Category Archives: youth sport

Youth sports and gender equity podcast

I recently got that chance to talk with John O’Sullivan, Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project which is an organization dedicated to ensuring that we return youth sports to our children, and put the ‘play’ back in ‘play ball.’ John and I talked about a variety of topics that are of interest to those who care about youth sports and gender equity.

Listen at the link below.


Show Notes

5:00 When she became interested in issues for Women in Sport Leadership?
8:00 Why is there a decline in women in sport leadership?
15:00 What would it take to get more women coaching sports?
21:00 Why does Nicole think kids are quitting sport?
28:00 Nicole explains “background anger” and how it affects children
35:00 What is Kid Speak?
48:00 Winning and Character Development are not mutually exclusive

Tips for sport parents & encouraging mothers to coach

family watching the gameRecently had the privilege of talking to Erin & Marti Erickson of MomEnough.com about some of my work pertaining to youth sport parents. It was really fun and we talked about many practical tips related to being a good sport parent and how to recruit and encourage more moms to coach their children.

Listen to this 30mn radio show, you won’t be disappointed.

Being a Good Sport Parent: Practical Guidance on Bringing Out the Best in Your Young Athlete

soccer mom 3Tools, Research and Guidelines for Mother-Coaches

  • For research on working mother-coaches in youth sports, click here.
  • For A Rationale for Encouraging Mothers to Coach Youth Sport, click here.
  • For Mother-Coach Generated Strategies for Increasing Female Coaches in Youth Sport, click here.
  • For Policy Recommendations for Increasing Women Coaches in Youth Sport, click here.

New Report on the Dangers of Early Sport Specialization

Sports Specialization and Intensive Training in Young Athletes; ©2016 by American Academy of Pediatrics
Sports Specialization and Intensive Training in Young Athletes; ©2016 by American Academy of Pediatrics

I am a long time advocate of late specialization-early diversification in youth sport, and this research report by the American Academy of Pediatrics “Sports Specialization and Intensive Training in Young Athletes” in the September 2016 issue of Pediatrics hits the mark and provides concrete evidence that early specialization in NOT the optimal pathway to either elite performance or health and well being.

The AAP report along with the Aspen Institute’s Project Play, I “hope” will begin to shift the discussion and beliefs about youth sport participation and structure 180 degrees away from winning/performance to fun and enjoyment and development.  In January 2015, the Aspen Institute released “Sport for All, Play for Life: A Playbook to Get Every Kid in the Game,” a 48-page report that offers a new model for youth sports in America, with eight strategies for the eight sectors that touch the lives of children.

The cultural shift has to start with sport parent and coach education.

 

Reform Needed in Youth Sport

WCCO Nov 2015 Project Play

I comment this in this piece titled “As competition rises, team sports decline, but traveling teams soar WCCO-TV”.  

The The Aspen Institute’s Project Play is also mentioned.

Project Play focuses on access to quality sport opportunities for children ages 12 and under. “Sport for All, Play for Life: A Playbook to Get Every Kid in the Game (2015),” is a 48-page report that offers a new model for youth sports in America, with eight strategies for the eight sectors that touch the lives of children.

What I Love & Dislike about Coverage of Mo’ne Davis

Mo'ne Davis
Mo’ne Davis

I LOVE and DISLIKE that 13-year old Philadelphia-based pitcher Mo’ne Davis is creating a stir in the 2014 Little League World Series (LLWS).

LOVE: It is creating awareness that girls can and do play baseball, and can pitch and play successfully against boys. Davis is throwing like a girl–athletic, competent, knowledgeable, competitive.

DISLIKE: Lots of girls outperform boys every day in a variety of sports and it shouldn’t be a big deal and certainly not create a national media event…it should be common knowledge. At 11-13 years-old (the age of LLWS players), developmentally girls are usually ahead of or similar to most boys in height, weight, strength, speed and power. Thus it makes sense Mo’ne and other girls can “hang with the boys” or outperform them. As colleague, Olympian, and Women’s Sport Foundation advocacy director Nancy Hogshead Makar posted: “Way to go Mo’ne Davis! At the same time, there’s too much awe and disbelief that a girl can be a truly outstanding athlete – Especially pre-puberty, where there are very few physical differences. If you’re “AMAZED” – you need to see a lot more female athletes.”

LOVE: The public gets to SEE Davis pitch/bat/field, and SEE her on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Being seen on two of the biggest sports media conglomerates–ESPN and SI--matters. Being seen communicates what is relevant, important and valued. Davis provides visible proof of a performance continuum in sport and communicates positive messages to young girls about athleticism that transcend gender.

LOVE: Mo’ne Davis has become a role model for both girls and boys alike.

DISLIKE: I don’t think children in any sport should be on ESPN at all. Period. It is exploitation pure and simple. It teaches and sends children the wrong message about what sport should be about. If you’ve watched any of the LLWS, it doesn’t take long for the kids to find the camera trained on them and catch them looking into the camera…instead of focusing on the game at hand. It creates scrutiny and pressure on youth athletes, a pressure that not many youth are equipped to cope with yet. How would you like your failures to be broadcast on national TV when you were 12 yrs old? In addition, it is rumored that Davis signed gear is being sold for big money…none of which will benefit HER (else her future college athletic eligibility be nullified).

LOVE:  I think it is really cool that Davis appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and is also the first Little Leaguer to appear on the cover. Groundbreaking! I like that she is portrayed in action, in her uniform and on the field…markers that communicate athleticism and competence. I love that the coverage of her has increased interest in (record TV ratings, long lines for tickets, merchandise sales, stories written about) and respect for young female athletes.

DISLIKE: ESPN rarely covers girls’ and women’s sport (See this study) and Sports Illustrated rarely puts females on the cover (Go to SI covers and count for yourself! or read one of numerous studies about it) and when they do females are sexualized rather than portrayed as serious athletes, but now that showing Davis will increase ratings and sales she is hyped and promoted. Seems like more exploitation. (Note: it would be really distasteful to sexualize a 13 year old on the SI cover!)

The popularity and hype around Mo’ne Davis is complicated. Images of her are both empowering and transformative, but can also be read as exploitative and regressive. This is what makes sport such an interesting context to examine. What do think?

 

 

3 “Must Reads” on Hot Topics in Sport

Gratuitous "hot dog" picture.
Gratuitous “hot dog” picture.

Here are 3 pieces everyone should read/watch/listen to, which reflect 3 areas of research I frequently write about and are currently HOT TOPICSsport parents,  women in sport coaching, and media portrayals of female athletes.

9217_458093160902533_113102254_n1. The Problem for Sports Parents: Overspending, a Wall Street Journal piece that outlines the more parents spend on a child’s “sport career”, the more pressure the child may feel. You can also listen to a radio show on this topic out of Boston. While you’re at it, read a Boston Globe article titled “How parents are ruining youth sports: Adults should remember what athletics are really about”

2.  Basketball’s Double Standard, by espnW writer Kate Fagan is about the barriers and 57673_nak_tns_tennis_tennis02_041413fdiscrimination that women coaches face in college basketball, and how women coaching men’s teams seems laughable to most ADs. You can see just how bad the numbers are pertaining to the percentage of women head coaches of women’s teams at “big time” institutions by clicking here.

April 2014 Golf Digest cover photo
April 2014 Golf Digest cover photo

3. Watch Dr. Caroline Heldman’s TED talk titled “The Sexy Lie” which is helps dispel the “sex sells” myth. In my research at the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, we are amassing evidence to help dispel and challenge the myth that “sex sells women’s sport.” You can watch our documentary on this topic “Media Coverage & Female Athletes” free online.

The Decline of Female Head Coaches in Women’s Athletics

the decline

Hear my radio interview with Jim Dubois of Access Minnesota, as we discuss issues related to the decline of in the percent of women in coaching, the Report Card on College Women Coaches, coaching career pathways, and a host of other issues related to women in the coaching profession.

To hear the interview, click here.

Not All Fun & Games: Changing the Youth Sports Environment

All kids have the right to a positive youth sport experience.

I was asked to write a blog about changing the youth sport environment based on the research and educational programs I do for coaches and youth sport parents.

To read that blog titled “Not All Fun & Games: Changing the Youth Sports Environment” click here.

Poor Sportsmanship in MN High School Hockey

What lessons will be learned from young boys and girls, their parents and coaches, who hear about this incident?
What lessons will be learned from young boys and girls, and their parents and coaches, who hear about this incident?

There are many bizarre things that happen in sports, but this occurrence in a MN boys’ high school hockey game is a new one to me!

With minutes to go in the game, the senior goalie stopped the puck, purposefully put it in his own net, and then skated off the ice while flipping the bird to his own bench (assuming this was directed towards his coaches). You can get more details and watch the video here. Evidently, conflict over playing time and who would mind the nets had been ongoing over the course of the season.

Many opinions will abound if this poor sportsmanship or justified action. In my opinion, this is ultimately one of the worst displays of sportsmanship I’ve seen. Nearly every athlete that plays sport disagrees with a coach decision about playing time. What athletes (and their parents) think they are entitled to, deserve, and have earned is often very different from what the coach perceives and believes.

There are many lessons that can be learned through sport….life isn’t always fair, you will be disappointed, you won’t always get what you think you deserve, keep doing the best you can do regardless of the situation, once you commit to something-stick to it, learn from you mistakes, persevere in the face of failure, give full effort, let go of things you can’t control and focus your energy on the things you can, be a supportive and positive teammate regardless of your role…and the list goes on. Unfortunately this is an exemplar of how sport can build characters, not character.

I don’t know this young man, his parents, coaches, or the details about the situation, other than what I read on Deadspin. However based on research, the poor sportsmanship of athletes is predicted in part by what the athlete perceives his parents and coaches do (i.e., how they act), believe, and what they value. For example, if a is parent yelling at the referee and/or coach and acting poorly in the stands, the athlete is more likely to do the same on the ice.

Instead of finishing out his high school hockey career with integrity, this athlete not only let himself down, but his family, team, school, community and the sport of hockey altogether. In Minnesota we take great pride in being “The State of Hockey” and this is a teachable moment for everyone of what NOT to do when things get tough. For the adults reading this who are involved with youth and interscholastic sport…we are the ones responsible for fostering this type of egregious behavior in athletes. We should all take stock in how to be more effective in creating a climate– which despite disagreements and conflict–all athletes feel valued, have a positive experience, and develop skills and character while striving to win.

See my interview on WCCO TV discussing this incident.