Sunday, April 29, 2012

Youth Sports: Two Sport Athlete Overcommitted (Part 2)

In my previous post I asked the following question -

Is it fair to commit to two different teams in the same season? Fair to the respective coaches, fair to both sets of teammates, fair to other parents who spend a lot of money to be on a team with high expectations?

My daughter plays elite level soccer and AAU basketball. In the last post, I wrote about overcommitment and how we got into this situation. I also indicated that the basketball coach is not happy.

Here is the very well written and respectful email from the coach to the team. She wrote this email to the team because my daughter is not the only overcommitted girl on the team.

My comments are in color.

Hello Everyone, 
I am a little bit confused right now about what everyone has committed to with our team. When your daughter and your family joined this team you committed to a basketball first team. Yes, we work with you to make sure your daughter has every chance as a young lady to play different sports, but I think, by me being so nice about this, it is coming back to haunt our team.

CC showing her value as the goalkeeper.
We were informed that this was a basketball first program when my daughter tried out for the team and again when she accepted a position. The previous year we were able to do both with few conflicts, but this year there have been a lot of conflicts. My daughter is now the lone goalie on the soccer team, so her commitment to soccer is paramount this year. To make matter worse, my daughter is not the only two sport athlete on the basketball team. Three of her teammates also play elite level soccer.

We are suppose to be the TOP AAU team, but I cant hold a practice, game or tournament with all 10 girls attending. It really has to do with practice and wanting to challenge this special group of girls, talented girls. I would love to see these girls stay together for years to come, but we need to know that we can rely on each other and that each teammate wants to be apart of this special team. 

We are suppose to the a top AAU team, in fact, the basketball team finished 1st in Ohio and 9th in the country last year. We lost key three players from that team but the team added three new girls. The team has a lot of talent and expectations were high coming into the season. However, for the first time these girls are struggling against other top AAU teams.

My daugther, CC,  has not missed any of the mandatory team practices due to conflicts with soccer. She practices soccer Monday (team), Wednesday (team) and Friday (goalie training). Her basketball team practices are on Sunday (team), Monday (optional skills and drills) and Tuesday (team).  She does miss a basketball skills and drills practice every week. I am OK with this, because my daughter practices all the time in the driveway with her brother.

Regarding games, CC has missed 1 day of a two day tournament and will miss an entire

Friday, April 27, 2012

Youth Sports: Two Sport Athlete Overcommitted (Part 1)

Is it fair to commit to two different teams in the same season? Fair to the respective coaches, fair to both sets of teammates, fair to other parents who spend a lot of money to be on a team with high expectations?

My two sport athletic daughter is over-committed and her basketball coach is not happy about it. I don't know what to do about it. Over the next several posts, I am going to think through the problem. I am not a fan of specialization at age 11, but we obviously need to address the situation to be fair to her teams.

Last year, CC found out that a soccer teammate named Mel played both AAU basketball and elite soccer at the same time. CC loves basketball and wanted to do the same. I found it hard to believe that you could do both, but I promised to investigate it. I asked the Mel's dad about it. He told me that they have been handling it with relatively few conflicts. He also mentioned that Mel's basketball team was holding a tryout over the next two weekends.

I looked at the basketball tryout schedule for first weekend and realized that we wouldn't be able to make it due to an out-of-town soccer tournament. That should have been my first clue. I looked at the second weekend and as bad luck would have it, my daughter had a soccer game 60 miles away from the basketball tryout. At first, I did not think we could do both, but I figured out that if the soccer game started and ended on time, we could possibly make it to the basketball tryout 5 to 10 minutes late.

It was a rainy day and I was hoping that soccer was going to get canceled, but it didn't. Fortunately, it was raining so hard, that the refs decided to start the game early and cut half-time short. This gave us an opportunity. Unfortunately, the rain snarled traffic and slowed us and we arrived at the tryout 50 minutes late. That should have been my second clue.

CC took the floor with complete confidence and I took my place on the bleachers. I then did a quick count of the number of girls on the court vying for 10 spots. There were 44 girls. After missing the entire first tryout and 50 minutes of the second, I figured CC's chances were slim to none. I thought to myself, that it would probably be for the best.

After the tryout, I told CC how proud I was of her for confidently jumping right in there. I told her that she can definitely play at that level, but that the chances of being noticed during the last 40 minutes were not good.

The following night, I got a call from the coach. CC made the team the team for the winter. We were also informed that another tryout would be held in February for the AAU National Tournament team.

We accepted the invitation to play on the winter team. CC's soccer team competed in Futsal in the winter, but the winter season for soccer is pretty laid back. CC only missed 3 of 20 Futsal games due to conflicts.

In February, CC made the National Tournament team and we accepted. To my surprise, Mel decided to decline her offer. Her dad thought it was too much. WHAT??#@%@ He convinced us that it could be done. That should have been my third clue.

Well, thanks to a lot of rain last spring, most of the weekend soccer games were rescheduled for the weekdays. And thanks to luck, the 5 basketball tournaments were on different weekends than the 3 soccer tournaments. CC did not miss any soccer games (19) or any spring basketball games (49).

The Main Point

An 11 year old athlete should not have to specialize in one sport, but it is so difficult to do in this over the top youth sports world with year round teams.

This year is a different story all together. It has not rained much this spring and there are lots of conflicts and the basketball coach is not exactly happy. More in the next post - including a letter from the coach.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Youth Sports Mom: The Hardest Job in the World

Hillary Rosen, democratic pundit, recently started a firestorm when she said that Ann Romney* has not worked a day in her life. I am sure that all stay at home moms were offended. Heck, I was offended.

My wife is a stay at home mom and I can tell you that she works hard raising our kids. The emotional and inspirational video below produced by P&G for the 2012 Olympic Games pretty much depicts my wife's life.

* Ann Romney is the stay at home mother of 5 and wife of the Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The Main Point

My wife is a stay at home mom of two very active youth sports athletes. Our two youngest kids participated in 403 games and practices in 2011. Crazy I know. This video pretty much sums up what my wife does day in and day out - waking, cooking, cleaning, driving, cheering, tucking in.

Stay at home moms work hard.
Stay at home moms of youth sports athletes work insanely hard.
Of course, moms who work and raise kids, athletic or not, work incredibly hard too.
A big thank you to all moms no matter what choice they make (career or stay at home).

My kids will likely never participate in college athletics, pros sports or Olympic games, but it is still worth the time and effort. I am proud of my kids and my hardworking - stay at home wife.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Growing Youth Sports Economy - Is it Good or Bad for our Kids?

I spend a considerable amount on money on youth sports. Actually, one of the reasons I started this blog was to track how much I was spending. I didn't do this to live within a budget -- I had no intentions of spending less -- I was just curious. And I wanted to spark conversation with people who are equally enthusiastic or / and foolish.

My youth sports cost list has sparked many conversations, including one with Mark Hyman, sports journalist and author. In late 2010, Mark interviewed me for his second book on youth sports called, The Most Expensive Game in Town - The Rising Cost of Youth Sports and the Toll on Today's Families. I answered his questions, and to tell you the truth, I was a bit nervous about how I was going to be portrayed - our behavior regarding youth sports is not exactly rational.

The book was recently released and Mark sent me a copy. When the package arrived from Beacon Press, I hesitated. I didn't hesitate as long as I did before I opened my SAT scores, but it was close.

I finally opened the book and immediately went to the index to see if my name was mentioned in the book and on what page. To my surprise, I was mentioned on 6 pages, including page 1 of the book in the chapter called the Parent Trap. In this chapter, Mark told the stories of three families and also revealed that he was more like me than not.

The book explores so many interesting topics surrounding the economy of youth sports. Mark follows the dollars and explores the motivations of the people who spend their money on youth sports and the people who earn money from youth sports. He explores both sides of the financial equation in a respectful way while exposing some of his own misguided sports expenditures.

The book will make you think. And after you read the last page, you will close the book and wonder if kids would be better off without the influence of money.

In the book, you will find an interesting story about small money-strapped towns betting on youth sports meccas to bail them out of their financial woes. Mark also explores the influence of big corporation money from companies like ESPN, Gatorade, Nike and Pepsi. Stories about the Ford sponsored Punt Pass and Kick competition and the invention of the aluminum bat brought back memories for my wife and me. My athletic wife competed in the PP&K and I used a gold painted Worth metal bat in 1970, the year that it was introduced and changed youth baseball forever.

The Main Point

If you are involved in youth sports as a spender or someone who earns a living from youth sports, you will find this 145 page book a very interesting read. You can buy it directly from Amazon for $16.47

Here's why we spend on youth sports:

Many parents spend money on youth sports in hopes of giving their kids a chance to earn a scholarship or a pro contract. If this were our goal, then our expenditures on youth sports would be considered questionable. That is not our goal. My kids and I both know the slim to none chances of playing sports at advanced levels (college and pros). I write about this a lot in my blog.

Our goal is to have fun and learn what it takes to succeed in life. Sports teaches so many life lessons. (I write about this often too) At the end of their sports careers - whether it ends by getting cut by a HS coach or retiring from the pros after a successful career - I think that my kids will know how to set goals, work hard, work for demanding bosses, work with teammates, succeed under pressure, seek out experts for advice and persevere - lessons that will serve them well in life. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Youth Baseball: College Bound Star Commits Suicide

Athletes are just as vulnerable to mental health issues as anyone else.

Recently, the star HS pitcher for the Riverside High School (Tenn.), named Stephan Gant, drove his truck down a rural road, got out of the truck and shot himself.

Gant was no ordinary high school baseball player. Gant was the Jackson Sun's player of the year for three straight years. He was slated to play baseball at a perennial Top 25 baseball program and one of the best colleges in the country (Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN). Gant was on a glide path to the pros and seemingly had the whole world at his feet, but something deep and dark was troubling Stephan Gant.

The Main Point

How can a star athlete who is envied by so many have a care in the world?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, this question is part of the issue. We all think that athletes, who appear so mentally tough are immune from mental problems.  It's also easy to overlook the signs of mental illness in people who appear so physically healthy. And athletes, who are in the spot light - whether if its local HS, college or the pros - do not do themselves any favors because they often shy away from the help that they need. Top athletes never want to appear weak to opponents, teammates, parents, coaches or the press.

Kids are participating in very competitive sports at a younger and younger age each year. The pressure to perform in front of fans - who are also critics -  can lead to anxiety and even depression.

Tips for Youth Sports Parents regarding the mental health of your kids.

  1. Watch for depression and anxiety issues in your young athlete and don't ignore them, even if your kid is a stand out star.
  2. Find a coach that builds confidence. Leave coaches that erode confidence. (I wish I took my own advice a few years ago.)
  3. Stop putting ridiculous pressure on your kids to perform at high levels. Your kid is not going to get a college scholarship or play in the pros - and I say that with 95% and 99% confidence. And as we learn anything from the tragic death of Stephan Gant, star athletes who are good enough to play in college or the pros are not immune.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ugly Youth Baseball Fight Caused by Adults?

Crazy Youth Parents and Coaches Series

The entire Yuba City Junior Varsity baseball team was suspended for an entire week following a massive brawl with rival Del Campo. The account of the fight was covered by

The ugly event allegedly started with a first base coach jawing with the pitcher of the Yuba City Honkers. The young pitcher lost his cool and threw a baseball at the coach. The ball missed the coach, so the player charged the coach and a brawl ensued. Check it out.

As if this event did not need anymore ugliness, at the end of the video you'll notice a foul mouthed mom (I assume it's a mom) walk on the field dropping F-bombs and giving a finger to the collective.

The school, not the commissioner of the section, imposed the penalty. His M.O. as he put it is to let the school police itself. I hope that stiffer and more specific penalties result after a full investigation.

The Main Point

I think that the first base coach of Del Campo should be fired if the accounts are true. A coach should never, ever address a youth player in this way.

The pitcher should be suspended for the entire season. This kid lost his cool and gave his school, with a great baseball reputation, a major black eye. Luckily the kid was not batting when the coach got under his skin, otherwise the young punk could be facing assault with a deadly weapon charges today.

Finally, the mom, who walked on the field, was not doing her son or herself any favors by going on to the field spewing profanities. I would bet that her behavior is the root cause to the issue.

Unfortunately, parents and coaches set the tone for kids. The parent and coach in this case set an ugly tone indeed.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Youth Baseball: Overthrow?

Wordless Wednesday

The Main Point

Sometimes life doesn't work out as planned. Try your best, overcome difficulties and hopefully prevail in the end. Our team won this game easily.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Youth Sports: Losses that Really Matter

March is over. Thank God. March was marked by some painful loses that clearly out weighed any and all wins this month. There's no greater loss than a parent losing a kid.

  • Crazy youth sports parents get upset when their little star drops in the batting order.
  • Crazy youth sports parents get upset when their little star gets cut from a team.
  • Crazy youth sports parents get upset when their little star gets fouled, but the ref doesn't call it.
  • Crazy youth sports parents get upset when their little star has to miss a game due to an injury.

I have been upset by all of the above at one time or another. Do you know what is really upsetting - read on.

On March 8th, a 19 year old kid named Jake died in a car accident. Jake's car, for reasons never released to the public, drove left of center and hit an oncoming car head on. Jake was not wearing a seat belt and died in the accident. My 19 year old son used to play soccer with Jake. And for years, I coached side-by-side with Jake's dad. Jake was not the greatest soccer player, but he was a super nice kid who always had a smile on his face. Jake's dad was not the most knowledable soccer coach, but would do anything for the kids and the soccer club.

On March 18th, a former colleague of mine lost his teen son named Collin. Collin was suppose to be sleeping over at a friend's house, but he went to an all night party instead. At 4 am, Collin, distraught about a breakup with a girlfriend, decided to walk home. Collin's home was 5 miles away down a four lane 50 MPH road. A 23 year old guy driving home from work hit Collin. The driver, who may have fallen asleep at the wheel, thought he hit a deer. Collin was tossed over the guard rail and disappeared down an steep embankment covered with underbrush. Collin's dad, Sean, and many many people from the community searched for days before they discovered the sad sad truth.

Collins death really hit home for me. Sean and I had a lot in common. We both loved our kids, youth sports and coaching. Furthermore, we bonded listening to each other's many stories about our not-so-easy-to-parent oldest kids.

Collin's dad, my friend, issued the poignant statement to parents of teens.

The Main Point

Listen, if you can watch your kid play sports, win or lose it should be considered a great day. Some youth sports parents will never see their kids at all, let alone see them play some somewhat meaningless sports event.

More on gaining perspective regarding losses.

This month, my daughter CC started her AAU basketball and select soccer seasons. The anticipation for both seasons were damped by two loses before the seasons even began.

CC's AAU basketball team lost their center and a key power forward.  These players left to join a new AAU team that was forming. The power forward was easily replaced, but the center is no ordinary player. The center is an athletic, game changing, 6' 2" 5th grader who can certainly lead a team to an AAU National Championship. Her mom played in 3 NCAA Final Fours so that is not an exaggeration. 

The best player on my daughter's select soccer team decided to leave the team right before the spring season started so that she could concentrate on basketball. Ironically, she joined the same AAU basketball team that the 6' 2" center joined. The top athletes always seem to travel in the same circles.

There were more than a few people very upset by losing these players. The loss of Collin and Jake puts these loses into perspective.

I know and respect both families and know that they are doing what they think is best for their kids. So I was never got upset by the situation. I was, however, disappointed.

The newly formed basketball team with my daughter's former teammates beat my daughter's team in the AAU Super Regional Tournament this weekend. Both teams qualified for the Nationals.  



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