Here’s a quick review of the biggest topics and headlines regarding sports parenting issues from 2014.
Let’s start with the biggest issue of the year…concussions:
Here’s what we know:
1— Concussions are commonplace in HS football, but they also occur in any contact sport, such as ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, field hockey, and so on.
There is currently no helmet on the market today that can prevent a concussion. True, they are a number of helmets that try to minimize the impact, but there is no one helmet that prevent a concussion. That includes football, ice hockey, lacrosse, and all other contact sports.
Dr. Robert Cantu, a neurosurgeon from Boston University and considered the leading expert on concussions in the country today, came on my radio show last winter and advised sports parents that they should not allow their kids to play tackle football until they are at least 14. Why?Because kids’ necks aren’t strong enough to prevent the “bobble-head” effect which is so common with head injuries.
On a strictly personal note, let me add this: If it were me, I would advise my son not to play tackle football until he was 14, or entering HS in ninth grade. Play flag football up until then. Your youngster will have plenty of time to learn how to tackle and block properly but why run the risk of concussions when your child is younger?
Along those same lines I’m also glad that, a couple of years ago, USA Hockey pushed back the age when full body checking is allowed to bantam age – 14. It just makes sense. And I’m glad that more medical experts are studying concussions in soccer caused by heading.
Tackle football will survive in this country, but as the insurance companies begin to raise their premiums for HS teams, more and more middle and smaller HS will most likely go out of the football business. Or they’ll ask the parents to pay for the skyrocketing insurance coverage.
2 –Moving onto Social media legal issues. It’s still amazing to me that so many students- and coaches – don’t understand the power of twitter, facebook, Instagram, etc.
Anything you post online is out there for everyone to see. And what might have seemed like a lame joke at first can blow up in a teenager’s face with devastating consequences. It can cost one a college scholarship or even admission into college. A dumb comment can scare away college coaches. It can even cost you possible employment when you graduate.
And yet, we still continue to see stories in the media every week when HS athletes post something stupid, and then claim that they have a right to say what they want on line, like that HS basketball player who wasn’t getting much playing time on his team and started to tweet his complaints. That ended up getting him booted off the team. He claimed he had a right of free speech – but in truth, that doesn’t apply to being on a school team, which is still a privilege not a right.
Most HS coaches now teach kids not to do such dumb things….but unfortunately, lots of kids still do it. They just don’t seem to learn.
3- The end of abusive coaches? One of the better developments over the last year is that more and more abusive coaches are being held accountable for their corrosive actions with kids.
This is happening more at the collegiate, HS, and travel team level. Look, it’s one thing to be a tough disciplinarian…but too many coaches have crossed the line with over-the-top verbal abuse and profanity aimed at their players. And of course, if you ever grab or make physical contact with a player, well, that’s really asking for trouble.
For years and years, unfortunately, coaches have been deemed to be “above the law” so to speak. Thank goodness some common sense is finally coming into play on coaches who think they can do whatever they please. They need to be held accountable.
4– Repetitive use injuries. We’ve been talking about this medical issue for well over a decade now. And it’s important to remember that this is a medical concern that has only developed in recent years because too many kids now specialize all year in just one sport.
Back in the day, repetitive use injuries didn’t happen to kids who played three sports.
Dr. James Andrews, the famed orthopedic surgeon, reminds us that kids shouldn’t throw curveballs until they can shave. That means, for most kids, probably around the age of 14. And yet, we still see kids in LL and travel teams throwing sliders and curves all the time. And yet, we continue to see a stark rise in kids undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Why? Because kids are being taught that in order to be a top prospect, they need to throw 90 mph. That means they totally max out their pitching by throwing every pitch just as hard as they can. It results in their young arms tearing and they end up needing major surgery.
5 – How thrilling was it to see Mo’ne Davis from Philadelphia pitch so well in the LL World Series?
And Mone proved that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she was not only a great athlete, but could certainly dominate against boys her age. Good for her. Now, we’re all eager to see what sport she will ultimately choose as she goes through HS – baseball? Or basketball?
6 – The gradual end of HS varsity sports continued in 2014. Thanks to travel programs like the US Soccer Academy, more and more travel programs in this country are drawing more and more kids away from HS varsity teams. This is a trend that continues to grow and will spell the end of competitive varsity teams. The better athletes will opt for travel programs, teams that don’t allow them to play for their HS anymore.
We already see it in soccer, basketball, baseball, and lax….it will also happen soon in football – or at least that’s my sense.
HS programs can’t provide the same kind of college exposure that travel teams do. They can’t provide a higher level of competition. And yes, while travel teams cost parents a lot of money, it’s easy to understand why parents feel a desire to give their children a chance to perform on at a higher level.
I only wish there were more of a uniform or standardized way of running these travel teams and programs so that parents could better compare and contrast what they are paying so much money for.
7 — the Steubenville HS football case was a total disaster. Two starHS football players in a football-crazed town were convicted of digitally raping a HS girl who was unconscious from alcohol consumption. Both players had to go to juvenile detention center for at least a year. This case highlighted how a school district tends to look the other way when star athletes are involved.
Just as horrible was the horrendous hazing case from Sayreville, NJ. It’s just hard to believe that HS students today still don’t think twice about abusing their teammates, or what the consequences will be. And if nothing else, HS coaches have learned the hard way never to leave athletes alone in locker rooms.
8 – Good sportsmanship? This past fall, we talked about good sportsmanship in action in HS cross-country races where some runners stopped to help a fallen competitor, and how then those good sports were penalized for doing so.
In short, how do you reconcile a situation where a HS kid seemingly does the right thing by helping a fallen runner – only to then find out that they will be disqualified from the race?
If you’re going to have those kinds of strict rules in place, then race officials need to be posted at 100 yard intervals through the course.
After all, we don’t want to penalize kids for doing the right thing in life. And yet, these disqualifications have happened several times.
On the other hand, was good sportsmanship in place in that Oklahoma HS football playoff game where the refs goofed on their ruling – and cost a team a victory when they nullified a go-ahead TD with just a minute to go?
A district judge ultimately ruled that once you pr your team enter into a game which is being officiated by refs, then both teams are obliged to follow their directives – even when the refs made a terrible mistake and it costs one HS the game.
Yes…life is not always fair, even in the world of competitive sports. I guess that’s the only lesson that can be drawn from this extremely unfair call by the refs.
In conclusion, as we look over the headlines from this past year, one thing is certain: Being a sports parent in 2015 is a lot more challenging and daunting than it was in 1970, or 1980, 0r 1990, or 2000. Sports parenting continues to be increasingly complicated, and most parents are left to their own insights or common sense to plan their kids’ involvement. I sincerely hope you and your family have a wonderful — and safe – year in 2015.