Sunday, January 29, 2012

Youth Sports: Tebowing, Violence and Media Bias

I purposely keep politics out of this youth sports blog, but I found a provocative news story about a youth sports event that I thought would make for interesting conversation and debate.

I welcome your thoughts

Like many, I am intrigued by the Tebow phenomenon. My son, for reasons unknown to me, has been a big Denver Broncos fan for a few years. (We live in Ohio). When Tebow became the team's quarterback, my son naturally became a Tebow devotee. I tend to get interested in the things my son likes, so I became a Tebow fan too. So when I saw a story titled,  Teens brutally beaten for Tebowing during a team's hoop winit caught my eye.

This past week, two high school basketball fans were brutally beaten after celebrating a big victory over their arch rival. The story suggests that the kids were beaten because they celebrated the win by Tebowing.

Personally, I think that the connection to Tebowing maybe based on conjecture especially since the two teams have had skirmishes before. Regardless, there it was in the headline of one article and in the subtitle and first sentence of another that Tebowing was to blame for the beatings.

Was Tebowing really the reason for the brutal attacks?

I say no, not entirely at least. This is the second consecutive year that the game between two hated rivals was marred with violence. Tebowing became a fad this year during the Broncos incredible run, so last year's problems cannot be connected to Tebow. If I had to guess, I would say that the brawl this year was the result of bad blood from last year coupled with a humiliating defeat by the home team. The comments attributed to the story seem to agree with me. Several comments suggest that racial tension between the all white school and an all black school in the south is the reason, yet that was not explored by the press. No, the press chose to blame Tebowing - kind of like blaming a rape victim for wearing a short skirt.

So this made me wonder. Why is Tim Tebow so hated by the media?

Are his religious views the reason? This was my original thought when Tebowmania created as much excitement as it did ire. I dismissed this because I realized that for as long as I can remember God has been a part of many athletes lives. I've heard countless post game interviews that have started or ended with "I want to thank God or Jesus or my Lord, for giving me.....this opportunity, the ability, the courage, etc." Additionally, I have seen many NFL football games end with both teams gathering around the center of the field for a group prayer. Religious expression from athletes is not new. So why is Tebow a target for the media? Why is he considered the most polarizing figure in sports? (See the video)

So let's discuss. Why does the media seems to be against Tim Tebow? I will throw out two reasons, I would love to hear other reasons.

1) Tim Tebow threatens the sytematic movement to remove God from America.

It started in 1960 when Madeline Murray O'Hare complained to the Baltimore Maryland School District to ban prayer in school. She took her case all the way to the Supreme Court. The court ruled in her favor 8-1. Additionally, there is currently a multi-front attack to remove the Ten Commandants from government buildings. There is another movement pushing for the removal of "Under God" from the pledge alliance of America despite polls that show 85% of Americans want to keep it. Finally, there is a similar assault on the motto "In God We Trust" printed on American currency. 89% of respondents to a poll regarding that subject are in favor of keeping motto. I would think that 85% of America would not consider Tim Tebow polarizing. 

Has Tim Tebow's become number one enemy of the progressive movement to remove God from America, a movement with many sympathizers in the mainsteam media?

2) Tim Tebow is a right wing zealot.

In 2007, Tim Tebow did a "pro-life" Super Bowl ad with his mom and promoted the socially conservative website Perhaps it's not religion that has the media upset, perhaps it is Tim Tebow's political views that the media finds so repulsive and threatening. 

What do you think?

The Main Point

I am glad that Tim Tebow reminds my kids that God is with them during victories and defeats. It is easy for over-scheduled youth sports families to forget about God, especially with all the games scheduled on Sundays these days.

A note to the writers of the articles blaming Tebowing - there is a big difference between reporting the news and op-ed. If you want to state your opinion do it, but do it in the opinion section of the newspaper not the editorial. Report the facts and let the readers decide or have the balls to say this is my opinion.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Youth Basketball: Do you have to be a star player to be great?

Alan Stein, social media influencer and basketball strength / conditioning guru, has a great post on his blog that every youth sports parents should read. The post is call Specialist.

In the post, Alan proves that an basketball player doesn't have to have superior skills and athletic ability in all facets of a game to be great. A player just needs to do at least one facet of the game great to be considered great.

He used the career of Dennis Rodman to illustrate his point. One could easily argue that Rodman's name would never be mentioned with names like Bird, Magic, MJ and the Big O when the game's great players are discussed. Rodman was not an "all time" great because he was not a great player at all facets of the game. He was a specialist. Dennis Rodman was a defensive and rebounding specialist. Both are important qualities but these qualities are not featured on Sportscenter nightly. Rodman was not a big time scorer, but he is in the hall of fame. And that makes him great.

So what should a parent do with this information

1) If your kid matured early both physically and mentally; and if your kid has game compared to all of the other players in his or her area, then develop all facets of his or her game. More importantly continue to challenge them. Sometimes players who are dominant at a young age are never challenged, so they never develop the mental toughness needed to overcome defeats and setbacks when they arise. These players often struggle in their teens when they run up against late bloomers who had to scratch and claw for every achievement early on before they grew bigger, stronger and more coordinated.

2) If you kid is the late bloomer and has trouble in certain aspects of the game due to limitations, then help them develop confidence in what they can do well at this stage of their development. For example, my daughter is the smallest girl on the court every AAU game she plays. She does not have the strength nor the size to match up in the paint, but she has a spot on the team. She is a very strong front court defender and she is, perhaps, the best outside shooter on the team. She practices her outside shot almost daily.

She also plays on a team in a less serious league where the girls are smaller. She does this so that she can work on the other aspects of her game. Perhaps one day she will catch up to the others in size and strength and be a featured player - until then she is content knocking down threes, draining foul shots and getting points off of steals.

My daughter is a good player. She is not a great player, but she is working hard to perhaps one day be a great player.

The Main Point

Your kid does not need to be an athletically dominant - featured player to be considered a great player. Help your kid find the strength of his or her game. Then encourage them to work extra hard at that strength to master that aspect of their game. Of course, they need to work on the other aspects of the game to exploit opportunities when they arise.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Youth Basketball Routs: How Big a Win is too Big?

Last night, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Women's Basketball team beat Pitt 120 to 44. If you have never seen Skylar Diggins play ball you need to. 

Last night in men's college hoops, the West Carolina Catamounts beat the Toccoa Falls Eagles of the National Christian College Athletic Association by 102 points (141-39).

Big wins like these on the youth sports scene really upset people. Big wins like these generate questions for me.

Question One: 

What is the politically correct margin of victory when a far superior team plays an inferior team? Should the team stop when the point differential get to 10 points, 20 points, 30 points? I ask the question because I really do not know.

Question Two: 

And when the team, that is in total control, gets to the politically correct point spread what should the team do? Should they play an embarrassing game of keep away? Has anyone asked the losing team why they didn't slow down the pace of play? Surely, the team getting blown-out could have dribbled uncontested at the half court-line for several minutes each possession to kill time.

Over the years, my kids have been on both sides of a blowout. I can tell you that it is no fun to be on the losing side, but it does not anger me unless the coach of the superior team is classless. 

Here is an example: I was completely angered when my son's team was getting blowout in a league championship game. The league was sponsored by a local indoor facility were the rules are somewhat lax compared to sanctioned leagues. My son's team had beaten the other team in the regular season so his team was confident that they could win the championship trophy if they played their game. The opponent that showed up for the game wore the same uniforms as the team my son's team played earlier in the season, but several of the players in the uniforms were different. These new players were awesome and completely dominated the game. If that were not bad enough, the coach of the opposing team called timeout with 24 seconds left in the game, a game his team was winning by 43. He called timeout to set up a scoring play. The coach was a completely classless jackass.

Question Three: 

So what is the coach of a far superior basketball team to do? Here are my thoughts:

1) Stop the full court press as soon as you realize that your team is going to win comfortably. (A 15 point lead is a typical time to consider calling off the dogs. Some leagues restrict full court presses after a team gets to a certain big lead.)
2) Play your non-starters more than normal to give them game time experience. You never know when you will need a reserve to cover for a starting player who becomes injured or who has fouled out at a key juncture in the game.
3) Make sure that your starters get some quality minutes too. They worked hard all week and deserve to play. This is especially important for the star players who

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Youth Sports: How to Leave a Close Knit Team

Group hug after winning a tournament
A team that works hard and plays hard together can become a family of sorts. Both the kids and the parents form bonds during the season(s). This is especially true for travel teams.

The kids build relationships on the field, at team parties, in the hotel pools, lobbies and elevators during overnight trips. (I'm not sure why kids love elevators so much.)

The parents build relationships in the stands during long practices and games, at team parties and while drinking cocktails around the hotel pool or bar. (I do know why parents love bars so much.)

Most team parents are ready to lend a helping hand when another parent needs assistance. Driving some other parent's kid to and from games and practices or feeding a hungry kid whose parents couldn't make the game or running to get ice for an injured kid besides your own are all part of family aspect of a close team. All of these actions make the bonds stronger.

So what happens when a player and their family choose to leave a close knit team? Well, there seems to be a lot of guilt involved. For some the guilt is so strong that they stay on the team against their better judgement. Then during the next season they act irrationally seemingly hoping they get kicked off the team. For others the guilt makes them avoid the truth or conversations with friends or coaches. Some handle this situation with class and others with utter disappointment and embarrassment.

Here are my thoughts - Tips on how to leave a team:

1) Gather all the information you need to make the right decision for you and your young athlete.
2) Write your thoughts down on paper - Organize the pros and the cons and review them in your mind.
3) Seek the opinions of people you trust to make sure that you are making a rational decision. (I would be cautious if you seek the opinions of other parents on the team - no one likes a complainer.)
4) Then, make the decision that you think is best for your kid and do it with your head held high. There is no reason to feel guilty, especially if your motivation is to do what is best for your kid.
5) If you decide to leave the team to join another team, let

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Youth Sports: This Parent Needs a Hug

At the end of almost every youth sports season, most coaches give a speech about the team. Invariably during the speech, the coach will instruct the young athletes to give their parents a hug and ask them to thank mom and dad for all the time they sacrificed to allow them to play.

Well, the season has just started and I need a hug.

Last week, I missed my beloved NY Giants play so that I could watch my daughter play volleyball. After that volleyball match, I didn't rush home to watch Tebow-mania and the Broncos win against the Steelers because I was watching my daughter play basketball.

Today, I will not be going to see the Villanova Men's basketball team (my alma mater) play the University of Cincinnati like I do every time Nova comes to town. No, I will be watching my daughter play hoops again. And tomorrow I will again miss my Giants play if my daughter's basketball team advances to the finals of the MLK tournament that they are in. They won the tournament last year so chances are good I will be watching my daughter shoot open three pointers while the Eli Manning is throwing TD passes to an open Victor Cruz.

The Main Point

I love my daughter and thank God for the DVR. Now I'm just waiting for a device to pause my kids games so that can play more golf again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Youth Sports: Tips for Athletes to Get Good Grades

My daughter, CC, will school you with a cross over dribble move.

My daughter will teach you a lesson if you attack her goal on a 1v1,

My daughter will give you an education on physics (ballistics) with her volleyball serve.

I am very proud of her, but I am more proud when I see her report cards. In 2011, CC played in 156 games (Elite Level Soccer, CYO and AAU Basketball and CYO Volleyball.) He compiled a 90-60-6 record across all sports. She attended exactly 100 practices. She also earned almost all A's on her report cards.

I watched her study last night and I thought that her approach to school could help others. Here are my observations.

  1. She stays focused. She does her homework and does not get distracted by everything around her. She does not quit until she is done with the assignment. It's like playing until the final whistle.
  2. She prides herself on doing work herself, but she is not afraid to ask for help. She doesn't waste time spinning her wheels. She's open to coaching.
  3. She has mastered Google. If she cannot find an answer in the school book, she'll Googles it. She goes to Wikipedia a lot too. There are so many age appropriate resources to find answers. Again, efficient use of time is crucial for the busy athlete.
  4. She stays incredibly organized. She takes the time to put things away in their proper place so she can find it when she needs it. Again, managing time.
  5. She sets goals for herself. She asked if she could get a cell phone if she got straight A's, she missed it by one B+. (We gave her a phone for the effort.)
  6. She typically starts her homework before she goes off to her sporting event. If she does not complete the HW before practice, she gets right to it when she returns. 
  7. She does not get discouraged if she a test or HW assignment does not go her way. She has the confidence to make up for the set-back. She learned from sports that you can come back from a deficit.
  8. She has the confidence to go to the teacher as ask for help or extra-credit.
  9. Good is not good enough for her. She treats school / learning like a competitive sport. She puts in the effort to succeed.
  10. She practices and practices for tests. 

The Main Point

I recently wrote a post on the slim chances of going Pro. Within that post, I put this personal note to my kids.

Please study in school because the chances of going pro in your chosen sport are slim. Go after it if that is your passion, but study, study, study so you have something else to fall back on.

Be proud of your kid's accomplishments on the field and court and help them succeed in sports, but you need to stress success in school too.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Youth Basketball: Flagrant Foul on Social Media?

This blog covers the good, the bad and the ugly of youth sports and this week the ugly raised its head yet again.

A dad of a high school player took a video camera to a HS game to capture highlights of his kid. He also captured the attention of the tiny TriCityHerald and 5 million and counting YouTube viewers.

As you will see, the game was physical, very physical. The dad with the video camera took exception to the refereeing in the game and wanted to make a point that the league needed better officiating. So after the game, he edited the video to showcase six tough fouls committed by two senior players on the Connell (Wash.) High School team. He then uploaded the video onto Facebook and YouTube. 

The Main Point

I am calling an unintentional foul on the dad with the video. He wanted Yakima, Washington to take notice, but the world was watching. This dad failed to realize was the power of social media.

I'm also calling one foul on the ref (not 5 fouls) and a foul on HS basketball rules.

Finally, I am calling a flagrant foul on the coach of the team for not controlling his players by taking them out of the game himself. Basketball is a rough and tough game but it is not a street fight. (I added this after reading the comment by Clarence Gains II below - Clarence was so right on this account)

Here is my take on the situation.

1) I think that the most difficult officiating job in youth sports is basketball refereeing. There are fouls on almost every single possession in basketball. The ref can't call every foul or the game will last too long. Conversely, the ref can't let every foul go or the game will get out of hand. So every play provides a coach or a fan the opportunity to complain. And because the ref is so close to the fans and coaches they hear an earful all game long (As you can hear in the video). I good ref just ignores the chatter and calls a balanced game.

2) I can only watch the edited clip, but from what I can see, the refs only made one judgement mistake. Remember the refs do not have the luxury of watching the play over and over again. They should have called a flagrant personal foul on the foul called #5. The player, who committed that foul, should have been ejected from the game and suspended for the next game as dictated by High School Rules. Otherwise the refs called all the fouls. Yes the other fouls highlighted in the video were tough fouls, but did they rise to the level of automatic ejection and one game suspension? I'm not so sure.

NFHS (U.S. high school) rules define a flagrant foul as a personal or technical foul that is extreme or severe. A flagrant personal / intentional foul involves excessive or severe contact during a live ball. A flagrant technical foul involves unsportsmanlike conduct that is extreme in nature, or excessive or severe contact during a dead ball. Fighting is also considered a flagrant technical foul.
The penalty for a flagrant foul in high school is the immediate ejection of the offending player, plus two free throws and a throw-in for the opposing team. The ejected player is also suspended during the next game played by his or her team.
    In the NBA there are two levels of flagrant fouls - level one and level two. NBA referees have discretion in determining which level to call. The penalty for a flagrant 1 foul is two free throws and the fouled team gets the ball back. A flagrant 2 call also results in two free throws and the ball back, but the   offending player is immediately ejection too. A player who receives two flagrant 1 level fouls in a single game is also ejected upon the second foul. Just like in soccer where two yellow cards equals a red card.

    I think that HS should have a similar rule to the NBA. This would give the refs another tool in their toolbox to control the game. A tough foul could result in a steep penalty (2 free throws and the ball back which could result in a 4 point swing) without ejecting / suspending a player who might have been playing out of control or overly aggressive but not mean spiritedly. Let's face it, a ref is going to hesitate making a judgement call that would result in an automatic ejection and suspension.

    3) The dad inadvertently demonized two players he does not know. Were the offending players mean spirited or simply football players who are not agile enough to play at the speed required for High School basketball? I do not know and neither does the dad with the video camera. One thing I do know is that you have to think long and hard about what you post online because once it is out there, it is out there.


    The video shooter and editor was an uncle not a dad. And apparently according to this newspaper account, the uncle distributed the video to ESPN and other news sources via twitter.

    Monday, January 2, 2012

    Youth Basketball: Playing Older Competition

    What do you think about younger teams playing against older teams?

    Last year, my daughter's AAU team finished #1 in Ohio and ended the season #9 in nation at the conclusion of the 2011 AAU National Championship in Orlando, Florida. One of the reasons for the success achieved in state and national tournaments can be attributed to playing against older, faster and bigger competition leading up to the top tournaments.

    The coach is following the same path this year. She entered the 5th grade team in a 6th grade winter league and in 6th grade tournaments.

    Playing older, faster and bigger competition has advantages and disadvantages. The following advantages assumes that the younger team can actually compete with the older teams.

    • The team learns how to play against strong teams.
    • The team learns how to break the press against stronger, faster and often tougher guards.
    • The team learns how to get rebounds despite being outsized.
    • The team learns how to win close games instead of blowing out every team.
    • The team learns how to lose - going 40 and 0 before a tough national tournament can add to the stress.
    • The team learns how to shoot over taller competition.
    • The team learns how to create space and move without the ball.
    • The team learns how to help on defense because older, faster kids will often breakdown a younger defender.
    • The team learns how to work hard for points because nothing comes easy.

    • The team could lose confidence.
    • The faster paced game could create bad habits - picking up the dribble to early, forcing bad passes, avoiding drives to the rim, etc.
    • Some players could get hurt against bigger players. Our team is very big for a 5th grade team so this is not a problem as a team, but some players on the team are undersized. My daughter is one of those smaller players.

    The Main Point

    I worry about the injury risk because my daughter is so small compared to most of the older competitors, but I am not worried about her confidence waning. She does get disappointed when she doesn't play well against a bigger and faster opponent but she doesn't get discouraged. Conversely, her confidence soars when she plays great against players who should be better than her based on their bigger size and extra year of experience.

    Regarding bad habits, in the beginning of last year my daughter was overwhelmed by the faster and stronger players and she often pick up her dribble too quickly and made hasty passes. Still, she never seemed discouraged or intimidated. And the coach did not give up on her. She progressed greatly over the year and this year she moves the ball with so much more confidence and purpose.  

    Overall, I think that teams should play up against older teams if they are exceedingly better than the same age competition in their area. A good team that wants to do well in state and national tournaments needs to find the right competition level to challenge them and make them better. For me enjoyment of the game and confidence is the key to success, so a team should never move up to an older league if it will erode the confidence of the players or take the fun out of the game for the players.

    This past weekend, CC's 5th grade team came in second in a 6th grade Cincinnati Christmas Classic Tournament. They lost a low scoring physical game in the finals 15-18 against the 6th grade team from the same select basketball club. CC was the smallest player on the court, but she scored 6 points and was called upon to attempt the game tying 3 point shot with 3.5 seconds left. She got the shot off, but it did not go in. She was proud in defeat.



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