Category Archives: Sports

A NYT broadside on Youth Sports culture

The NYT has a piece today that asks hard questions about youth sports insanity in the US. There have been plenty of articles about the myth of college scholarships; large increases in concussions and ACL injuries; the massive expense involved for many families that can’t afford it; and the psychologically harmful participation for many. But I haven’t seen an article that questions the very qualifications of coaches so powerfully, or the fact that parents don’t hold them to the same bar as the other adults that they entrust their kids to.

“The biggest challenge of youth sports in this country is so many of the adults who propagate the culture have no background in child development or physical education,” he said. “Their background is they played high school sports somewhere and they watch ESPN. Those are the two worst qualifications, ever.”

More qualified coaches would seem to be the answer. But despite all the money and time parents spend on sports, coaches in many communities are held to a lower standard than educators.

“Coaches are allowed to be emotionally illiterate,” Mr. Amaechi said. “I’ve watched as a coach stood screaming inches from the face of a girl and the parents were in the stands and instead of being incensed they continued screaming at her when she came to them.

“All you need to do to see what sport gets wrong is flip that scenario indoors and make that coach a French teacher,” he continued. “Your French teacher is inches away from your child’s face and screaming because she can’t conjugate a verb? Parents would stand by and allow that? No, they’d be incensed.”

Having spent a fair amount of time in this sphere, both as a parent and in the sports technology business, I do wonder whether this frenzy is close to peaking. There is a whole industry — from athletic directors, to coaches, to personal trainers, to video production and recruiting specialists, to physical therapists, to equipment manufacturers — who are highly incentivized to make sure people don’t question whether it’s in fact good for the majority of kids and families.

Michigan v. Notre Dame: the end of an era

It was announced today that Notre Dame is not going to renew the contract to play Michigan annually, meaning the last game will be in 2014 in South Bend.  It’s tempting to think that ND witnessed the crapfest on the field this last weekend and decided that Touchdown Jesus shouldn’t take it anymore.  But the reality is that it has to with money, conference alignments, and probably tweaking schedules to be a little less murderous so that the Irish — who’ve been on the way back for decades — can have a hope of seeing another National Championship.

As much as I loathe the Irish, I will miss the series, which gave us many, many great memories.  The Rocket was ridiculous, and (the good) Denard his second coming.   If we squinted enough, we could actually convince ourselves that this series is a representation of what college football should be: quality schools, high character kids, ancient rivals with plenty to taunt each other about.   Michigan is the all-time winningest school, with the highest winning percentage, and we actually taught ND how to play the game somewhere in the 1800’s.  Notre Dame has more Heisman Trophies, their own network, and God.

I remember Desmond’s catch like it was this morning.  I was in grad school at UM, and my wife and I were in the student section when Elvis, on fourth down, went for it all, pumping once and delivering the perfect pass to the perfect receiver.  We know the rest.

Ultimately money is winning in College Football, and there is too much to hold one’s nose about.  Whether it’s athletes getting a tiny fraction of apparel sales, or sleazy over signing perfected by the SEC, we all know what’s going on, and shrug.

But Michigan v. Notre Dame felt right.