Archive for June, 2013

ABUSIVE COACHES: Too Many Volunteer Coaches Still Missing the Mark

Every so often I do a radio show in which I survey listeners as to their opinions, and this AM, I asked the question: What’s the biggest frustration you face as a sports parent?

Lots of responses on this one, but overall, the biggest concern came from parents who felt that too few coaches at the youth level really understood the priorities of kids in youth sports. That is, too many coaches truly felt that if the team wins, then everybody goes on  happy – regardless of how much playing time each kid gets.

Then, on top of that, there was frustration that these coaches didn’t have enough skill level to teach some of the finer points of the game, e.g. teaching young soccer players how to dribble with both feet, or teaching kids the proper way to shoot a basketball, etc.

As a result, the kids didn’t really improve their skill level at all.

Then, for travel teams, there were complaints that invariably, the bigger kids were always presumed to have more talent than the smaller athletes, and the big kids always get the nod to make the team from the coaches.

I really could have filled several hours about these issues, but here’s my takeaway:

We really need to make sure anyone who volunteers to coach a sport at the youth level actually knows something about that sport. I know it’s often hard to get adults to volunteer, and so leagues are grateful when somebody helps out. But if you find yourself coaching a bunch of 10 year olds in soccer, and you don’t have any skill in that sport, go out and ask a local HS varsity soccer player to help out and show kids how to improve their skills. The HS kid will be happy to help out, and your players will be even happier that he or she is helping out.

Then, if you are going to coach, be sure to take a memo to learn the rules of the sport. It’s pretty hard to teach kids the basics of the game if you don’t know the rules yourself.

Finally, if you’re running travel tryouts, be objective! Don’t assume that if a kid is bigger than one’s peers that he or she is automatically better than the other kids. Shaquille O’Neal was always much bigger and taller than  his peers, but when he finally tried out for his HS basketball team as a giant freshman, he actually got cut. Yes, he was big….but he lacked the skill set that the other (smaller) kids had.

In short, volunteering to coach takes some real effort. Do the kids on the team a favor, and be prepared.

LEGAL CONCERNS: Choosing Between One’s Religion…and Soccer?

 

Turbans and Tolerance:  What Canadian Soccer Just Taught the World About Resisting Prejudice in Youth Sports

By Doug Abrams

This season, the Quebec Soccer Federation (FSQ) sidelined between 100 and 200 boys throughout the province. Nobody suggested that any had ever played dirty. Nobody suggested that any had ever violated the rules of the game.  The boys were banished from organized youth soccer for only one reason – their religious beliefs left them unable to remove their head turbans.  They are Sikhs, whose faith requires men and boys to wear a turban, even when they play sports.

In early April the Canadian Soccer Association, the sport’s national governing body, directed provincial and territorial associations to permit Sikh players to wear turbans (or patkas and keski). In nine of Canada’s ten provinces and in the nation’s three territories, the soccer governing bodies complied and Sikh youngsters of all ages played alongside their teammates without objection or incident.

The sole holdout was the FSQ, whose director general told Quebec’s Sikh parents that they and their children “ha[d] no choice” but to decide between faith and soccer. Children who chose faith “can play in their backyard,” she said, “but not with official referees, not in the official rules of soccer.” No ifs, ands or buts.

“We Don’t Know”

Once news of Quebec’s mass benching hit the print and social media, national and international voices responded with near universal condemnation.  “What are we saying to the world when we do a ruling like this?,” asked Georges Laraque, the former Montreal Canadiens forward who is now deputy leader of the Green Party of Canada. “It’s an embarrassment.”

The isolated Quebec Soccer Federation tried to defend its ban on turbans as necessary for player safety, even though its director general admitted that no medical evidence supported any safety concerns, and that no injuries to Sikh children or any opponent had ever been attributed to the headwear. “The point is we don’t know,” she explained, “and because we don’t know we don’t want to take any chances.” 

To anyone who has ever watched a youth soccer game, the Quebec Soccer Federation’s speculation about unsafe cloth turbans appeared baseless and indeed malicious. Some observers suggested that Quebec’s defiance reflected its French-speaking majority’s discomfort about a visible local minority who look different. Differences might seem to weaken Quebec’s ethnic and linguistic identity in the province’s sometimes tense political relations with Canada’s English-speaking majority. 

The Toronto Star editorialized that the Quebec Federation’s “rogue decision” reflected “a bigoted stance that has no medical, statistical or legal backing of any kind.” “If the FSQ wants to continue along this track,” the editorial continued, “they do so entirely alone, and in defiance of a world that has passed them by, as well as common decency.” 

“We’re All Sikhs Now”

With safety concerns belittled throughout Canada and the world, the Quebec Soccer Federation’s decision smacked of ethnic and religious discrimination against a discrete, peaceable, but politically vulnerable minority.  If the cloud cast over Canadian youth soccer had a silver lining, however, it was the overwhelming support that Sikhs received once news outlets reported that their children were being denied full and fair opportunity to play.  As one columnist put it, “We’re all Sikhs now.”

On soccer fields throughout Quebec, youth and adult teams that have no Sikh players donned turbans to protest the Quebec Soccer Federation’s stance and to demonstrate support for the sidelined minority.  The Canadian Soccer Association took stern measures to enforce its bylaw that “discrimination of any kind . . . on account of ethnic origin, gender, language, religion, politics or any other reasons is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”

Seeking to “ensure soccer remains accessible to the largest number of Canadians,” the national Association suspended the Quebec Federation on June 10 and imposed heavy sanctions designed to produce compliance.  The sanctions included bans on Quebec teams hosting or participating in soccer games or tournaments with teams from other provinces or nations.

“A Source of International Embarrassment”

On June 14, the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the sport’s world governing body, affirmed that Sikh head turbans were no cause for excluding players at any level of soccer. Finding itself on the defensive amid worldwide outrage, the Quebec Soccer Federation rescinded its ban on turbans a day later.

The Federation scurried to save face and neutralize what the Toronto Star called “a source of international embarrassment for the province.”  The FSQ’s director general said that the body had banned turbans pending FIFA’s ruling on their safety, a procedural step sought by none of Canada’s other provincial or territorial soccer governing bodies.  After digging in its heels for weeks, the Federation now said that it welcomed FIFA’s decision “with enthusiasm and relief,” and was “delighted that FIFA was able to answer our questions and remove any ambiguity.”          

“Sunshine Is the Best Disinfectant”

A tolerant society makes reasonable accommodations for its members’ religious beliefs that impose no burden on anyone else and do not implicate government action.  The outcome should be different if Sikh families of youth football or hockey players argued that the religious obligation to wear turbans excuses their children from wearing helmets whose protective mandate is squarely grounded in medical science and common experience.  But soccer requires no helmets, so Quebec’s alarm about cloth turbans stood exposed to the world for what it was — a smokescreen for prejudice. 

As the Canadian Soccer Association’s bylaws recognize, prejudice may stem from race, ethnicity, religion or other distinguishing characteristic that should sideline or otherwise disadvantage no one. For those of us who value athletic competition as a potentially powerful engine for the national good, prejudice in sports needs to be exposed whenever it surfaces, particularly when the direct victims are children.

In a recent column, for example, I wrote about a referee who threatened Florida youth soccer players and coaches with expulsion for speaking Spanish on the field.  Two weeks ago, I wrote about Hong Kong youth soccer players who are deprived of many quality coaches and officials because the local soccer federation openly discriminates against non-Chinese adults who wish to serve the kids. The Quebec Soccer Federation’s shortsighted decision that effectively banished Sikh children belongs on this list, not only for the prejudice that fueled the decision, but also for the refreshing chorus of national and international condemnation that led to its swift reversal. 

This condemnation demonstrates that when leagues remain resolute about making sports accessible to the greatest number of children, prejudice exposed to public view usually does not withstand the light of day.  Speaking about the power of public vision, Justice Louis D. Brandeis put it well: “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.” 

 

[Sources: Peter Rakobowchuk, Quebec Soccer Suspension to Have Major Impact on Refs, Players and Tournaments, Canadian Press, June 12, 2013; Turban Ban Exposed as Bigoted Stance It Is, Toronto Star, June 15, 2013, at S1 (editorial); Nelson Wyatt, Quebec Soccer Federation Finally Ends Turban Ban After FIFA Ruling, Canadian Press, June 15, 2013; Sam Borden & Ian Austin, Canadian Conflict Grows Out of Quebec Soccer Federation’s Ban on Turbans, N.Y. Times, June 11, 2013; John Ivison, Thanks to Quebec’s Idiotic Turban Ban, On the Soccer Pitch, We Are All Sikhs Now, National Post, June 13, 2013; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXw43I9yy_s (2:44);   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZrmBBPjry0 (2:52).]

LEGAL CONCERNS: Six Dutch Teenage Soccer Players Convicted of Murder of Ref

I had reported a few weeks ago about a startling and sobering case from The Netherlands where several teenaged soccer players were so outraged by the officiating in a game that they literally attacked – and killed – the ref afer the match was over.

This was stunning news in the world of sports, although in truth, the case didn’t get much attention here in the US.

In any event, the case recently went to trial, and  here are the results: six teenage boys between ages of 15 and 16, and a player’s father were found guilty of beating an amateur linesman to death. (The soccer ref had been beaten and kicked so badly that he collapsed into a coma and died the next day).

Five of the boys were given two-year sentences in a youth detention facility, and another boy was sentenced to a year. The father was sentenced to six years in prison.

The Dutch court gave the 50-year-old father the harshest penalty since it felt that instead of trying to save the ref, he simply joined in with the boys and beat and kicked the official.

 

 

OBNOXIOUS SPORTS PARENTS: The Criminality of Attacking Young Ref’s

 

 

When Verbal Abuse of a Teen Official Becomes Criminal Child Endangerment

By Doug Abrams

 

Every so often, a newspaper column sends a powerful, unforgettable message. On March 14, 2008 – more than five years ago – the Meridian Booster, a small newspaper in Alberta, Canada, carried a letter-to-the-editor that has stayed with me because it describes unrelenting verbal abuse of a local teen as he did his job. 

“I watched,” recounted the letter writer, “as two grown men in their 30s and 40s bullied a 15-year-old boy while he was at work. For more than an hour, the men were frantically yelling and hollering, waving their arms, calling the boy dumb, and when all of that didn’t work they resorted to glaring menacingly at the kid.”

“When the boy’s shift was over,” the writer continued, “I watched him leave his work area, change out of his uniform and go home. This place is off limits to the general public, but I watched as one of these men aggressively barged right into this changing area and continued to yell at and berate the boy until the boy and his co-workers asked the man to leave. After this man left, I watched as he went over to his friend (a prominent business owner in our area) and a woman who had joined them. The two men and woman told each other how justified they felt to confront this kid, patting each other on the back and planning their next moves.”

The targeted boy’s job?  Refereeing a youth hockey game between two teams of elementary school kids. The two adult bullies? Coaches of one of the teams.

 “They Think It’s Life and Death

This column concerns the law’s response to verbal, and sometimes physical, abuse that some parents and coaches inflict on teen officials during and after games.  One act of slapping or punching the official can constitute criminal assault warranting prosecution, and persistent verbal abuse during and after games can amount to criminal child endangerment.

In just the past month or so, several newspaper articles chronicle adult manhandling of teen officials. On May 2, for example, the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press reported the arrest of a 43-year-old manager of a 10-12-year-old New Jersey Little League baseball team.  The manager was charged with two counts of assault for slapping a 17-year-old umpire who had ejected him from a game.

On May 7, the Sunshine Coast Daily (Queensland, Australia) wrote about a father who watched his son, a 14-year-old referee, absorb verbal abuse from an adult soccer fan and then, in the next game, from a coach who accused the boy of biased calls on the field. “I don’t think they see the youth in the kids,” the father said, “They think it’s life and death when in fact it’s youth sport.”  

On May 18, the Santa Clarita (Calif.) News reported a 34-year-old coach’s arrest for assaulting a 17-year-old referee during a 12-14-year-old parks and recreation department flag football game.  The coach walked onto the field, yelled about the referee’s call, and struck the boy in the face, knocking him to the turf.

On May 20, the Charleston (S.C.) Post & Courier wrote about a teen umpire who was “in tears as he took off his equipment after the game, because one of the coaches had given him such a hard time” during a recreation league baseball game. A fellow 16-year-old umpire wondered aloud whether the few dollars he earns each game is worth the verbal abuse hurled at him by parents and coaches who “will do whatever they can to win.”

State of Denial

It is simply too easy to dismiss news reports about abuse of teen officials by reassuring ourselves that “only a minority of adults step out of line,” and that “most adults respect the bounds of decent behavior.”  I happen to agree that abusive adults do constitute the minority, but I suspect that media coverage alone actually understates the number of adults who step over the line.  Many readers of this column doubtlessly can recall embarrassing incidents that never reached the local papers because, without someone arrested or seriously injured, the abusive confrontation seemed commonplace and not newsworthy.

I showed this column in draft form to Neil Jackson, one of our University of Missouri second-year law students and a member of my squirt hockey team 12 years ago.  Speaking about high school students who umpire youth baseball games, Neil said that “personal friends of mine have quit on the spot. . . . I have seen not only coaches, but also parents harass the umpire in the parking lot. I have been informed about one particular umpire, a very close personal friend of mine, who was challenged to a fight in the parking lot after he told a parent to calm down or leave the premises. The high school players are being harassed by the same small percentage of parents day in and day out. From my experience, the umpires must ‘gear up’ when umpiring a specific team to deal with parents who are out of control. . . . All the high school umpires want to do is get through the game without the coach or parents of one of the teams making a scene.”  

Endangering the Welfare of a Child

In extreme cases of adult abuse of teen officials, the response may include criminal prosecution because teen officials deserve the same protection that children and adolescents receive outside of sports. Children’s games hold no immunity from the standards of child protection that apply on Main Street, at home, or anyplace else in town.

When a parent or coach strikes an official (teen or otherwise), the adult has committed a criminal assault.  When an adult levels incessant verbal harassment at a teen official during or after a game, the adult may sooner or later cross the line that separates healthy competition from the crime of endangering the welfare of a child.

Criminal endangerment statutes are broadly worded to enable authorities to reach a wide range of conduct that compromises the strong public interest in child protection.  In New York, for example, a person commits the crime of endangering the welfare of a child (a class A misdemeanor) when “[h]e or she knowingly acts in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a child less than seventeen years old.” 

Under the New York statute, the “person” prosecuted may be the child’s parent or anyone else, and the offense may be committed at home or in the community.  Injury to a child’s physical welfare may stem from one act, such as the punches and slaps that led to the recent arrests in New Jersey and California.  Injury to a child’s mental welfare often stems from a pattern of belittling, derision or other verbal abuse; in extreme cases, the unrelenting torrent that adults sometimes unleash on teen officials during and after games would fit the bill. Because the test is likelihood of injury, the prosecutor does not have to prove that actual harm occurred.

Easy Targets

As I discussed in a recent column, many youth leagues report a chronic shortage of qualified adult officials because so many hang up their whistles, unwilling to endure abuse from parents and coaches. With the supply of adult officials dwindling, some leagues have enlisted teens, who often bear the brunt from parents and coaches who see them as easy targets. As Neil Jackson observed, many teenagers quit too once they or their parents grow concerned about their safety and sensibilities.  These teens stepped forward to participate in the game and to earn some spending money, not to become fair game for abusive adults. 

Except in extreme cases, the better response to adults’ abuse of teen officials would be prompt discipline imposed by the local league or association, which sometimes occurs. When this informal discipline fails or when the abuse is particularly serious, however, the law protects children from adult-inflicted endangerment for a reason. 

 

[Sources: Terra Weaver, Give Young Refs a Break, Meridian Booster (Alberta, Canada), Mar. 14, 2008, p. A5; Perry Smith, Castaic Man Charged With Assaulting Ref in Valencia Flag Football Game, Santa Clarita (Calif.) News, May 18, 2013; Stephanie Loder, Berkeley Little League Manager Charged With Hitting Teen Umpire, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, May 2, 2013; The Ugly Side of Sporting Prejudice, Sunshine Coast Daily (Queensland, Australia), May 7, 2013, p. 4; Teen Umpires Deal With Grown-Ups, Post & Courier (Charleston, S.C.), May 20, 2013, p. 2; N.Y. Penal Law section 260.10]

INNOVATIONS IN SPORTS: Creative Signs Remind Parents to Behave

It’s such a simple and straightforward idea that it’s amazing that it wasn’t put into place years ago.

In short, in Buffalo Grove, a Chicago suburb where, like so many other American suburbs were parents tend to be out-of-control at their kids’ sporting events, the local rec department decided to erect a bunch of signs to remind Moms and Dads to stay cool. Take a look:

“Of the hundreds of thousands of children who have ever played youth sports in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, very few have gone on to play professionally. It is highly unlikely that any college recruiters or professional scouts are watching these games; so, let’s keep it all about having fun and being pressure-free.”

Simple…direct…and right to the point. And how about this sign?

“Referees umpires and officials are human and make mistakes, just like players, coaches and you. No one shouts at you in front of other people when you make a mistake, so please don’t yell at them. We do not have video replay; so, we will go with their calls.”

I think this is a simply splendid idea, even to the point where it would make sense for local coaches and parents to take a moment before each game to read through each sign and others like them, just to remind them to keep their perspective.

The good people in Buffalo Grove, IL, are to be saluted. I like this idea, I like the way it’s been implemented, and I would urge communities everywhere to do the same. It’s inexpensive and a positive way to gently remind Moms and Dads to act like adults.

 

 

 

 

Sport Safety: Local Booster Club Raffles Off Firearms to Raise Funds for HS Team

Well, when it comes to trying to find a creative way to raise funding for school sports, this one is a bit different.

A HS booster club in Georgetown, TX is raffling off 52 firearms to help raise monies for its local HS sports programs. Tickets which cost $100 a piece will lead to “winners” having a shot (no pun intended) of getting shotguns, hand guns, or semi-automatics.

At least one local town politico is wondering whether this makes sense after the tragic events a few months ago at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, CT. Says Rachael Jonrowe, a member of the Georgetown City Council, “I will say the nature of this raffle makes me wonder if the boosters are truly interested in fund raising or making a political statement. There’s a big difference between the cheerleaders selling popcorn and poinsettias and raffling off guns.”

In response to this comment, booster club president Andy Haas commented, “Texas is full of hunters, and you try to take advantage of that marketing opportunity. The fall’s a perfect time (for the raffle), right before dove season.”

I’m curious as to what you think. Good idea? Bad idea? let me know…thanks, Coach Wolff

ABUSIVE COACHES: The Ongoing Embarrassment of Rutgers

I can’t recall the last time I was so heated on my radio show, but the ongoing nonsense at Rutgers just gets my blood boiling.

Look,  I have no ties with the school. I didn’t go there, don’t know anybody there. But as someone who cares deeply about student-athletes, I just don’t understand how the powers-that-be at that university could not do any due diligence on Julie Hermann. I mean, clearly the school is trying to find a squeaky-clean athletic director to lift them out of the muck-and-mire that Rutgers has been through, but of all the highly qualified candidates all over America, they decide to hire a woman who has been at the center of  lawsuits and whose former players despised her?

President Ronald Reagan used to caution his staff to “trust, but verify.” Didn’t anyone at Rutgers think it might be a good idea to check on this woman’s background? In business, doing due diligence is routine, especially with google and facebook being available. And in this case, it would have been worth hiring a private investigator to check on this woman’s background.

But no. Rutgers couldn’t wait to hire her, and now they find themselves in another embarrassing predicament.

Meanwhile, speaking of Julie Hermann as a coach. She says she doesn’t recall her players being upset with her. If that’s her recollection, that alone, in my mind, would disqualify her from being hired. After all, as the athletic director, she would be in charge of overseeing all the coaches on staff to make sure they don’t abuse their players. That doesn’t make any sense at all.

C’mon Rutgers…as my son said to me this AM, “Finding good quality coaches and athletic directors just can’t be that difficult.”

But apparently, for some schools, I guess it is.

COACHING TIPS: Fighting Discrimination in Youth Sports

 

Lessons From Hong Kong About How Discrimination Hurts Youth Sports

By Doug Abrams

 

Early last month, the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s English-language daily newspaper, carried an article about a crisis facing the most popular local youth sport.  Writer William Lai identified “the troublesome trio of over-competitive coaches, overprotective parents and underqualified referees that together can lead to pandemonium in youth soccer.”  Sounds like the perfect storm, with the kids caught right in the middle.

The Morning Post article appeared a little more than a year after Hong Kong youth soccer became an instant worldwide sensation, thanks to a video of a 10-year-old boy who ran a few yards to intentionally kick a downed opponent in the face during a game.  The boy was arrested, and the incident produced more than 2.5 million hits on YouTube.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=el2rMdNq4Hk (0:28). 

“Go to any youth match on any given weekend,” Lai reports now, “and the components that caused last season’s head-kick incident are still present in and around the pitch, waiting for another spark to ignite.”

Why the potentially explosive crisis in Hong Kong youth soccer?  “Only a handful [of coaches] are properly qualified,” Lai explains, and “[t]he situation is even worse for potential referees.” According to the Morning Post, under-qualified youth soccer coaches and referees proliferate thanks to ethnic prejudice by leaders of the Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA), the sport’s governing body.

Prejudice and Exclusion

Hong Kong’s seven million inhabitants are overwhelmingly ethnically Chinese, but the area retains a European heritage stemming from more than 150 years as a British colony and commercial center before China resumed sovereignty in 1997.  The Morning Post reports that in Hong Kong’s multicultural society, the HKFA “discriminates against local non-Chinese” by conducting youth soccer coaching instruction classes only in Cantonese.  This “pitiable practice,” says the paper, effectively denies instruction to anyone who wishes to hone coaching skills but speaks and reads only another language. 

Nearly all of Hong Kong’s youth soccer referees are ethnic Chinese because the HKFA advertises its referee certification courses only in Chinese.  “It is nigh impossible,” says the Morning Post, “for anyone from overseas who does not read or speak Chinese to become an official HKFA referee,” even though “Cantonese speakers and Chinese readers” are not “the only ones passionate about soccer,” or the only local residents with something worthwhile to offer youngsters.

Diversity in American Youth Sports

Hong Kong’s youth soccer players take the field more than 7,000 miles from America’s western shores. The recent Morning Post article remains instructive for U.S. audiences, however, by demonstrating how easily “inequality and double standards” applied by local youth sports administrators can hurt the kids.

When administrators discriminate against prospective coaches and referees based on language or culture, the discrimination inevitably diminishes players’ development, safety and fun by excluding many talented adults altogether, and by denying effective training to many others who remain.  The Morning Post article does not mention it, but I wonder whether discrimination against non-Chinese coaches and referees also deters some Hong Kong families from pursuing soccer in the first place because their first language is not Chinese and they know that their children might have difficulty processing instruction.

Youth sports officials in the United States seem to have learned lessons about cultural diversity, lessons that evidently still elude the Hong Kong Football Association.  Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and various other professional leagues have joined with youth sports national governing bodies to pursue initiatives to increase participation by inner-city children and other under-served populations, including immigrant communities whose children are still learning English. These initiatives face stiff challenges with much yet to accomplish, but they laudably seek to encourage wider participation.

Ethnicity and language barriers nonetheless remain real in American youth sports, as in other areas of American life.  In early December, for example, I wrote a column about a foolish incident that took place a few days earlier, when two Cooper City, Florida referees ejected an otherwise qualified volunteer youth soccer coach from a game for instructing some of his 14-18-year-old players in Spanish.  The coach had refused to heed the refs’ instructions to speak only English.  The ejected coach later said that various referees had also previously tried to discourage players from speaking Spanish to one another during games.  Embarrassed Cooper City officials had the good sense to swiftly disavow any English-only rule, and to reaffirm the culture of inclusion grounded in tolerance. 

According to press reports, most of the Cooper City youth soccer players spoke English, a few were bi-lingual, and a few recent arrivals relied on Spanish as they were learning English.  This breakdown is exactly what we would expect in U.S. towns with immigrant communities, in multi-cultural Hong Kong, and in other nations and regions with immigrant or indigenous populations.  The difference is that non-English-speaking youth soccer coaches frequently assume leadership roles in Florida and elsewhere in the United States, but that coaches not fluent in Chinese evidently face artificial barriers or outright exclusion in Hong Kong.

Tolerance and Outreach

The recent South China Morning Post article, and isolated incidents such as the ill-advised English-only warnings in Cooper City, underscore the value of encouraging families of diverse backgrounds and life experiences to participate actively in a nation’s mainstream youth sports culture. Marginalizing talented adults, or sidelining interested children, because of surmountable ethnic or language barriers disserves the national interest. 

When adults and children from diverse cultures follow the rules of the game, a nation wins when grass-roots youth programs encourage the cultural assimilation that participation in organized youth sports encourages. The impulse to include, rather than exclude, participants marks youth sports at its finest in the United States, in Hong Kong, and throughout the world.

 

[Sources: William Lai, Coaching and Refereeing Courses Should Be For All, South China Morning Post, May 3, 2013, p. 19; William Lai, Ingredients of Violence Remain At Youth Matches, South China Morning Post, Apr. 26, 2013, p. 16]