Some Words of Advice for Coaches, Parents, Administrators and Players

The wrong attitude means you won't get what you want out of youth sports.

OK, OK, QUIET, PLEASE! Let’s break off into four groups.

First group – COACHES. COACHES, PLEASE, HAVE A SEAT IN FRONT OF ME WHERE I CAN KEEP AN EYE ON YOU. This includes: coaches who have egos bigger than their heads; coaches who have little knowledge of the game and coach so that their kid can be the QB or starting pitcher; coaches who coach together until one or the other’s kid misses his July growth spurt; coaches who will rob the local league of its top few players for his “super team”; coaches who actually think that holding tryouts for a group of 9-year-olds means something; coaches who play their buddy’s kid all game — every game — because they can; coaches who believe their own crock of propaganda (or crock of prop); coaches who coach by intimidation or use bad language; and finally… all others.

“Not only can the youth sports systems controlling our children's lives ruin their fun, but also they often deny individual children fair opportunities to reach their full potential through excessive use of elite teams. With the cruelest irony, these systems can rob us of young athletes who, had they been given a fair chance as children, might have been terrific players as high school seniors or as adults.”
-Bob Bigelow

Second group – ALL PARENTS OF PLAYERS PLEASE TAKE A SEAT TO THE RIGHT OF ME. This includes: parents who believe the only chance their kid has at being the best is to play with and against the best; parents who run up and down the sidelines screaming at their kid; parents who argue with other parents on the sidelines; parents who run to argue with a coach immediately at the end of a game; and finally… all others.

“Many times parents look at a performance in terms of the score line to determine what's good or bad. Soccer is like playing the piano, until you master the skill you can't even think in terms of playing on stage. According to the National Alliance for Youth Sports, 70 percent of kids drop out of organized sports by age 13. The No. 1 reason? Pressure from adults.”
- Keith Gabriel, Philly.com

Third group – ALL YOUTH ADMINISTRATORS PLEASE BE SEATED BEHIND ME. This one might pull some of you from the other groups, so go with the one that you feel gives you the most power. Ha-ha, I’m kidding! Wow! I darn near got trampled. This includes: those on youth sports boards for the purpose of furthering their own slimy agenda; self-appointed Gods of a particular organization; those who don’t believe that skimming from the top will affect the rest of the pool over time; those who charge a small fortune (thus eliminating a large group from any chance of participation) for the promise of a shot at superstardom; those who need to run premier teams for 8- or 9-year-olds; those who end their thoughts and comments with PERIOD; and finally… all others.

“Year-round commitment to a single sport and far-flung travel for more and better competition are isolating our best young athletes from their communities and changing the all-around athletic experience that has been at the heart of American sports for generations.”
-Alexander Wolff, "Special Report: The High School Athlete," Sports Illustrated (Nov. 13, 2002)

Fourth group – FINALLY I’D LIKE ALL PLAYERS TO GRAB A SEAT TO THE LEFT OF ME, PLEASE. This includes elite/select and non-elite/select; travel and not-allowed-to-travel; labeled and mislabeled; players who can't handle failure because they've been conditioned to believe they're too good to fail; players who missed out on being labeled as elite/select at 8; players not having fun because they only play one-third of every stinking game; players wanting to quit; and… OH HECK… ALL PLAYERS BE SEATED, PLEASE.

“Youth sports, particularly playoffs and tournament leagues where winning is stressed and more recognized community wide, is now made up of a handful of elite athletes that are overplayed by inexperienced parent coaches, at the expense of the lesser talented. These youth “all-star” leagues have also become a showcase where parents get to display their children, sometimes with tragic results, like a circus act.”
-The Wahey Boys

Alrighty then. All players – stay where you are.

Any adult (includes league administrators, coaches, and parents) falling under the “all others” category please remain seated.

Everyone else – Thank you for attending. Have a great evening.

Ok. Let’s have a conversation about youth sports.

Ron Goralski July 02, 2012 at 01:26 PM
I guess this never happens. Multiply it by 1000... nay... 10,000! http://www.baseball-fever.com/showthread.php?63961-Politics-in-youth-baseball
Patrick July 02, 2012 at 01:37 PM
I'm confused???? Isn't this what I said? The issue IS politics like this, NOT the fact that there are select teams in the first place. We can have select teams without politics, the right people just have to be put in charge.
Ron Goralski July 02, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Hmm... http://oasismed.net/_blog/OASIS_News/post/Current_Issues_in_Youth_Sports_Specialization/
Ron Goralski July 02, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Folks... here's another article that's worth reading if you really want to see what others are saying... http://www.thecenterforkidsfirst.org/pdf/Crisis.pdf
Patrick July 02, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Funny, because I never said anything about specialization. Not sure how that's relevant.
Ron Goralski July 02, 2012 at 02:28 PM
"Well, the pendulum has sure swung, hasn't it? We're nearing the point in youth sports where we need to stop the "elite" and "select" madness because we're raising a generation with too much self-esteem. They can't handle failure because they've been conditioned to believe they're too good to fail. They're being placed on teams that identify them as better than their peers on the whim of either a parent/coach or a businessman/coach." I'VE POSTED THIS TWICE BEFORE... worth the read... http://espn.go.com/espn/commentary/story/_/page/keown-110823/elite-travel-baseball-basketball-teams-make-youth-sports-industrial-complex
Karen Cianci July 02, 2012 at 03:02 PM
What happened to Chris Moore? Did he give up?
David Richardson July 02, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Ron, thanks for talking about a subject that frustrates many parents and children today. I find it sad that as grown ups, we cant agree on what best for youth sports. At 9 years old a child's introduction into sports should be a fun memorable occasion. Yet there is always some coaches or parents who ruin these special occasions because they want success at any cost. Like Good teachers..Good level headed coaches are hard to find.
jim hartzell July 02, 2012 at 03:06 PM
I have not had the pleasure of reading all the posts in this particular blog however I will say this, Youth sports have changed drastically over the years. It is my belief that parents are to blame to a point. We want are kids to be better so we push them faster and farther and heck, if you got the money then why not put them on the best team, right??? WRONG. I have had the displeasure of seeing the whole 'elite' teams in action. Kids on the elite team think there better than all the other kids heck even the parents and the coaches tell them that, THEN the unthinkable happens the Park n Rec team plays the so called 'Elite' team and Voila, the Rec team not only beats the 'Elite' team buts beats them well!!! So the moral of this, maybe we should just let kids be kids. They have the rest of there lives to screw up, god knows none of us are perfect. I will leave with this, I tell my players whether it be baseball or soccer two things....Have fun and give 100% and if the product of that is a win then so be it and if you lose so what, learn from it.
Karen Cianci July 02, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Chris? Did you know the person who started the Avon Little League Travel Team in Kindergarten?? Travel Team because no one in Avon was as good as the hand-picked elite 6 year old baseball players. All 12 of them? Ha !! One big happy family on the team. Johnny knew Bobby and Bobby knew Joey and Joey's Dad knew Bobby's Dad. Come on !!
Erica July 02, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I've never known a parent to bribe his child with money/video games/material item of your choice to nail his or her trombone solo in jazz band. I've never known a parent to run up and down the aisle in the cafeteria at the science fair screaming at his child to PUT MORE BAKING SODA ON THAT VOLCANO!! PUT IT ON THERE NOW!! NOWWWWWW!!!!!! (Equivalent to the frantic and frenzied bellowings of 'ICE IT!!!!!!!' at the youth hockey rink.) I've never known a parent to threaten his child with revoking of privlidges should he not score the winning equation at the math olympics. While all parents (and coaches, and administrators) want their children to do well, there are varying reasons as to why. Ron makes valid, intelligent points regarding the elitist attitude. We need to let each child find his place, and believe me, they know how talented they are. While I understand the need to be competing against likwise opponents, perhaps we can wait until it figures itself out. No one is Pele in the second grade. No one.
Karen Cianci July 02, 2012 at 04:26 PM
We don't need select teams until 8th grade when the others who don't like the sport have weeded themselves out. "Self-cut" as they say. Then there is very little competition left and travel teams are borne out of necessity. NOT Kindergarten. The notion that Johnny is so good that he must play with "equally good" players is hysterical. ha ha ha ha ha....laugh until I cry from that comment. Travel Teams are a joke and the parent's are even funnier. Before high school that is. Sometimes even then it's still funny. Especially when there is an A, B, C team. What's the difference? Not much I would say. It's just the parents who did the picking and who they know and who is "good enough" and it's not always based upon reality. It's based upon very false impressions because parents know how to market their kids really really well and pay outrageous sums of money to develop their kids in Premiere sports and private trainers. Now, I can count on one hand the "real athletes" in town. The stand-outs, that is. Everyone else is an athlete but not outstanding. The problem is that ALL KIDS ARE ATHLETES NOW. Not like 30 years ago when only the real sports fanatics were athletes. Usually because Mom and Dad were athletes and they started developing their sport at a much younger age than the others. Today, ALL KIDS ARE ATHLETES. 97% anyway.
Johnny W Benton July 02, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Interesting article. It seems kids can be warped by many aspects of youth sports if not properly guided. But the element of parents wanting the best for their kids (at all cost), and parents that start power tripping(in leadership positions), have been a part of the game for YEARS...It's almost like there should be a handbook to navigate through and function within this unfortunate reality. Because since there isn't any real money on the table - I think it's almost impossible to get volunteers to act right. But if maybe there were some type of "youth sport watch". Like a "neighborhood watch", that goes around the city and observes the games looking for these types of ethical/moral violations. Just a thought.
Ron Goralski July 02, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Ms. Cianci- holy cow you've opened the floodgates of emailers to my email box from a certain town. And all are worried about going public but are using the same word: corrupt. I'm not from that town so I can't answer to the charges. I will also say that I've gotten some regarding the town that I reside in. Same word. Many names. Many details. I'm disgusted that these teams are ripping our local leagues apart. Thanks for your input!
Ron Goralski July 02, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Johnny! I'm in! Let's do it brother. We don't need to preach any one philosophy. We listen and listen some more. We take it all in. The parents. The kids. The coaches and admins as well as the town. There needs to be a conversation with all of the groups involved.
Ron Goralski July 02, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Perfectly stated. Finally! And those who don't see this are lying!
chris moore July 02, 2012 at 06:54 PM
You said the right words, "the parent.".
Ron Goralski July 02, 2012 at 07:26 PM
In response to your smirky comment: The league I was a part of was different from most others. And yes Michael, I'm proud to say I had a lot to do with that. This "rec" league supplied a good deal of the players who helped FHS to a 9-1 record last year. Only loss was to a powerful Windsor team. Well the "All-Star" Game where I'm posing so proudly with my son is a game we play at the end of the season where many of the eighth graders get to take a final bow against an out-of-town team. So yes Michael - I'm proud in many ways: proud of my history as a youth sports admin and coach; proud of what I'm trying to accomplish now; and very proud of what and how I express myself as a writer. I guess you can say that I'm quite comfortable in my own skin even while being ridiculed by those who make a hobby out of it.
Wendy Lynne July 03, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Love how you speak the truth with humor and candor - could not agree more!
Ron Goralski July 03, 2012 at 03:25 AM
You need to read more about a child's athletic development. I don't even know where to start. The problem IS elite teams at a young age. It makes no sense at all. Read Bob Bigelow, to start, so we can at least have a starting point for a conversation.
Ron Goralski July 03, 2012 at 01:02 PM
I was just reading your comment again. INSTANT CLASSIC!... "I've never known a parent to run up and down the aisle in the cafeteria at the science fair screaming at his child to PUT MORE BAKING SODA ON THAT VOLCANO!! PUT IT ON THERE NOW!! NOWWWWWW!!!!!! (Equivalent to the frantic and frenzied bellowings of 'ICE IT!!!!!!!' at the youth hockey rink.)"
Ron Goralski July 03, 2012 at 01:05 PM
LOVE THIS QUOTE KAREN!... "The notion that Johnny is so good that he must play with "equally good" players is hysterical. ha ha ha ha ha....laugh until I cry from that comment. Travel Teams are a joke and the parent's are even funnier. Before high school that is. Sometimes even then it's still funny. Especially when there is an A, B, C team. What's the difference? Not much I would say. It's just the parents who did the picking and who they know and who is "good enough" and it's not always based upon reality. It's based upon very false impressions because parents know how to market their kids really really well and pay outrageous sums of money to develop their kids in Premiere sports and private trainers."
Patrick July 03, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Karen and Ron, Do you really think that it's good for the development of an athlete.. for a very good, talented 13 year old basketball player to be playing 16 minutes a week in the rec league with and against kids who can barely dribble a ball, with coaches who have never coached the sport before? The rec leagues for basketball and soccer in many of the towns in the area are great for kids who want to just go out and play with little commitment for fun, but you really think a kid playing JUST half of one game a weekend with and against inferior competition is going to help him be a better high school/college/next level athlete? The FHS boys basketball team has had one losing record in the past decade or so, and about 95% of those kids are fed in through the great travel program they have for both boys and girls. I guarantee you if there was only rec and kids were playing only one game a weekend for eight weeks with mediocre coaching our high school teams would be consistently miserable. And don't give me the football argument Ron...that's a completely different story. Many good football players start in high school, you can't get away with that in basketball, soccer or baseball. C'mon, really?
Ron Goralski July 03, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Patrick- Well the 5% (if it's even that high is a part of the problem). So really if you didn't plat travel - you don't have much of a chance of playing HS Bball. And I know Coach does not feed into that philosophy at all - but it's inevitable. So now you are at a disadvantage as a rec player already. There are some really good rec players who didn't play travel either because their parents couldn't part with the cash or the player had issues with a coach in the past. Both happen. I have knowledge of both situations. So now you are out of the loop. And here's an example: a rec player scores the game winning basket for his team in OT at the buzzer - he is telling the story at school - a group of travel players hear him and say, "Oh that's only Rec though." And don't even suggest that those teams were made up of the best players in town. No way! So many of the rec kids may not even try out for the team. And I can guarantee that many of those rec kids end up stronger and bigger and with more skills by their sophomore year than many of the great 7th and 8th grade travel players. But the labeling has already been done. THAT is what really happens and if I could break it down by names - I would. But I'm not about that! In our town this happens in every sport except football. This year our town went with a basically Select A LAX team. All 18 hand picked. The 33 leftovers sent to the same B team.
Ron Goralski July 03, 2012 at 05:05 PM
What does that tell you Pat? We all knew from day one who was making that team. We knew the cliques and the kids who played LAX year- round. Favor one group at the expense of another. It's wrong Pat. In many cases there is very little difference between the kids who make it and the kids who do not. But that LABEL... that means everything. Please don't tell me you haven't witnessed any of this. C'mon, really?
Patrick July 03, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Ron, If you really want to tell me that the quality of a "rec" game is just as good as the quality of a Travel "a" league game, then I don't even know why I'm wasting my time arguing with you. You are right...kids who play on travel teams do get preferential treatment in high school, which makes sense for one big reason reasons. 1. They've got MORE experience against a higher level of competition (and USUALLY (not always, unfortunately) have gotten better coaching), which means that even if they weren't better players when they got picked for the team, they probably will be by 9th grade. It also shows that by playing at a travel level that they are willing to challenge themselves and put in more time and effort then the kid who settles for just showing up once a week for a rec game. The issue is what you have been saying all along...that often times parent's and coaches other interests get in the way of selecting a proper team AND that there's a label/status symbol attached to playing on a travel/elite team. The reason you should push your kid to play on a travel team is to better them as an athlete NOT because it makes YOU or THEM look good. I personally have been on both ends of this problem in the past and just learned to deal with it, and hope that the right people are selected to coach our youth sports. This does not mean that you should prevent your child from trying to play travel sports at a high level...that is only holding them back and promoting mediocrity.
Patrick July 03, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Ron, what do you have to say about "Elite" or "Select" or "Travel" programs in the area, many of which I have been around both as a player and in other roles, that use an independent committee to judge and select teams based on a few tryout dates? No bias involved whatsoever. Is this still an evil thing because, the kids who aren't quite good enough to make the team, actually didn't make the team. Should we hold back the kids who made the team fair and square? Whatever happened to the old school when you got cut from a team, and worked your butt off all off-season to get better. Now people just moan about it being too political, and claim that they were better off not making the team and playing rec. I wasn't a great athlete in my day and got cut from a fair share of teams, sometimes fairly and sometimes not...makes me sick the bitter attitute that people like you have towards the whole situation.
Ron Goralski July 03, 2012 at 05:56 PM
You are missing everything here. So the travel coaches are better than the REC coaches. Really? What about the price? What about Johnny's dad picking the team? Please! What about the preconceived LAX team? Joke! And the leap you are making that they will probably be better by eighth grade even if they aren't now because of the competition? Again. Really? Karen has this NAILED! Politics and "marketing" has just as much to do with which kids make these teams as anything else. And because of that - deserving kids are being left out. And that's just a small piece of all this. Pat - don't let me waste your time then. Not sure where you came up with that but I'm busy as well... so if everything is fine to you, carry on man. There are too many smart parents out there who are frustrated with how many of our leagues are run. Serious, serious issues need to be addressed. This thread has probably run its course. We have different philosophies regarding this. I can live with that.
jeff cohan July 10, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Better yet - There are 4 organizing bodies for youth baseball in most towns. Little League, Babe Ruth, High School and Summer Baseball. In Farmington all have boards or organization structures that conduct annual meetings for all participants to discuss all aspects of the program. Additionally All programs typically list officers who can be reached at any time to answer questions and act as a sounding board. Having been involved in all programs over the years it is obvious that at no level is the program perfect but based on the fact that every single individual connected to the organizing body is a volunteer and not a paid full time operator they all do a terrific job. For you to announce that lots of people have questions and then seek an ad hoc meeting is a diservice to the various boards and organizing volunteers and merely presents an unnecessary attempt to make the continuing statement which is a theme of most of your threads that there is significant disconnect with every organized youth program in town. The better message woould have been to suggest that those with "questions" seek to attend board meetings or individual council with board members to ask questions and voice concerns. While many of your articles have been useful and thought provoking your tendancy to ellivate the conversation to a "holier than thou" moment detracts from your overall message which has been and continues to be well delivered, save this response.
Ron Goralski July 10, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Point very well taken Jeff. Agreed.


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