COMMUNICATING WITH THE PARENTS: Part II of Doug Abrams’ Experiences as a Youth Hockey Coach

 Using Email to Communicate With the Team’s Parents (Part 2)

By Doug Abrams

Part 1 of this three-part column urged community youth league coaches to consider using email to share observations and explanations with parents before, during, and after the season. The Part provided emails that I, as head coach, wrote and sent during pre-season practice sessions to the parents on our 9-10-year-old Squirt hockey team a few years ago. The team played in the “house gold” league (the higher Squirt house league) against seven St. Louis-area house teams. The season ended with playoffs and a State Championship Series.

Part 2 now provides emails (again in italics) that the coaching staff sent to the parents during the regular season. Next time, Part 3 will provide the coaches’ emails to parents during the playoffs and the championship series.

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DANGERS OF CONCUSSIONS: New Study Targets Long-Range Effects on 6-12 Year-Olds

This past week, new research out of Boston University revealed that kids under the age of 12 who play tackle football have a tendency in later life to develop  behavioral, cognitive and depression issues.

Now, we have heard endlessly in recent years about the dangers of concussions from playing tackle football. And of course,  there’s the latest headline about Aaron Hernandez and the severe amount of CTE found in his brain. He was only 27 when he committed suicide. Who knows how many hits he suffered to his head starting at an early age? And his behavior was clearly out of control to have done the horrible acts he committed.

Along these lines, this new Boston University study comes forth, and concludes that young kids age 6-12 who play tackle football are lining themselves up for problems later in life.

I’m certainly not suggesting there’s a direct correlation between Aaron Hernandez and the BU study. But then again, it does make you ask questions.

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COMMUNICATING WITH THE PARENTS: The Magic – and Power – of Email from Coaches

Using Email to Communicate With the Team’s Parents (Part One)

By Doug Abrams

 Community youth sports programs and their coaches increasingly seek to maintain open lines of communication with parents before, during, and sometimes even after the season. The term “transparency” is in vogue in politics lately, and transparency also remains essential in community sports. Without substituting for ongoing face-to-face communication with parents individually or as a group, email can provide coaches a convenient, effective way to share explanations and observations.

This column presents several of the emails that I, as head coach, sent to the parents on our mid-Missouri Squirt hockey team for 9-10-year-olds a few years ago. We played in an eight-team “house gold” league (the higher Squirt house league) against St. Louis-area house teams. The season ended with playoffs and a State Championship Series.

Before the first pre-season practice session, I told the parents that I would email them a day or so after many practices and games to report what the coaches said to the players in the locker room, on the ice, and on the bench. I sensed that the parents would reinforce our messages about teamwork, fair play, 100% effort, and similar values if we coaches took the lead.

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TRENDS IN SPORTS: New Study Suggests Fewer Kids Are Playing Sports

A new study was just released this past week which  suggests that fewer kids between the ages of 6-12 are participating in sports. In fact, the number of kids playing organized team sports has dropped by a stunning 8 percent over the last decade.

Now, if this is really true, that is quite a drop off. And it’s very troubling.

The study comes from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association and the Aspen Institute. They claims that back in 2008, 45 percent of kids ages 6-12 played in team sports. But in 2017, that number has dropped down to only 37 percent.

Why the decline? The leading theory put forth by these two groups is that because travel teams have become so well accepted as the vehicle for kids to get ahead, it’s now become a case of  financial “haves and have nots”when it come to youth sports.

“Sports in America have separated into sport-haves and have-nots,” said Tom Farrey, executive director of Aspen’s Sports & Society program. The group released its research at its annual Project Play Summit on Wednesday in Washington and it was reported in the Washington Post. “All that matters is if kids come from a family that has resources. If you don’t have money, it’s hard to play.”

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ABUSIVE SPORTS PARENTS: Why Don’t Parents Trust HS Coaches More?

On this morning’s show on WFAN, now that our kids are all back to school, and all of the fall school sports programs are in full practice and games, I wanted to spend some time talking about HS coaches. And specifically, just how complicated coaching kids in school has become in recent years.

That is, I want to remind parents that being a HS coach these days is a lot different from when they were growing up in school, and that, once I review some of the responsibilities and pressures that coaches have to confront, well, I’m hoping that  today’s Moms and Dads might have a moment to reflect on just how tough these jobs are.

But in thinking about the overall relationship between coaches and our kids, I think the overriding and pressing question is this:

As sports parents, why don’t we trust our kids’ coaches more?

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TRENDS IN SPORTS: TIME Magazine Cover Story Reveals Youth Sports is a $15 Billion Industry

Hard to believe, but true.

I grew up during a time when youth sports were not influenced by parents, travel teams, elite camps, the college recruiting of middle school kids, and so on. When you went outside to play with your friends, you found an empty field or sandlot, put down markers for boundaries, and depending on the season, you played touch football, baseball, basketball, soccer, whatever. Markers usually consisted on somebody’s jacket or a sweater to show where out of bounds were. There were no white lines. If your (wooden) baseball bat broke, you didn’t throw it away. Rather, you took it home, found some small nails to fix it, and taped it up so you could use it again.

I know, I know. This all sounds ancient and prehistoric. No youngster today could even imagine this kind of world. But of course, it did exist, and it existed not that long ago.

That’s why Sean Gregory‘s cover story in this week’s TIME Magazine had such great impact. Why? Because it summarized the out of control parental obsession with their kids in sports, and even worse, that this obsession – and that’s what it is – not only shows no sign of letting up, if anything, it’s only accelerating. On my show this AM, Sean talked about 10-year-old Joey Baseball, a talented but smallish kid who travels all around the country to play baseball. He’s able to do this because his parents are affluent and they figure that since they have the financial means to do this, why not? But as Sean also cautioned, these parents know that everything might change when their son becomes a teenager, and he may no longer be the star that he is today.

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HEROIC ATHLETES: The Magic of Kids Who Know No Boundaries

Another Youth Leaguer Who Overcomes Physical Challenges

 By Doug Abrams

Youth sports headlines these days sometimes seem calculated to make many readers cringe. Stories about parental sniping and even violence. Stories about coaches who cut young kids in tryouts and bench young kids who make the roster. Stories about referees under siege. Stories about financially strapped families unable to afford escalating costs of participation.

But every so often, a news story captures the essence of wholesome athletic competition. The story shines the spotlight on what youth sports can be – a powerful, perhaps unique, vehicle for enriching children’s lives on and off the field.

On September 25, writer Ian Frazer profiled 12-year-old Jack Coggin in the Forsyth County (Ga.) News. The headline tells the story: “Lambert Youth Football Team Embraces Teammate With Cerebral Palsy.”

A few moments after each game, the teams line up, Jack in uniform gets the ball, his Longhorns teammates block for him, opponents clear the path, and he runs for a touchdown. The idea of enrolling Jack came initially from the Longhorns’ coach, and the team’s parents (including Jack’s mother and father) are supportive. “I’ve had one parent say they were upset about their kid’s playing time,” the coach told Frazer, “and after seeing Jack score and how happy he was, it kind of put things in perspective.”

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ABUSIVE SPORTS PARENTS: HS Baseball Player Sues Coach Due to Lack of Playing Time

Every so often, something so bizarre pops up in the world of sports parenting that I just feel compelled to present it to you.

And this week something came across my desk that I thought was quite distressing.

About a week or so ago, it was revealed that out in California, a HS baseball player and his parents are suing the boy’s varsity coach because the coach wasn’t playing him.

That’s right….a lawsuit based on a youngster’s lack of playing time. The lawsuit claims that the player became a victim of harassment and bullying by the coach because the coach wouldn’t play him.  The youngster and his parents are looking for $150,000 in damages.

Here’s the story.

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BOOK REVIEW: An Insider’s Guide for Aspiring Baseball Players

The title of the book is JUST BASEBALL: A Guide to Navigating the World of Baseball Recruitment for Players and Parents.

And playing off the title is the author’s name, Mike Just, who was a star player at Liberty University before embarking on a career in professional baseball in the independent professional leagues. That  background suggests to me that Mike received a first-rate education at how college and professional baseball operate when it comes to scouting and signing talent.

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CONCUSSION PREVENTION: New Protective Catcher Helmet is Finding Support

First, an important disclaimer. Let me just say that this is not a commercial endorsement. Askcoachwolff.com does not receive any compensation from Force3 Pro Gear, nor do we have any relationship with the company.

That being said, if your son or daughter plays baseball or softball, and is a catcher, or for that matter, an umpire, you might want to check out the Force3 Defender mask as a marked improvement in protecting them from concussions. The mask has been adopted by pro and amateur several leagues, including the South Atlantic Baseball League and Babe Ruth baseball and Cal Ripken Baseball.

What makes the Force3 Defender mask different from traditional masks is that any blow to the mask, such as from a fouled pitch, is strongly cushioned by strong and resilient coils. It’s worth taking a look. Check out the website at www.force3progear.com.