Archive for November, 2009

Agassi Autobio: A Tragic Case of Sports Parenting?

No question that the Andre Agassi autobiography is going to be a major bestseller. Agassi is extremely honest, forthcoming, and candid about his tennis career.

But what concerns me is that he openly says that he hated played tennis for 30 years – -that he was merely trying to appease his father who pressured him to play and succeed, and that along the way, he looked upon his life at Nick Bollitieri’s tennis academy as a kind of forced prison for tennis. In short, Agassi seemed to lead a very unhappy life. It got so bad that he turned to drug abuse to help escape the pressures.

What’s the takeaway from this? To me, this is a classic case of sports parenting gone wild. At least Andre was able to survive and succeed….but what about all the other kids who are pressured by their parents to win in sports — not just in tennis, but in all the other sports.

Bottom line: OPEN should serve as a modern-day cautionary tale for ambitious sports parents who are convinced they ought to push their kids to becoming great athletes.

LL Finally Gets It Right!

Well, isn’t this interesting? After several years of allowing a major disservice to young pitchers and the safety of their arms, LL is now announcing that, starting in spring 2010, every 11, 12, and 13-year-old will have to sit out four full calendar days before he or she can pitch again.

This is, of course, just common sense. Especially with kids whose tender arms are still growing in their pre-adolescent years, why take a chance once they have tossed 60-85 pitches in a game? But those of you who have followed my WFAN show over the years know that LL has kept the days of rest at three….except in the Williamsport playoffs where kids can pitch on only TWO days of rest.

I have to assume that somewhere along the way, Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedic surgeon and who is on the LL Board, must have said something to the LL brass about the dangers of abusing young arms. Again, that’s only speculation on my part, but it’s hard to come up with any other reason for LL to change.

Bottom line? This is a good start. Now, if we can only get aluminum bats and curve balls banned from LL baseball, we’ll be making some real progress!

Should Modified Sports Become Extinct?

For those school districts that can afford to offer them, modified sports (school sports for kids in 7th and 8th grade) seem to present more problems than solutions. Routine concerns include: too many kids on a team…not enough playing or practice time….questions about whether winning is the top priority….the expense of coaches, refs, transportation, etc.

Ultimately, wouldn’t it make more sense for schools to simply offer after-school intramural programs? Not only would all the kids get  a decent amount of playing time, but you wouldn’t need to worry about cuts, coaches, and so on. Intramural programs are overseen by a teacher or two who observe the action just to make sure nothing gets out of hand, but invariably the kids run their own teams, whether it basketball, volleyball, soccer, etc.

In my mind, intramural programs are definitely worth considering. Too many middle schoolers and their parents go over the top when it comes to modified sports programs. At that age, it’s more about the kids playing and enjoying themselves. Winning becomes more of a top priority in high school, not at age 12 or 13. Agree? Disagree? Let me know.