Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Archive for February 2009

Putting on my Steve Stone, “for-all-you-young-coaches-out-there” voice

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2315101076_d7483780e8_mThat voice also says, “For all you young announcers out there, make sure you have a strong stomach before spending a season working with Hawk Harrelson.”

Brian Reid of Rebeldad, blogging at the Washington Post’s On Parenting site, is asking for answer to the following questions as he investigates following in his own father’s footsteps as a youth sports coach:

At what point do kids turn rabidly competitive? Does that happen before or after the parents make the transition? And what happens when you coach your own kid (or what happens when the mom or dad around the block coaches their kid)?

Here is how I answered his questions:

I’ve coached two of my kids in multiple sports and am working on my third (T-ball this spring), so I’ll take a crack at this:

At what point do kids turn rabidly competitive?

I would say age two, when someone tries to take their toy. Seriously, some care about winning, some don’t, some care about making sure they’re the best player out there, some don’t. You can’t make a kid who doesn’t care, care. However, you can make a kid who cares funnel that energy in the right direction so he or she doesn’t make his or her teammates miserable.

Does that happen before or after the parents make the transition?

We shouldn’t be shocked that parents are competitive because, at a minimum, they want to see their child succeed, or at least feel like they’re not wasting their and their child’s time. But it’s like the kids — some parents care, some don’t, and the challenge is funneling the energy of the parents who care in the right direction, i.e., staying positive.
And what happens when you coach your own kid (or what happens when the mom or dad around the block coaches their kid)?

I tell my kids before each season that once we hit the field/court, I’m speaking to them as their coach, and that I will treat them equally as other kids. I do that so they don’t expect special treatment (which I’m not sure they do), but moreso that if I critique their play they know I’m speaking as a coach trying to help them, not their father trying to be a jerk. My 11-year-old son is so well-trained on this, the moment we step out of the car for a practice or game, he stops calling me “Dad” and calls me “Coach.”

As far as other parents coaching their kids, you do have some who blatantly favor their own children — often to the child’s detriment. I’ve seen serious meltdowns when a coach kept putting his or her child in nominal position to be the star, but the child instead struggled mightily. It’s hard enough on a kid when he or she struggles, but the pressure is even greater when he or she feels he or she is letting down not just a coach, but a parent.

Born to steal

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A former Norwich, Conn., alderman entered a no-contest plea on charges related to embezzling $4,650 from the local Little League and $10,567 from the Veterans Memorial High Stakes Bingo.

The former alderman’s name: John D. Crooks.

It all makes sense now, doesn’t it?

Written by rkcookjr

February 25, 2009 at 9:57 am

The evolution of Washington’s sports discrimination bill

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Today a Washington State Senate committee passed a bill that seeks to address gender inequities in youth athletics. The bill it passed was not the original version filed two weeks ago. Depending on your point of view, the new version of the bill either addresses legitimate problems regarding equal access and funding of boys’ and girls’ sports, or strips away any enforcement mechanism in such a way that makes the legislation an exercise in do-nothing do-goodism.

The bill seeks to be the second (behind similar legislation passed in California in 2004) to require publicly funded organizations, whether they be  park districts, cities, townships or counties, that administer youth sports or youth sports facilities to prepare a formal statement saying they will not discriminate “against any person on the basis of sex in the operation, conduct, or administration of community athletics programs for youth or adults.”

Privately run leagues aren’t off the hook. If they lease or use any public facility, they need to prepare an anti-discrimination statement as well.

Why aren’t schools require to create such policies? Because schools are covered under Title IX. (However, third-parties using school facilities still must have an anti-discrimination policy).

Here is Washington state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, testifying for the bill. She is one of the sponsors, and she says that in some cases boys programs are still getting preferred funding or access:

You might note her referencing a substitute bill worked out with various “stakeholders.” Presumably, though no one has said so yet, those stakeholders include parks and recreation officials. They found unworkable the original bill’s insistence on task forces (paid for with private money of an unknown source) to study the extent of gender discrimination and the establishment of public grievance procedures (paid for by the potentially offending party) if any parent complained of discrimination. Also, by 2018, it would not have been enough to defend oneself by showing you had a history of attempting to equalize funding and participation rates consistent with the male-female ratio in your purview. If you didn’t, you could be screwed.

Thus, all those parts were stripped out of the bill, lest it not pass because of the fear that cash-strapped municipalities and park districts would end up shoving the knife even further into youth sports than it would otherwise.

So what’s left is a requirement about adding anti-discrimination language, which doesn’t seem like much. But it would be more than 48 other states have done. While I haven’t run into obvious cases of discrimination involving my daughters yet (one of whom is only three, so it’s not like she’s had a chance), no doubt there are plenty of places where boys get the meat and girls get the scraps. An anti-discrimination policy is the least any youth sports organization or facilities manager can do.

I would come down on the side saying it’s a good thing the onerous legalese and paperwork requirements were cut out of the bill, but then again I’m a man, so what do I know? Having codified anti-discrimination language does at least give aggrieved girls and their parents an greater opening to fight if needed — and give leagues and facilities’ lawyers one more very good way to advise their clients how not to get sued. I suspect even with this watered-down bill, some girls in Washington are going to be helped.

As for the boys? I doubt they’ll be tossed onto to the street — unless there is some parks manager deciding to act like a jerk just to make the bill, and the girls, look bad.

Written by rkcookjr

February 24, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Well, sir, there’s nothing on earth like a genuine, bona fide, electrified, six-team Little League!

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Last year a group of all-stars from Rapid City, S.D., made it to South Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League World Series. Suddenly parents all over South Dakota are asking, why can’t we exploit our kids like they do in Rapid City?

From the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader:

So when Rapid City’s Canyon Lake Little League became the first team from South Dakota to reach the nationally televised World Series, [Matt] Richardson and Brian Eastman – assistant coaches in the Sioux Empire Baseball Association – decided it was time that Sioux Falls had its own Little League.

The city is on its way to having a league by next year, and other area towns are getting caught up in the excitement.

Brandon will make the switch this summer, while Dell Rapids, Harrisburg and Brookings could have leagues in place by 2010, joining Huron and several West River communities that already have associations.

“We are the largest city in South Dakota,” Richardson said at the start of the process. “We only think it’s fair that we have Little League baseball, because we have just as good, if not better, talent in Sioux Falls than Rapid City has.”

Damn right! You’re not going to let those inbred peckerwoods from Rapid City show you up! If you don’t prove your 11-year-olds can beat their 11-year-olds, then you ain’t shit, Sioux Falls!

thesimpsons-margevsthemonorail_1157690485Little League representative Lyle Lanley leads Sioux Falls supporters out of the most recent parents meeting.

This is getting to be such a divisive issue in Sioux Falls (where Little League can’t start until 2010) that the Argus-Leader ran a can’t-we-all-just-get-along editorial so there wouldn’t be the War Between the Leagues.

In this interview with the Argus-Leader, the Little League backers say they were struck that the local league had no all-star game or championship. And that the players can’t wear major-league team logos on their uniforms. And that was pretty much it, beyond the faint hope of playing on ABC.

Little League certainly appreciates the interest, what with its membership being on a long-term decline. But inviting in Little League just for World Series glory? Note to the Sioux Falls Little League backers — the kids don’t care! And if you’re worried about scouts not being able to discover the talent on your diamonds, don’t worry. Scouts will find talent no matter how remote. They don’t just wait to see whose games are announced by Brent Musberger.

Inspiring minds want to know

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Over at the Positive Coaching Alliance, the sworn enemy of the Negative Coaching Alliance, there is an interesting conversation going on inspired by this question:

My 7th-grade son has played very competitive soccer and basketball for years, always supporting his teammates. Recently, his coaches in both sports challenged all the players to improve on specific skills, but some players are not trying very hard. As a parent, how can I help my son demand vocally (even angrily, if necessary) that his teammates strive for their potential and do so without alienating himself?
— Phil Carragher, Glencoe, IL

Well, Phil, it’s interesting that you bring this up. My brother-in-law and I are coaching a basketball team of seventh- and eighth-graders (and my son, a sixth-grader), and as coaches we’re wrestling with the same problem. As a team, we have a problem with every kid going all-out every practice and every game. In fact, after winning our first game, we’ve lost every one since as a direct result of a lack of team hustle. As coaches we take responsibility as well because we are charged with putting our team in the best position to win, and better yet creating an environment in which everyone is relaxed and having fun so they can feel comfortable going all-out and unafraid to make mistakes. Unfortunately, when you’re losing, that goal becomes harder to reach.

Phil, let me ask you this first: is your son unequivocally recognized by his teammates as the best player? Or at least a major contributor to the team’s success? Otherwise, there’s no hope. In my experience, other players will take praise and criticism more seriously from the best player than they will someone who is not.

Also, what are the personalities on the team? I encouraged our best player, who does hustle all-out, to feel free to praise and criticize on the court, to position players, and to otherwise lead by example. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be working, though such a strategy has worked for me as a coach before. Particularly at the junior-high level (and I don’t have to tell you this, having a son in junior high), kids at that age are far more likely to blow off you and peers.

A kid who is not predisposed to hustling, who does not see it his duty to play well for his teammates’ sake, and who does not see the connection in how being lazy in practice means poor results in games — you’re just going to have a hard time getting through. No matter what your son says, a player like that isn’t going to respond. In fact, that player will probably go into a shell.


And to back it up even further, Phil, it’s not your job as a parent to get your son to help him to demand vocally (and even angrily) that his teammates step it up. I don’t know your son’s personality, but some kids are just not comfortable with doing that. You can’t make your kid into something he’s not.

I understand your frustration, and your son’s, at being stuck on a team where it appears everyone is not interested in trying their best. I know it’s driving me crazy with my team right now, and I’m having to take a good, hard look at how I’m coaching to make sure I don’t make a tough situation worse. I recommend, Phil, that you and your son suck it up, that he focus on improving his game and being the best teammate he can be (no matter what everyone else does — perhaps the more he shows he trusts them, the more they might respond, maybe), and that you and he realize that soon enough he will be on another team that might not have the problems this one has.

Oh, and Phil, don’t complain to the coach about it, either, if you were thinking of that. The coach knows. Trust me on this one.

Are you a crazy sports parent?

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Maybe you’ve never attacked a hockey ref or inspired a coach to come into the stands after you. But you might be a crazy sports parent and not even know it.

imageGood job today, son! Just for that, we’ll let you sleep inside tonight!

I am defining “crazy sports parent” as someone who is a little bit too into what his or her child is doing athletically, and is at risk for popping off at a moment’s notice, thus earning worldwide Internet ridicule. I recommend to you sports parents that you take this quiz to see if you might have a problem. This is not a complete run of all the possible disturbing behavior that lies beneath, but this should give you a good start at identifying whether you have a problem. Or whether it’s one of those OTHER parents. Can’t be you. Not at all.

1. How many T-shirts do you own that match your child’s travel team uniform?

A. None.

B. One to three.

C. I have a walk-in closet devoted to them.

2. How many picture buttons of your children are on your jacket?

A. None

B. One for each child.

C. Just my jacket? Not counting the ones in my cubicle, on the bulletin board in the kitchen and pasted to my dashboard? And you don’t mean just for my oldest, right?

3. When your child seems to be losing interest in a sport, you:

A. Support the child’s decision to leave it, and see what else there might be of interest.

B. Have a talk to get the child to give the sport another chance, just to be sure it’s not a temporary feeling

C. Force your child to stay in, what with the cold sweats you’re getting over the possibility of your social life falling apart.

4. You get pumped when:

A. Your child shows enjoyment and improvement.

B. Your child appears to be playing better than others.

C. It’s the Fort Wayne Lees Inn & Suites this weekend!

5. You’re not sure you like your child’s coach. You:

A. Stay quiet. Unless the coach is doing actual harm, no sense getting involved.

B. Make arrangements to talk to the coach, calmly, about your concerns.

C. Start a gossip campaign to get him fired.

6. You don’t like the referee’s calls. You:

A. Stay quiet. It’s just a kid’s game, after all.

B. Grumble to yourself, and remind yourself it’s a kid’s game, after all.

C. Start a gossip campaign to get him fired.

7. Your interaction with other sports parents is:

A. Limited. A hello or occassional remark suffices.

B. Friendly. You chat a little during games.

C. You size up who is “in” and who is “out,” and make sure you set the parameters of all interaction. You start a gossip campaign to get any threats knocked to the “out” column.

8. You have a child who excels at a sport. Your other children are:

A. Special in their unique way, and equally lovable.

B. Not as likely to take care of you financially in your old age.

C. Joining the same sport as that sibling in a desperate bid for your attention.

9. A doctor says your child has an injury that carries a risk of permanent damage should he or she continue playing. You react by:

A. Telling your child, with great understanding for the disappointment that might be involved, that it’s time to stop playing.

B. Getting a second opinion, just to be sure.

C. Dismissing the doctor as a sports-hating quack who probably got wedgies in junior high. Then you give him a wedgie.

10. In taking this quiz, you feel:

A. Like you have a healthy relationship with your child and sports.

B. Smug satisfaction.

C. “Are you trying to imply something? Because I’ll make sure the other parents NEVER talk to you AGAIN!”

Priorities, by Colorado Springs

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The city of Colorado Springs, Colo., is in a budget crunch, and one proposed way to get out of it is draconian cuts in its Department of Parks of Recreation — including eliminating all adult and youth sport programs. In this, the city has the enthusiastic assent of the local Gazette. Twice.

Meanwhile, the city is also struggling to come up with the $27.5 million loan it needs to cover its cost of the $53 million booty that got the U.S. Olympic Committee to keep its headquarters in Colorado Springs. The city says it’s just a matter of market timing, and it will get done. This was a deal that got the enthusiastic assent of the local Gazette.

So in Colorado Springs, the Olympic administrator will get its money, but the local future Olympians may well not. This is not a way to, as one prominent local organization might put it, focus on the family.

Written by rkcookjr

February 20, 2009 at 4:58 pm