2013 Synthetic Turf Task Force Report

Recently, several people have brought up the County’s Synthetic Turf Task Force from 2013 and the report that was generated.

A lot of work and effort went into this report. The task force met for months and was able to address many issues. Among the conclusions was the recommendation to move as many schools as possible to the two field model, work with diamond field users to explore their long-term interest in turf fields, explore life expectancy and more.

Here are links to the report and to the PowerPoint that accompanied its presentation.

The Participation Gap

I had never considered that there could be a link between a parent’s level of education and a child’s participation in sports. I should have. It makes sense. Closing the Gap in Access to Summer Camp and Extracurricular Activities finds that there is a connection and that we need to figure out how to deal with it. And it’s not just sports. It’s summer camps, trips to the zoo, after-school extracurriculars, and other enrichment programs.

This graphic illustrates the problem in sports. There is a 50% increase in the participation of children 6 to 11 years old in sports if the parent has an advanced degree v. some amount of college education.

And the numbers are similar for clubs and various kinds of lessons. (Like piano lessons.)

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More Proof High School Sports Help Girls

In this 2009 paper, Beyond the Classroom: Using Title IX to Measure the Return to High School Sports, author Betsey Stevenson finds that increase participation by girls in high school sports leads to increases in girls going to college as well as increases in female participation in the workforce.

Here’s the official Abstract:

Between 1972 and 1978 U.S. high schools rapidly increased their female athletic participation rates—to approximately the same level as their male athletic participation rates—in order to comply with Title IX, a policy change that provides a unique quasiexperiment in female athletic participation. This paper examines the causal implications of this expansion in female sports participation by using variation in the level of boys’ athletic participation across states before Title IX to instrument for the change in girls’ athletic participation. Analysis of differences in outcomes across states in changes between pre- and post-cohorts reveals that a 10-percentage point rise in state-level female sports participation generates a 1 percentage point increase in female college attendance and a 1 to 2 percentage point rise in female labor force participation. Furthermore, greater opportunities to play sports leads to greater female participation in previously male-dominated occupations, particularly in high-skill occupations.

Here’s the full paper online.


Heads Up: Not a Silver Bullet, But Part of the Solution

A New York Times investigation finds that there may be flaws in the National Football Leagues conclusion that their Heads Up program has reduced concussions. After going through the detailed data of the study that the NFL relied on, the Times concludes that the program had little impact and that other changes in the Pop Warner program actually were the cause of the overall changes.

Rather than looking at Heads Up Football leagues in one category, the paper instead split them into two groups: those that did or did not also belong to Pop Warner Football, a division of youth leagues that has added its own rules to mitigate injuries. Pop Warner leagues have disallowed certain head-on blocking and tackling drills and drastically reduced full-contact practice time, measures that were not a part of U.S.A. Football’s program.

As it turned out, only leagues that adhered to Pop Warner’s rules saw a meaningful drop in concussions. Leagues that used Heads Up Football alone actually saw slightly higher concussion rates, although that uptick was not statistically significant. The previously reported drops were clearly driven by a league’s affiliation with Pop Warner, not Heads Up Football.

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Growing Awareness of Concussions in Youth Sports

An article in today’s Washington Post highlights the growing awareness of concussions in youth sports. The rapidity of this change still amazes me. It was not that many years ago that I hosted an event on concussions for Burke Athletic Club. Several parents contacted me saying that they were surprised that I would host such an event and invite soccer parents since concussions were not a problem in soccer.

They were wrong. Concussions were and are a problem in soccer and in many other youth sports. And the impact of that is seen in this article with the perception that youth football – especially tackle football – is too dangerous.

According to the Post:

Opposition to playing football before the age of 14 is strongest among women, with 84 percent opposed and 94 percent opposed to kids playing tackle football before they are 10. Eighty-eight percent of men oppose the idea of kids playing tackle football before they turn 10.

We have a lot to do to regain their trust and to make youth sports as safe as we can make it.

Adults Stealing from Children

It always upsets me when I see adults stealing from children’s groups. Whether taking cash from a concession stand or stealing it directly from a youth group’s bank account, it happens far too often. This New York Times story explores the dangers and reminds me yet again, that audits are so important.

From the New York Times:

The youth sports boom in the United States, fortified by at least 30 million participants, has turned what were once homespun local leagues into quasi-professional enterprises with annual budgets that experts who track nonprofits say regularly reach $250,000 — if not twice that.

Yet with the growth and development has come a long list of embezzlement and other corruption cases unfolding in a void of oversight and regulation and capitalizing on community trust. 

Across the country, people who volunteered as treasurers and other officers for Little Leagues and sports clubs have been prosecuted for pilfering gobs of money from the coffers: $220,000 in Washington, $431,000 in Minnesota, $560,000 in New Jersey, and so on, according to law enforcement authorities, league officials, experts on nonprofit organizations and news reports.

While I do not believe this requires national oversight or some new federal agency, it does remind everyone involved in youth sports that audits are critical. They can be hard to do and, especially the first time, can require changes to process and procedure. While it takes more time and requires more effort, it is worth it.