Archive for June, 2011

Why A Teen Should Serve on The Youth League’s Board of Directors

By Doug Abrams

In the spring of 1968, I was finishing my junior year at W. Tresper Clarke High School in Westbury, and I was also nearing the end of my Little League playing days with the Central Nassau Athletic Association. I had umpired CNAA games in the lower age divisions for three years, and I had just finished managing a younger team that spring. At the suggestion of CNAA President Leif Birkeland, I ran for secretary, won the election, and joined the association’s board of directors.

More than 40 years later, I still believe that my year serving on CNAA’s board helped sharpen leadership skills and self-confidence before I left for college a year later. Perhaps I also played a small part in building the CNAA into an organization that I understand still brings sports to boys and girls of all ages.  

Through bylaw amendments if necessary, youth sports leagues and associations should reserve at least one voting board position for a high-school-age player who, like me, wants to run for election and serve after rising through the ranks as a player. The teen may still be an active player in the association, or else may be a former player who has moved on to high school competition. If a few teens wish to serve in a particular year, they could go through the same contested election that adult candidates do.

I do not make this recommendation lightly. I recognize that in many youth sports associations today, the board of directors faces challenges that were largely unknown in the late 1960s. I cannot recall the CNAA’s board ever grappling with a truly contentious matter during my year of service, but many leagues and associations now regularly face disputes driven by the passions of parents, coaches, players and other constituencies. Strident controversies before, during and after the season can raise the decibel level much higher than it ever was forty years ago.

Controversy or no, however, encouraging board service by a responsible older player teaches leadership, and might even also help create a more equitable program for players of all ages.

Teaching Leadership

In this column a few weeks ago, I quoted Aristotle’s wisdom that people “learn by doing,” and not simply by listening to instruction about what to do. Parents and coaches want sports to teach children leadership skills, yet we adults sometimes forget that adolescents (like the rest of us) learn leadership best when they actually lead. Too many players miss out on real learning because from their earliest years until they “age out” of youth-league play, they simply follow decisions made by adults.

Responsible teen players can serve effectively on the board of directors if the adults would only give them a chance. The teen board member might need some time to grow into the position and might even make some mistakes along the way, but the same can be said for adult board members. The association’s bylaws might disqualify the teen member from deliberating or voting on particularly sensitive matters — such as whether to suspend a parent, coach or fellow player for misconduct — but selective disqualification should be the exception rather than the rule. In the meantime, the teen member can help (as I did) with other important board functions such as equipment purchase and maintenance, operating concessions, producing the newsletter, and maintaining communications with individual families.

Can teens really meet the responsibilities of board membership? For the answer, we need look no further than the nation’s courtrooms, where teens capably shoulder even greater responsibilities. In more than half the states, juvenile court judges permit trials of some delinquency cases to proceed in so-called “teen courts” or “youth courts.” First-time offenders who have admitted their guilt, usually for non-violent misdemeanors, consent to appear before a “jury” of teens that determines punishment — generally community service, counseling, restitution, writing an essay of apology, or some combination. A teen or a volunteer attorney may serve as judge, and teens may serve as prosecutor and defense counsel.

In the American system of justice, passing sentence on offenders is serious business. The American Youth Policy Forum reports that each year, more than a thousand teen courts nationwide decide cases involving between 110,000 and 125,000 juvenile offenders (about 9% of juvenile offenders). More than 100,000 youths serve as teen court decisionmakers in these proceedings. The American Bar Association encourages creation of teen courts and anticipates that by 2015, they will decide up to 25% of all juvenile cases nationwide.

The bottom line is that if courts can trust responsible teens to impose sentences for some juvenile crimes, youth sports associations can trust responsible teens to serve on the board of directors.

Encouraging more equitable programs

Board membership clearly teaches the teen leadership skills and self-confidence, and that is reason enough for leagues and associations to have a teen board member. But there might be another reason. Perhaps having a teen board member can also help create greater fairness and reduce favoritism.

In more than 40 years, I have rarely served on a youth hockey board that was comprised entirely of members who were committed to the best interests of all boys and girls who played. Board service should not be belittled because it consumes both time and energy, and because many board members – probably most, in the typical association – do care plenty about children and teams other than their own. But I have also found that regardless of lofty rhetoric, one or more members of the typical board want no part of equity.  

Board members know that they will be involved in the association for only a few years while their own children are involved. With brief tenure assured at the outset, some parents may seek board service to position their own children and their teams favorably.

I wonder whether having a teen board member might help muzzle an adult member who is bent on favoritism when the board discusses a particular issue. A teen board member might understandably be reluctant to engage an adult member in debate at a board meeting, but I doubt that such youth-on-adult debate would normally be necessary. When other adult board members challenge an effort at favoritism, just having a teen sitting at the table might lead a selfish member to think twice. With a teen listening, word might get around among the other youngsters. Favoritism is sometimes best secured behind closed doors or in discussions among adults, and a healthy dose of embarrassment among the kids might just go a long way.


[Sources: American Bar Association, Youth Cases for Youth Courts Desktop Guide: A Guide to the Typical Offenses Handled by Youth Courts (2006); Michelle E. Heward, Update on Teen Court Legislation (U.S. Justice Department 2006); Sarah H. Pearson & Sonia Jurich, Youth Court: A Community Solution for Embracing At–Risk Youth (2005).]

When Sports Parents Cross the Line: Writing Threatening Letters to Coaches

The recent incident involving a sports parenting mom, Janet Chiauzzi of East Meadow, NY, goes a little deeper than just her bizarre reaction to her 10-year-0ld son not making the local LL travel team.

According to police and media reports, Ms. Chiauzzi was so dismayed by her son being cut that she sat down and wrote a series of threatening letters to the kid’s coach, league officials, and so on. Ms. Chiauzzi was arrested and charged with a number of crimes, and it will be most interesting to see how the local prosecutors play this out.

As several callers and Doug Abrams pointed out on my show this AM, the sense of outrage and frustration that this mom felt is something that a lot of parents feel when their child doesn’t make the cut. Of course, most adults simply go home and try to console their child and themselves. Some parents even use the disappointment as a “teaching moment” for their child to work that much harder to make the team next year.

But what was fascinating was the issue of entitlement kept coming up. Lots of callers felt that too many travel team coaches and other youth coaches use their position of power to play favorites, i.e. who makes the team, who gets to be an All-Star, and so on. That, many felt, is a real concern for sports parents everywhere.

What’s the bottom line? The time has clearly come for any one who runs a youth program or travel team or LL team must be taught and understand the concerns and worries of any parent whose son or daughter plays on their team. Just because you volunteered to coach DOES NOT give you any right of entitlement or the right to play favorites. That just isn’t acceptable in any way. I’m curious…as a sports parent, have you witnessed any situations that smack of favoritism or coach’s entitlement?

The “Lunacy Tax”

By Doug Abrams

Last week’s column discussed how adults’ abuse of officials can endanger player safety, particularly in collision and contact sports. In youth leagues and high school programs alike, abuse dished out by parents and coaches leads officials to quit in droves, leaving some games to less seasoned replacements who might not yet be ready for the responsibilities cast on them.

This week’s focus is on youth leagues and not high schools, and I discuss two more ways that adults’ abuse of officials can hurt players. Both ways concern money. First, adult incivility can limit children’s access to youth-league sports by increasing registration fees beyond what some families feel they can pay; and second, this incivility causes registered families to waste money that they could better spend on their children in other ways. Either way, parents take a hit in the wallet because actions have consequences.

Limiting Children’s Access

In high school sports, coaches and officials alike are typically paid for their services. In most youth leagues, however, coaches typically volunteer while officials get paid. Because time away from the job and family can be scarce for adults nowadays, coaches and officials should each be applauded for helping to bring youth sports to children. But unless we believe that personal time is more valuable to an official than to a coach, why do youth leagues treat coaches and officials differently?

The answer to this important question can affect the access of many children to organized sports in the first place. In my youth hockey leagues over the years, officials’ fees have accounted for a quarter or more of a family’s annual registration fee; only ice-time rental accounts for more. The percentages typically allocated to officials’ fees are probably even higher in sports such as baseball or soccer because field time is typically not so expensive.

We are talking here about a few hundred dollars per family each year, not pocket change. Particularly in sports that have high start-up costs for equipment and uniforms, I bet that more children would play if registration fees and time-consuming fundraisers were reduced by these amounts.

Parents juggling the family budget typically seek savings where they can, so why don’t more youth leagues reduce registration fees by using volunteer officials? Perhaps much of the answer is that most officials will not volunteer to be targets of verbal and physical abuse hurled at them by parents and coaches. Even officials motivated primarily by desire to remain active with sports and kids, and not by desire for extra income, think twice about persevering. As I mentioned last week, more and more veteran officials hang up their whistles each year because they grow tired of running the gauntlet, even for pay.

Particularly in the difficult economic times that the nation now faces, more and more parents struggle to assure their children’s participation in sports by sacrificing elsewhere in the family budget. Volunteerism might be a real option if more parents and coaches would treat officials as what they are — public-spirited citizens who help bring sports into children’s lives — and not as antagonists bent on frustrating children’s performance.

Wasting Money

What about families who do register their children in sports programs? Last week, I wrote about “parent spectators directing insults at officials that the parents would not direct at the family dog.” When parents shell out a bulk of their annual registration fees to officials for the opportunity to act like lunatics at their children’s games, officials’ fees become a self-imposed “lunacy tax.”  

By helping parents understand how expensive their lack of self-control can be, youth leagues might be able to end this avoidable tax and reduce registration fees by enlisting volunteer officials. Parents could  spend the annual tax savings on their children in more productive ways.


Upset that his Daughter Wasn’t Named First-Team All County, Dad Threatens to Sue

Here’s a Father’s Day Special for you….when Ally Baskas, the Rutherford HS (NJ) soph softball player wasn’t named to the All-County first team last week, her  Dad Mike was outraged – even threatening to sue the league and the coaches.

Why? Not only did Mike Baskas feel that his daughter had been gypped by not being named first-team, but that this kind of slight might potentially cost her a college scholarship down the road.

All this was reported by Darren Cooper, veteran sports columnist for The Record. And while it’s true that Ally had a spectacular season, hitting well over .500 and setting school rcords for HR’s and RBIs, she was named only second team All-County.

Was Dad right to protest vehemently about this? He says the selection process, in which the league coaches meet at the end of the season and choose the All-County team, is flawed. Remember, of course, that his daughter is only a sophomore – would it make any difference if she had been a senior?

And there are those who scoff at all this, and simply point out that Mike Baskas wsa simply doing a publicity stunt and that he succeeded in drawing attention to his daughter. That is, now EVERY college coach know who Ally Baskas is.

Look, every parent who has seen their kid make, or not make, an All-Star or All-County team knows the frustrations that go with the territory. But does the parent have a right to speak out if they feel their kid was cheated? And what about the kid? What’s their role in all this?

I’d be curious to your thoughts about these kinds of end-of the-year selections – let me know. Coach Wolff

How Adults’ Abuse of Officials Endangers Player Safety

 By Doug Abrams

From coast to coast, many youth leagues and high school conferences report chronic shortages of referees and other officials. In many places, the shortage can be so acute that some games must be postponed, rescheduled or even canceled. In other places, seasons may be shortened so that league schedules do not outpace the roster of available officials.


A primary reason for the chronic shortage is the steady exodus of veteran officials who grow disgusted with the verbal, and sometimes physical, abuse inflicted on them by parents and coaches. Efforts to recruit new officials may not keep pace with attrition because, according to the Deseret (Utah) Morning News, “[b]rand-new officials often suffer through their first season of abuse before deciding that refereeing just isn’t worth it.”


This week’s column explains how the shortage of experienced officials puts players in harm’s way. Next week’s column will concern how children also suffer because abuse of officials by parents and coaches can increase youth-league registration fees beyond the reach of some families, or at least cause parents to waste money that they could better spend on their families in other ways.


* * * *


First, the relationship between abuse of officials and player safety. . . .

“Officiating a youth sports game is becoming an increasingly risky job,” explains Positive Coaching Alliance executive director Jim Thompson, “Youth Sports officials are under attack – literally.” Parents and coaches have spewn obscenities, made officials run a gauntlet to leave the field, followed officials to their cars, and threatened them and their families. Verbal abuse, however, does not tell the whole story. The media reports that parents and coaches have also punched, kicked, shoved, slapped, choked, head-butted, spat on and stalked youth-league officials during and after games.

Verbal abuse can get nasty. Quite literally, I regularly hear parent spectators directing insults at officials that the parents would not direct at the family dog. The problem hit home one Saturday afternoon a few years ago when my squirt hockey team, comprised of nine- and ten-year-olds, played in St. Louis.  We arrived early and sat in the stands to watch a game between two teams of fourteen-year-olds.  We also got to watch parents directing a steady stream of vulgarities at the referees.  With every parental outburst, my squirt players would turn to me, cover their mouths and giggle. It is too bad when the role models are nine years old.

The risk of physical abuse has increased so much that the National Association of Sports Officials now offers youth-league and high school officials assault insurance. The NASO also provides When They’re In Your FACE and How to Deal With It, an in-depth primer for officials about how to manage confrontations with physically or verbally abusive parents or coaches. 

With the ranks of adult officials dwindling throughout the nation, some youth leagues recruit and train teens who seek spare income and see officiating as an opportunity to assume a leadership role. In my last few years coaching squirt hockey teams, I cannot recall our team’s ever having a referee over the age of about fifteen, except occasionally in the playoffs. Frequently these teens are also soon chased away, once they or their parents grow fed up with abuse from parents and coaches who doubtlessly perceive the adolescents as even easier marks for harassment than adult officials.

How does the steady exodus of experienced officials directly endanger players? “To be effective for promoting safety,” says a recent medical study, a sport’s rules “must be enforced rigorously and consistently by referees and leagues.” In the heat of the action, officials are the primary enforcers. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports agreement among sports medicine professionals that “[o]fficials controlling the physicality of thegame . . . can . . . play significant roles in reducing contact injuries.”

Particularly in contact or collision sports at older age levels, this essential control suffers when so many veteran officials hang up their whistles each year. Many replacement officials are less experienced and frequently unable to keep up with a fast-paced game. But for the veteran officials’ departure, many of the replacements would not be on the field in the first place.

When parents and coaches complain about the inability of less experienced officials to control youth-league and high school games, the adults need to take a hard look at their own incivility. All too often, parents and coaches get the quality of officiating that they deserve. Their children may be the losers.



[Sources: Jim Thompson, The Double-Goal Coach, p. 4 (2003); Dan Rasmussen, Referee Shortage Hurting Soccer, Deseret (Utah) Morning News, Apr. 26, 2005; Nat’l Ass’n of Sports Officials, Membership Benefit Guidebook, 2009-2010,; NASO, When They’re in Your FACE and How to Deal With It,; Charles H. Tator et al., Spinal Injuries in Canadian Ice Hockey: An Update to 2005, 19 Clin. J. Sport Med. 451 (2009); Chris G. Kouteres & Andrew J.M. Gregory, Injuries in Youth Soccer, 125 Pediatrics 410 (Feb. 2010)]

Respect in Sports: What High School Coaches Should Say at Their Retirement Dinner

By Doug Abrams

Thank you everyone.

This is my last opportunity to talk with you as Coach, a title I have cherished ever since I first put the whistle around my neck years ago. A few core principles have guided my coaching career, and I hope that they will also guide your athletic pursuits, now and for the rest of your lives.

These guiding principles depend on one word –– RESPECT. Respect is the foundation of everything good that happens in sports, and disrespect inevitably stains sports. In the high schools, respect summons all participants to accept personal responsibilities as they try to win:

1.         Players must respect their parents and coaches;

2.         Parents and coaches must respect the players; and

3.         Everyone must “respect the game.”

Players must respect their parents and coaches

If you take a walk down a country road and find a turtle perched atop a fence post, you can be sure that the turtle had help. As you have pursued success in sports, you too have had help.

Your parents have sacrificed for you, and they deserve your respect. They introduced you to sports. They have paid to enroll and outfit you year after year so that you could strive for heights that they may never have reached themselves. They have sent you to summer camps. They have nursed your bumps and bruises. They have attended your games to help you savor victory and work through defeat. And all these sacrifices speak only about their support for your athletic careers, not their support for every other aspect of your lives.

Your coaches have also earned your respect by helping to make you what you are today. Coaching and teaching in the elementary and secondary schools do not make anyone rich, not in money anyway. For educators, the true measure of wealth comes from the satisfaction of seeing their students work to reach their goals and fulfill their ambitions. Measured in this way, many wealthy coaches have crossed paths with you over the years.  

Parents and coaches must respect the players

Sports are games, and games are meant to be fun. Successful people know that play, like work, is essential to a full life. But make no mistake about it –– achievement in high school sports also takes work. Lots of work. When players maintain commitment to themselves and their team, they deserve the respect of every adult in their lives, win, lose or draw. They have earned it.

Players make a choice to join a team, commit to practices and games, work up a sweat with their teammates, and put themselves on public display, week in and week out. Each player could have chosen instead to pass the time sitting at home or hanging out at the mall. Wasting time is an option for everyone, and wasting time is usually easier than using time productively.

Parents show respect for their player when they support and encourage, without imposing pressures that would disturb them if they faced similar pressures in their own careers. Parents show respect when they view sports as a path toward fun and fulfillment, and not as a financial investment in elusive college scholarships or pro contracts, which only a select few high school athletes will ever achieve.

Coaches show respect for the players when they treat each one as they would want other adults to treat their own children. Coaches show respect when they find a meaningful role for each player because they recognize that chronic benchwarming is a badge of shame. At the end of the day, coaches show respect when they feel no embarrassment giving an honest answer to a simple question: “How well do I treat my least talented player?”

Everyone must “respect the game

Players, coaches and parents respect the game when they try their best to win within the rules, as I have ever since I coached my first game years ago. If you do not want to win, you should not play because you cannot give an honest performance. You shortchange your opponents because athletic competition loses its spice when only one team cares about the scoreboard.

But respecting the game also means sustaining solid values as you play to win. Players respect the game when victory is reward enough, without also trying to humiliate the opponent by taunting, trash talking, end-zone dances, and similar spectacles. When players help the team’s chances by heeding training rules. When they reject steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs that create unfair advantage. When they play hard and clean, shake hands after the game, and accept the outcome with grace and humility. When they acknowledge the opponent because they recognize that there can be no winner without a loser.

Parents and coaches respect the game when they conduct themselves, and accept the outcome, with the maturity that they expect of the players. When they set the example, and do not rely on the players to be the role models of sportsmanship and fair play. When they reject violence in favor of civility, and vulgarity in favor of sportsmanship.

Winning is the preferred alternative in athletic competition, but few teams ever go undefeated for very long. Nearly 40 years ago, the British Association of National Coaches stated the essence of everyone’s respect for the game: “Sport without fair play is not sport, and honours won without fair play can have no real value.”

Conclusion: Success in sports

In the long run, success in sports is not measured by the scoreboard, the trophies on your shelf, the plaques on your wall, or the newspaper clippings in your scrapbook. True success means loving to play as much at 60 as you do at 16, even after you turn to the “carryover sports” that will help sustain a healthy lifestyle. This love will last as you respect yourself, the people you play with and against, and the games you play.

Sports played right will teach you lessons in life that you could not learn anywhere else; will enable you to make friends you could not make anywhere else; and will give you memories that you could not enjoy anywhere else. At whatever level you play, you will achieve success if you can look back and say what Chicago Cubs great Ryne Sandberg said in Cooperstown when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005: “I believe it is because I had so much respect for the game and respect for getting the most out of my ability that I stand here today.”

Thank you and good night.

Being Disqualified for Using Profanity? Was this Pole Vaulter Wrongfully Punished?

I’m eager to see what kind of feedback I get from listeners this Sunday AM on WFAN Radio on this case.

That’s because about it was just about a year ago that a young HS female pole vaulter from California was disqualified from a dual track meet when the opposing coach noted that she was wearing a small bracelet. The attending track officials noted that the HS rule that there’s a strict no jewelry policy, and sure enough, the girl’s efforts were disqualified. She lost, and as luck would have it, because her points were erased, her team also lost the meet.

Now, this year – and also involving a HS pole vaulter from CA — a young man, Evan Barr, in the state championship track meet when, on his third and final try to clear the bar, fell short of his goal.

When he got up from the landing pit, he uttered, very loudly, an X-rated obscenity.

What happened next is that the officials at the track meet ruled that the kid’s use of profanity is not allowed in HS competition, and as such, he was disqualified. As a result, not only was the kid’s third-place in the pole vault  erased, but his team (Loyola HS) wasn’t credited with his points either. That meant they dropped out of first place and finished second in the states! In effect, a double loss for the kid AND for his teammates.

There was tremendous public outcry about this ruling. Critics point out that the kid wasn’t directing his profanity at anybody else – that it was just a momentary slip of the tongue out of frustration. To disqualify him was above reason.

But the officials stand by their decision. Profanity is not allowed under National Federation HS rules, and those rules are followed the California HS governing body as well.

What’s your take on this? A fair and approprite use of the rules? Or did the offiicals act too strongly? Either way, you might want to talk with your HS athlete about their use of profanity in competition. Freedom of speech only goes so far in HS sports.

NJ Governor Chris Christie: Did He Go Too Far as a Sports Parent?

On one hand, you can make a case that Gov. Chris Christie was just doing what he could to help balance his priorities as a dad along with the demands of his government job. After all, what sports parent hasn’t felt the anxious crunch of time constraints of one’s job when one’s kid is playing in a big game?

But when Gov. Christie took a state-owned helicopter to go from Trenton to northern NJ in order to see his son’s HS baseball playoff game, a lot of people questioned whether the governor had overstepped the boundary of common sense.

That is, while he was certainly not breaking the law to take the helicopter, one does wonder whether Christie had truly thought this plan out. In other words, he campaigned all about fiscal responsibility and cutting back, and now he decides to take a chopper to see one of his kid’s play ball? In short, this doesn’t sit well with a lot of people.

Christie would have smoothed things over immediately – and would have actually scored some points – if he had announced “I’m taking the state helicopter to go see my son play ball, but I’m paying for it out of my own pocket.” That would have been a much smarter approach.

But unfortunately, he’s only offering to pay the $3,000 ‘copter fee now. Nor has Christie offered any kind of apology. In fact, he’s been pretty defensive about it.

Even worse, he only stayed for five innings – he didn’t even stay for the entire game! And where did Gov. Christie go? He left in the chopper to attend a meeting witih some reps from Iowa about a possible run to become president of the United States.

The whole thing makes you wonder….what’s your opinion?

Should Youth Leaguers Receive Trophies for Participation?

By Doug Abrams

A few years ago, a midwestern editorial writer criticized “the silly philosophy in youth sports that believes everyone deserves a trophy, no matter what their performance.” The writer belittled the trophies-for-all mentality for building “artificial self-esteem.” (Doug Harris, “Why Punish a Kid For the Crime of Being Too Good?,” Dayton (Ohio) News, Aug. 28, 2008).

Critics like Mr. Harris argue – correctly, in my opinion – that parents and coaches do children no favor by shielding them from all setbacks. Like it or not, failure and frustration will happen throughout adulthood, so sports provides a relatively painless opportunity to begin teaching children about resilience in the face of adversity. No team goes undefeated for very long, and the consequences of losing a youth-league or high school game are not nearly as high as the consequences of setbacks will often be later on.

No matter how hard youth leaguers try, most finish below first place in a given season. Finishing lower means no trophies at the end – or does it? Particularly at the younger age levels, I believe that leagues, teams or tournaments can send children a positive message with participation trophies if the adults choose to present them – and if the adults do it right.

“Doing it right” means remaining honest with the players, and it means actually explaining why the players are receiving recognition for participating. The key words here are “honest” and “explaining.”

Remaining Honest With the Players

If the team did not finish in first place or win the championship, participation trophies are appropriate only when their inscription recognizes participation, and nothing more. No tantalizing inscription reading “League Winners” or something similar, for example, when the team finished in third place. If the kids finished third, they know that they did not finish first. Parents and coaches deliver no worthwhile lesson, and win no respect, with dishonesty that suggests a championship.

Explaining to the Players

Either at the microphone or at home, parents and coaches should explain face-to-face why participation in sports is worth recognizing, even when the team does not finish on top in the final standings. Without this explanation, players might naturally assume that the trophy rewards them for merely showing up, and this assumption does no one any good.

The reason for recognition is that for many children nowadays, participation in organized sports takes initiative and personal commitment. Parents and coaches may stress fun, but performing in front of family and friends can be challenging for children who are unaccustomed to having so many eyes watching their every move. Even in house or recreation leagues, the players try not to make mistakes that would hurt the team, and some may struggle with the basic motor skills as they try to learn. 

Many adults get butterflies whenever they must perform at a business meeting or other public forum, and we should not expect 10-year-olds to find public performance any easier. Even when youngsters join the team because they want to be with their friends, the adults should explain that participating for an entire season is a worthy accomplishment because sitting at home in front of video games is much easier.

When the participation trophy comes with proper explanation, the adults deliver an important lesson about the value of personal commitment for its own sake. The lesson remains useful throughout adulthood, when sitting at home may also be much easier, when participation in worthwhile endeavors for their own sake will often matter, and when participation in carryover sports will encourage a healthy lifestyle.

How should parents and coaches end their explanation about the virtues of participating? By urging the players to come back next year and work harder so that their trophies will say “League Champions.”