Archive for June, 2014

ABUSIVE COACHES: Better Be Careful of What You Say – and How You Say It!

A couple of items caught my eye this week from the world of college  baseball. Two Division I coaches, one the head coach at Cal State Fullerton and the other at Arkansas – Little Rock, were both caught on audio tape ripping their respective teams for shoddy play, lack of execution, etc.

That was bad enough but even worse – these so-called “pep talks” were laced with over-the-top profanities and obscenities – strong enough to blister paint off a wall. And of couse, in these new times of technology, the comments were recorded by players on each team, and then posted on the scandalous website, Deadspin.

The result? The Cal State Fullerton coach was put on administrative leave while the school investigates further and the coach from Arkansas Little Rock ultimately resigned for a variety of reasons.

So on my WFAN show this AM, I asked whether we’ve reached a point today where coaches, either at the HS, travel, or college level, can no longer yell and scream at their players, and certainly can not use profanity.

Aftrer all, for those of us who were brought up in the era of Bobby Knight “in-your-face” coaching, this represents an important landmark. Can coaches no longer chew out their teams?

Callers, as always, had fascinating points. One veteran football coach observed that he still yells on occasion, but that it was important that he never picked on an individual player, and that he never used profanity. He also made clear that he always built the team up with praise and pats on the back before ending the meeting. That was important, he said, because today’s athletes always respond more to praise than to threats.

Other listeners said that all of these new developments were good ones, that it was progressive and positive in nature.  Most of them felt that the “old school” way of coaching had become antiquated, and that athletes today just don’t respond.

Even worse, coaches have to assume these days that they are always on display in terms of being recorded. That may not be fair, but it’s the reality of technology today.

The bottom line? As I tried to emphasize, coaches today must train themselves to always THINK first before they say anything…and to always assume that they are being RECORDED.

That may seem harsh, but for those coaches who want to be effective in communicating with athletes,  that’s really sound advice.

 

 

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BOOK REVIEW: DADDY, IT’S ONLY A GAME

Dr. Louis D’Aquila has crafted a fine cautionary tale entitled, DADDY, IT”S ONLY A GAME.

The plot line centers on a very talented HS soccer player named Jennifer who, at the end of a heated HS game, is the innocent victim of a vicious punch from an opposing player during the traditional post-game handshake line-up.

Instincts take over, and Jennifer and her teammates immediately begin to fight back against “Number 21” – the opposing player who threw the punch. By the time order has been restored, the opposing player, who clearly initiated the scuffle, is badly beaten and unconscious. Jennifer is okay, but very much shaken by what has transpired.

The entire episode hits home with Jennifer as she begins to truly question how “only a game” could escalate with an opponent aggressively attacking her and then being seriously hurt. And of course, Jennifer sees first-hand how much her father is caught up in the fervor of sports parenting.

I won’t give away the ending, but for anyone who has ever wondered how our society has evolved (or devolved) from simple games of fun and enjoyment to the high-pressure stakes of today, this is a quick and good read.

In fairness, the book does contain some factual errors (the author refers to schools in the Ivy League giving out athletic scholarships, which of course they don’t) and there are typo’s and errors (Wade Boggs is referred to as Wayne Boggs).

But these are minor concerns. Overall, Dr. D’Acquila is to be saluted for making the effort to sit down and write a worthy book which is yet another clarion call for sports parents everywhere.

Clearly Dr. D’Aquila, like millions of other sports parents, is concerned about the rising stakes when it comes to our children playing sports, and of course, the concept of  “having fun”  is slowly being pushed off to the side.

DADDY, IT’S ONLY A GAME is published by Bookstand Publishing.

ABUSIVE SPORTS PARENTS: The Unforeseen Fall-Out from Fans Screaming at Young Refs

 

 

 

HOW ADULTS’ ABUSE OF REFEREES
ENDANGERS PLAYER SAFETY

by Doug Abrams

On June 10, the Bakersfield Californian reported that all Kern County high school sports leagues experienced a shortage of referees and other officials again this year. The chronic shortage affected both varsity and sub-varsity games in more than half a dozen sports.

The president of the Kern County Officials Association (KCOA) pinpointed a major reason for the steady attrition. “If you officiate,” he says, “you’d better have a thick skin because you’re going to . . . get yelled at. It goes with the territory.”

A former KCOA president, a longtime baseball umpire, explains. “Nobody wants to umpire because most people . . . don’t want to go out there and get yelled at, screamed at, and shown up.” He correctly calls the shortage of youth sports officials a “national problem.” From coast to coast, interscholastic conferences and youth leagues report a steady exodus of veteran officials who have grown disgusted with the verbal, and sometimes physical, abuse inflicted on them by parents and coaches.

A National Problem, Indeed

 Some results of this exodus are readily apparent to anyone who pays even glancing attention. The media reports that games sometimes may have to be postponed, rescheduled or even canceled. Seasons may have to be shortened so that league schedules do not outpace the roster of available officials. It is sometimes said that the best referees are the ones people hardly notice during the game, but people notice when referee shortages complicate the game schedule itself.

 This column concerns another, especially harmful result that can escape the untrained eye when veteran referees prematurely hang up their whistles. Particularly in contact and collision sports, the shortage of experienced officials can increase the risk of injury to players, including ones who play clean and follow the rules of the game.

 Compromising Safety

“To be effective for promoting safety,” says a recent medical study, a sport’s rules “must be enforced rigorously and consistently by referees and leagues.” Parents and coaches assume important enforcement roles, but referees are the primary enforcers once the game starts. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports consensus among sports medicine professionals that “[o]fficials controlling the physicality of thegame . . . can . . . play significant roles in reducing contact injuries.”

Particularly in contact or collision sports, this essential control suffers when so many veteran referees are driven to quit each year. Many replacement refs are simply not yet ready for the responsibilities cast on them. But for the premature departures of so many veterans, many of the replacements would not yet be on the field.

Before parents and coaches criticize less experienced officials for not controlling high school and youth league games, the adults need to consider whether their over-the-top misbehavior helped create the very situation that draws their criticism. All too often, parents and coaches get the quality of officiating that they deserve. All too often, their children are the losers.

 [Sources: Jeff Evans, Kern County Association Faces Referee Shortage, Bakersfield Californian, June 10, 2014; Charles H. Tator et al., Spinal Injuries in Canadian Ice Hockey: An Update to 2005, 19 Clin. J. Sport Med. 451 (2009); Chris G. Kouteres & Andrew J.M. Gregory, Injuries in Youth Soccer, 125 Pediatrics 410 (Feb. 2010)]

ACCOUNTABILITY WITH ATHLETES: Learning A Key Lesson from John Wooden

I asked Chris McCarthy, the highly-regarded and long-time Athletic Director at John Jay HS in Cross River, NY to come on my show this AM to talk about the issue of Accountability with HS student-athletes.

I did this because of the ongoing controversy that was sparked by last week’s show about the HS tennis players from the New Hampshire HS who were suspended from playing in state’s quarterfinals because the boys had opted for Senior Skip Day. The AD at that HS had warned the boys that if they missed school, they would not be able to play.

The boys decided to skip school, they were not allowed to play, and their tennis team lost badly without them.

I wanted to bring in Chris this AM to get his views. And he felt the same way about the punishment as did the AD in New Hampshire. “Teaching kids about accountability is a major part of the HS experience,” said McCarthy. “Kids need to learn about the consequences of their actions. Life is full of choices, but once you make a choice, you have to live with it.”

McCarthy drew upon the wisdom of the late great John Wooden, the legendary coach of UCLA basketball. Chris related the time when Bill Walton, perhaps the best basketball player in the country at the time, decided to grow a beard during the season to support a cause on campus at the time.

Wooden had a strict team policy about his players being clean shaven.

“Bill, I see you’ve decided to grow your beard,” said Wooden calmly. “And I want you to know how much I applaud people who believe strongly in supporting a cause.”

Walton thanked his coach for his support.

But then Coach Wooden added: “But of course, you know the team rule about no facial hair. So, good luck to you and your cause. It’s been a pleasure coaching you.”

This response is something that Walton didn’t expect. In effect, his coach was saying good-bye to him. Clearly, Walton had made a choice, and now Wooden was telling him to live with the consequences.

Within a matter of hours, Walton had shaved and came back to the team. Wooden’s point had sunk in.

I had Chris tell this story on the air, because to me, it really cuts right to the heart of student-athlete accountability these days. That is, know the rules and know what’s expected of you.

That being said, it’s always your choice if you don’t want to follow the rules….but if you don’t, just understand you have to deal with the consequences.

To me, this is one of the most important lessons that students -and their parents – need to understand.

 

HS CODE OF CONDUCT: Tennis Players Join Senior Skip Day; Then Told They’re Suspended from Playing in State Quarterfinals

You’re a senior on the HS tennis team. And in a few days, you and your teammates are competing in the state’s quarterfinals tournament.

But later this week, it’s Senior Skip Day – a very unofficial day in which Seniors decide not to attend class, much to the consternation of the faculty. But Senior Skip Day has become something of a tradition in recent years, and besides, what harm is done?

The school’s athletic director warns the senior tennis players that there will be consequences if they follow the crowd on Skip Day.

Sure enough, the tennis players skip class.

And sure enough, the AD suspends them from playing in the tennis tournament. And without them being eligible, the team loses big time.

Is there a lesson to be learned here? Was the AD being too tough? Unreasonable? Were his actions unfair to the seniors as well as the other members of the team?

I had lots of calls on my show saying that the AD was indeed too tough –that he should have found a different way to discipline the three seniors.

But then a number of calls reversed the trend – that the AD was absolutely correct in what he did. That the three seniors were unbelievably selfish, especially after having being warned, and that there was no sense of accountability by these three kids.

Personally, I agree with that. Accountability is one of the most important lessons that young people need to learn from sports, and especially team sports. One has to learn that you have to be responsible for your actions.

In this case, the tennis players made a conscious decision not to play in order to participate in an illegal activity of playing hooky. As such, if the AD hadn’t suspended them, I would have wondered where his priorities were.

So kudo’s to him for doing the right thing.

I just hope that the three tennis players will see the light as well.

 

SPORTSMANSHIP: Are Things Getting Better Out on the Playing Fields?

 

Another Survey Confirms That Too Many Adults Spurn Sportsmanship In Youth Sports

 By Doug Abrams

 “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

This French proverb aptly describes the persisting bad behavior of some parents and coaches in organized youth sports these days. The latest evidence of the adult decline appears in the Sportsmanship Survey released on June 3 by the Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports program. The survey, conducted by ORC International, questioned 2,000 parents and coaches of 7-12-year-old youth leaguers and carries a margin of error of +/- 1.99%

Sixty percent of respondents reported “either witnessing or participating in negative or abusive sideline behavior” by parents or youth coaches. Twenty-six percent of parents said that they had witnessed a verbally abusive coach, and 16% of parents said that that they had witnessed a physical confrontation between parents. Fifty-five percent of coaches said that they had experienced parents yelling negatively at officials or their own children, and two in five coaches said that they had experienced parents yelling negatively at other children.

Earlier Survey Results

The new Liberty Mutual survey reaffirms results of a similar survey that the Responsible Sports program commissioned last year. In the 2013 survey, 40% of youth coaches said that they had experienced parents yelling negatively at other children. Fifty-five percent of the coaches said that they had experienced parents yelling negatively at their own children. Forty-four percent said that they had experienced parents yelling negatively at officials, and 39% said that they had experienced parents yelling at them.

The Liberty Mutual sportsmanship surveys are not outliers. In 2010, Reuters News and the market research company Ipsos jointly conducted a poll in twenty-two nations. The poll ranked parents in the United States as the world’s “worst behaved” parents at children’s sports events. Sixty percent of U.S. adults who had attended youth sports contests reported that they had seen parents become verbally or physically abusive toward coaches or officials. Runners-up were parents in India (59%), Italy (55%), Argentina (54%), Canada (53%) and Australia (50%).

In an earlier Survey USA poll in Indianapolis, Indiana, 55% of parents said that they had seen other parents engaging in verbal abuse at youth sports events, and 21% said that they had seen a physical altercation between other parents. In a Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission survey, 45.3% of youth leaguers said that adults had called them names, yelled at them, or insulted them while they were playing; 17.5% said that an adult had hit, kicked or slapped them during a game; and 8.2% said that they had been pressured to harm opponents intentionally.

The Responsibilities of Parents and Coaches

 If this month’s Liberty Mutual survey carries a silver lining, it is that growing numbers of parents and coaches seem to recognize what the company calls the “troubling decline” in sportsmanship in organized youth sports. Fifty percent of respondents told the survey that “sportsmanship has worsened since they were growing up,” and only 12% said that sportsmanship had improved.

Seventy-five percent of parents and coaches also said that “teaching sportsmanship is the responsibility of parents.” To begin to fulfill this teaching responsibility, parents (and coaches) must deliver two primary lessons about the relationship among sportsmanship, respect, and the scoreboard.

The First Lesson: Compatibility

The first lesson is that sportsmanship and respect are perfectly compatible with a player’s desire to win. Wanting to win within the rules is a natural impulse that defines the essence of sports, except at the youngest age levels when scores should not matter.

As athletes get older, sportsmanship and respect presume two competitors, each striving to defeat the other before shaking hands at the end of the contest. Athletes unconcerned about the scoreboard disrespect their opponents by denying them physically and emotionally invigorating competition. Disrespect and sportsmanship do not mix.

The Second Lesson: Strength

The second lesson (related to the first) is that sportsmanship and respect can strengthen the desire to win. These two values do not mean turning soft on opponents, and they do not induce serious competitors to let down their guard.

Ryne Sandberg hit the target at the ceremony enshrining him in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 2005. “[I]f there was a single reason I am here today,” the Chicago Cubs star told the local and national audience, “it is because of one word – respect.”

“I was in awe every time I walked on to the field,” he explained. “That’s respect. I was taught you never, ever disrespect your opponent or your teammates or your organization or your manager and never ever your uniform. . . . I played [the game] right because that’s what you’re supposed to do – play it right and with respect.

Sandberg’s abiding respect strengthened his desire to win and sustained his competitive, but clean, play throughout his sixteen-year big league career. He would not have put up Hall of Fame numbers if he had softened his approach to competition, or if he had let down his guard.

Looking Toward the Future

Ryne Sandberg also recognized that respect has taken serious hits in recent years. “When we all played,” he said at the Cooperstown ceremony, respect for the game “was mandatory. It’s something I hope we will one day see again.” This hope for the future should also motivate parents and coaches who conduct the organized sports programs that enroll millions of boys and girls each year.

 

[Sources: Liberty Mutual Responsible Sports, 2014 Sportsmanship Survey, https://responsible-sports.libertymutual.com/2014-sportsmanship-survey; Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports, New Survey Identifies Decline of Sportsmanship in Youth Sports According to Parents and Coaches, https://responsible-sports.libertymutual.com/2014-sportsmanship-survey/press-release (June 3, 2014 press release); Parents and Coaches Express Conflicting Opinions Regarding Priorities in Youth Sports, https://responsible-sports.libertymutual.com/youth-sports-survey

PARENTS V. COACHES: Star HS Pitcher Dictates to His Coach His Playing Time

I found this bizarre story in Collegiate Baseball last week. I can never recall a high school athlete – even a top one like this kid – ever pull a stunt like this.

Here’s what happend, and you make your own call.

This occurred in a league game this past April between two Tucson HS teams. One of them – Sahuaro HS – is led by a top left-handed pitching prospect named Alex Verdugo. On this day, playing against rival Salpointe Catholic HS, Verdugo – who is a potential first-round draft choice this year – was cruising along with a 1-0 lead after the first five innings.

When he got to the bottom of the fifth, Verdugo informed his coach, Mark Chandler, that he would not go out and pitch in the sixth.

Why? Because even though Verdugo and his arm felt fine, he had already thrown 92 pitches that afternoon, and with the MLB Draft coming up soon in June, Verdugo didn’t want to jeopardize hurting his arm.

Chandler, the coach, was stunned and upset with this fait accomplit – he couldn’t understand why his star pitcher would voluntarily stop pitching in a key league game. 

As the bottom of the fifth ended, Verdugo – who is also a top outfielder – grabbed his glove and headed to center field. Coach Chandler, outraged, ordered Verdugo back in the dugout, and told him he was done playing for the day.

Meanwhile, all of this is playing out in front of the fans, including Verdugo’s father Joe, who was incensed with his kid being benched. As the game concluded, with Sahuaro  HS – Chandler’s team – winning 2-1, the father of Verdugo screamed obscenities at Chandler, finally getting to the point where he confronted Chandler and forcefully shoved the coach in the chest.

To his credit, Chandler – a former Marine – did not retaliate. Two police officers walked the father to his car, and gave him an assault citation for his actions.

I think this case fully illustrates the perfect storm of parental expectations versus coaches.

Consider this: the young pitcher, perhaps minding the advice of his Dad or perhaps a sports agent (family advisor), may truly feel that throwing 90 pitches or more jeopardizes his arm, especially in this day and age of so many Tommy John injuries.

But the way Alex Verdugo presented his situation to his coach was quite unsettling — in effect, “Hey coach, I’m more concerned with my own self best-interests than the team’s” sets a very poor tone. And then he reinforced it by simply assuming that if he’s not pitching, then he heads out to the outfield.

And of course, Verdugo’s Dad was way off-base attacking the coach after the game.

So what do we make of all this?

Well, it would have been smarter if the head coach had sat down with his star player earlier in the season and made sure he and the coach were both on the same page. No coach wants to ruin his star player’s career – and the best way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to talk early on about how the coach will use the kid during the season.

But for a kid in a very prima donna way inform his coach that I’m finished pitching today…and now I will go play in the outfield” is NOT the way to do it.

Meanwhile, Verdugo was drafted in the second round by the LA Dodgers (62nd pick overall). I’m quite the Dodgers scouts are well-aware of how Verdugo treated  his coach this past season, although there haven’t been any mentions of this incident in the press coverage so far.

We’ll see how this youngster develops in the years to come.

 

DANGERS OF CONCUSSIONS: A Look Back at Presidential Intervention with Serious Injuries in Football

 

White House Concussions Summit Urges Action

By Doug Abrams

 

“We want our kids participating in sports,” says President Obama. “As parents, though, we want to keep them safe, and that means we have to have better information.” The President spoke as he opened the first White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussions Summit last Thursday, May 29. He pinpointed the need for “better research, better data, better safety equipment, [and] better protocols” for preventing and treating concussions in youth competition.

The one-day Summit assembled more than 200 attendees, including representatives from professional sports leagues, medical professionals, coaches, parents, and youth athletes. The first tangible results are major funding commitments for ongoing research and public education. Pledges have already come from the National Football League, the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Department, the NCAA, New York Giants co-owner Steve Tisch (collaborating with UCLA), and others.

Funding alone cannot enhance concussions safety, but funding can support research that leads parents, coaches and decision makers toward new safety measures that will improve children’s lives as they play the sports that help define their lives. Dollars matter. Beginning in 1938, for example, the March of Dimes raised several million dollars to help fund essentially private research that finally conquered polio in America in the 1950s.

Lessons from History

Neither the President nor Congress can directly regulate youth sports leagues. President Obama, however, is not the first Chief Executive to use the “bully pulpit” to educate decision makers and the general public about avoidable head injuries in amateur sports, and to steer public sentiment toward greater safety.

The first was Theodore Roosevelt, whose White House summit in 1905 helped save football from potential extinction. The story of his successful redirection of football more than 100 years ago demonstrates how much White House initiatives can accomplish in youth sports, even without direct regulatory authority from Washington.

Lessons From Theodore Roosevelt

By late 1905, college football was at a crossroads because raw violence and unremitting bloodshed had stalked the gridiron for years. In that season alone, eighteen players had been killed and scores more had been seriously injured from college football games. Americans cringed at news accounts of bloodshed on the field, and calls to abolish the sport as barbaric grew louder because games and death did not seem to mix on college campuses.

Death in college football was serious business at the dawn of the 20th century. A national professional league was still a few years away, so the collegiate game was the highest and most publicized level of competitive football in America. Even one on-the-field death among several thousand college football players today would attract national attention; because far fewer students played college football in 1905, 18 deaths in a single season was an astounding percentage of all players. Because the rules permitted such mayhem as the Flying Wedge by players wearing flimsy protective equipment without helmets or face guards, the annual death toll showed no signs of abating.

Most of the football deaths were from what physicians today diagnose as multiple concussions, skull fractures, and other traumatic brain injury. President Roosevelt loved football and grew concerned that without rules changes to insure greater player safety, public revulsion would lead colleges to ban the game altogether, as a few (including Columbia University and Northwestern University) had already done. Roosevelt worried that Harvard, his alma mater, might be next.

In October of 1905, the President summoned representatives from the “Big Three” intercollegiate football powers — Harvard, Yale and Princeton — to convene at the White House and explore ways to maintain the game’s distinctiveness as a collision sport, but also to stem its largely unregulated brutality. The White House football summit led to the forward pass and several other rules changes that continue today, including some that previewed future changes in later years.

Without diminishing football’s national popularity, these innovations made the mounting death toll a thing of the past. Players no longer die on football fields, yet the game remains the nation’s most popular spectator sport in annual Louis Harris polls. The highest award the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) can bestow on an individual is the Theodore Roosevelt Award, a perpetual honor to the man whose presidential initiative saved the game from itself.

Sports Safety in the 21st Century

Today the nation faces sports safety issues similar to the one that motivated President Roosevelt more than a century ago. The potential adverse long term consequences of concussive impact are no longer a matter of serious debate. Football remains the national leader in youth concussions but, as neurosurgeon William P. Meehan reports, we now know that “concussion is a risk in almost any sport.” Much research indicates that youth leaguers can suffer greater adverse effects than adults because children’s brains are still developing.

By reviewing rules changes in pursuit of greater player safety, the National Football League and other professional leagues summon Americans to consider how much health risk we are willing to tolerate for weekly public entertainment in collision and contact sports on television and in stadiums throughout the nation. Parents and coaches, however, should set a much lower toleration level for concussions and traumatic brain injury in youth sports.

Youth leaguers and pros are different. Pros are multi-millionaire adult entertainers who, if they receive full and fair information, presumably can make their own risk-taking decisions in the billion-dollar businesses that employ them. Youth leaguers are not simply miniature adults, but children playing games as part of their upbringing. Only a minuscule few youth leaguers will ever reach the professional ranks, but all anticipate livelihoods free from avoidable physical pain or worse.

“We Can Do a Lot Better”

Organized youth sports is much larger and much more diverse today than college football was when President Roosevelt exercised his leadership in 1905. The President and other national leaders can jump-start safety efforts, as President Obama has done, but injury prevention and treatment depend largely on parents, medical professionals, journalists, and other voices who spur national youth sports governing bodies (USA Hockey, USA Football, and others) and the state high school activities associations that govern interscholastic sports.

As protective equipment continues to improve, these governing bodies must continue to weigh reasonable rules changes that maintain the essence of the particular sport, but also encourage parents to enroll their children by enhancing safety. Contact and collision sports depend on a measure of controlled violence within the rules, but the quest for enhanced safety must continue to drive adults who conduct kids’ games.

The President told the Summit that “sports are vital to this country,” but that the nation needs to assure that children “are able to participate as safely as possible.” “[T]he concussion problem in football and other contact sports is far more serious than any of us want to believe, and it is time to do something about it,” says former football player, professional wrestler, and Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. With the knowledge that concussions researchers have already provided, says neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, “we owe it to our . . . kids . . . to make them as safe as we know how to do, and we can do a lot better than we have been doing.”

Theodore Roosevelt’s successful initiative more than a century ago teaches that when a President convenes a White House summit, people listen. Last week’s summit demonstrates that much has been done to make sports as safe as possible for kids, but that much work remains to be done.

TRAVEL TEAMS: Time to Re-Think Them?

I think I touched a nerve this AM on the radio show because I brought up a topic that most sports parents don’t want to talk about – the fear and anxiety of their youngster being on a travel team.

In short, once your kid is on a travel team, there’s tremendous pressure to play that one sport all year round, plus to maintain one’s playing time, kids (and their parents) are psychologically pressured never to miss a practice or a game, to go to specialized camps all summer, and to employ a private coach.

It can really take over a family’s life.

The expense is, of course, profound, running into the thousands. But as numerous callers made clear this AM, the time has really come to reconfigure travel teams so it’s not so much about getting a college scholarship, but rather about letting kids enjoy the experience of competing against other talented kids from other areas, to learn more advanced skills, and to feel that there’s real joy in this rather than a sense of worrying about playing time, winning, etc.

We have been hearing about “repetitive use injuries” -a medical term that really didn’t exist 20 years ago – where kids who play one sport all year round (like pitchers) end up hurting themselves. This is a direct result of kids specializing in just one sport.

There was a time, of course, when kids didn’t specialize in just one sport, and played sports according to the season. Those so-called three-sport athletes are hard to find these days, but perhaps the time has come to turn back the clock.

Bottom line? Travel teams are not necessarily bad for one’s child. They can help open a youngster’s eyes and also allow them to improve their athletic skills. The issues only begin to crop up when the balance of order gets out of whack. That’s when a little common sense goes a long way.