Youth sports gone wrong: Putting a bounty on a player

Every once in a while you see something happen in youth sports that is just simply disgusting. That happened to me on Saturday.

To explain what happened, I need to give a little background about a show called Friday Night Tykes. Friday Night Tykes is a one-hour reality television show that follows middle school and younger football teams in Texas through their fall season. The show is often depressing. While I am sure there are lots of positive things happening in Texas youth football, this show is edited to highlight the drama and often the outrageous. Every season is filled with coaches screaming at the kids and each other. You can be sure you’ll see parents screaming at coaches, players, other parents, the other team, and (of course) the referees.

But I just watched the final episode of season four and it hit a new level. The 12U San Antonio Outlaws – a show mainstay who moved to the Snoop Youth Football League (run by rapper/entrepreneur Snoop Dogg) – were playing the Long Beach Patriots for the 2016 National Championship. Outlaw superstar Myzell Miller is a key player for his team often playing both ways.

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2017’s most shared articles

What were the most shared posts about youth sports in 2017? Leveraging the power of BuzzSumo, I’ve found the six stories that were shared over 20,000 times in 2017. They touch a variety of topics and everyone is worth taking a few minutes to read.

The most shared story on the list was shared over 208,800 times. this is significantly more than the others. In fact, this is more than the next five combined – which were shared a combined total of 155,000 times.

The list:

  1. The epidemic that’s ruining youth sports, Kirsten Fleming, The New York Post, June 19, 2017, shared 208,800 times
  2. Who’s to Blame for the Decline in Multi-Sport Athletes in Youth Sports, Alex Flanagan, I Love To Watch You Play, January 9, 2017, shared 47,000 times
  3. Knowing When to Quit, David Mcglynn, The New York Times, June 2, 2017, shared 32,700 times
  4. Jaguars’ Telvin Smith Lashes Out at Players Who Charge for Youth Camps, Zac Wassink, Bleacher Report, April 14, 2017
  5. Verbal abuse from parents, coaches is causing referee shortage in youth sports, Nick Ellerson, Washington Post, June 16, 2017, shared 27,500 times.
  6. Youth basketball coach savagely blocked his own player’s shot in middle of game, Charles Curtis, USA Today, March 3, 2017, shared 20,100 times

On the right path…?

One of the most viral articles about youth sports is titled: I Never Thought It Would End This Way. It’s written by a dad who spent years coaching and watching his daughter play soccer. It’s about watching his daughter’s last soccer game. This quote has always seemed especially important to me:

If all coaches could see into the future, to that very day when a kid puts away the cleats or the hi-tops for the last time and walks away from a game………would they choose to coach individual kids differently than they presently do?

Every kid walks away from their chosen sport someday…….then what?

Effective youth coaching is psychiatry and it is parenting.  Each player is unique, and they have specific needs that team sports can bring them.

I spent years coaching soccer. Some would call it a career – 10 years coaching as many as three teams at a time. More often than not, coaching young girls. I’ve coached three-year-olds (if you can call it coaching) all the way up to high school players. I’ve read books about drills, attending conventions, and gotten coaching licenses.

But the simple question presented here is the most important question that every coach and parent needs to ask.

The answers will be different for every family. And there is no one out there you can go talk to and see if your answer is correct. But you need to ask the question:

If you could see into the future, to that very day when your kid puts away the cleats or the hi-tops for the last time and walks away from a game………would you choose to take a different path?

TD Ameritrade: 10% of families spend more than $1,000 per month on youth sports

Parents are spending lots of money on their children’s sports activities. TD Ameritrade has released their newest survey and the results are detailed in an article from USA Today and the data is amazing.

Most American families (63%) spend anywhere from $100 to $499 per child each month on youth sports, TD Ameritrade found. Another 18% fork over $500 to $999 monthly. Roughly one in 10 (11%) spend $1,000 to $1,999. On the high end, 8% said they spend $2,000 per month or more, or $24,000-plus per year.

All that spending on sports crimps other parts of their lives, the survey found, with 55% saying they “cut back on entertainment,” 40% saying they “take fewer vacations,” and 23% admitting they have “cutback on money set aside for retirement.”

Take four minutes and read the whole article. I’ll post the full data when I track it down.


Youth sports driving sports tourism boom

Youth sports is driving a sports tourism boom. That boom is leading to more tournaments, building more sports complexes, and parents traveling more and more to get their kids to the games. Here’s an interesting piece from a recent HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumble that looks at this in more detail.


Nats partnership creates Pudge Rodriguez field

The Washington Nationals are not only a great baseball team, they are also a great community partner. They continue to invest in our community and to try and grow the impact of baseball.

Pudge Rodriguez may have played for a number of baseball teams, but the two years he spent playing for the Washington Nationals are seasons Nats fans won’t forget. Pudge was one of the leagues best catchers and evidence of that is his recent induction into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Nationals recently showed their continued commitment to our community and their respect for Rodriguez by investing in a baseball field in Annandale and naming it for their Hall of Famer. The Nationals Dream Foundation partnered with the Fairfax County Park Authority and took a rag tag field and turned it into a showcase with new turf, baselines that can accommodate 50/70, a new electronic score board, new fencing, covered dugouts, irrigation system, and upgraded batting cages. It’s a gem that players will enjoy on any afternoon or under the lights at night. Continue reading

Sports help kids’ mental health

In a recently published article entitled Bidirectional Associations between Sport Involvement and Mental Health in Adolescence, researchers from the University of Wollongong, Australia found a direct connection between a child’s involvement in team sports and positive mental health. The entire study is worth reading (note: it is behind a paywall). This is one of their important conclusions:

However, there is consensus that sport can facilitate the development of psychological well-being (17). A recent systematic review found that participation in organized sport during childhood and adolescence is associated with higher levels of self-esteem, greater social skills, and fewer depressive symptoms (14). In addition, sport participation is associated with psychological health in childhood (5), and children who drop out of organized sport show fewer psychological strengths and greater psychological difficulties than those who maintain sport involvement (35). Moreover, noninvolvement in sport puts children at a 10%–20% increased risk of mental health problems (35). Importantly, the findings of both a systematic review by Eime et al. (14) and the original findings of Vella et al. (35) suggest that the psychosocial benefits of organized sport are independent of those that can be attributed to general physical activity.

This is more evidence that youth sports can have a powerful impact on kids. Continue reading

“A coach’s plea to parents”

There was a great column in Canada’s The Globe and Mail at the end of May. It’s really an open letter from a volunteer youth soccer coach to the parents of the team she coaches and all sports parents throughout the world.

Coach Alison Belbin lives in Nanaimo, B.C. The whole column is worth the three minutes to read. Here are her closing thoughts.

Criticizing your child’s coach might simply be a reflection of your insecurities or long-held regrets as a former player. That’s okay. We all have them. As adults we can understand this, but as a child, your daughter does not. She is being pulled in opposing directions between her team and her parent’s opinion of her team.

On her team, she is finding her identity and her place among her peers. It is here she will decide if that place makes her feel whole and satisfied, or if it makes her edgy and hungry for more.

Let her discover this, on her own.

Let her play.

Well said, coach!

New Facilities at McNaughton Fields Park

On Saturday, April 9, the Fairfax County Park Authority officially opened new diamond fields at McNaughton Park in the Mt. Vernon district. This was the conclusion of a $4.4 million renovation program funded through the 2008 and 2012 Park Bonds.

This was the ribbon cutting on completely renovated fields that have been the home of Woodlawn Little League since the 1960s. The project included the demolition of the four existing fields and the construction of a 90-foot diamond and a 60/70-foot diamond with grass infields along with a 60/70-foot diamond and a 60 foot diamond with skinned infields. Along with the fields, covered dugouts, bullpens, batting cages, bleachers, and fencing were also included. Continue reading