Archive for September, 2012

INNOVATIONS IN SPORTS: New Book Provides Real Insight on How to Prevent Knee Injuries

It’s as simple as this: knee injuries, such as a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), have been in sports forever. When I was in high school and college back in the 1970s, if you tore your ACL, you were not only lost for the season, but in many cases, your entire athletic career was over. It was that devastating. Knee injuries were bad news in many ways.

Thank goodness, these days orthopedic surgery has made tremendous advances, and in particular, arthroscopic surgery on injured knees can often get you back on your feet, quite literally, within a matter of weeks.

But all this being said, ACL’s are so common – especially with female athletes – that for years surgeons and trainers have looked for some way to prevent these injuries. And according to Dr. Robert Marx from the Hospital for Special Surgery in NYC and one of the top orthopedic surgeons in the world, he’s convinced that there are specific exercises and drills that all young athletes should be doing on a routine basis in order to prevent these injuries. Dr. Marx reports that there are studies from Norway that show these plyometric exercises can prevent more than 50% of these torn ACL’s.

That number is most impressive, and in his new book, THE ACL SOLUTION, Dr. Marx details the kinds of drills that athletes should be doing to help strengthen their knee joints. Standing on wobbleboards, learning how to jump and, more importantly, how to land properly, how to start quickly, and many easy-to-follow drills make this book mandatory for any sports parent, coach, or athletic trainer.

Dr. Marx says that female athletes are much more likely to suffer an ACL tear (by some estimates, 5 to 6 times more likely than their male counterparts). He says that there are all sorts of unproven theories as to why this is, but what he’s more concerned with is trying to prevent these injuries. If you have ever watched women’s soccer at either the college or Olympic level, you will quickly spot how many women wear knee braces to help support their leg joints.

In any event, if your youngster is showing signs of playing competitive sports, you should pick up a copy of Dr. Marx’s book and introduce your child to proper preventive drills to protect their knees. THE ACL SOLUTION is available online at Amazon, or go to Dr. Marx’s website

COACHING TIPS: The Importance of The Team Manager


The Team Manager:  “The Glue that Holds the Team Together”

By Doug Abrams


People sometimes say that in the pros, a skilled trainer is more valuable to the team than any two coaches.  The trainer prevents injuries, treats aches and pains early, and helps players return to the lineup medically sound.  Players in the lineup can win games, but players on the disabled list cannot. 

I am convinced that in youth leagues, a skilled team manager is also more valuable than any two coaches.  Like trainers in the pros, team managers perform much of their wizardry behind the scenes.  But youth league teams could not function smoothly without the manager.  On the youth hockey teams that I coached, I would tell anyone willing to listen that our manager was “the glue that holds the team together.”  I meant it.

The team manager, of course, is the mother or father who assists the coaches with dozens of organizational details central to the team’s smooth functioning.  The manager maintains regular communication with fellow parents; collects registration forms and fundraising receipts; organizes road trips; contacts opposing coaches for game confirmations; and performs other chores, large and small.  Before controversies proceed too far, sometimes the manager can also resolve differences that a parent might have with the coaches.  As I said, “the glue that holds the team together.”

This column discusses what coaches should look for in a team manager, how the manager should be selected, how coaches should work with the manager, and how the team should thank the manager for tireless efforts.

What Makes a Good Team Manager?

On the teams that I coached, few managers had playing experience in hockey, and none had coaching experience in the sport.  I suspect that few had ever laced on a pair of skates, but that did not matter.  Because our association permitted parents with such experience to be assistant coaches, managers brought an entirely different skill set to their team service.

The team manager’s position depends on two primary skills common to all sports – organizational skills and people skills.  “Organizational skills” means the ability to juggle deadlines and schedules efficiently so that the coaches can tend to matters within their specialties.  “People skills” means interacting patiently and courteously throughout the season with diverse constituencies – other parents, the coaching staff, the players, league officials, opposing teams’ managers and coaches, and sometimes the media.

How Should Team Managers Be Selected?

The association’s bylaws should authorize the head coach to select the team manager from among mothers or fathers who express an interest in serving.  If more than one parent steps forward, the coach might opt to spread the responsibility among them.  To help avoid hurt feelings, I would sometimes select a manager before the team and parents assembled for the first time. 


Selection by the coach encourages cohesiveness among the team’s leadership.  The team manager is the coaches’ liaison with the parents, the only parent guaranteed to maintain constant contact with all the others, usually beyond the coaches’ earshot.  The manager can maintain team harmony, or the manager can sow the seeds of dissension.  Once the board of directors has expressed its confidence in the coaches by appointing them, the board should permit the coaches to select a manager they know they can work with, perhaps subject to board approval as a formality.

How Should Coaches Work With the Team Manager?

I considered the team manager to be a full-fledged member of the staff, someone with special perspectives that no coach could easily duplicate.  The manager is the coaches’ eyes and ears, usually the only person to maintain regular contact with the parents before, during and after games. 

Because the team manager may have a better sense of the parents’ pulse than the coaches do, I would often use the manager as a sounding board to learn what the parents were thinking.  I did not expect the manager to tattle or tell stories out of class, but I relied on the manager’s candor.  More than once, the manager suggested solid initiatives and approaches that had not even occurred to me.  Managers sometimes also saved me from decisions that only they sensed would prove unworkable or unwise.

How Should the Team Thank the Manager?

Thank-you means giving credit where credit is due.  Throughout the season, the manager’s name belongs on the team roster, listed along with head coach and assistant coaches in all souvenir booklets and programs at home and on the road.  When the manager suggests an initiative or approach, the coaches should thank the manager publicly, either in conversation or in their e-mails to the parents. 

Post-season banquets leave me uncomfortable when families present thank-you gifts to the coaches and mementos to the players, yet overlook the team manager, who may have devoted more hours to the squad than some of the coaches.  I repeat what I said in my column two weeks ago:  “When people do someone else a good turn, they earn the right to be thanked.” 

In my experience, a year-end gift for the team manager means the most when it comes directly from the other parents, who owe their gratitude.  On our teams, the coaches would also chip in because the manager served everyone, including us.  By the end of the season, I shuddered to think what my life would have been like for the past few months without a manager to share the load and do much of the heavy lifting.  Long before the end of the season, saying thank-you was easy.

PLAYERS VS. COACHES: The Top 10 Rules for Coaching Kids


Last week on my radio show, I had a chance to review the Top 10 Rules for Expected Parental Behavior…and this week, I wanted to go down the same road for the Top Rules that are Expected for Youth Coaches…


Here we go…


 1. Here’s the most important rule of all…all the kids want to play in the game. Always remember that. Every kid on that bench – and their parent – is wondering when their kid will get into the game Coach…YOUR top priority is to make sure that happens for EVERY kid on your team.


Why do Moms and Dads come to the games? Simple…to watch their kid get into the game…and while you may feel that your top obligation is to win, the truth is – your top job is to get every kid on your roster into every game AND to make sure they get quality playing time…


If you think that winning the U-12 boys’ soccer trophy in your town is the ultimate goal, well, you really ought to re-consider why you’re coaching.


2. Follow the Golden Rule…this rule is very simple but very important! Coach, treat the kids on your team in the same manner that you would want your own kids to be treated…for any coach who wants to do the right thing, use the Golden Rule as your basic guiding principle. There is no excuse NOT to do this.


3. Kids actually do like discipline…it lets them know that you, as the coach, are taking their season as seriously as they do. So, let them know that you expect them to be on time, to hustle onto the field, to listen attentively to what you are saying, and so on…no, you don’t have to be Vince Lombardi with them, but let them know that if they’re going to be on the team, there are certain rules that have to be followed.


4. Speaking of discipline…once you set a rule, have the maturity to follow up with the punishment…for example, giving them a “time out” to sit for a while out of practice or a game. Playing time is what every kid craves, and if you take it away from them, they’ll get the point in a hurry.


5. Praise by Walking Around…make it a point to chat with each kid and give them a bit of praise in every practice. Use their first name when talking with them, make eye contact, and come up with some specific part of their game to praise.


6. If frustrated with a poor performance, ONLY criticize the TEAM…never single out just one player. That will ruin the kid’s self-esteem. Never pick on a child…on the other hand, if a kid makes a crucial mistake during the game, always emphasize that it’s ALWAYS team first – individual mistakes are just part of every game.


7. Never use sarcasm with young athletes….they just don’t understand the hidden humor; instead, it makes them think you’re putting them down. In short, just don’t do it!


8. Don’t give team lectures…coaches, kids zone you OUT very quickly. Their attention span is about 8 seconds. I remember one of my daughters had a lax coach who, after every game, would drone on and on for close to an hour. It was painful…and the girls hated it.


Coach…after the game…give the kids a very brief pep-talk, and then let them go onto their next activity. You can work on improving their skills at the next practice.


9. Be sure to smile…at a kids’ game, there’s no need to brood or be surly like a Bill Belichick…this is supposed to be about having fun. Let the kids know it’s okay to smile. Set the pace!


10. Remember – your own youth sports career is over….it’s in the books…this current season is about YOUR kid. Yeah, he or she may be your flesh-and-blood….but they are NOT you.


They are themselves, and are entitled to play sports in the way that THEY want to. They are not there to fulfill your own unattained dreams in sports.






COACHING TIPS: How to Improve Team Communication via E-Mail





How E-Mail Can Help Youth League Coaches Lead the Team

by Doug Abrams


In today’s complicated youth sports world, coaches lay the foundation for success when they set the tone from the first pre-season practice to the final game.  By e-mailing the parents regularly after practices and games, youth league coaches can maintain team cohesiveness and harmony, urge parents to help reinforce positive lessons, and make it more difficult for an occasional dissident parent to gain traction. 

This column describes how I used e-mail as coach of squirt youth hockey teams for 9-10-year-olds in recent years.  Authorship is the first question.  As head coach, I would usually seek input from other staff members and then write and send the e-mails myself, signing all our names.  Other head coaches might choose instead to delegate the writing to an assistant who feels more comfortable at the keyboard.  Regardless of which coach does the writing, e-mail messages should carry the names of every coach so that the staff speaks with one voice. 

Values and Valedictories    

Before our team’s first preseason practice session, the coaches explained to the parents that we would e-mail them a day or so after many practices and games.  The e-mails rarely discussed strategy, but they reported much of what the coaches told the players in the locker room, on the ice, and on the bench.  The parents also accepted our invitation to reinforce our messages about teamwork, fair play, and similar values by talking to their players at home.

Without displacing the important face-to-face preseason parents meeting, our initial e-mails described the coaches’ values and also provided necessary information about scheduling and other important matters that arose from week to week.  Before the first game, we also suggested ways to help players prepare for both home games and road games. 

Throughout the season, the coaches suggested how parents could help us teach their players how to react to victories and defeats, and also how to manage winning streaks and losing streaks.  We wanted the parents to understand that win or lose, each game should be a learning experience for the players by drawing at least one important lesson.  The season’s last e-mail, sent a day or so after the final game, was a valedictory that recapped the year and spoke about lessons and memories that we hoped everyone would take from our months together.    

Four Ground Rules

E-mail can be one of the coaches’ most effective tools, but a tool’s effectiveness depends on the user’s skills.  A coach’s skillful use of e-mail depends on four commonsense ground rules.

First, the coaches’ e-mails to the parents are communications among the adults.  At least in younger age groups, the coaches should make sure that the distribution list contains only the parents’ e-mail addresses, and not the players’.  As we coaches urged and expected, the parents shared most of our messages with their players at home.  Whether to share, however, is a decision for the parents.

Adult coaches sometimes raise eyebrows these days when they maintain correspondence with individual players by e-mail or the social media.  In older age groups, the coaches’ direct e-mailing to the players depends on the parents’ consent.

Second, e-mail is not private.  The coaches should not send the parents any message that would prove embarrassing if a player or unforeseen third party reads it.  A good rule-of-thumb is not to write or send an e-mail that would embarrass the coaches if it appeared the next morning on the front page of the New York Times.  E-mails can be forwarded far and wide very quickly and easily, as one soccer coach of pre-teen girls learned the hard way a few years ago when his lame attempt at humor with a dozen families found a worldwide audience within hours and led to his abrupt apology and resignation.

Third, e-mail creates a public forum. Discussion of particular named players remains off-limits because coaches intrude on family privacy when they discuss particular players with other parents in public places, either verbally or in writing.

Fourth, positive messages work best.  Constructive e-mails can provide coaches a valuable “bully pulpit” to reinforce their philosophies and share their recaps of particular games, but nobody appreciates confrontational bullies for very long.  Disagreements with particular parents, for example, are best resolved the old fashioned way — by face-to-face discussion — and not by public written pronouncements instantly available to all.  A coach’s confrontational e-mail invites confrontational responses, and hostile verbal sparring in public serves no useful purpose. 

*  * * *

Youth league teams need leaders to set the direction early and maintain the course throughout the season.  The initiative begins with the coaches, and e-mail remains a valuable tool in their toolbox.

OBNOXIOUS SPORTS PARENTS: The Top 10 Rules of Expected Parental Behavior



(The following is adapted from Rick Wolff’s WFAN Radio show, The Sports Edge.)



Hi everybody, and welcome to this week’s edition of The Sports Edge…


As you know, every so often, I like to do a kind of sports parenting clinic on the show…and now that we’re into the full swing of school and sports teams, I thought it was a good team to take a moment and review some of the basics.


Now, for those of you who have been through the wringer of sports parenting issues, some of this will sound familiar…but for those of you who are new to this, or are going through these struggles now, well, I look forward to your calls and comments at 1-877-337-6666.


On today’s show, I thought we do a round-up of what is appropriate in terms of parental behavior at our kids’ games….


We all know that the kids are rarely the issue when it comes to sports parenting problems today…rather, it’s usually the coaches and the parents who don’t always see eye to eye on sports….and as such, I want to run down some of the basic principles that you and your friends and colleagues might encounter this year.



Okay, let’s begin…


Here are – what I like to call – the Top 10 Rules of Expected Parental Behavior at their Kids’ Games:


1) Parents should be seen, but not heard too often – it’s absolutely fine and good to go and watch your child play. But as a parent, you should try to blend in with the woodwork. Don’t draw attention to yourself –the games are all about YOUR child….they are NOT about YOU.


As such, parents (not children) should be SEEN….but not HEARD.


2) If you have to say something, it should only be positive praise. Very simple. If you absolutely feel compelled to cheer, make sure your comments are only positive! And make your comments generic in tone. That is, “Way to go guys” or “Great job girls” is much more effective than highlighting just one kid.


Try and Root for the TEAM – not just one individual kid.


3) Never openly criticize your kid….and whatever you do, never, ever criticize somebody else’s kid! This is an absolute sin. If you feel compelled to try and coach your child from the sidelines, or make some disparaging remarks, e.g. “C’mon, Mike, you’re not even trying hard out there,” or “Sally, you gotta get back faster on defense,” then you have really crossed the line.


Coaching is the Coach’s job – -NOT yours. And even though it may kill you to stand there and say nothing, well, that’s too bad. Act like the grown-up adult that you are.


And by the way, if you ever criticize somebody else’s kid in a game—well, now you’re totally out of line and risking a well-deserved punch in the nose. You never ever criticize some other parent’s kid, or risk the consequences.


4) Please do not do a play-by-play of the game. This applies mostly to youth coaches who try and dictate every play of the game while it’s happening…it happens a lot in soccer matches ”Okay, Sam, dribble the ball up…now pass it over to Joe….Joe, pass the ball to Jerry….Jerry take the shot.”


Feel free to work with your kids during practice or at home…but during the actual game, let the kids figure it out! Otherwise, they’ll become too dependent on you for constant instruction. Even worse, they’ll feel that they can’t be spontaneous during the game, less you get angry with them and bench them.


PS – when you played sports as a kid, did anyone dictate to you what to do? I didn’t think so. So why are you doing it to your kids?


5) If you can’t control your mouth, then don’t stand with the other parents….stay way far away from the others, and stand off by yourself…..


Folks, you have to know your own personality. If you honestly feel that you might get too emotionally involved in your kid’s game, then stand off by yourself during the action. You can come back and rejoin the sane parents during half-time, but there’s nothing wrong with going away from the crowd and being alone with your thoughts.


I’d rather you do that than make a jack-ass out of yourself where everybody can hear you and confirm that you’re an out of control jerk AND embarrass your kid.


6) Refs are not there to be abused in any way. Nor can you influence them.


Here’s the deal. Without the refs, umps, or officials, the game quickly is transformed from a real game into just being a scrimmage….okay, so understand that and accept that fully.


Then, understand that the vast majority of sports parents DO NOT know where to draw the line when it comes to questioning a ref’s call…too many parents DO think that a ref can somehow be psychologically influenced during a game, and if that the parent keeps chirping and pointing out perceived mistakes, then the ref will begin to give the chirping parent the benefit of the close calls.


Of course, that never happens. If anything, the ref will just get annoyed at the parent.


So, here’s what you do to fix the problem. Don’t say anything to the ref. And don’t say anything about their calls. Let the coach do that. You, as a sideline parent, just be quiet. The ref is NOT going to change their call. The ref is NOT going to be influenced on future calls by your catcalls. So, just be quiet.


And besides, in sports, bad calls are part of the game. You must understand – and accept that as well.


7) It’s okay to applaud a nice play by an opposing player….we’re trying to teach our kids to be good sports, and to respect their opponents. So if one of the opposing players makes a great play, applaud it!


That’s okay – yes, even sometimes the opposing team makes good plays! And you should tell your child that it’s okay for their opponents to be talented as well.


8) Understand that you are a role model for the kids – they will follow your behavior.

Along those lines, ALWAYS remember that your son or daughter is watching YOU on how they should behave.


So if you’re going nuts on the ref, or throwing a temper tantrum, or seem emotionally unsettled, don’t be surprised if your kid starts acting the same way. And you know what? That’s YOUR fault, not the kid’s. Another case of monkey see, monkey do.


Think I’m kidding? Ask one of the other parents who has a video camera to go across the field and to tape the behavior of parents on the sidelines during a game. The tape is so revealing that parents won’t believe what they’re seeing….just remember – this is exactly what your kid is seeing when they play.


9) If a coach or a ref tells you to calm down, please take that caution seriously!


You folks know I’m a big fan of zero tolerance. And if a ref or ump or official singles you out, and tells you to calm down, then consider yourself fully warned! You won’t get – nor do you deserve – a second chance.


And if you can’t calm down, then yes, you should be banned from the game. What gives you the right to ruin it for all the kids, coaches, and other parents?


10) Try to give your kid a smile….when your kid looks over to the sideline and, for a brief moment, sees your face, please make sure you have a smile on it…or at least, a look of quiet pride. Kids DO look to parents for approval, and if you look like you’re having a good time, then he or she will feel the same way.


But if you’re scowling, or cursing, or stomping around, then your kid will take that as a sign that they ought to be nervous and angry too. So, relax – leave your game face at home – and wear a relaxed face to your kid’s game.



PUBLICIZING YOUR TEAM — Getting the Word Out – Part II

Writing the Youth League Team’s Press Releases (Part II)

by Doug Abrams


Newspaper articles about youth league games provide players short-term recognition and long-term memories.  Many suburban and local newspapers — dailies and weeklies alike — publish well-written press releases. 

In last week’s column, I began discussing ten guidelines for how to write and submit press releases about youth sports associations and teams.  The first five guidelines appeared last week; the final five guidelines appear here, followed by two sample press releases at the end.  The two samples, drawn from the few hundred published press releases I have written over the years, might help associations, coaches and others who wish to begin writing releases for their own youth league teams.

        6.   Recognize all the players

Try to get each player’s name into print at least once during the season because publicity is important to everyone.  Most teams have stronger players and weaker players, but every player contributes in some way. 

In my youth hockey press releases, I name not only the goal scorers but also the players who registered assists, including the defensemen who play instrumental roles but normally do not score goals as often as the forwards.  I also learned quickly that if the players sense that scoring is the surest ticket into the newspapers, some players might “hog the puck” to try to score rather than play a balanced team-oriented game.  For better or worse, publicity can affect the performance of pros and youth leaguers alike.   

          7.  Cover losses as well as wins

Once the players learn that the coach or a designated adult writes the team’s press releases, the releases speak not only to newspaper readers but also to the players themselves.  Youth leaguers are sensitive to cues sent by adults, including cues that the adults do not even mean to send. 

If you submit press releases only after victories, the team senses that the players mean more to you after victories than after defeats.  But if you also write about losses, players learn that handling defeat gracefully is part of sports, and that their elders respect them for a solid effort, win or lose.  I would sometimes send no press release after a blowout loss, but that is a judgment call. 

         8.   Local newspapers usually want local names

Local newspapers survive by accenting local news, but also by winning a reputation for candor.  For writers of youth sports press releases, this combination usually means emphasizing local players’ names but also giving other players their due.  When a local player stars, mention the local connection (“Columbia’s Sammy Smith scored the second goal. . . .”).  But telling the entire story means accounting for the entire score, including leading efforts by opponents.  The sports editor may have instructions about the paper’s expectations for local news.  

        9.  Prepare a “souvenir scrapbook” for the players

The team’s post-season banquet or party is an excellent opportunity to present each player a scrapbook containing all the newspaper articles that appeared throughout the season, plus a roster and other memorabilia such as tournament announcements and the like.  With some cutting-and-pasting and a photocopy machine, the coach or designated parents can produce a bound souvenir that will stand the test of time.

       10.  Thank the sports editors at the end of the season

I wrote an earlier column about “the power of thank you.”  I repeat the primary sentiment here:  When people do someone else a good turn, they earn the right to be thanked. 

If the newspaper published the team’s press releases throughout the season, the sports editor and staff deserve thanks because they could easily hit the delete button every time or throw the press releases in the waste basket instead.  Sports editors are accustomed to catching grief from dissatisfied parents, who accuse them of shortchanging their children; editors may be less accustomed to hearing gratitude for a job well done.

At the end of the season, your team should send the sports editors a thank-you card signed by all the players themselves, and a separate thank-you card signed by all the parents.  The editors will remember the team’s thoughtfulness because they receive so few tokens of appreciation.  Today’s thank-yous can also pay rich dividends because they are your team’s ticket to more articles next season.

Postscript:  Two Sample Press Releases

Here are two press releases drawn from the few hundred I have written since 1970.  Both appeared in the sports pages within a few days.  Take the releases’ format and content merely as starting points, and tailor your releases to your personal style and your newspaper’s expectations.

The first release, from Long Island in 1983, contains play-by-play description for a newspaper that was willing to publish that description.  We were not sure that the newspaper would publish the last paragraph’s editorializing, which we hoped would place the state championship tournament in perspective for our players and parents.  The last paragraph paid off when the newspaper chose to publish it rather than cut it. 

The second release, from Missouri in 2006, contains only game statistics because that is what the newspaper wanted:


For further information, please call Doug Abrams: —————-

Thank you very much.


Nassau Wins State Hockey Crown

            Combining finesse with steady disciplined play, the Nassau County Midget ice hockey team won the New York State championship last weekend in Clayton, a stone’s throw from the Canadian border. The Nassau team, which features many of Long Island’s best 15-16-year-old players, . . . swept the state crown, winning all three preliminary games before trouncing Rochester, 7-2, in the semifinals and blanking Watertown 6-0 in the finals.

            Nassau opened the eight-team tournament Friday night with a hard-fought 3-2 triumph over defending champion Potsdam.  After Potsdam took an early lead in the first minute, Nassau’s ———— scored the equalizer with a slapshot late in the opening period.  The teams traded goals in the second stanza to set the stage for ———–’s dramatic game-winner, a deflection with less than three minutes remaining.  Potsdam continued to apply pressure but was thwarted on every attempt by goalie ————— and the Nassau defense, led by Captain —————, ———————, —————–, ——————, and ———————–.  [The article then described the remaining four games before concluding with this paragraph:]

            In presenting the State Championship Trophy to Nassau head coach Wally Livingstone and assistant coach Doug Abrams, tournament director Kevin Kittle told the cheering crowd, “The Nassau team showed us more than just skillful hockey this weekend. They also showed us clean, disciplined hockey. They are a credit to themselves, their parents, and to Nassau County.”

* * * *



For further information, please call Doug Abrams: —————-

Thank you very much.


Eagles Mites Down Twin Bridges

            The Central Missouri Eagles mite hockey team defeated the Twin Bridges Lightning, 8-5, at the Washington Park Ice Arena in Jefferson City Saturday morning. ————— led the Eagles with five goals.  ————- scored twice, and ————- also scored. ————, ——————-, and ———- registered assists.  Eagles goalie ———— starred with 35 saves.

            The Eagles mites tied the Meramec Sharks, 5-5, in St. Louis Sunday morning. The Eagles’ ———— scored a three-goal hat trick, and ————– scored twice. Goalie ———— had 20 saves.

            The St. Louis Rockets downed the Eagles pee wee team, 8-2, in St. Louis on Saturday morning. —————- and ————— scored for the Eagles, and ——— and ——— had assists.

            The Affton Americans downed the Eagles pee wees, 7-2, in St. Louis on Sunday morning.  ————— and ————- scored for the Eagles, and ———– and ———————– registered assists.




LEGAL CONCERNS: What Do You Do if Your HS Athlete is Wrongfully Arrested?

That’s the claim of 18-year-0ld Troy Zuffino – that he was wrongfully arrested and charged with a crime that he had no involvement in.

Zuffino, who as a member of the Wayne Hills HS football team last year, insists the local cops and prosecutors in his town arrested him and 8 teammates on assault charges.

After tremendous debate back and forth, the Wayne school board suspended the 9 players from the championship game, which Wayne Hills ultimately won. That suspension also included Zuffino.

But he has claimed right from the start that he was never even at the incident, and as such, he was wrongfully detained and arrested. His complaints have now become part of a $15 million lawsuit that he has filed against the town, the school district, the police and the prosecutors.

This, of course, is his side of the story, and law prof Doug Abrams explained this AM on my show, we have to wait for the defense and their side of what happened.

But the overriding question I have is…what do you as a sports parent if your kid has been wrongfully arrested, and you absolutely know he is innocent. Remember – the school district has the right to suspend your kid from sports, and if your kid is indeed arrested, expect that he or she will be suspended from play immediately. And that means he or she could lose valuable games as well as suffer a real hit to their school and community reputation.

Doug Abrams suggested that, as a parent, you might immediately consider going to the local police station and, in a very civil manner, present hard-core evidence or an alibi to the police to prove your kid’s innocence. You might even want to bring your family attorney to help make your case.

However, Doug cautions that this may not alway win the day as the police may be reluctant to drop the charges without first talking with the local DA (remember, it’s rare for a prosecutor to be on hand at a police station, especially if you are there after-hours or on a weekend). But if you have rock-solid evidence, the police just may let your son or daughter go. Just remember that your alibi will have to be very compelling.

We shall see how the Zuffino case plays out. After all, $15 mil is a lot of dough. And Abrams reminds us that the police are usually given plenty of latitude when making arrests.

So what’s the bottom line? As a parent (or a coach), the very first mandate you should tell your athletes at the start of each season is to always be aware of where they are, and whether it’s a good idea for them to be there. Unfortunately, there are too many athletes who never seem to understand a little forethought goes a long, long way in keeping them out of trouble with the law. Even if they aren’t guilty of crime, just being in the wrong place at the wrong time can cost them.

PUBLICIZING YOUR TEAM: How to Get the Word Out – Part I


Writing the Youth League Team’s Press Releases (Part I)

by Doug Abrams


The other night, I received a phone call from a youth hockey player I coached for several years until he graduated from high school in 2006.  He told me that he had been re-living old memories by reading his scrapbook containing news articles about our teams.  At any age, youth leaguers enjoy seeing their name in the sports section, where family and friends can read about them.  Old news clippings also remain valued souvenirs years later. 

In many communities, high school varsity sports receive regular newspaper coverage but youth league teams rarely break into print.  Things do not necessarily have to be that way.  If youth sports associations or teams submit press releases to the sports editor, they may be able to share some of the limelight with the varsities.  The association can designate one person to write for all the teams, or a coach or designated parent can write about his or her own team. 

Many suburban and small-town newspapers — dailies and weeklies alike — run press releases that they receive, including ones for teams whose players are as young as six or seven.  Newspaper coverage adds spice to the youth league season as the coaches and parents “go the extra mile” for the players.

I began writing my youth hockey teams’ press releases in 1970, and I have written a few hundred since then.  In the twenty years that I coached in the Nassau County hockey program on Long Island, these press releases appeared regularly in the old Long Island Press (a daily that ended publication in 1977) and in weekly papers throughout the county.  Daily papers also published my team’s press releases during my two years in upstate New York, and more recently in mid-Missouri. 

This two-part column discusses ten guidelines for how youth sports associations, coaches or designated parents can write and submit press releases about their teams.  The first five guidelines appear below; the next five guidelines, together with two sample press releases at the end, will appear next week in Part II.  

1.                  Will the newspaper publish press releases?

Before submitting the team’s first press release to the sports editor, you might  call the newspaper’s sports department, or check the paper’s website to see whether the department considers press releases at all.  Otherwise you might simply submit the first release and see what happens.  Submission without an initial phone call has always worked for me, but some associations and coaches might feel more comfortable calling first.  Particularly in smaller communities, a parent may know the sports editor and thus open the door.

When you fax or email the first press release to the sports editor, you will learn quickly whether the paper will use it.  Include your name, address and phone number, and invite the editor or staff member to contact you if he or she has any questions or suggestions about future releases. 

If the editor publishes the first release without contacting you, keep the releases coming after future games.  If the editor does contact you for information, you can begin building a personal relationship by expressing thanks and appreciation.  After a few releases, the newspaper might also accept an occasional photograph, with your suggested caption. Perhaps add a personal touch by sending along the team’s game schedule and inviting the editor and staff to attend a game. Sometimes staff members do a story of their own after publishing press releases for much of the season.   

The remaining nine guidelines assume that the newspaper will publish youth league press releases.

2.                  Make the press releases user-friendly

In daily and weekly newspapers alike, news rooms are busy places with frenetic deadlines.  Make sure that your press releases are well written, grammatically correct, neatly presented, and ready to use as-is.  The sports department’s staff simply does not have the time or inclination to do heavy edits about youth league games, particularly games that no staff writer watched in person.  Nor does the staff usually have the time or inclination to seek out the association or coach for clarifications.

Before submitting a press release, try to have it proofread and critiqued by a friend, preferably someone who understands good writing style but did not attend the games.  Your proofreader may catch typos that you missed, and may also flag ambiguities that might confuse the editor, who also did not attend the games. Another pair of eyes helps any writer, and biochemist George Wald was right: “We are the products of editing, rather than of authorship.”  

Check the newspaper’s website for any guidelines about submitting press releases. Nowadays most editors prefer submissions that are emailed rather than faxed because emailing permits instant use without retyping.   Most newspapers also want the emailed submission in the main text, and not in an attachment.

3.                  Follow the conventions of good journalism

Provide a headline (which the editor might choose to rewrite, according to the paper’s own style).  In the first paragraph, provide the “five W’s” – who, what, where, when and why.  Spell the players’ names correctly, and be precise about scores, events and other matters. Do not expect or ask for a byline containing your name.

Because the news cycle works so fast these days, submit the press release quickly.  Unless the editor suggests otherwise, quickness usually means emailing or faxing the release on the day of the games or the next morning.  The editor might not run the article for a few days, but chances of publication decrease when the news is stale before the editor sees it. 

4.                  Be brief 

Your team might be the most important team in the world to you and your players’ families, but you are not the New York Yankees or the New York Jets.  Newspaper sports editors operate under chronic space limitations that may let them devote a few inches to youth league coverage, but not full-length articles. 

After a few press releases appear in print, you will learn how much space the paper can devote to youth sports.  If the editor consistently cuts to a particular length, your future releases should adopt that length.  If the editor routinely deletes the last paragraph, include less essential information in that paragraph and hope that the editor does not cut from earlier paragraphs!

Chronic space limitations compel you to follow the three guidelines of good writing – “Cut, Cut, Cut.”  Err on the side of brevity until you learn what the newspaper can handle.  William Shakespeare was on target (in Hamlet): “Brevity is the soul of wit.” 

I always operated under the assumption that if I cut a press release in half, I would double the chances of publication; but that if I doubled the length, I would reduce the chances by half.  I cannot prove the math, but I like the formula.  Because good writer’s strive to finish before the reader does, your press release should finish before the sports editor feels the urge to turn attention elsewhere.

5.                  Don’t “flame.” 

You are a non-employee seeking access to the sports pages.  You are not a staff sportswriter who understands the newspaper’s style and holds the editors’ confidence.  You may be fiercely proud of your team, but the editor does not want to read that the team “annihilated” or “massacred” their ten-year-old opponents.  Write gracefully, but you lose credibility unless you tone down the partisanship and let the score speak for itself.  

A press release succeeds when readers remember the players and not the writer.  Youth sports should be about the youths, and not about the adults.  

Next week:  Writing the Youth League Team’s Press Releases (Part II)

DANGERS OF CYBERSPACE: Now Athletes are Having their Twitter Accounts Scanned

Life used to be so much simpler with sports parenting….

But these days, in the year 2012, we have yet new challenges to encounter, most notably concerns about social media. We already know about Facebook and kids posting stupid comments and photos online that only result in trouble for them…but now as Twitter becomes more popular, athletes are even more vulnerable than ever before.

Don’t forget the cautionary case of Yuri Wright, the talented HS football prospect from Don Bosco Prep in NJ, who tweeted last year some racially and sexually suggestive nonsense. Within hours, several major football programs rescinded their offers to Wright, and the HS expelled him. You  have to wonder: a little proactive forethought would have saved this kid from a world of upheaval.

Now, more and more universities, as Doug Abrams covered on today’s show, are scanning their athletes’ twitter feeds, and have even gone so far to ban a number of words or terms from being used. The Univ of Kentucky and Louisvlle have a long, long list of banned words from twitter.

If it all sounds bizarre, well, yes, I guess it is. But then again, major universities don’t want to risk their athletic programs because one of their athletes puts out something dumb on twitter.

What’s the takeaway for sports parents?

Very simple. In much the same way that you need to educate your athlete about education, drugs, steroids, sportsmanship, and so on, you now need to add concerns about social media to the list. Unfortunately for sports parents today, the list only seems to get longer.

As I noted, sports parenting used to be a lot easier.