Archive for September, 2013

COACHING TIPS: The Top Ten Sports Parenting Myths

THE TOP TEN SPORTS PARENTING MYTHS

 (As presented on Rick Wolff’s Sports Edge Radio Show, Sunday AM, September 28, 2013)

1) The younger you can get your child on a travel team, the better.

            In some teams, travel teams start as early as age 5 or 6. We talked the other day about a soccer program out in LA that draws in kids who are 18 months old. That’s nonsense.

Here’s the bottom line on having your kid specialize on a travel team at a tender age. Nobody has ever produced a valid scientific study that shows that having your child play on a travel team at a very early age is going to guarantee their athletic success down the road.

Now, think about that. There are no such studies.

On the other hand, it’s the instinctive mindset of parents everywhere that if I can somehow give my kid an early start, then that will catapult ahead of their peers.

Yeah, I know all those arguments…but I just don’t know if they actually work.

            However, on the other side of the coin, there are lots of studies that show that burnout is a real problem for kids in their early teens – and burnout usually affects kids who have been playing one sport for a long, long time on a travel team.

            Burnout usually hits around the ages of 11 or 12. And when a kid burns out, they rarely come back to the sport.

 2) All travel team coaches are certified instructors, have degrees in physical education or psychology, and have a solid background in coaching kids.

            Just a reminder….ANYBODY can say they’re a travel coach and start their own team. There are no rules, no regulations, and no licenses needed. And in truth, most travel teams –especially at the younger ages – are started by local Dads who are eager to give their own kid a leg-up.

            And often, these Dads “pre-appoint” the kids on the team. That is, they quietly arrange to have the “better” athletes in town to be on the team. Then, they have try outs…but as you might imagine, the die is already cast.

            It’s very, very hard – and cruel – to have your 8 or 9 year old have their hopes so high when trying out for the team…only to NOT make the team. Even worse, to realize that the team was actually pre-selected by the Dad who runs the team with his buddies.

            Bottom line? There’s a lot of good about travel teams…but DO YOUR HOMEWORK first. It’s really caveat emptor.

Unlike teachers, who have to be certified by the state in which they work, travel coaches have no such requirements. Unfortunately, too many parents automatically assume that travel coaches are well equipped to work with kids when, in face, they aren’t. Do your homework on any travel team coach before your son or daughter tries out. Never assume that the travel coach has any real credentials as a coach OR that the tryouts are done on an equal basis.

 3) The sooner your child specializes in just one sport, the better chance they have of advancing to a higher level (e.g. college, professional ranks).

I can’t emphasize this enough….especially for kids who play TEAM sports, bear this in mind – -most of today’s top professional athletes didn’t even think to specialize in just one sport until they were in high school, around the age of 15 – 9th or 10th grade. When they were younger, they played a variety of sports, depending on the season.

            Now. some youth and travel coaches will pressure kids to just play one sport. Again, be wary of this!

In addition to burnout worries, ask yourself: how does your child know which sport will be their best one unless they try a bunch of different sports? When they’re young, let them try a bunch of activities – and then let them decide.

            How many NFL football players am I watching each Sunday and the commentator says, “This big tight end never even played college football…he played basketball in school.”

            Or how about Michael Cox, the running back on the Giants? He was a gung-ho ice hockey player growing up…never even touched a football until he was in HS – and yet he’s playing in the NFL, not the NHL.

            Doug Abrams reminds us that Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax was a basketball star in Brooklyn and went to college at the University of Cincinnati on a basketball player. That didn’t seem to get in the way of his pitching career. 

            These kinds of examples are endless. Athletes who didn’t specialize in a sport, or who shifted from one sport to another as they got into HS.

 4) The very best time to teach your youngster how to improve their play is immediately after the game; ideally, in the car ride on the way home while their game actions are still fresh in their mind.

            That’s the absolute worst time to critique your child!  Evaluating their game right after the match is finished will drive them away from the sport  — and from you!

            We haven’t talked about the PGA in awhile…but the Post-Game Analysis is still dangerous to inflict on your child. Don’t do it!

            As a well-meaning parent who wants their kid to improve, DON”T mistake of thinking I have to go over his or her mistakes while the game is still fresh in their head. Wait until a quiet moment later that evening or the next day. For right now, just let them enjoy the moment.

 5) A youngster who is a top athlete among his or her peers at age 8 is clearly destined to be a star when they’re 18.

            While this happens sometimes, more times than not, it doesn’t. There’s very little predictive value when it comes to saying that an 8-year-old will grow to be a superior athlete when they’re 18.

There are just too many factors – the adolescent growth spurt (or lack thereof), the youngster’s personal motivation, skill level, etc. – that will influence how that athlete will develop when it comes to sports.

            I recall a study from some years ago in a small town that revealed that the kids who were the athletic stars at age 8 – only about 25% of those kids were also athletic stars at age 18. That’s right – only a quarter.

            The lesson? Never underestimate the power of adolescence! Everything changes a lot during those key years.

 6) Creatine as well as other nutritional supplements that are sold in health stores have all been proven to be safe for kids; otherwise, it would be illegal for the stores to sell these products.

            While creatine and a number of other nutritional supplement products are legal in most states, that doesn’t mean that they’re healthy for your youngster. Be forewarned! There are no long range medical or scientific studies that show that these supplements are safe to ingest!

            Problem is…our kids assume that if they are for sale in a nicely colored package or can, they must be safe. Educate your kids!!

            Understand that not all of these products are approved by the Food and Drug Administration….as such, kids ingest them and sometimes in large quantities (hey, if one dosage is recommended, why not get twice the impact by taking a double dosage?)

            Warn your kids. That’s your responsibility.

 7) Sportsmanship is something that can only be taught by your child’s coach.

            Not quite. In fact, being a good sport starts with you — his or her parent. First, starting when they’re young, you should teach your child how to behave not only after a loss, but also after a win. Explain to them what’s the right way to act.

Secondly, during the heat of games, you have to set a positive example of how to behave – especially when a call goes against your child or child’s team. Be advised: Kids watch carefully to see how you react when things aren’t going your way. So if you’re going nuts on a call, they will automatically follow your pattern.

            Leaving the lessons of sportsmanship up to the coach is a mistake. The coach should only have to enforce good sportsmanship – not teach it as well.

 8) All coaches are created equal.

            Unfortunately, that’s just not true. There are a few exceptionally good coaches. There are also a few very bad coaches. Most fall somewhere in the middle. Like anything else in life, you hope that your child is lucky enough to play for a couple of those gifted coaches along the way, and can somehow avoid the not-so-good ones.

            With teachers, usually your kid is stuck with whoever they get…but with coaches, it can sometimes be different.

            Again, do your homework before the season begins. Ask around to other parents. See if you can find out which coaches care about the kids – and which coaches are more focused on other priorities.

 9) Kids will be happy so long as they’re part of a winning team.

            Big misconception. All kids prefer to play – and play a lot – on a losing or not-so-good team, so long as they’re playing in the games —  as opposed to playing only sparingly on a championship team.

            The kids instinctively know that the fun of the sport is in the actual playing – not in being on the sidelines and having to applaud one of their teammates.

            The good and great coaches not only know this truth…but they also embrace it. They make sure ALL the kids play, and play a lot, in each game.

 10) The vast majority of Moms and Dads tend to be honest and fairly objective about their child’s ability in sports.

            While we like to think we are, the truth is – we really aren’t. And you’re kidding yourself if you don’t acknowledge this.

Most parents see their youngster are simply being better looking, smarter than the other kids, and certainly more athletically talented than the others.

            Relax. This is all part of being a sports parent. But do what you can to keep your bragging to just you and your spouse. Problems erupt when you try and convince the other parents that your kid is a star!

 

 

LEGAL CONCERNS: Is Title IX Being Used to Discriminate Against Girls?

There’s such a weird thing going on at Horace Greeley HS in Chappaqua, NY.

This season, there are not one, but two boys, playing on the girls’ volleyball team. Traditionally, the volleyball program in this part of New York State (Section One which includes Westchester County), the volleyball teams are comprised SOLELY of girls. There are no HS volleyball programs for boys.

Now, as Diane Swertfager, the long-time, highly-successful coach of Hendrick Hudson HS volleyball, pointed out this morning on my show, boys’ HS volleyball teams are pretty much routine throughout the rest of the country. In fact, she points out that even in other parts of New York State, there are separate HS teams for boys and for girls.

But at Greeley HS, the two boys had to petition first the varsity, then the HS AD, and then the matter went to the superintendent. Along the way, the boys had to take a test which measured their physical strength. That is, if they were shown to be too strong or too powerful, they wouldn’t be able to play on the girls’ team.

As you might imagine, somehow, the boys “passed” that test and were cleared to play. Coach Swertfager saw a Greeley game just last week, and said that the boys were clearly a cut above the girls in a variety of skills. She even had videotaped the boys in action so that a case could be presented to the Section One authorities.

But the viewing of those tapes probably won’t happen for another month or so, meaning that the boys will continue to play. And opposing teams have to play Greeley, whether they like the fact that boys are on that team.

Meanwhile, how about the parents of any girl on the Greeley team who is seeing their daughter get less playing time because of the presence of the boys? Or perhaps a girl or two were cut because of the two boys?

That seems to fly very much into the face of why Title IX was passed in the first place some 40 years.

There’s a very simple – and fair – solution to this mess. If the parents of the boys who want to play volleyball in HS really want to compete, then they should start a formal petition to the Greeley school board to start a club team for boys’ volleyball. And if that works in the first year (a club team is fully paid for by the parents), then petition to have a real varsity team the second year. The good news is that volleyball expenses, unlike ice hockey or football, are pretty minimal.

In that way, everybody comes out  a winner. The girls have their team, and the boys will have theirs. To try and allow boys to play on the girls’ team seems to present some many ways in which things can go wrong.

SPORTS PARENTING OVERVIEW: How Times Have Changed….

I was chatting earlier this past week with a woman in her 40s about how much the world of sports parenting has evolved in the last 10-20 years. The more we talked, the more I began to marvel at the scope of how things have changed.

Just imagine:

> There are now full-fledged schools popping up all over America where the main attraction is one particular sport. Yes, the students go through a regular academic curriculum, but the school’s main focus is that one sport.

Why? Because zealous sports parents are convinced that this kind of schooling will provide their kid with the best chance to get a pro contract or at least a college scholarship.

> More and more parents are deliberately holding their child back a year in school at a young age.

Why? Because these parents are convinced that a delay in the start of their kid’s schooling will guarantee that their child will be one of the older (and presumably more physically mature) kids in their class. Bigger kids, it is presumed, will have a leg up on their athletic peers.

> There was a report recently that a soccer clinic has been operating in the Los Angeles where the kids are as young as 18-months. Why?

Because it’s never too soon to get a “promising” soccer player to start practicing. Again, it’s all about getting ahead of the competition.

I could go on with plenty of other examples, but you get the drift. We now live in a society where well-meaning parents will do anything they can if it will somehow help their child become a star in a sport.

Of course, every sports parent knows that the odds of a HS varsity athlete making a college team is less than 4%. But despite those long odds, parents keep pushing and prodding their child.

It’s really out of control. And the truth is, the process just seems to be gaining more and more momentum.  We can only wonder what things will be like in 10 or 20 years.

 

 

 

ABUSIVE COACHES: Lessons Still Need to be Learned….

 

Assault-Free Youth Coaching:  The “Dog Test” Revisited 

By Doug Abrams

If you wanted to teach your son not to play with matches, would you reinforce the lesson by thrusting his hand onto an open flame more than a dozen times? If your daughter failed to achieve, would you hurl objects that leave welts all over her body?

An Inappropriate “Training Technique”

In suburban Dallas last month, select league baseball coach Ron Santos was convicted of assault with bodily injury, a class A misdemeanor, for intentionally hitting a 15-year-old player with as many as 15 pitches in an effort to teach the team how to take a pitch.  CBS News reported that the 60-80 mile per hour throws left the player “severely bruised, with the balls thrown so hard that impressions of the seams were left on his body.”

Santos initially told investigators that hitting the player with high-speed pitches was an appropriate “training technique.” The jury disagreed, and he received 15 days in jail, a $500 fine, and 18 months of community supervision. He must also produce a video about the dangers of being hit by a pitch, and he may not pitch to players for one year. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NTek4RBWA8

“Getting Pegged”

In nearby Oklahoma two weeks ago, veteran Durant Silo Junior High School baseball coach Roy West was charged with seven felony counts of inflicting injury to a child. The charges stem from allegations that he intentionally threw baseballs at seven players’ heads, arms or lower torsos for “inadequate performance.” “The allegation,” the county sheriff reported in April, was that if the players “were not doing everything the way they were supposed to, he would make them stand up with their backs toward him and he would throw balls at them.”

The probable cause affidavit, released by the sheriff’s office, reported that “[m]ultiple children [came] forward displaying substantial bruises to their legs and arms, consistent with having been struck by a baseball thrown with significant force.” Players would stand “facing away from the coach and . . . ‘get pegged.’ One witness statement described the students involved as being defenseless and without helmets or bats to protect them from injury.”

Lessons Yet Unlearned

As Rick Wolff reported last Sunday morning, this sort of coaching abuse has been in the news quite a bit lately. Earlier this summer, I wrote a column about former Rutgers University men’s basketball coach Mike Rice, who was terminated after he was caught on video abusing his players at practice. As described by ESPN, the video showed Rice “firing basketballs at players, hitting them in the back, legs, feet and shoulders. Rice was also seen pushing players in the chest and grabbing them by their jerseys and yanking them around the court.”  

I proposed the “Dog Test” as the bare minimum for judging coaches’ behavior toward the team. “Coaches should not treat their players worse than they would treat the family dog.  If the coach would not do or say something to the dog, the coach should not do or say it to a player either.” Rice failed the test, and so did Santos and (if the allegations are proved) West.

Shaking the Youth Sports Tree

I concluded this summer’s “Dog Test” column by predicting that future stories of coaching abuse would continue to surface, including some from youth leagues. “In my experience, most youth league and high school coaches take their instructive and mentoring roles seriously. . . .  But I also think that if we shook the youth sports tree, particularly at the more competitive select levels, some coaches lacking basic self-control and respect for their players would fall out.”

It didn’t take long for Ron Santos and Roy West to fall from the tree, and I doubt that either coach would hurl dangerous objects at the family dog as a “training technique” or to remedy “inadequate performance.” So much for the Dog Test.

Five Basic Suggestions

What can interscholastic and youth league sports programs do about the relatively few miscreant coaches who, despite screening before hiring or appointment, teach or administer discipline by physical intimidation that would amount to child abuse or child endangerment? 

1)  Parent education. Before the season, programs should distribute to parents a “Youth Leaguer’s Bill of Rights,” drawn from the program’s bylaws and from guidelines prescribed by the sport’s national and state governing bodies. For example, USA Hockey’s “Coach’s Code of Conduct,” included in the Official Rules of Ice Hockey, promotes assault-free coaching with the admonition to “never verbally or physically abuse a player.” Parents may decide whether to share the distributed document at home with their players.

2)  Supervision. School officials, members of the coaching committee, or their designees should periodically supervise coaches during practices and games. Coaches prone to assaultive behavior often cross the line several times before anyone ever makes a report, as Mike Rice reportedly did. Early intervention is the best intervention.   

 3)  Coaches’ training. Mandatory pre-season coaching certification seminars are healthy recent developments that help assure a more qualified and responsible corps of coaches.  Sometimes, however, seminars are heavy on Xs and Os, and light on such important matters as mutual respect and children’s physical and emotional needs. Seminar organizers need to recalibrate the balance by, among other things, stressing that teaching or disciplining by physical assault remains off-limits. 

 4) Coaches’ collaboration.  The two youth coaches arrested recently should have sensed that their methods were, to say the very least, unorthodox.  I doubt that either ever saw another coach pegging baseballs at his defenseless players. In the name of prevention, programs should maintain cultures that encourage coaches to seek advice from one another, or from the coaching committee, before trying something that might cross the line into child abuse.  If a coach thinks that the approach might cross the line, it probably does.

5) Reporting without retaliation. Virtually every practice session and game has at least one parent in attendance, and children often talk at home about unusual happenings.  As parents maintain open lines of communication with their children, programs should maintain cultures that inspire confidence that families or players will not suffer retaliation for reporting coaches’ physical abuse.  Physical assault directed at one player endangers every player because it is difficult to predict who the next target may be.  Coaches deserve support against complaints by vindictive parents who seem motivated by dissatisfaction about such matters as the team’s win-loss record or their player’s position in the lineup, but most people know physical assault when they see it.

Conclusion

The nation continues to debate whether parents should inflict corporal punishment on their own children, but that debate is irrelevant here because the coach is not the child’s parent. No coach should ever lay a hand on a player. Period.  Because welts are welts and injury is injury, a coach who intentionally fires a baseball, basketball, hockey puck or other object at a player has “laid a hand on” the player.

Regardless of their best intentions to instruct or correct, parents who leave welts on their children routinely face child abuse or child endangerment charges.  Coaches should fare no better. Supervising other people’s children in sports is serious business because the coach-player relationship begins when parents confer trust by inviting the coach to participate in their child’s upbringing. 

 

[Sources: Ben Rohrbach, Another Youth Baseball Coach Arrested for Firing Pitches at “Inadequate” Player’s Head, http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/highschool-prep-rally/another-youth-baseball-coach-arrested-firing-pitches-inadequate-161137918.html (Sept. 5, 2013); Coach Beaned Player With Baseballs, Convicted of Assault, http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2013/08/07/coach-beaned-player-with-baseballs-convicted-of-assault/ (Aug. 7, 2013); Ed Godfrey et al., Silo Coach Under Investigation, http://newsok.com/high-school-baseball-silo-coach-under-investigation/article/3786859 (Apr. 16, 2013); “The Coach’s ‘Dog Test’” — http://askcoachwolff.com/2013/07/30/abusive-coaches-would-you-pass-the-coachs-dog-test/]

COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS: Has The Time Come to Pay Student-Athletes?

With all the recent stories and headlines regarding college football players being paid illegally by boosters, and with the spate of best-selliing books (such as John U. Bacon’s FOURTH AND LONG and Jeff Benedict’s THE SYSTEM), it’s no surprise that the age-old debate of whether college football players should be paid has cropped up again.

Even TIME Magazine made this debate into a recent cover story.

While there’s no question that college football players at the Division I level are already on full athletic scholarship — getting their tuition, room, books, and board all paid by the school — you can certainly make a strong argument that these students are indeed being paid. Unlike millions of “regular” college students, these football players can graduate without having accumulated thousands in debt. And that’s a significant point.

But let’s back up a bit. At the start of every college football game that’s televised, they routinely introduce the players with their year in school, height, weight, hometown, and then their major. How many times have you wondered what “University Studies” means or “General Studies”? I have no idea what those majors are. Call me a skeptic, but I assume those are merely majors  that allow the athlete to simply maintain their eligibility to play.

Furthermore, here’s an idea my Dad, Hall of Fame sportscaster Bob Wolff, has promulgated for years. Since most college grads have zero idea of what they want to do when they graduate, why not administer a standard Myers-Briggs’ vocational test when they arrive at freshmen? That will at least help point them in the direction of what talents they may have.

This is especially important for football players who assume that their major talent in life  is playing football. It’s about time to clue them in that 99% of them are NOT going to play pro ball. If nothing else, get them thinking early on about having a back-up plan in life if the 49ers or Bears don’t offer them a contract.

Then, have each athlete work with a freshman counselor to think seriously about a career in marketing, or in criminal justice, or in teaching, or in writing software code. That’s the real purpose of higher education, not spending more time in the weight room.

But back to the original point. If my son is going to risk concussions and serious physical injury while playing college football, I’d like the school to not only pick up his tuition, room, board, and books, but I also would like the school to pay him an annual stipend. College football is a Billion-dollar business these days, and while the athletes don’t pay the price of tuition –  they DO pay the price with their bodies.

Perhaps the school could award the financial stipend so long as the student posts passing grades each year in school AND shows real progress in learning a secondary skill AND stays clear of trouble with the law. That, to me, makes a lot of sense, and is definitely worth considering seriously. The time has finally come.

 

DANGERS OF CONCUSSIONS: Numbers of HS Players Dropping

There’s been, of course, a lot of discussion in recent weeks about the NFL concussion settlement. But what hasn’t been reported widely is how the concern about concussions has trickled down to the high school level.

According to the National Federation of State High Schools, which is the defacto governing body of high school football, the overall enrollment for football at the HS level has been in decline for the last few years. According to their latest stats, the number of HS players has dropped by 25,000.

That’s a lot of HS football players.

More signfiicantly, there have been significant drops of football players in such traditional hotbeds of high school football in California and even in Western Pennsylvania.

Is the drop because of the fear of concussions? Or are there other reasons in play? That is, are kids turning away from football and playing safer sports? Unfortunately, those stats don’t exist, and those are good questions. But regardless of the NFL settlement, the truth is that concussions are just as prevalent as ever. And parents are mindful that even the safest, state of the art helmets these days DO NOT fully prevent concussions.

 

INNOVATIONS IN SPORTS: “You Mean, You Let Everyone Play?”

 

Why Keeping Teens Active in Sports is So Important

By Doug Abrams

 

Now that Labor Day has passed, the autumn youth sports season will begin soon while the leaves start turning. Nationwide the new season will produce thousands more disillusioned teens, the youngsters who find themselves excluded from local leagues or else consigned to bench warming. In towns and cities all across the United States, they will be collateral damage, victims of adults who overlook how active play encourages physical and emotional well-being.

A few summers ago, a 14-year-old from a nearby town stopped by my office with his parents to say that he wanted to join our youth hockey program that winter.  They had given up on community soccer because they saw the handwriting on the wall after being ignored for two years by coaches who were bent on developing the “top” players. 

Their town maintains sports programs open to all elementary school students, though some end up warming the bench on travel teams even at that tender age. In most sports, however, the town offers teens only “select” teams or the high school varsity or junior varsity. All but the most talented players find themselves on the outside looking in, with bench warming often no longer even an option.

For a boy or girl who wishes to continue playing, being washed up at 14 is tough. My young visitor questioned me about our hockey program’s open-enrollment policy.  “You mean, you let everyone play?” “Nobody gets cut?” Nobody warms the bench?”

Things have sure changed since the 1960s, when my friends and I would have been astonished if local sports programs turned us away. Today, many kids are astonished when local programs let them play.

Equal Opportunity in the Age of “Adultified” Youth Sports

The past few decades have seen adult-administered local sports programs replace the informal sandlot and playground games that children once organized for themselves. With this “adultification” of children’s sports, these programs have come to resemble pyramids.  Like any pyramid, the strength is at the middle and the base, not at the top.  Select teams are fine for the relatively few top players, but a community fails its youth when it systematically denies equal opportunity for the 75% or so of players lower on the pyramid.

“Equal opportunity” means enrolling every boy and girl who wants to play.  It means letting players compete against opponents of roughly the same ability level, with select teams for the more experienced players and open teams for e others. It also means guaranteeing meaningful participation each game because bench-warming shortchanges children who signed up to play, and not simply to watch their teammates play.

Selective enrollment policies and chronic bench warming also shortchange the community.  When the ex-soccer player and his parents visited my office that late summer afternoon, I already knew that their town systematically excludes most teens who still want to play sports.  The local newspaper regularly runs articles that complain about high levels of teen alcohol and drug use. The articles do not surprise me because the relationship between athletic exclusion and errant behavior is no coincidence in the teen years.

Teens sense a need to “belong,” and they seek out peer groups. Nobody should be surprised when some teens who are shut out of team sports begin running with other peer groups, including ones prone to causing trouble.  Or when some teens, denied the opportunity to “turn on” to sports, turn on to something else, often alcohol or drugs from peer pressure. The downward trajectory is unfortunate and avoidable, yet predictable.

As I wrote last week, communities will continue losing until they stop taking children’s sports away from children.

 

DANGERS OF CONCUSSIONS: A Legal Analysis of the NFL Settlement

YES, THE NFL “WON” BY “ONLY” PAYING $765 MILLION, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE?

                                             By Steve Kallas

 Many have correctly viewed the recent settlement of the retired players lawsuit against the NFL as a victory for the NFL.  $675 million of the $765 million total settlement will go to help those in need (reportedly with individual caps of $5 million for those with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), $4 million for those with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and $3 million for those with dementia).

 HERE’S THE DILEMMA FOR THE LAWYERS FOR THE PLAYERS

 Many have criticized the lawyers for the players for not seeing the litigation all the way through; for not standing and fighting; and/or for not understanding the grave nature of the injuries that these players have and/or eventually will suffer after years of brain trauma.

 But the lawyers for the 4500 or so retired players (and all retired players, not just plaintiffs, are included in the settlement) really had to do a balancing act.  It’s really not their job to fight the powerful NFL and their billions for four or six or eight (you fill in your number) years with no guarantee of success down the road.  Indeed the lawyers for the players have to look out for their clients, especially the players who are suffering tremendously right now, most, if not all, of whom need money yesterday.

 So, like the number or not (and yes, it is a drop in the bucket for the NFL, especially the second half of the payments spread out over 17 years), the lawyers, unless the players wanted to forego this money knowing they might get little or nothing six or eight or 10 years from now (and don’t forget the appeals process, which would tack on more time on the back end win or lose), did what they were supposed to do and got their most needy clients some real relief that might come to them within the next year or so (if approved (and it most likely will be by federal judge Anita Brody) in the next few months).

 You can criticize the lawyers for not getting more (ESPN reported that the players started at $2 billion and the owners essentially started at $0), but that’s a difficult negotiating position for the lawyers for the players to be in:  fighting the powerful giant while you have hundreds or thousands of clients who need immediate financial help.  By the way, this happens all the time where the big corporate monolith will pay something less or drag you, the plaintiffs, through the mud for years, if not decades.

 SO WHY IS IT SUCH A BIG WIN FOR THE NFL?

 Well, that’s easy.  While the NFL won on the number ($765 million), it certainly wouldn’t have hurt their bottom line by much if they had paid $1 billion or more.  Paying $765 million, to this writer, is just a small part of the big victory.

The NFL, as virtually always happens with the Goliaths of the world, admitted no liability.  They didn’t have to produce any discovery; no documents, e-mails, letters, etc. that may very well have shown what they knew and when they knew it.  They didn’t have to have any of their gazillionaire owners put under oath for depositions; or their bizarre concussion committee members, who as recently as a few years ago were making statements (with a straight face, mind you) that there really was little or no correlation between repeated brain trauma and later injuries for the players.

 As recently as 2009, the “man in the street” football fan was laughing at the “distinguished” NFL committee that was saying none of this was really a big deal.

 Of course, none of that was really truthful as it was clear even to those who just watch football that it was potentially very dangerous (life-threatening?) to have repeated blows to the head over days, weeks, months and years.

 So, the NFL win, with respect to retired players (the cut-off day being the day the settlement receives preliminary approval, which, again, should be in the next few months) is far greater than just not paying (relatively-speaking) a lot of money.  They didn’t (and won’t now have to) disclose anything.  There will be no trial on fraud, which many believe that the NFL committed against its players over decades.

 And they can go back to their multi-billion dollar business starting this Thursday (although media outlets will refrain from patting head hunters on the back on segments like “He Got Jacked Up”).

 BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE?

 Well, an interesting question that seems to have been lost in the shuffle.  This lawsuit/settlement agreement has nothing to do with the present-day players.  Are a lot of these players, when they retire, going to eventually get ALS, CTE or dementia or other problems?

 Of course they are!

 So, the NFL isn’t out of the woods yet, forward-looking.  Although they are in a much better position than they were, say, a week ago.

 It is also not yet clear if retired players, plaintiffs or not, will be allowed to “opt-out” of the settlement; that is, leave the group that has settled and bring an independent lawsuit on their own.  That remains to be seen as well.

 MORE IMPORTANT, WHAT ABOUT THE YOUNG FOOTBALL PLAYERS WHO NEVER PLAY A DOWN IN THE NFL?

 This is where the most damage, in this writer’s opinion, will be done.  With brains that are not yet fully developed, with scary, physical mismatches every week all over the country at all levels (peewee, high school, even some colleges), the real damage will be done to kids all over the country.

 While participation in youth football is down a little these past two years and may be down even more in these next few years (do you really want your young son, especially if he is not a physical specimen, to enter this sport with this now acknowledged potential danger?), the death of football has been greatly exaggerated.

 It will be up to parents and their kids to make what now is, at best (for football), a difficult decision given the obvious potential dangers.  At worst (again, for football), it’s a no-brainer for many parents who will simply forbid their young children to play the sport.

 BACK TO THE NFL SETTLEMENT

 Some believe that Judge Brody may not approve the settlement.  But it says here that she will, especially since she really wanted the sides to work this out and appointed a well-respected former federal judge (Layn Phillips) as the mediator to iron out all issues.

 So, yes, the NFL gets a big win here on a number of levels.  But at least the players who need help (and their families) will see some money in the not-too-distant future.

 FORWARD-LOOKING?

 Does this solve the same issues in the future for NFL players?  Not at all.  Does this solve the same issues for youth football players?  Not at all. 

 Can those issues be solved?  Well, that’s the next billion-dollar-question coming down the pike.

 COPYRIGHT 2013 BY STEVE KALLAS  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL: New ESPN Contract Scores More Millions

Another LL World Series Championship has come and gone, and you know LL likes to trumpet the fact that all of its people in Williamsport are volunteers. And indeed, those kind souls who work the tickets, the concession stands, and even the umpires – they do it all for free — and they are to be saluted for all of their hard work.

But just for the record, Sports Business Journal reported this past week that ESPN has finalized a new deal that will pay LL Baseball a total of $60 million over the next 8 years for the rights to televise those August playoff and World Series games…that comes to about $7.5 million a year if you’re keeping score at home.

ESPN’s original deal back with LL in 2007 paid LL only $30.5 million for 8 years, so the good financial times continue to roll for our friends in Williamsport (who continue to maintain, of course, that aluminum bats are not dangerous).

In any event, $7.5 mill a year for TV rights….maybe some of that dough should trickle down to the volunteers?

TITLE IX ISSUES: Is it Okay for Two Senior Boys to Compete on a HS Girls’ Volleyball Team?

I think it’s fair to say that one of the greatest mandates ever passed in this country has to do with empowering girls/women to have an equal playing field when it comes to playing sports.

Title IX, which was passed in 1972,  made it a federal law that females have just as much right as their male counterparts to compete in athletics. That was, by all accounts, the original spirit and intent of that law.

For those of us who remember when Title IX went into action, it immediately guaranteed that girls/women could play a variety of sports – just as boys did.

But over the years, Title IX — at least in my opinion – has been occasionally twisted in its application, and especially when boys feel that they have a right to compete in girls’ sports.

Example: this past week two senior boys from Horace Greeley HS in Chappaqua, NY, were named to the varsity girls’ volleyball team there. The boys, one of whom is 6-0 tall, claim that since there’s no comparable boys’ volleyball team in the school (or for that matter, any where else in Westchester County), then their rights to play volleyball are being denied, and thus they have every right to compete on the girls’ team.

Here’s my perspective – and I realize this may not be politically correct: that Title IX was passed to empower females to compete in sports – not to remedy athletic situations for when boys somehow feel slighted. More specifically, I would imagine that if those two boys are playing on the girls’ squad, they are taking playing time away from other girls who want to compete. And their place on the squad may have pushed two other girls to be cut, or perhaps to be demoted to the JV team.

And of course, how is this fair to other teams which compete against Greeley and have teams comprised solely of girls?

Finally, this case involves two boys. What’s to stop five or 10 Greeley boys to try out and compete on the girls’ team?

My colleague Doug Abrams was my guest on WFAN this AM, and we debated all of these issues, and I think we both came to the same conclusion on this matter. But as Doug pointed out, these situations are usually decided by the local school board or superintendent within each town. And usually these situations are decided based upon the individual merits of the case.

For example, a year ago, Keeling Pilaro, a young man who grew up playing field hockey in Ireland but then moved to Long Island with his family, was allowed to keep playing that sport in HS. The governing body felt that Pilaro was helped in his quest to play because of his relatively small stature (4-9, 90 pounds) and that he wouldn’t be a safety threat to the girls. In other words, if he had been 6-3, 220, a different decision would probably have been made.

But to me, I still feel one has to apply common sense when it comes to Title IX issues. The law was specifically put into action to help girls/women. But in this case at Greeley HS, Title IX is being used to hold girls back by allowing two boys to play on their team. That doesn’t seem to make sense to me.