Hidden Figures

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I started a tradition with our family many years back as I was traveling extensively in my role of manufacturer’s agent for many companies I represented (my day job that permitted me the flexibility to coach early mornings, evenings and weekends) where we would have a movie night on Fridays.

That tradition still continues to the this day although my “kids” have now aged out of the youth sports system (they are now 18 and 22 years old), we still unwind Friday nights watching movies.  As the years have evolved the choice of the week has become more and more challenging (I am a action and sports movie fan, my daughter and wife chick flicks and my son is into car flicks like fast and furious) but once chosen we unwind for a couple of hours as family.

Last night we watched Hidden Figures, the untold true story how African American Women contributed to the development of NASA and initial missions to enter the outer atmosphere and orbit the earth with aspiration of landing on the moon and beyond.

This is the trailer for the movie

 

It also was the story of how these same brilliant women had to face segregation issues in the 60’s and were not permitted to drink from the same water fountains of coffee stations, use the same bathrooms, sit in specific sections on public transit.

Gender Equality of the 3 main characters was also evident, one who had to take extensive breaks to go to the bathroom 1/2 a mile away (coloured bathroom), another who was not promoted to supervisor of the “computer” negro women’s group who learned Fotran Programming language and taught her group that took over the programming of the IBM mainframe NASA purchased (and men who were to implemented were fired for the ineptitude) and another who had to go to court to appeal a segregation policy at a local high school so that she could pursue a degree in engineering.

The scene where she does so she challenges the male judge stating he was the first to graduate from high school, attend university, become a judge in his family and asked him to the be the first to reverse the segregation policy for her to do so.

He did so, although only permitting her to take night classes but it opened the door and she completed her engineering degree and became the first woman to do so at NASA with many to follow.

Kevin Costner plays the role of the director of the program and when the only woman that had been assigned to his group who was integral in calculating launch and landing for the first few missions shared with him that she had to go 1/2 mile to the bathroom he was the first to ensure that they could use any bathroom anywhere at Nasa’s facility with a dramatic moment in the movie where he knocks the “coloured sign down”, drink coffee from the same coffee makers and also be included in strategic meetings that previously had not only did not permitted not just negro men or women, but ALL women in general.

You are probably wondering why I am talking about a movie and how it pertains to youth sports, the reason is over 50 years later the same issues still are prevalent today in terms of inclusion and gender equality in Sport.

Girls are not provided the same opportunities as boys are in terms of high performance programs.

Para, Aboriginal and members of the LGBTQ community also are not having the same opportunities as others.

In our prior post we referenced some of the inititiatives that are doing great work to provide kids with socio-economic challenges the potential to be involved in sport, Athletics for kids, kidsport and Jumpstart.

Others that are working on necessary education to foster inclusion or eliminating harassment;

 

Founded by Sheldon Kennedy and a colleague in 2004 has done great work educating parents, coaches and sports adminstrators pertaining to harassment and abuse that still continues to impact sport so we still have work to do.

 

One of the largest organization with chapters throughout the world promoting the importance for kids to empower youth to overcome the effects of poverty, conflict and disease in disadvantaged communities.

 

First developled by the South Australian Department for Sport and Recreation in 2001 as a interactive education and information website (www.playbytherules.net.au) on discrimination, harassment and child protection in sport.  One of their recent initiatives is the great video campaign “Let Kid’s Be Kids”

 

 

Global Sports and inclusion Day Campaign

 

 

Established Levelthefield# campaign in Fall 2015 to creat more inclusive sport culture in BC by targeting under-represented groups, such as women and girls, persons with disabilities and those who identify with the LGBTY community.

Below is a short video that was produced to launch the campaign.

 

Professional and National Sports organizations are also endorsing the importance of inclusion;

                 

Recently, the first openly gay football player drafted initially by the NFL St. Louis Rams in 2014, then signed by the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL, Michael Sam.

In the press announcement when he was signed by Montreal, Michael stated is merely interested in playing football, not making history.

Click here to see the press announcements by the NFL and CFL

NFL:  http://www.hrc.org/blog/the-nfls-non-discrimination-policy

Michael Stepping Away

Sadly, although both the NFL and CFL welcomed Michael to their respective leagues, he opted to step away from Football due to all the distractions of being “different” so there still needs to be a lot more education anti-discriminatory policies.

South Africa – Click here to see the new video posted to their facebook site where their national and professional athletes are endorsing inclusion and eliminating harassment, intolerance and racism from sport.

Players Association and all 17 governing hockey bodies Globally

In our prior post “Thank you Hockey” I commented on the new 17 Global Governing Bodies of Hockey Declaration of Principles and the last principle is the one that we must continue to work on;

  1. All hockey programs should provide a safe, positive and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. Simply put, hockey is for everyone.

Not just hockey, but all sports, school, college, work opportunities and so forth should be for EVERYONE.

The new Declaration of Principles was endorsed by Pope Francis himself, click here to read the letter that Paul Lafontaine read that the NHL received from the Vatican.

Click Here to hear about the The Letter

This is 2017 NOT the 1960’s where negro women had to overcome adversity and had it not been for their contributions NASA would not have evolved to the level it has.

One of the other challenges that we face, is harassment that was identified as the number one serious issue facing youth sports we referenced in a prior post “Make it safe”, 38% of the respondents, followed by intolerance and racism.

We must eliminate all forms of harassment from sport as well as ensure it provides an opportunity for all to be included.

One of my favorite songs of all time is John Lennon’s “Imagine”, I came across this video rendition from Pentonix, even 40+ years later since John released the original version, we still have work to do.

“I hope the world will be as one.” John Lennon

Be the first like the brave negro women, the judge, NASA director in Hidden Figures or John Lennon and others that aspired for and implemented change. Please welcome athletes from all walks of life in your programs so all can reap the great benefits of participating in sport as we can change the world for the better.

Let’s work together to bring the game back to the kid’s …. where it belongs

 

PS Tagline - Dont be a kids last coach

 

 

 

 

 

Thank You Hockey

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I recently did talks for Stettler Minor Hockey Association on behalf of Changing the Game Project and am working on some follow-up resources to provide to parents and coaches that attended.

I came across this recent article where Pat Lafontaine, director of player development for the NHL, talked about the new Declaration of Hockey Principles that he has been working on for the last 2 years I will be sharing with the parents and coaches.

Click Here to read the full article.

They are calling hockey a powerful platform for character building, but it is NOT the game or sport that develops character, it is the coaches involved in sport that develops character.  This is the area that I focus on via various hats to remind coaches that their role is not to make a living, rather to make a difference developing youth into adults.

Below is a poster put together by all 17 governing bodies that contributed to the principles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The guiding principles are;

  1. Hockey should be an enjoyable family experience, all stakeholders-organizations, players, parents, siblings (AKA rink rats), referees (AKA Zebras), volunteers and rink operators – play a role in this effort.

 It should be an enjoyable experience, and is a game that can be played for life, Alberta Hockeys new Vision statement that I shared in my talk for Stettler MHA.  Sadly though, we still have a lot of work to do to ensure the vocal minority of adults that are vocally abusing players and officials realize that hockey is just a game, and is played by KIDS.

 

  1. Hockey’s greatest value is the role it plays in the development of character and life skills.

  The game itself won’t teach life skills, only if coaches recognized the importance not only of teaching the skills of the       game but also the skills of life.  The greatest coaches EVER are ones that connected with their players and focused on developing them as people first, athletes second. See quote below from the great John Wooden, former NCAA Div I coach for UCLA who I believe was the greatest coach of all time.  Not because of the wins, NCAA championships but the positive legacy he left behind and all the players he developed into great young men.

 

  1. All Hockey Organizations – regarding of size or level of competition-bring value to players and families in their ability to deliver a positive family experience.

    This is an area we still have a lot of work to do, 70% of kids are quitting all organized sports by the age of 13 and are replacing their former active playing time with inactive screen time.  Why ? Because it is no longer fun and each time I present to parents, coaches and exec members they share with me their concerns about attrition, particularly in the older age groups.  In hockey, the big drop off happens as of Bantam (13 years old) and Stettler, as well as several other hockey associations I have interacted with in recent years, now only have one Midget team (15-17 years old), the first year EVER.

  1. Physical activity is important for healthy body, mind and spirit.

It is time to stop talking, and start doing, writes Wayne Goldsmith, talking about the Movement Movement.  We need to stop talking about the benefits of being active and creating programs the will engage all age groups to be active again.  He provides great insight on the fact that only a small % of athletes aspire to be elite, rather they want to play with their buds, have fun and various other reasons.

Click here to read the blog

  1. There are significant benefits of youth participation in multiple sports.

 This I suspect is going to raise the hair on the back of all the private business owners necks to rise that have evolved that last 2 decades providing private instruction, skills clinics, spring “development” as the 17 Governing Hockey Bodies in the WORLD are endorsing Multi-Sport participation.  This follows the initiative I shared in a prior post “early sport specialization does more harm than good” by USA Tennis to reach out to various agencies in the USA to endorse Multi-Sport participation.

Ask yourself – Do you know what you want to do in life? What is your calling?

Every presentation I ask that question, even those in their 30’s, 40’s 50’s are still finding their way, only a small % will say they are doing what they truly are passionate of, most say they are merely making a living.

How then can we rely on recommendations of a coach or “development private organization” for our son or daughter to specialize in one sport they as early as 7 years old?

  1. Hockey programs should be age-appropriate for all players, accounting for each individual’s physical, emotional and cognitive development.

  A colleague of mine (thanks Carlene) forwarded me this article about the 10 coaching commitments that USA Hockey is asking coaches to make this season.

 

The first of 10 commitments is to commit to age appropriate training.

Click here to read the full article, I will be providing further insight on the commitments that USA hockey is asking from their coaches in my next post.

They reference the American Development Model which is a spin-off of Canada’s Long Term Athletic Development model, or Hockey Canada’s Long term player development pathway.

Too often I have been at rinks the last 10 years and have shaken my head seeing coaches of kids as young as 7 years old (novice) running breakout or specialty team’s drills (power play, penalty kill) for better part of a practice.  It drives me CRAZY that they are focusing on systems, strategies and tactics well before they should.

In lieu, coaches should be focusing on developing fundamental movement skills, core hockey skills adhering to the LTPD model.

When I posed the question in clinics over the years and even this past weekend if parents were familiar with Physical Literacy or LTAD, only a few hands go up.

We still have a lot of work to do to educate parents, many of which are grass roots coaches but it is exciting to see that USA Hockey is asking for coaches of all age groups to commit to age appropriate training.

  1. There is great value in all forms of hockey, both on and off the ice.

  This is one that I am going to have to argue needs a “wee bit” of work.

Hockey is the most expensive team sport in Canada, the average for a recreational player is $1800.00 a year, but if you have a son or daughter that plays at the AAA level, the average cost for a family now is $8-12,000 a year.

If they are identified as an “elite” player and recruited by AA, AAA Zone Teams, Minor/Major Midget or the hockey academies, this can escalate to $15-$50,000 A YEAR (check our facebook page for series of articles we posted regarding the increasing costs of hockey in Aug 2017).

Only 0.03% of kids that play minor hockey globally will have the opportunity to play in the NHL (average playing career 6 years) and as a result of winning at all costs philosophies many of those “elite” players start dropping out of hockey as early as 11 years old and continues to escalate as they get older.

My goal, as should be that of every minor hockey coach is to instill the love of the game in kids so they come back every year with a smile on their face and play hockey well into their adulthood. For me, it is the greatest sport of all as it is so rich in skill, players have to do everything they have to do in other sports but wearing skates.

Analogy I share in every talk;

Q. What are the two things kids ask for after a game?

A. What is the Snack and when do they play again?

Fast Forward 25 Years …

Q. What do adults ask for after a game?

A. Who has the beer? (the snack) and when do we play again?

If we do are job right, it never changes, we are all big kids by heart but sadly many kids are quitting due to all the issues that are affecting today’s generation.

  1. All hockey programs should provide a safe, positive, and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, colour, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. Simply put, hockey is for everyone.

 We could not agree more, thanks to various initiatives more and more kids are being provided the opportunity to play hockey like the Athletics for Kids, Jumpstart, Kidsport, Heroes, The First Shift just to name a few.  Hockey is no longer Canada’s #1 team sport, Soccer is by over 100,000 registrants.  Thanks to the growth in female hockey (gender equality) hockey is still growing (single digit growth) but for it to become Canada’s number one sport again we need to promote inclusion for all.

Thanks to all 17 global governing bodies for creating the declaration of principles.

Here is a short video to coincide with the launch of the new program  .. Thank you Hockey.

 

Let’s work together to bring the game back to the kids, where it belongs.

Don`t be a kids last coach

 

 

 

 

Make it Safe

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One of the key takeaways that I share in every presentation that I do is the importance of making it safe to fail and from all forms of harassment, in this post I will expand on the latter.

Below is a summary of survey results of a study that True Sport posted in their 2008 report where respondents stated what they felt the most serious issues facing youth sports.

 

 

 

 

 

Source: 2008 True Sport Report

1.  38% of those surveyed stated that the most serious issue facing community sports was Harrassment.

 

This includes bullying, cyberbullying, sexual harassment and hazing.

 

Sadly, I have either dealt with various forms of harassment personally as a parent or coach, or heard thru various colleagues who have.  The biggest challenge that we all have is many parents don’t know the differences nor do they know how they can escalate to the point where it can cause serious psychological, even physical harm to those who are victims of harassment.

 

Several initiatives have evolved the last two decades to remove harassment from sport but we still have so much work to do to educate coaches, parents and sports administrators what the various forms of harassment are and what we can do to remove for sport.

 

  • Respect Group – formed by Sheldon Kennedy in 2004 as a result of the physical abuse he suffered while playing junior Hockey. They are responsible for the respect in sport program that parents, coaches, officials must take and now take refresher online course every few years.

Website:  www.respectgroupinc.com

  • Erase Bullying – Established to eliminate bullying from sport.

Website:  www.erasebullying.ca

Here is a great video from some of sports icons in British Columbia in partnership with ViaSport

 

  • Prevnet – Canada’s authority on research and resources for bullying prevention

They provide resources as well as links to all the other initiatives in Canada that are working on eliminating bullying from sport.

Website: www.prevnet.ca

  • Stop Hazing – A Leading Resource for Hazing Research and Prevention

Website:  www.stophazing.org

Facebook: Make Hazing Stop

Hazing has traditionally been the right of passage for those pledging for universities and collegiate sports programs, but is now happening in youth sports.

Hazing differs from bullying as it is more about inclusion to participate (making the teams) vs. excluding individuals and it can start with subtle hazing (rookies having to pick up the pucks in practices) to hazardous hazing including drinking excessive alcohol, having to digest chewing tobacco and other vile substances or various forms of sexual harassment.

In 2005, one of Canada’s most prestigious universities, McGill, scrapped their football season due to a hazing incident and since that time there has been 40 other reported hazing incidents in Canada and the USA.

The biggest issue with Hazing, is that majority of incidents are NOT reported as the victims do not want to be the whistleblowers and jeapordize their opportunities to be included or accepted on the teams they are rookies on.  Some even feel that going thru hazing is the right of passage and any identifying marks they receive are “badges of honour”.

Below is another recent example where rookies on the Vancouver Whitecaps had their heads shaved (badge of honour) by their team mates;

 

If you go to the original tweet and review the comments, approximately 100 people tweeted and all but a few were beside themselves that rookie initiations like this were still happening.

  1. The second most serious issue by 29% of the respondents was intolerance or racism.

Many organizations have developed campaigns to address the intolerance towards minorities, LGBT or those with disabilities.

Here are just a few that are doing great work

Here is a short clip from Team Canada Athletes standing up for inclusion in sport

 

  1. The 3rd most serious issue (23%) was the lack of fair play, click here to read prior post how lack of fair play policies are one of the reasons why kids are quitting sports.

It still amazes me how one of the most serious issues facing youth sports contributing to the 70% drop out rate by age of 13 how few NSO/PSO or Regional/Local sporting associations don’t have fair play policies.  Even when they do, will turn a blind eye or sweep under the rug vs. disciplining towards coaches that breach the policies.  The argument that I receive all the time is it is so hard to get coaches to volunteer so associations would rather have challenges with retention than removing coaches who violate fair play policies?

In my third year coaching minor hockey, I found out that a player who was on our “team” (initiation no formal games played) who was 5 years old was sat on the bench for all games in his second year as the coach (who did not return to our association) sat him “because he was too small to play”

HE WAS 6 Years old!!!

The following year I reached out to his coach to do what he could to get him back on the horse, ensure he got playing time in games (which he said was a no brainer) but he quit hockey as too much damage was done the prior year.

Almost every year thereafter I heard similar stories, kids being deprived the opportunity to contribute to the outcome game after game and as a result, would quit a sport they once loved.

  1. 18% of those surveyed stated injuries that kids were sustaining in youth sports.

This I believe is due to the early sport specialization phenomena that has arisen over the last decade where private business reach out to parents of kids are early as 7 years old to invest in private instruction, equipment and play year round to chase the dream of a NCAA scholarship or playing professionally.

Click here to read prior post on how early sport specialization does more harm than good

  1. The fifth most serious issue from 18% of the respondents was focusing on winning/competition.

In the last couple of weeks two instances have arisen in the USA that we shared on our Facebook page.

The first was when the coach of little league world series team consisting of 12 year players agreed to accept a 2 game suspension in lieu of permitting one of his players bat when it came his turn in the batting order.  Really?  The kids were 12!  The little league world series is just that, LITTLE LEAGUE.  Another example how adults are competing with other adults thru kids.

Click Here to read the article

The second how a California High School Baseball Player is suing his former coach for $150,000, claiming that benching him was bullying.

Click here to read the article

Bullying Definition: The abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful.

His lawyer is arguing the player was benched in 14 games over the course of 4 months as a result has not had an opportunity to demonstrate his offensive or defensive capabilities …“is an abuse of the coach’s discretion.”

Is it bullying or is it a coach having a fall-out with his player (AKA in the doghouse)?  Does it warrant the player filing a lawsuit for $150,000?

It has created a lot of debate amongst those in the youth sports space where in fact it is bullying or not.  Also if it warrants suing his head coach but only time will tell if it does go to court, and if so, it will be a precedent setting case for either side of the argument.

If you are a coach, administrator or the parent of a youth sports athlete, please do your research to understand the various forms of harassment affecting youth sport today so that we erase all forms so kids don’t suffer psychological or physical harm.

In lieu, provide them the opportunity to be included in a positive environment and instil the love of the game so they come back each year ultimately with a big smile on their faces and are active well into their adulthood.

Let’s work together to bring the game back to the kids … where it belongs.

 

PS Tagline - Dont be a kids last coach

 

 

“Just go out there, have fun and see what happens”. Doug Orr

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“Just go out there, have fun and see what happens.”

Doug Orr, late father of Bobby Orr.

As we head into another school year and myriad of fall sports where players are hitting the ice, soccer fields, courts after some well deserved down time, felt it was a good opportunity to share the reasons why kids do play their respective sports and why they are quitting.

As I share with coaches, parents, sports administrators (the adults in sport) in every presentation I do, the number 1 reason why kids play sports is that it is fun.  I started seeing this being the case as early as Atom Age Group (9-10 yr.old) where players did not return the following year and it really started to escalate at 12 and 13 years old.  Every instance when I would talk to them or their parents, the #1 reason was they were not having fun anymore.  When my son decided to quit hockey after his Bantam A1 hockey for the same reason it was the straw that broke the camel’s back in a sense for me.

I think Bobby Orr was a pretty good hockey player don’t you?  Many kids today only know that from their parents that he was and due to how he played, he literally changed the game of hockey for defensemen to be more involved in the offensive side of the game.

Bobby in his book, My Story, shared how his Dad never coached him on any of his teams, merely would drive him to all his ice times until he got older and as he was leaving the car would say, Bobby, “just go out there, have fun, and see what happens”.  Most of his time on the ice was on the pond in Parry Sound where he did just that, and he attributes all that unorganized free play for the reason why he became the player he did.

My mother asked me to pick up Bobby’s book, My story, so she could give to my son for Christmas, but sadly she passed away in October that year from her fight with cancer.  I still gave him the book on Christmas Day (with many tears in our eyes as it was the first Christmas without her) and both he and I read over the Christmas Break.  The quote then became a mainstay every time I dropped him off for various activities, and now I ask him to share and when he does so has a HUGE smile on his face.  Why, because we both realized that sport was just that, an opportunity to be active, be with friends and PLAY.  Like many other families, we did get caught up in the madness with AAA Hockey but as more and more players quit it was too much for me, regardless if unorganized, recreational or competitive level, youth sports should provide that opportunity to just go out there, have fun and see what happens.

Sadly as kids no longer participate in unstructured sports like I, Bobby or others from the prior generation, we are now have to “organize” unorganized sport so that kids have the same free play experiences as we did when we were kids.  See segment below how a coach in Oklahoma is providing kids an opportunity to play unorganized baseball.

 

I still think they need to work on, as parents should not only be be prohibited from interacting, to ensure that happens they should merely drop the kids off and pickup them up with the coach prompts them to do so.  The coach should just be there to supervise as a compromise.  I also question why their is an umpire?

One of the players that was interviewed shared he would rather play unorganized baseball than the format he normally plays and asked the journalist to tell his Dad.  Imagine if there were no parents, coaches or officials like it was in our generation?  The boy would NEVER want to play organized sport again due to the adultification of youth sports.

Why? Because he gets an opportunity to play with friends, they make up their own rules and no adults are permitted to interfere. Like when Bobby played on the pond, when a goal was scored, no coach or parent would be their to scream at them and they would merely go to the net, get the puck and continue playing.  As the parents were not present, they would not be able to comment on anything they did in the game, merely ask them if they had fun and if they would like to pick up a snack which is what the ride home should be.

When our son opted not to play in his first year of Midget, it was also tough on us as a family, as both my wife and I frequently that season would say how much we missed watching him play.  One of the reasons he decided to quit hockey was due to the fact he had many coaches at the AAA level think nothing of playing the favorites and he was deprived of power play, penalty kill and even even strength shifts so short term focused coaches could win games.  Probably the worst example was his Bantam AAA coach who sat him and a team mate for over 35 minutes in the final game of a tournament due to a strategy he executed backfiring that made it a 1 goal game. After the game he said “I am pissed because I was deprived the opportunity to contribute to the outcome.

I will never forget those words, and it set the wheels in motion for me to do what I can to bring the game back to the kids.

To ensure that you are not a kid’s last coach, here are the top 5 reasons why it’s fun (the number one reason) to play sports;

  1. To be the best they can be (work on their skills)
  2. When a coach treats them with respect
  3. When they get playing time

90% of kids would rather play on a losing term (in all situations) then sit on a bench for a winning team

  1. When they play well as a team
  2. When they get along with their team mates

Source: Amanda Visek, University of Washington DC

Why did my son and so many other players I have talked to over the years quit a game they once loved as early as 10-11 years old?

Because it was no longer FUN.

Top 5 reasons why sport is no longer fun;

  1. Coach criticism when they made mistakes
  2. Parents doing the same from the stands
  3. When coaches played their favorites
  4. The Ride Home – This should not be the time for criticism, it should be the time for the kids to decompress, listen to their preferred music and snack. Share with them how much you love watching them play.
  5. It became a job, as adults recommended they focus on one sport at 7 years old (early sport specialization). Do you know what truly you want to do in life? Do you know what your purpose is?

Then how can we as adults tell a 7 year old that they will only play one sport and deprive them of sampling all the other great sports and activities they should until they pursue the one the love the most in their late teens.

Check out this video touching on the extremes of early specialization put together by Get More Out of Sport.

 

 

It is no wonder why kids are putting up the white flag and 70% are quitting all sports before they enter high school if adults are expecting to starting working full time in a sport well before they have sampled other sports to find the one they truly love.

 

 

To ensure that your son or daughter is not one of the 7 of 10 that do so, please do you part to support them like Bobby’s Dad did many years ago and just love watching them play and tell them before every practice, game “just go out there, have fun and see what happens”

They should head to the field, be on the field and come off with a huge smile on their face so they develop a love for the game and are active for life.

Let’s work together to bring the game back to the kids … where it belongs.

PS Tagline - Dont be a kids last coach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW: How things have changed in youth sports, in many instances, not for the better.

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I am preparing for some upcoming talks and was reflecting on how things have changed in youth sports from when I grew up where the one constant as we moved each year due to my father’s work was playing various unstructured, recreation and then competitive sports into my 20’s.  I was fortunate to play on so many great teams, with GREAT coaches and team mates in various suburbs of Montreal, Baffin Island, Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver.  The one constant for me everywhere we moved is that I could play (emphasis PLAY) sports in a safe to fail environment unlike what I have seen first hand or heard from coaches, parents and executive members is happening today in all youth sports and it has become a global issue.

I now have coached many of the same youth sports I played for over 20 years and like many others in the space, I am very concerned about where youth sports has evolved to the point where kids are no longer play kids, it is now adults competing with other adults thru kids.

Below is a compare / contrast summary of what sports were like for me then, and what I have seen first hand as both a parent and coach now.

Then – We played on ponds, streets, outdoor rinks, courts and fields for HOURS on end and the only thing that stopped us was hunger or it got too dark.

 

Now –  Those ponds or outdoor rinks are not available due to global warming,. Municipalities are proposing banning street hockey or other activities as it is not safe or could cause vehicle damage and parents are concerned we can not play unsupervised as we may get hurt, worse yet, abducted by the driver in the white van.

We can’t wrap Kids in bubble wrap, they need to suffer minor injuries like scrapes and bruises so they learn how to get up when the fall down, overcome adversity and develop important life skills when they pursue post secondary education, enter the workforce, get involved in relationships, get married and become parents themselves.

Then – High school sports were free other than the apparel items we paid for but got to keep vs. giving back at the end of the season

Now – High School sports, if they are offered, either are skills based academy programs costing thousands of dollars or require athletic fees due to eroding school budgets

Then – High school teachers who completed degrees in PE would coach our teams as extracurricular activities and busses would be provided for us to travel to away games.

Now – High school sports rely heavily on volunteer coaches as a result of declining PE Specialists and many are given teams because they put their hand up but have very limited coaching qualifications who are unaware of the importance of teaching fundamental movement skills, physical literacy or following the long term athletic development models.  Busses are available for away games, but require fundraising or increases in athletic fees as they are $500.00 for inter city trips in the lower mainland of Vancouver, BC to take teams to away games.  The alternative is to recruit parent volunteers, who have to sign waivers and are on the hook for their own gas to do so.

Then – Community sports registration fees were only a few hundred dollars and included a lot of the necessary team equipment required to play like bats, helmets, pads, pants.

Now – Parents are on the hook for most, if not all, of the equipment costs and reg fees, team fees, carding fees push community sports well over $1000.00 for recreational programs, several thousand dollars for competitive levels and elite programs 10’s of thousands of dollars annually.

Then – Community sports had two tiers, recreational stream and competitive stream where we played teams within an hour of where we resided

Now – Both recreational and competitive tiers exist, but also “elite” travel teams have evolved where the trickle down effect has rec teams even travelling great distances to tournaments inflating family budgets that are not accounted for in team budgets so it “appears” that participation is much lower than it actually is.  If a coach opts for a local tournament, a travel tournament in the province and then one in the USA requiring flights, the team budget goes from $25,000 to over $100,000 !

Then – Coaches were permitted to drive players to/from practices, games, team events, there were no cell phones like there are today

Now – Coaches are not permitted to drive players due to abuse issues that have evolved thanks to the likes of Graham James and mandatory 2 Deep (2 adults) and NO smartphones in the dressing rooms to ensure no videos are posted to social media platforms.

Then – we could walk or bike to our local schools, fields, rinks for practices

Now – Even if parents permitted us to do so, thanks to the phenomena known as free range kids, police and social services are showing up at parents doors and questioning them at length as have received allegations they are not good caregivers if they are letting them walk to school, parks unsupervised.

See below for short clip where Bill Maher interviews Dve Barry and talk about the phenomena Free Range Parenting to permit kids to walk to school unsupervised again.

 

Then – Winning a banner was a BIG deal that required the journey months before the accomplishment with 2 a day practices, qualifying games and a long playoff run.  I will never forget when my summer games team won the gold medal, I received letters from the mayor, MLA’s, MP’s, even the Premier of the province congratulating us for our accomplishment.

Now – Many hockey regional associations have budgets for banners in the thousands of dollars, in hockey alone I estimate 1 in 4 teams can qualify to win a banner reach season and they have for both league and playoffs.

Then – All of your equipment that was not provided as part of your team fees only cost a couple of hundred dollars for most sports, exception being hockey, it always has been costly to outfit players but now equipment costs alone prohibit from parents signing up their kids.

Now – Equipment can cost families over $1000.00 or more per season, and thankfully my son opted to be a player, not a goalie in Hockey, their equipment is twice that of players.

Then – Bats, hockey sticks, tennis racquets were made of wood, skates were made of leather, other protective equipment local materials and much softer padding and limited plastics used today.  I will never forget my favorite stick, the wood Sherwood 5030 which was the number 1 selling stick of all time and still a favorite of adult recreational players (AKA beer league) today.

Now – A lot of sports equipment they are made of high tech composite materials and are made in China taking jobs away from Canadian manufacturers and leading to many of the companies like Cooper, Koho, Montreal, CCM, Bauer dissolving or being acquired by much larger conglomerates (Remember Nike-Bauer Helmets, skates?).

Then – parents would cheer for us on the sidelines, praise effort and great plays made by BOTH teams.

Now – The vocal minority (approx. 5-10%) of parents are spoiling the experience for all parties concerned by criticizing mistakes, at times verbally abusive towards players, officials and coaches that is only condoned in youth sports but if people did so in professional sports facilities they would be ejected.

Then – even at the most competitive levels we played for fun, making friends, being active and represent our communities.

Now – Our coaches and parents want us to win at all costs

 

 

 

Then – Our coaches taught us valuable life lessons like respect, sportsmanship, team work, leadership, communication, never giving up

Now – Coaches are more focused on the outcome of each game, will play their “favorites” to do so and are more focused on strategies than they are on technical or  what separates good coaches from the great ones who focus on teaching life skills thru sport. Almost every youth sports game I see today I see examples how players do not respect their opponents or demonstrate poor sportsmanship when things don’t go their way.

Then – Parents would not talk to coaches, teachers other than when WE were called into the office as WE were in trouble

Now – it is the other way around, helicopter/lawnmower parents hover and are paving the way for their kids and think nothing of reaching out when their kids don’t meet their expectations as they are concerned they will not be scouted if they are not playing on elite teams when they are 9 yrs old.

Then – we played more unstructured than structured sports and activities for HOURS on end where we developed our skills, creativity and passion for the game itself

In many instances there were no coaches, parents or officials present, we did not have what has become even more expensive uniforms and equipment and we picked our own teams, enforced our own rules.

Now – everything for us is planned to the minute and free play is limited. Organized sports have parents, coaches and officials telling us what to do, when to do it, how to do it not allowing for creativity and development. Many adults involved with youth sports also don’t recognize the main reason kids play is to have fun and as a result of all the various issues that are impacting youth sport today, they quit a game they once loved too soon because it no longer is.

Then – We sweat for months in practices, qualifying games, playoffs to win the championship trophy

Now – kids get a trophy 3X the size we did just for showing up

 

Click here to read our blog “No Participation Trophies”

 

Then – sports was fun, coaches were supportive, caring and acted as mentors to prepare for the next level and life beyond sport.

Now – sports is now a career path, requiring us to work in one sport starting at 7 years old depriving us the experience of participating in multiple other sports and activities

Then – we sampled numerous sports including free play at recess, lunch time and after school, spring, summer and Christmas breaks and also spent time with family, getting much needed rest and recovery from competition.

Now – As a result of early sport specialization, many kids are playing less than 2 sports per year and those same periods where we used to have free play, rest, time with family are filled with travel tournaments, development camps

Then – in every one of the recreational or competitive teams I was on, everyone contributed to the outcome where we won tournaments, provincials and even a gold medal in the BC Summer games

Now – coaches rely on their favorites to win games at all costs and many kids are deprived the opportunity to contribute to the outcome of the game, tournament.

PS – 90% of kids would rather play on losing teams than sit on the bench for winning teams

Then – we played because we wanted to work on our skills and be the best we could be, coaches respected us, we got playing time, we got along with our team mates and we were active

Now – We are being told to play one sport year round starting at 7 years old and we suffer burnout, overuse injuries and lose the passion we had to play so we quit much earlier than prior generation did and are inactive in our adulthood

Then – Video games were just starting to be developed

Now – They have evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry where egames is now classified as a sport and kids can qualify for endorsement deals to “compete” and even have world wide rankings like many other sports do

Then – Our active play in or outside was hours per day, only a small % was structured,  majority was unstructured free play and the internet, social media platforms was just starting to evolve

Now – the former active free play has been replaced by inactive screen time, kids between the ages of 8-18 spend 7.5 hours a day in front of screens as result of the digital era

Then – Only 10% of kids were overweight or obese, none had type II diabetes and were active for life

Now – Over 33% of kids are overweight or obese, if current trends continue 70% will be by 2040 and now kids under 18 have Type II Diabetes and a myriad of other health issues that is leading to health authorities projecting todays generation of kids may die 5 years earlier than our generation will … the first time in history it may occur.

Then – Kids played multiple sports until they were seniors in high school, then they opted to specialize in one or more sports after they graduated.

Now – 70% of kids are quitting all sports by the age of 13 and many lack physical literacy, can perform fundamental movement skills and are less likely to be active for life

Then – we played For The Love Of The Game, we aspired to be like our role models in professional sports – how many of you remember standing at the plate like Babe, scoring THE goal like Bobby/Gretzky/Lemieux in hockey, Pele in Soccer,  downhill ski-racing like Steve Podborski, Ken Reed etc.

Now – We play for our parents who aspire for us to get a NCAA scholarship or play professionally but less than 1% will reach that level.

Let’s work together to bring the game back to the kids – where it belongs.

 

PS Tagline - Dont be a kids last coach