Should Modified Sports Become Extinct?

For those school districts that can afford to offer them, modified sports (school sports for kids in 7th and 8th grade) seem to present more problems than solutions. Routine concerns include: too many kids on a team…not enough playing or practice time….questions about whether winning is the top priority….the expense of coaches, refs, transportation, etc.

Ultimately, wouldn’t it make more sense for schools to simply offer after-school intramural programs? Not only would all the kids get  a decent amount of playing time, but you wouldn’t need to worry about cuts, coaches, and so on. Intramural programs are overseen by a teacher or two who observe the action just to make sure nothing gets out of hand, but invariably the kids run their own teams, whether it basketball, volleyball, soccer, etc.

In my mind, intramural programs are definitely worth considering. Too many middle schoolers and their parents go over the top when it comes to modified sports programs. At that age, it’s more about the kids playing and enjoying themselves. Winning becomes more of a top priority in high school, not at age 12 or 13. Agree? Disagree? Let me know.

Death by Aluminum Bat: On Trial in Montana

18-year-old Brandon Patch was pitching in an American Legion game in Helena, Montana in the summer of 2003 when he was struck by a line drive off an aluminum bat. He collapsed to the ground, was able to utter a few words to his Dad before passing out, went into convulsions, and died a few hours later.

The Patch family sued Hillerich & Bradsby, the manufactuer of the aluminum bat, and the case is supposed to go to the jury this coming week. If the bat company loses, there’s a good chance the jury will award a very large financial judgment to the family. And that verdict will send a very strong warning message to all those groups which use aluminum bats, including Little League Baseball, the NCAA, high school associations, and so on.

In effect, the trial is centering on whether or not aluminum bats are more dangerous than wood ones. For years, people like myself, Steve Kallas, and dozens of callers to WFAN have made it clear that balls off aluminum bats definitely jump with greater velocity and thus are much more dangerous.

We’ll be curious to see what the jury in Montana decides.

Concussions and athletes: A problem that won’t go away

There’s no scarier moment for any sports parent than to see your son or daughter bang their head during an athletic event. You hold your breath until your youngster finally gets up off the ground, and walks off the field in order to clear their head.

But that’s when the real decisions have to be made. As my brother, Dr. Bob Wolff, said on the Sports Edge, if your youngster gets a serious bop on their head during a game, there’s no way he or she should go back into the game until they are cleared by a physician. That might be a tough rule for a kid, but in the long run – -and let’s face it -that’s what we’re talking about — the long run of their life — there’s no reason to run the risk of a secondary concussion. Sports are fun, but there’s no reason to jeopardize one’s health.

Look around the sports world. How many of our favorite players have  suffered concussions and serious side effects? Steve Young…Tim Tebow…that poor young HS football player from Montclair, NJ who died last year after a series of concussions.

The bottom line? When it comes to your youngster’s health and welfare, if they suffer a serious knock on their head, they sit out until they are cleared — not by the coach or by you – but by the family doctor.

1) NCAA Clearinghouse: Start Planning Now 2) HS Baseball Coach and Strippers?

Pete Williams, a long-time guidance counselor at Mamaroneck HS, offered some great insights on the NCAA Clearinghouse rules for aspring college student-athletes. Basically, if your son or daughter has any dreams of playing sports in college, you have to make sure that they’re taking the right courses starting as freshmen in HS.

The rules for minimal GPA and SAT or ACT scores are pretty straightforward, but each year, there are lots and lots of college freshmen who don’t have what they need academically in order to try out or play on a college team. As such, please be sure to go to to get more information about what your son or daughter needs to do to be cleared.

Also, regarding that HS baseball coach from New Mexico who paid for two strippers to entertain two of his players on a road trip to Denver — and then after he got fired from his coaching AND teaching job, he complained that he deserved a second chance — just like Rick Pitino and Bill Clinton.

Problem is – Pitino and Clinton were involved with sexual escaspades of their own – they were NOT accomodating two HS students. That’s a big difference. While I certainly don’t condone Clinton or Pitino’s acts – you would certainly expect better behavior from a famous coach and US president – in this particular case, what the coach from New Mexico doesn’t merit any kind of second chance.

Profanity in youth sports: An unavoidable reality?

I was curious to see what kind of reaction I would have with this topic, and was somewhat pleasantly surprised to hear from so many coaches and parents who feel that young athletes SHOULD be held accountable if they utter four-letter words in the heat of action.

That is, we all know that there are ups-and-downs in sports, and that it’s easy to lose one’s self-control when it comes to letting one’s tongue slip. But the vast majority of the callers this AM felt that kids clearly need to be cautioned by their parents and their coaches if they allow obscenities to be heard.

One caller, Gary from Staten Island, reported that he tells his players each year that swearing is just not acceptable on his team, and that he won’t stand for it. Other callers felt the same way. Personally, I thought it was a bit distressing that some said that the young kids just didn’t know it was poor form to cuss at games. Nobody had ever told them.

Again, it all comes back to what the kids hear at home, and what the kids assume is acceptable. And it falls upon the coaches to set the right tone for these kids. I know society evolves all the time, but this is something very jarring and disturbing about going to a kids’ game and hearing 11 and 12-year-olds curse openly like drunken sailors. Enough is enough!

PS –  I thought Dr. Vinod Somareddy’s comments about preventing ACL injuries in girls and women were fascinating and vitally important. If you have a daughter who plays sports, be sure to check out my interview with Dr. Somareddy on the website.

Coaches’ camps, clinics, and private training sessions: It all changes when cash is involved

Look, I fully understand the desire for a HS coach to make a few extra dollars by running a summer camp for his/her players, or even offering to tutor a kid in the off-season for pay.

But even though these practices have become rampant pretty much everywhere, I must tell you that they sound alarm bells for me. Because when a coach, in effect, starts to take money from a kid or a kid’s parent to be trained, or for the key’s tuition to attend the coach’s summer camp, that sets up the potential for all sorts of conflicts of interest.

Such as: “Coach, I paid you good money to work with my daughter this past spring…but she’s not on the starting team. Why did I pay you all the money?” Or “Coach, my kid is playing travel baseball in August. He wants to come to your soccer camp, but there’s a conflict in his schedule…will he be penalized that he doesn’t come to your soccer camp?”

You get the idea….these are unnecessary issues that coaches and parents just don’t need. I would ask local school boards and HS athletic directors to review all of their policies regarding their coaches and their getting paid for outside gigs.

HS football coach on trial for “reckless homicide”

The tragic case of HS football player Max Gilpin is raising concern throughout the country with coaches at all levels. Just imagine that you’re working your team hard, making them sweat through wind sprints on a hot day, when one of them collapses, vomits, and then passes out. He falls into a coma, and dies three days later from heat stroke.

That’s what happened last August in Louisville, KY, and the local prosecutor decided to charge a popular HS football coach with the crime of “reckless homicide.” As we discussed on Sunday, this is a case with real national implications. Not only does this coach look at the threat of going to jail, but he’s also looking at a major multi-million civil lawsuit as well. And as several callers said, this has to be yet another major concern about going into coaching as a profession.

Steve Kallas, wearing his lawyer’s cap, pointed out that the testimony in the case so far seems to be favoring the coach, and Steve’s sense was that the coach would probably be found innocent. But who knows what the jury will decide.

As one caller from LI pointed out, this is a situation where the coach really should have use some common sense. It was 94 degrees that fateful day, and the coach was having the kids run extra sprints. Whether any water was available is in debate. But the bottom line is that some common sense might have kept young football player Max Gilpin alive. What’s your sense? Should this coach go to jail?

Wake up Little League, and Do the Right thing!

It just galls me that LL Baseball continues to pat themselves

on their back by trumpeting their 85 pitch count limit….

when they don’t tell you that during the LL World Series

in Williamsport, young kids 13 and under are not only

allowed to throw an endless assortment of curveballs

and sliders, but UNDER LL RULES, each kid can throw

on two days’ rest and can throw up to 255 pitches in a

week! As Steve Kallas has pointed out on his blog,

the pitch counts that these developing arms rack up

is staggering….and here’s LL Baseball saying that

it’s not curveballs that hurt a kid’s arm, but the NUMBER

OF PITCHES! Well, if that’s true, how come these kids

can pitch so much? Nobody from Williamsport or

ESPN seems to want to answer that question.

Then there’s Mike Mussina on ESPN saying that he’d like

to see the number of HR’s cut down in the World Series.

Well, why not start with getting rid of the aluminum

bats? Mike, who’s on the LL Board of Directors, has

publicly said that there’s no difference between wood

and aluminum bats. Huh??

I know some of you must have become tired with my

rants about LL and the issues I have with them regarding

pitch counts, their blessing of curveballs, their use

of aluminum bats, and so on…and in truth, I think

the concept of LL Baseball is great. But please, let’s be

honest here. Safety is NOT a top concern to LL – it’s

all become a business enterprise, fueled by licensing

and TV money.  Next time you have to fork over

$100 to register your kid in LL, just bear in mind

that LL Baseball (according to Dan Wetzel of Yahoo has more than $75 MILLION in cash

reserves. Enough said.

Youth Tennis: Parents, educate yourself!

I thought that Gary Weiner (of TENNIS: EUROPE) had some fascinating insights on how kids should be introduced

to tennis at a young age, and that parents need to educate

themselves on how all-involving a kid’s ranking in the

USTA is.  What was eye-opening was that kids (and quite

honestly, their parents) can manipulate where a youngster

is ranked by simply playing in a lot of tournaments, and

of course, getting credit for walkovers when an opponent

either forfeits or is injured.

Gary also made it quite clear that in order for a player

to be good enough in a top collegiate program, such as the

Ivy League, or even the Division III NESCAC schools,

a kid has to be one of the top ranked players in their

section.  In other words, it’s extremely competitive.

And Weiner pointed out that lots of US college coaches

simply go to Europe to find talented players to fill out

their roster.  I wonder – what are the European tennis

coaches (and the parents there) doing better than the

American coaches and tennis parents? Hmm….

Observations from mid-August on Sports Parenting issues….

I do hope you enjoyed the show this AM with Jeffrey

Marx, author of THE LONG SNAPPER and SEASON OF

LIFE. I just wanted to share with sports parents and

coaches everywhere this amazing story, and put a

spotlight on just how important the role of self-confidence

is in sports — at all levels.

Meanwhile, the LL regional playoffs are in full-bloom.

Lots of 12-and 13-year-olds throwing curves and

sliders, most of them with poor arm mechanics. Lots

of kids using aluminum bats, with line shots whizzing

past pitchers and infielders. 

Also, I just want to point out that — yes – despite all

the clamor in LL about pitch counts, we are all aware

that too many parents knowingly allow their kids who

pitch to throw on other travel teams besides their LL

team. Everybody agrees that too much wear-and-tear

on young arms is detrimental to kids and their health.

Parents, wouldn’t it make more sense for your kid to

have a strong arm so by the time he’s in HS, he can

still pitch? Why overuse him when he’s only 12 or 13?

That doesn’t make any sense  at all.