Youth Sports Politics: Adults Feud, Children Suffer

An article in the Boston Globe, last year,  titled  "Taking the ‘little' out of Little League" reminds us not only about what is wrong in today's youth sports, but how needed reform can occur. 

I wrote this blog in 2010 but the issue continues to come up, questions are asked and think this may help. 

According to the Globe article, the 31-member board of the 14-team Parkway Little League in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, many of whom had been on the board for years and years, had used its power over virtually everything the league did to effectively create a "farm system" that allowed managers in the so-called "majors" to hold some players back in the "minors", to be called up when needed, and permitted certain favored coaches to monopolize talented players.  Not surprisingly, some parents eventually cried foul, claiming the system unfairly penalized some players by holding them out of league-wide tryouts and preventing them from advancing to other major league teams.  A number of long-serving board members had then, the story reported, "hijacked the board and blocked efforts to change the system."

What the article described sounded like the kind of politics and favoritism that a mom described in an e-mail I received several years ago.  She was irate over how grown men could turn what should have been a wonderful Little League baseball season into a joke. Apparently, the player selection system in the town where she lived provided for players to be selected by the coaches in rotating fashion based on a points system. Players in the pool were each assigned a score from the tryouts. Once selected, a player's points were added to that team's total and the team could not select another player until its point total was the lowest.

The system was supposed to ensure competitive balance.  But some coaches apparently figured out a way to beat the system. Because the sons of the head coach and all of his assistant coaches got to play on the same team (let's call the team the "Giants"), and because they just so happened to be fathers of the four "best" players, they could, simply by agreeing to coach together, ensure that they would have far and away the best team. Even though the four players' high point total meant that the Giants had to wait for quite a while to draft other players to fill out the roster - players with much lower point scores than the four stars - it was clear from the get-go that the Giants would steamroll through the regular season undefeated and the playoffs to a championship.  Not surprisingly, that's exactly what happened! They might as well have handed the trophy to the Giants before the season even started. The other coaches, and many parents of players on other teams, quietly grumbled, but nothing was done to change the system.

The Parkway saga escalated to the point that lawyers and Little League  headquarters in Williamsport, PA were called in.  But even the presence of a Little League representative at league meetings and a stern warning letter threatening to revoke the league's charter didn't help.  Only after two months of trench warfare, with both sides refusing to give an inch and the kids caught in the middle, was the logjam broken when the league cut the size of the board in half, showing the door to some of the staunchest defenders of the status quo (and presumably ushering in some much needed changes).

What the battle illustrates is how an entrenched group of adults can take the youth out of youth sports and turn a game for kids into a stage on which to play out adult power games, one where young players are exposed to the risk of permanent injury by ignoring pitch limits and  tryouts, drafts and player placement are manipulated to favor certain coaches, all in the name of winning (and it goes without saying that winning is what this approach allowed Parkway to do; no wonder it won the state championship in 2008 and advanced to the Little League regionals in Bristol, Connecticut). 

Fortunately, what the feud also demonstrates is how a courageous group of parents can successfully challenge the status quo to put the word "youth" back in youth sports, and how it is usually only at the grass roots, community level, that reform takes place.

So what are the lessons of Parkway for sports parents?  Here's just five:

  1. Listen to what children want: Studies repeatedly show that the vast majority of boys and girls, when asked what they would like to see changed about youth sports, say they would like to see less emphasis on winning. We need to start listening to what are children tell us.  All too often, youth sports are adult- not child-centered.
  2. Have the courage to speak up. I believe that a vast silent majority of parents in this country want a youth sports system that serves the interests of children but worry - and not without basis -  that their kids will be ostracized if they challenge the status quo. Those who demand more games, more wins, more trophies, more travel and more of everything tend to have the loudest voices and sound the most convincing. It's up to parents who believe in a child-centered sports system to have the courage to be just as passionate on the side of balance.
  3. Require accountability and transparency by youth sports organizations. Most youth sports organization are run like small- and, in some cases, not-so-small - businesses with virtually no oversight beyond their volunteer board of directors. Push for formation of a Parent Advisory Group representing parents with children currently playing in the program to provide the Board of Directors with feedback. 
  4. Establish term limits. As the Parkway saga shows, directors, administrators and coaches who become entrenched in a program tend to defend the status quo. New blood can keep a program fresh and strong.
  5. Use the power of the permit. In most communities, youth sports organizations need permits from the town or municipality's parks and recreation department to use taxpayer-funded fields, diamonds, tracks, and pools. That makes them subject to public oversight. Priority for permits should be given to programs that serve the interests of children, not overcompetitive adults bent on gratifying their own egos.

These are just some of the ways to reform youth sports.  For more, click here.

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

Parents Who Interfere: Was Quitting The Only Way Out For Coach?

This weekend a father from Michigan sent me an article in the Detroit News about a highly successful high school basketball coach in his daughter's league who had just quit as a result of what the newspaper described as "extreme parental interference."

He wanted to know what I would suggest to the coach, who happened to be a personal friend.

My advice, which I have been sharing with parents in the U.S. and Canada for the past twelve years, is simple, at least in concept: communication and collaboration.  The coaches who don't have problems with parents tend to be great communicators. They let parents know where they stand early, before the season even starts, at a preseason meeting, which all parents are required to attend, and during the season, they make themselves available to parents on a regular basis to answer questions and allow them to voice concerns.

Many coaches have also established a volunteer assistant coach program where they invite some of the more experienced parent coaches to pitch in occasionally. Good coaches know that the time of the passive sports parent has long since passed, and that, in order to get on the same page with parents and players, the coach has to truly listen to what is on the mind of parents, but also to set up rules of the road so that parents know what is and what they can and can't do.   Stop sign

The article doesn't say whether the coach in this instance had held such a pre-season meeting at which he set firm boundaries so that parents knew in advance that the kind of extreme interference that led him to quit would simply not be tolerated.

For all I know, he did, and some of the parents simply ran through all the stop signs he put up.  If that's the case, then the parents who pushed him too far should be ashamed of themselves. 

Of course, I don't know the whole story (indeed, the article doesn't really shed much light on the coach's side of the story), and, as is almost always the case, there are probably two sides to this one, too.  

But what I do know is that the problem of pushy sports parents isn't one that is going away soon, and is undoubtedly getting worse, as the pressure on youth athletes, and their parents, continues to ratchet ever higher. 

Is it any wonder, as MomsTeam contributing expert, Doug Abrahms noted in one of his recent "Heroes" columns, fewer and fewer high school coaches stay in coaching very long these days?  

All a coach can do is set boundaries.  But sometimes, sadly, some parents think they can ignore the rules of the road.  The result: a crash where everyone - coach, players, parents, school and the wider community - ends up getting hurt.

 Questions/Comments? Reach me at 


High School Coaches of the Year: A Flawed Selection Process?

As it has for the past thirty years, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association yesterday announced its 2011 National Coaches of the Year, honoring high school coaches in the top 10 girls and boys sports by participation numbers, along with one coach in another high school sport.

According to the NFHS, the awards are presented to individuals who have gone above and beyond and who exemplify the highest standards of sportsmanship, ethical conduct and moral character, and who carry the endorsement of his or her respective state high school association.

While I am sure all the coaches selecting are deserving, I have always been perplexed why coaches do the selection. It seems to me that the true measure of an honorable, fair and great coach is not how they are viewed by other coaches who perhaps play against their team, at most, a couple of times a season, and may know them more by reputation than any first-hand contact, but how players, managers, athletic trainers and even the parents experience the coach game after game, practice after practice.

To truly strengthen the quality of coaches at the nation's high school, I believe the NFHS should consider getting the input of each and every player, parent and support staff in which they are asked a series of questions about a coach, beginning with the question of whether the coach put the safety of players ahead of winning, and broken down further into questions about sexual safety, emotional safety, and physical safety.

Stakeholders should also be asked about:

  • the coach's abilities as a teacher, both of the sport he or she is coaching and of good sportsmanship and fair play;
  • whether he or she demonstrates respect for his players, game officials, opposing players and coaches, and the game itself;
  • his ability to communicate with parents (for instance, did the coach establish expectations at a preseason meeting about playing time, team rules, and parent behavior, and communicate regularly with parents during the season?)Baseball coaches
  • how the coach handled conflict
  • whether the players had fun, regardless of whether their won-loss record.

I just don't know if a panel of a coach's peers could possibly know the answers to these kinds of questions.   It might be that many of the coaches selected by the NFHS would still end up at the top, but, more important, such evaluations would go a long way towards identifying coaches at the other end of the spectrum: the coaches willing to sacrifice player safety in the quest for a winning record or championship season, the coaches who physically, emotionally, or even sexually abuse, their players, the coaches who play fast-and-loose with the rules to win. In other words, the coaches who shouldn't, well, be coaches. 

There are plenty of great coaches, and their achievements deserve recognition.  But there are some who aren't so great. They, too, need to be identified, because as much as players remember a great coach, even decades later, the damage that a bad coach can do - the negative lessons they can teach - can also leave an impression that lasts a lifetime.

 Questions/Comments? Reach me at 


Sarah Burke's Injury: Hard To Prevent, But Not Always Fatal

I have tried to understand how Sarah Burke's freestyle ski injury actually ended up resulting in her death this week. The information, at first, was pretty sketchy.  Ultimately, we learned that, when Sarah's head snapped back in her fall, the whiplash caused a tear (dissection) of her vertebral artery, which cut off the blood to her brain, causing her to go into cardiac arrest and resulting in irreversible brain damage.

The injury that took Sarah's life occurred just after landing a trick she'd successfully executed a thousand times before.  It reminds us all that many of the high-speed, high-flying events that take place during the Winter X and Olympic Games come with potential and real danger. Snowboarder in flight

In a tragic coincidence, Sarah's accident took place at the same superpipe venue in Park City, Utah where snowboarder Kevin Pearce nearly died from a brain injury in a fall just over two years ago.

So how does an injury like Sarah's happen and can it be prevented? I decided to ask an expert to weigh in, so I contacted Dr. David Geier, an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist and the Director of MUSC Sports Medicine in Charleston, South Carolina and asked him to submit a guest article for MomsTeam.  To read what Dr. Geier has to say about the injury Sarah Burke suffered, click here.

Have you ever known of a person who suffered such an accident? Was their tear surgically treated successfully? 

 Questions/Comments? Reach me at 


Missing Gate Receipts A Reminder of Need for Oversight Of Youth Sports Organizations

It seems as if a week doesn't go by these days without a story coming across my desk about money being embezzled from the coffers of local sports teams or lack oversight by a board of directors.

On Friday, it was the case of $4,176 in gate receipts that mysteriously disappeared after a September 2011 high school football game in Huber Heights, Ohio.  Hundred dollar bills

While the Wayne High School athletic director and football coach, Jay Minton, hasn't been accused of any wrongdoing, he has agreed to personally repay the money, since it went missing on his watch, if it isn't found or someone doesn't step forward with the funds (hmmm,,,let's see). 

In a case of too little, too late (or is it better late than never?), Minton told the Dayton Daily News that several new protocols have been put in place to ensure that it did not happen again.  "It's like Fort Knox around here now," Minton told the newspaper.

The story does, however, raise questions about the degree to which independent youth sports organizations - many of which handle thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars - have put into place the kind of "Fort Knox" controls Minton says will now be in place at his high school.

This is an issue about which I have written extensively in the past, both on MomsTeam, in my book, Home Team Advantage, and in the op-ed pages of newspapers.  

I guess it's time to revisit the subject again.

Here's what I wrote in the Boston Herald  on January 20, 2007, exactly five years ago to the day the missing funds story broke in Dayton:



On Tuesday the former president of a youth baseball league in Tewksbury (MA) was indicted by a Middlesex grand jury for allegedly stealing over $400,000 from the league.

An isolated instance? Not at all.

That same day, January 10th, newspapers in Idaho were reporting on a youth baseball official pleading guilty to embezzling money from the organization and newspapers in Ohio were reporting on a woman found guilty of duping local businesses out of donations to the Middletown Pee Wee Football Club.

In fact, stories of youth sport embezzlement appear in the media almost weekly. Youth sports organization embezzlers do not discriminate: Football, baseball, cheerleading clubs have all been victimized. In fact, Massachusetts holds the dubious distinction of being the first to give the phrase "soccer mom" a connotation beyond the political context when, back in 1982, the Associated Press (Oct. 14, 1982) reported a "judge has found a husband guilty of looting $3,150 from the treasury of the Soccer Moms booster club in Ludlow headed by his wife."

Youth sports have become big business, bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees at the community level every year. Most youth sports organizations are run like small - and, in some cases, not-so-small - businesses, with officers, boards of directors, bylaws and annual meetings. Yet most operate with virtually no oversight beyond their volunteer boards of directors, and their often lax financial controls make them easy and tempting targets for thieves. All youth sports organizations, not just those that are organized as non-profits - which are required to file annual reports on their finances and fundraising activities with the state division of public charities- should be required to make public financial disclosures so parents and other interested parties know where all the money goes.

Because youth sports institutions have traditionally been self-regulating and independently financed, they often escape formal scrutiny or accountability. Youth sports program need to provide for greater input from parents, make their mission statements, bylaws, and the names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of board members and other administrators publicly available, provide for term limits for directors, holds open board meetings, and engage in benchmarking.

In most places, youth sports organizations (YSOs) don't own their own facilities; they use taxpayer-funded fields, diamonds, tracks, pools, and courts instead. In order to use them they have to obtain permits. This makes them subject to public oversight by the permit-issuing authority, in most instances the town or municipality's parks and recreation department, which should establish guidelines to govern their issuance.

One of the most effective ways to start a community dialog about establishing guidelines to govern the issuance of permits to YSOs is to establish a youth sports task force with representatives from a broad cross section of the community participating in a series of forums to address the question "Are we doing the best that we can for our children with our current sports program?"

Addressing this question will inevitably raise such issues as early specialization, the appropriate age for sports cuts and competitive tryouts, the best way to recruit and train paid and/or volunteer coaches, the stratification of children based on their perceived abilities and skill level, background checks for all paid and non paid adults over the age of seventeen, the way independent YSOs interact and co-exist with and relate to school-based programs, and how permits are issued to use town-owned facilities.

To promote a community dialog and make the process as inclusive as possible, task force representatives can attend PTA meetings in elementary schools, hold a community-wide forum, and develop a survey to send to residents to allow every interested person an opportunity to express his or her opinion.

The objective should be to develop an independent Youth Sports Council and a youth sports charter to govern the use of publicly owned facilities.

The time has come for the silent majority of parents in this country who want a youth sports system that serves the interests of children, not adults, to stand up and ask their elected officials to return the power of the permit to the people. It may be the best way to achieve reform and accountability.

 Questions/Comments? Reach me at 


The Best Thing Tom Brady, Sr. May Have Done For His Son: Nothing

Yesterday, I had a chance to talk with Tom Brady, Sr. in his Boston office. Yes, that  Tom Brady. Father of  New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady.

It was actually the second time I had had a chance to talk with Tom.  The first time was at a seminar in Harvard Square a year or two back in which he was on the panel. This time we had a chance to talk at length.  I came away with a much better understanding of the "recipe" he used in raising a super hero: not only an elite athlete, but a wonderful person, too.Tom Brady and Tom Brady, Sr. embracing

Because the interview was actually for inclusion in my second book,  I will save most of our conversation for later. But, for now, I want to share Tom Senior's thoughts on the question of parents who interfere with their child's coach, a subject on which I written a blog last week. In particular, I wanted to know what a father of one of the best quarterbacks of all time (Joe Montana fans might beg to differ) did when he disagreed with his son's coach (By way of background, although Tom volunteered as an athletic director at his children's school and did his fair share of coaching his kids' teams, especially his daughters in softball, he never coached football).

What I wanted to know was whether he ever lost his cool with one of Tommy's football coaches? Did he ever complain to the coach that he wasn't getting enough playing time or suggest that Tommy be given a chance to play different positions? I wanted to know what he did to keep Tommy motivated, especially during his college days at the University of Michigan.

Tom told me that not once during Tommy's football career - from the time he began as a fourteen-year-old high school freshman, all the way through his college years at Michigan - did he "ever advocate on behalf of Tommy. I never spoke to the coaches when something was bothering him. They would never have taken my advice, so why even bother. They had their own plans, and I was not going to change them, so I let it go. Instead, I provided encouragement. Lots of encouragement."

But what about the Saturdays watching Tommy sit on the bench in Michigan Stadium? Tom said he reminded Tommy that his decision to go to Ann Arbor was his alone (he didn't even go with Tommy on recruiting visits).  "It's your decision," he said. "I don't want to have to tell you where you will be happy. Pick a college where, if you end up not playing football, at least you will be proud of the education you received." 

So, when Tommy came to his dad in his sophomore year wanting to quit the program and look for another team, his father didn't talk to the coach to complain. He just told Tommy, "I will back your decision. This is up to you."  Ultimately, after talking to then-head coach, Lloyd Carr, Tommy ended up staying for all four years.  Which is not to say that Tom doesn't have an opinion about the way Tommy was coached, but to this day, he still hasn't "told [Carr] what he thinks about the way he coached his son."

For anyone who hasn't had the pleasure of meeting Tom, the best way I can describe him is as a big teddy bear of a man.  It was refreshing to listen to him talk about the different ways he made a difference in his children's lives, lessons I will save for future blogs and for my book.

But for now, the message I want to impart to sports parents is this: many of the most important lessons your kids will learn while playing sports have nothing to do with sports; it is through understanding and appreciating everything else that is happening around them, and in learning and growing as people, and how to make their own way in a very competitive world. 

As I have written many times, often times the best thing a sports parent can do is nothing, not to fight their kid's battles for them, not to interfere.

Could it be that Tom Brady, Senior's hands-off attitude towards his son's college football coach played a part in Tommy's success, both on and off the field?

Might it be that a parent who pesters their child's coach for more playing time - the kind of interference that drives coaches, even successful ones, to quit in the middle of a season, like the one I wrote about last week from Michigan, ironically) - is doing exactly the opposite of what actually is best for their child?

In fact, unless it is a matter of their child's physical, emotional or sexual safety, doing nothing may actually end up not only helping your child learn an important life lesson, but perhaps help him punch his ticket to the Super Bowl.

Questions/Comments? Reach me at 


Celebrate Dr. King By Teaching Youth Athletes About Character

Twenty-five years after Martin Luther King Jr.'s life was first honored with a national holiday and nearly 50 years after the civil rights leader's "I Have a Dream" speech, black and white sports fans alike view the sports world as far more racially progressive and unifying than the rest of society, according to a recent online survey conducted for ESPN.Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Hart Research Associates survey of 1,822 sports fans (1,213 whites, 435 African-Americans) conducted December 15 to 21, 2011, found a strong racial divide still existed among sports fans "about the extent to which African-Americans enjoy equal opportunities in sports, as well as about the degrees of prejudice and discrimination that continue to pervade the sports landscape," said ESPN.

As the nation today honors the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one day after what would have been his 83rd birthday, let all of those of us involved in youth sports, charged with the responsibility to teach our children through sports the values of fair play, sportsmanship, and respect, remember also to teach the lesson of Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech: that they, too, should be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin.



First Winter Youth Olympics Opens in Innsbruck

The inaugural Winter Youth Olympics began a ten-day run last night in Innsbruck, Austria. The opening ceremony featured classic and modern dance, and video flashbacks to 1964 and 1976, when Innsbruck hosted the Winter Olympics.Innsbruck 2012 Youth Olympic Games logo

The event brings together 1,059 elite youth athletes aged 15 to 18 from 70 countries to contest 63 medal events in seven sports and comes two years before the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Some sports are new to the Olympics, others are known sports in a new format with teams of mixed genders and nationalities competing, underlining the event's values of respect and friendship.

In addition to competititon, the young athletes will be invited, along with youth from the Tyrol region of Austria of which Innsbruck is the capital, to participate in a Culture & Education Programme (CEP) designed to raise their awareness of the Olympic Values and learn about the Olympic movement, skill development, well-being & healthy living, social responsibility and expression through digital media. 

The Games will thus serve as a platform for an intercultural exchange of opinions and experiences,  transforming them  into a unique festival of sport and culture.   By combining CEP and sports in this way, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) hopes to "engage and inspire participants to be true champions and to embrace, embody and express the Olympic Values of Excellence, Respect and Friendship."

The YOG in Innsbruck comes two years after the first Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, and eighty-eight years after the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France in 1924.

The host city for two previous Winter Olympic Games in 1964 and 1976, Innsbruck was selected as the site in 2007 by the largest majority in the history of the IOC

Let the Games begin!

"It is altogether fitting that this new Olympic tradition will begin in Innsbruck," International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge told the Associated Press. "These games will enhance a great legacy."

The Youth Olympic cauldron at the Bergisel ski jumping stadium was lit by Paul Gerstgraser, who will represent Austria in the nordic combined event.

The 1964 and 1976 cauldrons were lit by the Olympic downhill champions from those Games, Egon Zimmermann and Franz Klammer. The Olympic flag was carried into the stadium by a series of former Olympic champions from Austria, including ski jumpers Toni Innauer and Karl Schnabl.

"To the athletes, I say, these games exist for you," Rogge said. "You have come here ... not just to compete against each other, but also to learn from each other. This evening marks your entry into the Olympic world."

The IOC president added that participating in the games is not just an honor but "a great responsibility" as well.

"As the next generation of sports men and women, you are now the role models that represent our hopes for the future," Rogge said. "You have a chance to be true champions, not only by winning medals, but by conducting yourself like Olympians.
"Strive for excellence, but compete with friendship and respect for your opponents. Reject doping and other shortcuts that cheat yourself as well as others."

Among the 20,000 visitors attending the ceremony were Austrian President Heinz Fischer; coordination commission chairman for the Winter Youth Olympic Games and president of the International ski federation, Gian-Franco Kasper; and Olympic figure skating champion and "YOG ambassador" Kim Yu-na. 

Gold medal for IOC

I think the the International Olympic Committee should receive a gold medal for launching the Youth Olympic Games. The best way to keep an old institution fresh and up to date is to include and inspire future Olympians.  It also a great way to get to see some rising stars and a sneak peek at some of the new exciting sports slated for inclusion in the Sochi Games.

Check back here over the next ten days, as  we introduce you to some of the sports and athletes.

Source: Associated Press 

Youth Sports Safety Summit: Attending in Dual Role As Advocate, Member of Media


The Capital, Washington, D. C.

MomsTeam's continuing mission from the day I launched the site in August 2000 has been to improve the safety of our young athletes and prevent catastrophic injury and death. 

Today, I am excited to be in Washington, D.C. for a one-day Youth Sports Safety Summit hosted by the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA). 

I am attending in a unique and dual capacity, both as a member of the  Youth Sports Safety Alliance ( - an alliance of 60 organizations, like MomsTeam, committed to education, research and legislation to make youth sports safer, which is partnering with the NATA to put on the summit - and as a member of the media reporting on the event. 

In-depth coverage planned

MomsTeam's coverage will include:

  • summaries of presentations by a world-class group of medical experts assembled to discuss catastrophic brain injury, heat illness, sudden cardiac arrest, exercise-induced asthma and exertional sickling prevention and treatment;
  • a detailed analysis of a comprehensive, 23-page NATA Position Statement: Preventing Sudden Death in Sports being released today ahead of its publication in the February 2012 issue of the Journal of Athletic Training. As part of MomsTeam's continuing committment to providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information on sports injury prevention and treatment, MomsTeam Health and Safety Editor, Lindsay Barton, and our staff will use the statement to update our already extensive content library to reflect the NATA's position on all ten health conditions;
  • reports on four moms (see biographies below) who have fought back after the devastating loss of a child while playing sports by turning their despair into empowerment, advocacy and education.  Their committment is a testament to their belief and MomsTeam's that they - and we - can make a different and help potentially save the life of a young athlete; and
  • video interviews with as many of the participants in the summit as MomsTeam's film crew can grab over the course of our day on Capital Hill.


Moms making a difference

As a website originally dedicated to sports moms, and to honoring - through our Teams of Angels non-profit - those who had seen their child suffer a catastrophic sports injury or die from a preventable sports injury, I am particularly pleased that the summit will hear the inspiring stories of the following four courageous moms:

Lisa Gfeller, vice president and treasurer, Matthew Gfeller Foundation, Chapel Hill, N.C.

The foundation was created in memory of Gfeller's son, Matthew, who died in 2008 from traumatic brain injuries after a helmet-to-helmet hit during his first varsity football game. It supports the positive aspects of sports participation while also supporting improved equipment, training, diagnosis and treatment of head injuries.

Laura Friend, program coordinator, Project ADAM (Automated Defibrillators in Adam's Memory) Texas at Cook Children's Medical Center, Fort Worth, Texas

Since the death of her 12 year old daughter Sarah from sudden cardiac arrest in July 2004, Friend created the Sarah Friend Foundation, which has donated 59 life-saving defibrillators In Texas and trained hundreds of youth and adults in CPR/AED use. She also helped form and spearhead Parent Heart Watch, a national nonprofit organization that now has over 300 advocates in the U.S. and seven countries.

Rhonda Fincher, co-founder and executive director, Kendrick Fincher Hydration Foundation, Rogers, Ark.

Named in honor of Fincher's son Kendrick who died from heat stroke, the foundation began in 1996 with a mission to promote proper hydration and prevent heat illness through education and supporting activities.

Beth Mallon, co-founder, Advocates for Injured Athletes, San Diego, Calif., who will be acknowledged for her contributions to sports safety.

Mallon turned a devastating personal situation into a crusade for better youth sports safety health care and awareness. She and her son Tommy established Advocates for Injured Athletes (AIA) in October 2010 after Tommy suffered a career ending catastrophic injury in the final game of his senior high school lacrosse season. He suffered a concussion, his neck was fractured (C1) and one of his vertebral arteries had been dissected. He is now a sophomore at the University of San Diego.

Position Statement on Sudden Death

From the advance copy MomsTeam has been provided, the Position Statement contains consensus recommendations to help parents, coaches, medical experts and others reduce the incidence of sudden death in sports across ten major health conditions:

As readers of MomsTeam know, these are all topics that we have covered extensively, not just recently, but in most cases since our site went live in August 2000. 

Once the summit is over and I have returned with my film crew from Washington, I will write more about what I learned.  

Until then, play safe and all the best.


My New Year's Resolution for 2012: More Blogging

Last week I was having lunch with a group of national journalists while on a trip to Wahington, when one of them wondered out loud why I didn't do a blog entry every day, especially, she said, since they were so great.

It was nice, of course, to have my blog praised by such a well-known and respected journalist, but more to the point: why don't I write a daily blog?

The answer, I told her, was that I actually do: I spend at least two hours in an average day responding to questions from MomsTeam readers, enough to probably fill three blog posts; but, because I send them via e-mail, they don't technically qualify as blogs (web-log).

When I explained to my journalistic colleague how I spent my day, she suggested that I put all that great advice up on the web, instead of just sharing my expertise in private with MomsTeam readers and with other journalists, mostly when they are on deadline writing their own articles or blogs!

It turned into an "Ah ha" moment.

After all, I wouldn't have spent the last twelve years living and breathing youth sports 24/7 - not to mention the thirteen years before that as a coach, community activist, and sports parent to triplet boys, and the years before that as an athlete - if I didn't think I had something worthwhile to say!

That MomsTeam has always been able to stay ahead of the curve, to be able to see where youth sports are headed, to spot and report on the next big trend, has made us the trusted source to which youth sports parents have turned for information and advice since the turn of the century (sounds funny just to write that!).

Perhaps it is because I have been at this for so long; perhaps it is because I approach youth sports from the perspective of a mother; maybe it is because of the hundreds of e-mails I get every day or what comes across my Twitter feed; or an ability to connect the dots sooner than many, or all of the above, but MomsTeam's track record in reporting on safety issues (concussions, overuse injuries, sexual abuse of boys in sports being just three) and the latest concerns of today's sports parents before - and in some cases, as with concussions, long before they hit the radar of the rest of the media - is something about which I am very proud.

So here's my New Year's Resolution: I am going to try my best to post a blog every day. I'll select some of the best questions I get via e-mail and my responses - often based on input from our wonderful team of experts, researchers, and writers - and post them (with confidential, identifying information stripped out, of course). I hope you will share them with other parents, coaches and administrators.

And, in return, I ask all the journalists who read my blog and who send me e-mails to make a New Year's resolution as well: a promise to at least consider giving me or MomsTeam credit when you learn something from my blogs and use it in your own articles or blogs.