telling. Those who fear a law about fairness are clearly not in the business of supporting it unless forced to by a judge where, even then, litigation may not even be enough to change culture.
To this day, the NCAA still maintains zero mechanisms or programs specializing in promoting Title IX enforcement within its membership. Therefore, the only educational institutions called before the court system are those where a lawsuit is filed by an athlete or employee. Needless to say, these are not ideal circumstances for either type of plaintiff to feel comfortable in raising the issue.
5. Imbalance and mistreatment of our education and athletic programs does not happen overnight.
Proving disparity exists can sometimes be challenging if administrations or departments have not admitted to the problem. As a result, evidence over months, years and even decades must sometimes be drawn out into the open as cases develop.
Ex. The desolate and bare softball field of Pekin High School went decades without care and concern while other male athletic facilities were offered opportunity to thrive. The athletic halls of Pekin that remain absent of female athlete recognition with the exception of a few photos is not the fault of Pekin's male athletes, its players, nor its parents. This is a failure of generations of administrators, school boards and leaders who have chosen to ignore and assist in accelerating the problem by not acting. Even if an administration is responsive to making change, undoing generations of disparity can be an enormous challenge.
6. Institutions not adhering to Title IX in sports are most likely mirroring that behavior within their education programs and social environment.
Sports has long been a vehicle to promote social change. As a result, one thing many Title IX opponents forget is that absence of equality within our sports programs promotes a message of disparity within our educational environments. While schools may be committed to promoting respect between students and their peers, these messages are conflicting.
"Schools can't tell boys and young men to treat girls respectfully when there are inequities visible to all." Nancy Hogshead-Makar Olympic Gold Medalist, Title IX advocate and lawyer.
7. Challenging or attacking the validity of Title IX law does not justify a lack of enforcement or make inequality OK.
When Title IX cases are filed, the vast majority of institutions will attempt to claim no fault or prove no disparity exists. However, the denial of these institutions and the treatment of their constituency is in no way a proper gauge for Title IX's worth or value as a law. As shown in the Washington Post's recent article on the administrative handling of finances in college sports, often schools DO have the funds to close equity gaps in treatment, but choose not to.
"Throughout The Post’s findings is the distinctly acrid smell of books cooking. The ledgers show that there is never enough money to fully comply with Title IX or cover the true cost of a scholarship but always enough to pay themselves more or to buy a new toy." - Sally Jenkins, Washington Post Still not convinced? Perhaps this will analogy will help.
If you are pulled over and issued a ticket for speeding you have two choices. You can go to court to challenge the ticket or you can pay the fine. Whether your defense takes aim at the particular radar equipment used, finds weakness in the vantage point of the officer, or any endless number of driving conditions, there's always a chance someone could find your reasoning valid.
However, going to court to attempt to prove that ALL speed limits are unnecessary simply to justify your particular circumstances, are unlikely to render a not guilty verdict.
By comparison, universities under the Title IX gun can attempt to disprove that disparity exists. If they lose, they can then be ordered to fix the issues. Seldom do you find universities willing to just "pay the ticket" without a fight. Yes, being sued for Title IX is uncomfortable, embarrassing, fiscally and philosophically problematic for any institution. However, as absurd as your attempt to get rid of the ALL speed limits because you got caught speeding, challenging the existence of Title IX, because an institution got caught, is equally as foolish.
It's pretty simple: Title IX lawsuits are not brought to institutions that are fair and equitable in their application of the law. A university or institution's mismanagement that leads to inequitable treatment is not the fault of Title IX.
8. Last, when it comes to Title IX, the distractions of the truth are many. Stick with the facts.
Retreating back into our own corners and picking sides is precisely what the leadership of these institutions want from us. We create the distractions that allow them to delay or resist change which can be a never-ending cycle without intervention.
It's simpler to form our opinions and throw stones at one another rather than to hold those in longstanding power, accountable for fostering inequality. If it helps, just think of Jerome. We could easily become cross with the 10 year old pizza-pushing football player, or we could take a moment to filter out the root of the problem and those who inspired that particular mindset. Think about it.
Talking about doing the right thing is easy.
Backing that talk up ... Well, that is the moral dilemma we all face.
Then, there's Ricardo Arredondo.
The head girls basketball coach at Monte del Sol faced that moment on Dec. 16, 2015, when the Lady Dragons took on Santa Fe Waldorf. In a battle of two struggling programs, the Lady Wolves had the smaller margin for error -- they had a starting five, but only head coach Leslie Gaztambide on the bench.
So when Aylin Sheehan fouled out with 4 minutes left, Waldorf soldiered on with four girls against the Lady Dragons' five. When the Lady Wolves lost another player to fouls in overtime, it was a 5-on-3 situation. Given the win-at-all-cost climate in athletics nowadays, you expect the teams to continue play that way. Especially when it's a game in overtime and the outcome is in doubt.
Arredondo made a decision: He took two of players and had them stand by him and let the rest play 3-on-3.
"I would expect a team with a 15- or 20-point lead to back off and secure the game," Gaztambide said. "He did it when they they were only up eight. I looked over at him, and he said, 'Go ahead. Keep playing.' He's a hell of a guy. I have a lot of respect for him. My girls do, too."
And so does the New Mexico Activities Association, which honored the program earlier this month with its "Compete With Class" award for December. Gaztambide ended up being the one who indirectly nominated Monte del Sol for the award after talking to Joe Butler, NMAA assistant director of sports and former St. Michael's and Santa Fe High athletic director, about a separate issue.
"I was calling him for some advice and I told him about the Monte del Sol game, "Gaztambide said. "He said, 'Hey, want to nominate them for the sportsmanship award?' And I said, 'Yeah.' It was kinda mutual."
For Arredondo, though, it wasn't that hard of a decision. He faced a similar situation as a C-team coach at St. Michael's about 11 years ago against Española Valley, and he did the same thing.
After Monte del Sol completed the 45-37 win over the Lady Wolves, Arredondo and his players talked about his decision when one of them asked him a hard question: What would he have done if the Lady Dragons were losing?
"I said, 'I am hoping I would do the right thing and gone 3-on-3,' "Arredondo said. "Sometimes you do the right thing in life and you lose. That's life, though."
Life is replete with teachable moments, and he believes athletics is as much a classroom for that as any other place. Unfortunately, few other coaches practice what they preach. Arredondo mentioned one of his brothers once coached a fourth grade team and called a timeout. The opposing coach sent two players to join his brother's huddle.
"[My brother] looked at [the players], and they said, 'Our coach told us to stand here to hear what you're saying,' " Arredondo said. "He looked over at the other coach and he said, 'This is basketball! Don't you know what it's about?' "
So speak for Arredondo and his brothers: Yes. Yes they do.
Source: Sante Fe - New Mexican
From the neighborhood Boy Scout troop, to the elementary school soccer team, your kids' activities need leadership. Could you be the right person to help?
"There's a small window of time to make a positive impact on children and to shape who they may become as adults,"said Stephen Medlicott, marketing director for the Boys Scouts of America.
Lifelong memories are cemented while camping overnight, by selling cookies together or while cheering on a play at the big game. But before you let the fun times roll as an adult volunteer in organized activities that your child participates in, figure out if this kind of leadership is a good fit for you and your child by asking yourself these questions:
What can I offer? Chief to consider is your experience with the sport or activity in question, as well as your rapport with the age group you'll be leading.
A parent who's never played a sport isn't a likely coach for a team of elite athletes. But parents might make wonderful leaders for youngsters trying the game for the first time, when qualities such as patience and a fun-loving attitude are more important than expert skills. Likewise, a former elite basketball player might struggle to translate advanced skills to a gym full of second-graders learning to dribble the ball for the first time.
How much time do you have to devote? Parents who get involved with the Boys Scouts of America, for example, can choose a level of involvement that fits their schedule -- from den leader to camping-trip chaperon, Medlicott said. Examine your work and family schedule, and be honest with yourself.
What are my motivations for volunteering? The hours spent coaching a sport or leading an activity can be quality time with your child, but you'll also have a responsibility to the rest of the team.
"You are going to have to do your best to treat all of the kids the same,"said John Engh, chief operating officer of the National Alliance for Youth Sports, an advocate for positive and safe sports for children that provides resources and training for coaches and parents. That can be easier said than done.
Parents who volunteer because they believe their child is a superstar and want to guarantee extra playing time or a preferred position are likely to end up disappointed, Engh said.
If you have the goal of making sure every child has a great experience, strengthens social skills and learns something new, you are on the right track, he said. At younger ages, especially, "Your primary job is to make sure every kid on the team falls in love with the sport,"Engh said.
What does my child want? You might ask your child if he or she wants you to get involved.
Larry Lauer, a mental skills specialist for the United States Tennis Association, coaches his young son and daughter in baseball and soccer. Lauer, who has a doctoral degree in exercise and sports science and has done research on the effects of parent relationships and coaching, makes a point of checking in with his kids -- both during the season and in between seasons -- to see how things are going and to assess whether they'd like to sign up again.
"It honors the self-determination of the young person to stay motivated and not just do it for the parent,"he said.
Even if kids are on board initially, know that their feelings may change over time. Teens and preteens, especially, may no longer want their parents involved in their activities. Failure to consider your child's feelings might hurt your relationship.
Is training offered? Before getting involved with an organization, determine what sort of support it provides for leaders. Scouting organizations and church groups often sponsor training sessions, retreats and resource guides.
Look for sporting organizations, Engh suggests, that provide basic training to coaches, including rudimentary information about the sport and tips for working with the age group at hand. Information about concussion awareness and background checks are also good signs, he said.
Can I follow these best practices? Children often have trouble distinguishing the role of coach or leader from that of parent.
If you decide to go for it, Engh suggests choosing a symbol -- such as a team hat, shirt or whistle -- that signals to children you are now in your coaching role. When the game, practice or meeting ends, remove the symbol, making it clear you are now just a parent and no longer coach.
Also key to success is prepping your child for what your role entails, said Andrea Bastiani Archibald, chief girl expert for the Girl Scouts of the USA.
"Parents can explain that, though sometimes it might seem funny or weird to your daughter, you have to balance the needs of all girls,"she said. Include information about what this means for her -- that everyone gets a chance to talk and offer opinions and that all members have a special role to play in projects and activities.
Having another person act as a buffer can help, too, Lauer said. The parent who is not involved as a leader can provide a gentle reminder if the sport or activity becomes too much of a focus.
"The last thing we want to do is turn a child against a sport or activity for life,"he said.
Source: Chicago Tribune
Doug Rowe's decision to step down at season's end as Baldwinsville High School's long-time girls lacrosse coach over frustrations with some parents sparked a nerve and ignited a community narrative.
Let's keep the discussion going.
This is not a new issue between coaches and parents, but one that seems to be getting worse in the escalating battleground to earn athletic financial assistance in college.
HBO waded into the bully parent pulpit with a chilling 2013 documentary from producer Peter Berg called, "Trophy Kids."
This should be mandatory homework assignment to watch this film for every parent with kids playing high school and youth sports.
It's a horror show that pulls back the curtain on psycho parents that infect youth and high school sports. They may be loving and well-meaning, but their efforts go horribly off the cliff.
You may recognize glimpses of your neighbors or some feelings you've experienced yourself as a parent. You may know a few characters that would fit perfectly as subjects for the film.
A toxic mix of parental expectation and money is explored. Parents are spending hundreds and thousands for their children through youth teams, travel teams and specialized training and coaching. One parent in "Trophy Kids"admits he has invested enough money on his son's basketball training to buy "two Lamborghinis."
The question, is why?
The results, as Trophy Kids reveals, can have dire consequences, from coaches losing their jobs to families splitting to emotional and physical trauma inflicted upon the children.
The Washington Post reported in October that nationally, fewer kids are participating in sports because of pressure. The headline: Are parents ruining youth sports?
Watch "Trophy Kids"and you'll understand why.
This coming Saturday we have four basketball games: 8:30, 11:00, 12:30 and 7:00. One game each for our four oldest kids.
To some of y'all, that sounds ridiculous and chaotic. To me, it sounds awesome. I can't wait. My wife is in the first boat with y'all.
I'm coaching in three of those games and will be the cheerleader dad from the stands in the fourth.
But as much as I enjoy days like this coming Saturday, I have to keep reminding myself of one thing.
It's the thing that I'd argue is the biggest problem in youth sports. The problem is that we're making these sports about the adults and not the kids that are playing the youth sports.
Let me caveat my logic (or lack thereof) with a few things:
So let me explain where I see the biggest problem in youth sports being played out. The problem is that we've made it about us and not them.
Parents (again, me included when I'm at my worst) have turned this into a social form of competition and entertainment. It packs our calendars and fills our weekends.
But shouldn't it be about teaching them to enjoy whatever game they're playing?
We travel from practice to practice, game to game, oftentimes so we can be "proud of"watching little Johnny play a dozen sports. It's entertainment.
But shouldn't it be about them learning to compete in healthy ways?
And if we admit the truth, we want Johnny to be better than neighbor boy Jimmy. Even if Johnny and Jimmy are on the same team. Not for Johnny's benefit but for ours. It's the ugly side of competition.
But shouldn't it be about teaching them how to be great teammates?
What if we acknowledged this reality and worked hard at shifting the focus back where it belongs? To the youth who are actually playing the youth sports. Because it's not about us, it's about them.
Source: Huffington Post
Christine Carugati, 18, of Langhorne, Pennyslvania started getting recruited to play college lacrosse the summer after the ninth grade. You heard that right -- when she just finished her freshman year in high school.
"What ninth grader knows what they want and what ninth grader, never mind an adult, isn't easily swayed, thinking somebody wants me. It's very intoxicating for any age but for a child especially, so my counsel was to keep all your options open,"said her mom, Mary Carugati, during an interview.
And now it appears the courting process is starting even earlier. Syracuse University made headlines recently with word that an eighth-grade girl had verbally committed to play on its women's lacrosse team, a move that appears to be the youngest ever commitment to a men's or women's college lacrosse team, according to Lacrosse magazine.
Terry Norpel Dzelzgalvis, who coached recreational league lacrosse for 12 years and played lacrosse at the University of Pennsylvania, said the trend to younger and younger commitments is a big concern in youth sports today.
"It's ridiculous, and the parents aren't putting their feet down,"she said. (Full disclosure: Norpel Dzelzgalvis and I are friends from college.)
The early recruiting by colleges combined with parents' unwillingness to stand up and say no to such practices is just one example of how youth sports has changed and for the worse, coaches, players, authors and parents I interviewed for this story say. And, there are plenty of stats to back up how concerning the problem should be for parents who want the best for their kids.
Seventy percent of children leave organized sports by the age 13, according to research by the National Alliance for Sports. Let's put it this way: If your daughter or son plays on a soccer team, seven out of 10 of the members of that team won't be playing soccer or any organized sport whatsoever by the time they enter their teenage years.
"Kids are telling us this is not for me. It might be for you, but it's really not meeting our needs,"said Mark Hyman, author of three highly-regarded books on kids and sports, including "Until It Hurts: America's Obsession with Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids."
Hyman, who is an assistant professor of management at George Washington University, likes to compare the situation to what might happen in the business world with the same kind of fallout. "If 70% of Walmart's customers walked out of the store and said, 'this is not for me. I'm not coming back,' the status quo would not stand. Walmart would figure out a different business model but in youth sports, we seem to be very satisfied with a 70% dropout rate."
We shouldn't be satisfied and should be very worried about how many kids are dropping out, said John O'Sullivan, a former college and professional soccer player, who has coached on every level from children to college, and who now devotes his energy to the Changing the Game Project. His organization's goal is to return youth sports to the children and to "put the 'play' back in 'play ball.'"
"As I say to all the parents at my parents talks, 'this isn't a sports issue. This is a wellness issue,'"said O'Sullivan, citing how this generation is the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents and it's due to inactivity. "We know all the benefits of activity from better grades to less drugs, less pregnancy, more likely to go to college and on and on and on and yet at the same age when most kids are walking away from sports is that critical age where if they're active then, they're likely to be active for life."
Why are kids walking away
One of the main reasons kids are walking away is because of injuries due to overuse, many of the people I interviewed for this story say. Every year, more than 3.5 million children under the age 14 need treatment for sports injuries, with nearly half of all sports injuries for middle and high school students caused by overuse, according to research.
This is something Hyman knows all too well, he says. His son was a star pitcher at age 10 (he was the coach), and Hyman often thinks about the "pretty profound mistake"he made getting swept up in his son's success.
By the time his son was 16, he had a ruptured ligament in his elbow, which spelled the beginning of the end for him, said Hyman. "Was I too invested in his youth baseball career? Yes. Should he have pitched less? Yes. Should I have said no to some opportunities he had to play on teams during times of the year when he should have been resting? Yes,"he said.
"So, I guess I'm an example of a parent who I think made some mistakes and probably could help parents understand that they shouldn't be in a hurry, that if their kids really have talent and passion that they are going to be OK whether they're playing on six travel teams or just the rec league."
O'Sullivan, who has two young children ages 8 and 10 who play sports, says having a child concentrate on one sport -- and one sport only -- before their middle teenage years is a big part of the problem. Parents believe they need to give their kid an edge, he said, but the irony is they may be hurting their child's athletic future more than helping.
"I'd say that overwhelming emotion is one of fear: 'What if I don't give my kid this chance? Am I a bad mom? Am I a bad dad? Will my kid fall behind?'"said O'Sullivan, author of "Changing the Game: The Parent's Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids.""The actual science and evidence that we look at though shows that except in sports like female gymnastics where kids hit their peak when they're 14- (and) 15-years-old, specializing in one sport before the age of 12 is going to be a far less likely path to actually elite level performance."
Most kids who do specialize early often say, when they are asked about any regrets, that they wish they did other sports, he said.
Research by the U.S. Olympic Committee shows that the vast majority of elite level athletes are multisport athletes until their middle teenage years, he added.
"I just think it helps if you participate in multiple sports,"said Norpel Dzelzgalvis, the former Division I college player and former coach. "I think that if you look at most college rosters, you will see that these student-athletes have excelled in multiple sports, and not just the one for which they were recruited to play in college."
Carugati credits Norpel Dzelzgalvis, one of her daughter's lacrosse coaches from the time she started playing in the second grade and up through the eighth grade, as one of the reasons why her daughter continued to play lacrosse, along with soccer and basketball.
"They never made those girls feel like they couldn't play another sport,"said Carugati, a mom of three and marketing consultant, who volunteered for her daughter's recreational league lacrosse program.
Said Norpel Dzelzgalvis, "We never wanted to tell kids who were 11 years old,' I'm sorry but you have to commit to this as your year-round sport.'I mean there's plenty of time for that but kids would come to us and say, 'Well, our soccer coach said to us we'll be off the team if we go to our lacrosse game instead of our soccer game.'"
Coaches and parents need to 'redefine' success
More coaches, who are more focused on keeping the game fun and watching players develop skills that help them for life as opposed to winning at all costs, would no doubt help.
But, it isn't easy to ignore those pressures to win, says Hyman. He remembers how all the parents were pleased when the team was winning and how those victories reflected positively on him as coach. "Looking back, none of those things really matter when your kid is 8- or 9- or 10 years old. They should be the least important things,"he said.
Coaches should be guided by long-term, not short-term, success, said O'Sullivan.
"So, you know what, on a 9-year-old team, on an 11-year-old team, 12-year-old team, every kid should play every game. Anyone who doesn't say that doesn't care about kids and doesn't understand anything about talent development. You can't know if an 11-year-old is going to make it or not."
The concept of success in sports also needs to be redefined, says Janis Meredith, a coach's wife for 29 years and a sports mom for 21 years, who likes to say she has "seen life from both sides of the bench."
She writes about sports parenting on her blog JBMThinks.com and is the author of a sports parenting survival guide, including "22 Ways to Let Kids Be Little in Youth Sports."
"Success doesn't mean that you're always going to be the star on the team. It doesn't mean that you are always going to start,"said Meredith, who tells the story of how her daughter, when she was a senior in high school, thought about quitting the basketball team because she was getting less playing time that she had during her junior year.
Her daughter ended up sticking with the team, and decided that her role on the team was going to be "the encourager."At the end of the season, at the awards' dinner, her coach saluted her as the most encouraging player on the team, said Meredith.
"And I thought, OK, my daughter wasn't the leading scorer, but you know what, that was success, that she stuck with it and that she turned around her attitude, and that she recognized her role. That to me is success,"she added.
Parents are too often "looking at the only kind of success that ends with a scholarship and there are other ways to have success."
Not to mention that the chances of your child playing college sports is very small. For example, only about 3% of women and men athletes who play high school basketball go on to play in college, according to an analysis by College Sports Scholarships.
The car ride home
I've thought quite a bit about how youth sports has changed since I have two girls, ages 8 and 9 1/2, who both play a variety of sports. I recently dropped off one of my daughters at a soccer practice and was surprised at how many parents were staying to watch. I believe one caregiver was recording the entire practice on her iPhone. Was she doing that so the girls' parents could see how their daughter did that day?
I remembered how when I was a kid and played softball on a church league, no parent, including my own, attended practice and very few attended games. What changed?
The reasons are countless and aren't just about sports, but about parenting, too. As we helicopter and hover as parents, we are more involved than ever. Involvement is OK, experts say, but when our kids' sports life becomes more about us and our needs, then we've crossed the line.
"I think a lot of times parents tend to gauge their own self-esteem on how well their kids do, like,'I'm so and so's parent. Did you see how well my kid did?'"said Janis Meredith, the blogger. "Maybe they're trying to make up for something that they didn't do when they were younger or something that they did do, maybe they want their kid to live up to them."
Our kids get this message from us when we scream on the sidelines -- even when they tell us not to -- or when we choose to do play- by-play analysis in the car ride home. When O'Sullivan was director of coaching for a number of soccer clubs and he did exit interviews with kids who decided to leave the club, he said one of the saddest things he learned is their least favorite moment in sports was the car ride home after the game, he wrote in a blog post.
Meredith, a mom of three whose children all played sports from age four through college, said her kids never wanted to dissect the game on the drive home.
"I'm a question asker and I tend to ask a lot of questions and so that often got me in trouble because I would say things like, 'What happened?' or 'Why didn't the coach put you in?'... and they're like,' Mom, enough, the questions, stop,'"she said. "We learned after a game to let our kids take the lead on the conversation."
Letting our kids take the lead in conversation -- and when it comes to what sports they play and how often -- is a crucial way to keep sports fun and interesting for our children, these experts say.
That is certainly not easy as youth sports has become a multibillion dollar industry, with financial benefits for tournament organizers and apparel manufacturers, and even wins for media companies. (ESPN reportedly pays $7.5 million per year for the rights to broadcast the Little League World Series.)
"The line between professional and college and youth sports has really narrowed,"said Hyman, who also is author of "The Most Expensive Game in Town: The Rising Cost of Youth Sports and the Toll on Today's Families."
"Youth sports are now an entertainment product just like the colleges and the pros ... and on some level, I think parents are influenced by that."
Advice for parents
So what's a parent to do?
No, we can't single-handedly change youth sports as we know it, but if each parent started practicing good, positive, supportive behavior, with the focus on the fun of the game and nothing else, that's how you create a movement, said O'Sullivan.
"Then, all of a sudden, good behavior on the sidelines by parents is no longer risky. It's what everyone does. Being quiet on the ride home, it's what everyone does."
Carugati says she was influenced by her niece, who is seven years older than her daughter Christine and who played soccer at Villanova. She played three sports, and never wanted to give any of them up, said Carugati.
"I think I took my lead from my niece and I wanted my daughter to keep enjoying sports,"she said. "I saw it every time the season ended my daughter would be looking forward to the next season and the new sport, and with every change of season, there was new excitement. And I really feel like that kept her interested."
And now her daughter Christine, a senior in high school, is gearing up to play lacrosse in college. She received an athletic scholarship from Boston University.
Parents should keep their eye on the bigger picture, said Carugati. "The goal is a happy, healthy, well-adjusted, self-supporting adult with a career they are passionate about,"she wrote in an email. "When it's no longer fun, it's time to find something else."
There's a team out there I'd like you to meet: the University of Minnesota women's hockey team.
At the risk of embarrassing the reigning national champions, I want to tell you just how good they are. They have been in the last four national title games and won three of them. During that span, they had a 62-game winning streak, which included a perfect 41-0 season in 2012-13, the first - and only - in NCAA women's hockey history.
Minnesota is to women's hockey what Duke is to men's basketball. Yet nobody knows who they are. Last March, when Minnesota hosted Harvard in the women's national championship, you had to watch the NCAA stream online to see it - the game didn't attract enough interest for a network to broadcast it on television. You could listen to the radio broadcast in the Twin Cities, if you knew where to look. It seems almost nobody outside the 3,400 fans at Ridder Arena, the Gophers' home rink, knew it when they won.
It was Minnesota's sixth national title in 16 years. Only the University of Connecticut women's basketball team has won more titles (eight) in this millennium. The general public appears indifferent.
"It kind of sucks,"says senior forward and team co-captain Hannah Brandt. "We have won three of the last four championships and we don't even sell out this place."
Brandt scored the game-winner in last year's final. Stole the puck at her blue line, whisked a pass to her linemate, broke for the Harvard goal, collected the return pass, and flipped a backhand over the goalie's shoulder. Quintessential Brandt. Nothing flashy, just a complete combination of skills that wins hockey games.
Many consider Brandt the nation's best female college hockey player, including her coach, Brad Frost. "It's debatable who you ask, but personally, I think she is,"Frost says. "We play in the toughest conference in the country [the Western Collegiate Hockey Association] and she was player of the year of that conference the last two years."
OK, so he's probably biased, but as her coach the past four years, he knows her game and what she's capable of. Brandt's performance backs up her coach's opinion. Brandt was a top three finalist the past two years for the Patty Kazmaeir Award (women hockey's version of the Heisman) and a frontrunner again this year. Of all the great players to play for the Minnesota dynasty (including a dozen Olympians and Kazmaier Award winners Krissy Wendell and Amanda Kessel), Brandt has scored more points than any of them. She's averaging 2.1 points per game this season, which puts her on pace to break the nation's scoring record of 303 points set by Meghan Agosta from 2006-11 at Mercyhurst University.
Yet Brandt remains anonymous. If she's wearing a Gophers Hockey hoodie or UM warmup in a campus restaurant, someone might say hello, but generally she remains unnoticed in the Twin Cities, where she grew up. Elsewhere, no one gives her or her team a second thought even if they walk right in front of them.
"We aren't well known throughout the country,"Brandt says. "In that way, we don't get credit."
As good as Brandt is, she is not the sole reason for her team's dominance. The Gophers are loaded with stars, such as returning All-Americans Dani Cameranesi (currently second in the nation in scoring) and Lee Stecklein (a 2014 Olympian); Kelly Panneck, Sarah Potomak, and goalie Amanda Leveille.
Despite all of this talent and success, as well as a 15-3 record, the Gophers are averaging only 1,944 fans at home games this season. The largest turnout yet is 2,335 for a game against St. Cloud State, with many of those cheering for the visiting school located 65 miles north on I-94. Even with modest numbers like that, the Gophers have led the country in attendance every year since its program began in 1997. Across the country, women's college hockey has drawn more yawns than anything.
Understandably, the Gophers succeed at a relatively niche sport, but in hockey-mad Minnesota, where more girls play hockey than in any other state in the nation, you would think that a few more folks would show up for their games. Among their competition in town, they are the only hockey team to have won a championship in the past decade. Their male counterparts at the U have not won a national championship since 2003; the NHL's Wild have never made it past the third round of the playoffs since its inception in 2000. Yet the fourth-place Wild are averaging 19,011 so far this season, and the male Gophers, who are having a subpar season (8-9 to date), are pulling in near capacity crowds of 9,624 a game at Mariucci Arena, next door to Ridder.
The local press follows the fans - or vice versa - basically ignoring the women champions in favor of the mediocre men's team. They tend to prefer the faster, harder-hitting game even if the final results don't favor the home team. You might have thought a border battle against their conference rival, the No. 1-ranked Wisconsin Badgers, would stir up some local excitement last month. The showdown in Madison provided the Badgers the chance to exact revenge for the way the Gophers ended their season last year in the semifinals (Brandt scored the first goal and setup the other two).
Yet with all of those storylines, the Gophers' hometown newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, did not even preview the series. Meanwhile, it devoted over half a page to previewing the men's series against hockey lightweights Ohio State. Media day drew four reporters: the St. Paul Pioneer Press beat writer, a student from the Minnesota Daily newspaper, a freelancer writing for SB Nation, and me. Noticeably absent: anyone from the Star Tribune, any radio or TV reporters.
Going into the Wisconsin series, the Gophers had outscored opponents 80-18 - averaging six goals a game - and lost only one game, upset by the University of North Dakota. The Gophers had not lost to the Badgers since 2011, winning 16 games and tying two in 18 meetings.
But Wisconsin exposed Minnesota's mortality, sweeping them with a 3-2 overtime win on Friday night and a 3-1 victory in the Saturday afternoon sequel. They limited Brandt to just one point, an assist in the second game.
That dropped the Gophers' record to 15-3 record and dropped them to No. 3 in the national rankings at the season's midpoint, but they are by no means out of contention. "This is a pretty similar team to last year's, talent-wise,"coach Frost says. The implication: they are good enough to win another national title.
Since taking over in 2007-08, Frost has a 258-41-21 record. He has won eight games out of every ten he's coached. That sort of winning percentage is the stuff of legends, especially when you add in the three national championships, five conference titles, and six NCAA Frozen Four appearances.
Yet when asked if he ever gets stopped around town and asked for his autograph, Frost laughs. It's a silly question. "Not real often,"he says, meaning, basically never. "I'm not quite Mike Yeo (Wild head coach) or Don Lucia (head coach of the Gophers men's team and winner of a pair of national titles)."
Frost is a mild-mannered guy, 5'10"with black-rimmed glasses, a former Division-III hockey player who is still fit. He is only the second coach in the program's history, taking over from Laura Halldorson, who had a 278-67-22 record with three national titles over ten years. The program's success makes recruiting easier - the University of Minnesota is the school of choice for most locally grown talent - but some prospects still manage to get away, so he has to look to places like Ontario and Illinois to fill out his team. Among his best finds, he managed to lure Olympic netminder Noora Raty from Finland to anchor the teams that won 62 straight games.
This weekend, the Gophers season picks back up with a pair of games against Ohio State - a chance to rebuild confidence against the next-to-last place Buckeyes. The Gophers will get a chance to even the score against Wisconsin this season, with a two-game series at home in February. More important, though, they have the weekend of March 18 circled on their calendar. That's when they hope to be in Durham, New Hampshire, for the Frozen Four with the chance to burnish their dynasty. Maybe this time you'll notice.
Source: Vice Sports
St Cloud State University will be hosting the Kelly Laas Memorial Invite, a NSIC/MIAA crossover, February 18-21.
This invitational tournament will be played at the Husky Dome in St. Cloud Minnesota
Full Schedule Available Here (.pdf)