Impact Indicator: New Tool in Concussion Toolbox

If you are anything like me, worrying about your kids' safety is woven deeply into the fabric of your DNA.  As the mom of  a football player, I know football moms are no exception. No matter how strong we may appear to be on the outside, worry is our constant companion, especially when it comes to injuries, like concussions.

So what's a mom to do? Live with it in anguish? Or do something about it?

More and more moms are choosing, like I have been for more than a decade, to be pro-active about their kids' safety in sports, and, in doing so are turning to an unlikely source - technology - to ease their fears.

One of the new products on the market, to which MomsTeam is proud to give its Seal of Approval. is the Impact Indicator from Battle Sports Science.*  Battle Sports Science Impact Indicator

In simplest terms, the Impact Indicator is a sensor that fits neatly into a soft, durable chinstrap. Players strap it on to their helmet and go about their business playing the game they love (and that football moms and dads love to watch them play). While they do, the Impact Indicator's cutting-edge technology is always at work. If a player's helmet is hit, the device measures the G-force and the duration of the hit to the helmet in HIC levels (Head Injury Criteria), which is one way to measure the likelihood of head injury from an impact (there are, as of yet, no studies telling us precisely the amount of force necessary to cause a concussion, and the amount of force that results in concussion can, and does, vary from player to player and, often, over time).

In so doing, the Impact Indicator addresses one of football's (and one of a mom's) biggest worries, head injuries (e.g. concussions). As readers of my blog and of my articles on MomsTeam know, while concussions have become one of the most widely reported subjects in sports in recent years, at all levels, from pee wee to pro, they have been one of my passions for over a decade.

We know that the number of concussions youth, middle and high school athletes are sustaining in games and practices has risen so much in recent years (ironically, part, because those that don't involve a loss of consciousness - which account for 90 to 95% of the total - are now being counted as concussions) that it has reached, according to the Centers for Disease Control, "epidemic levels." Football, not surprisingly, continues to be the sport reporting the greatest number of concussions (it is the number one sport in America in terms of participation), and the highest concussion rate.

The good news is that, according to recent studies, most young athletes fully recover from the effects of a concussion within the first seven to ten days, provided they get the physical and cognitive rest they need to allow their growing brains to fully heal, and that advances in medical research and technology are helping better identify those head injuries on the sports sideline that warrant further assessment and evaluation.

And that's where the Impact Indicator is valuable. When an impact that may cause a concussion is detected, a light on the chinstrap changes from green to red to alert parents, coaches, athletic trainers and referees to the possibility of a concussion. The player can then be evaluated on the sideline and, if he exhibits signs of concussion (such as short-term memory, dizziness, headache, or balance problems), immediately removed from the game, as the law now requires in 28 states and the District of Columbia.

The Impact Indicator wasn't developed by a mother, but clearly it was inspired by them.  I wish it had been around when my son was playing football and I spent much of my time in the bleachers worrying about his safety.  It should give today's parents a little less reason to worry, which is a very good thing, indeed. And, for those football moms (and dads) who happen to live in Texas or Arizona, a flashing red Impact Indicator on your son's helmet may actually give you the right under the law, as a parent, to insist upon the removal of your child from play for further evaluation.

Granted, the Impact Indicator isn't going to spot all concussions, and is only one tool in the concussion toolbox. But even if it only warns about one concussion that would otherwise gone undetected, it is a tool I think any football mom would want to have.

For the most comprehensive information for sports parents about concussions, visit the MomsTeam concussion center.

More information about the Impact Indicator can be found at

*MomsTeam is proud to have Battle Sports Science as one of our sponsors.

See Bill Meehan as Part of ReadBoston Celebrity Authors Series

For those MomsTeam readers in the Boston area, here's a chance to hear more about concussions in sports from one of the most knowledgeable experts in the area. 

At 5:30 p.m. on Monday, September 19th, MomsTeam concussion expert, William P. Meehan, III, will be talking about his new book, Kids, Sports, and Concussion, as part of the ReadBoston celebrity author series.

Kids, Sports, and Concussions book cover

The event will  be held at the Hotel Commonwealth, 500 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston's Back Bay. Tickets are $30.  Complimentary wine and hors d'oevres will be served.

Advanced reservations can be made by e-mail ( or by phone (617.918.5289). 

For more information about the event, click here.

Update: the event was a huge success.

Here's a picture of me, Dr. Meehan, and Boston mayor, Tom Mennino, taken at the event:

William P. Meehan, III, Brooke de Lench, and Thomas Mennino



Our New Site Is Live!

We are thrilled to announce the launch of the newly designed MomsTeam website. As we get ready to celebrate our eleventh anniversary later this month we wanted to let you know about some important features of our new design.

What you may notice first is that our "team huddle around the red morphed ball" logo has been retired.  We wanted our new logo to represent a passing of the old to the new. Our highly talented designers came up with a passing the baton concept, and after considering a lot of designs, we ultimately decided on one desiged to represent hands passing a ball (if you look closely at the space between the two "hands," you can see that it is in the shape of a ball). This is because, as we begin our twelfth year, MomsTeam will be focusing more on our connections and the teamwork that makes MomsTeam possible. MomsTeam new logo

Displayed across the top of our new home page are photographs of our Team of Experts. Many have been a vital and integral part of MomsTeam since we launched back in August 2000, but we also have many new experts who have just joined our team. Whether new or old we cherish their wisdom and their ability to provide sports parents and coaches with an abundance of interesting, educational and many times life-saving information. To give them the prominence they deserve, we felt they needed to be introduced to each of you in a better format. When you run your mouse over a photograph, the image turns from black and white to color.  Clicking on the photo or the expert's name will send you to their page, which displays their full biography and features their articles and expert tips.  We are very proud of our experts.  They are truly the dream-team for all sports parents and coaches.

The next major enhancement you will notice is that we have given you the ability to navigate quickly and more efficiently to find the information you are looking for. All of our "Channels", along with the centers within each channel, are now listed on the left side of the home page.

Instead of featuring just one article at a time and providing a short list of new articles, we have also opened up the home page so we can  feature more of our more than three thousand articles, blogs and videos, not only by our experts and staff writers but by guest contributors as well.  We want to make our site as inclusive as possible, so, if you write about nutrition, health & safety, sports, sports parenting issues or anything else that sports parents and coaches would find useful, please send your submission to and we will try to post it. MomsTeam new home page

As we roll out many more features, including a new blog center, we will let you know. In the meantime, please help us get the word out to all your sports parent friends by sending them a link to MomsTeam or sharing or "liking" us on your favorite social media sites. And, if you have any suggestions, comments, praise, or criticisms, please send them directly to me at

We are proud to have earned our reputation as the trusted source for sports parents. But we know that, together, MomsTeam can do even more to fulfill our original and continued mission: to make youth sports safer, saner, less stressful, and more inclusive.


Talking Concussions with Gay Culverhouse

There has been a flurry of books in recent years about concussions in sports, an issue MomsTeam and I began covering in depth back in 2001, way before the crisis grabbed the attention of the media, politicians and the sports establishment. So, when I received a review copy of Throwaway Players: The Concussion Crisis from Pee Wee Football to the NFL by Gay Culverhouse, I was a bit skeptical that it could add anything new to the discussion. Throwaway Players

I couldn't have been more wrong! I loved this book!

It is a must-read for parents for one simple reason: as former President of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL, with a doctorate in special education and mental retardation, and as a woman and mother, Gay has a unique perspective on the concussion crisis in football.
Culverhouse offers an oftentimes painfully honest, up-close-and-personal glimpse into a world and a culture most of us have never seen: a place in which, for far too long, the lifelong damage that is inflicted on the brains and bodies of football players has been swept under the rug in the name of the big business of sports, in the name of entertainment not unlike, as she says in the book, the fights of gladiators at the Coliseum in ancient Rome.

The book contains poignant stories of NFL players she has known who have grown old before their time, suffering from early dementia and clueless to their surroundings after a career taking blows to the head. Gay talks about the sexism she encountered as a female executive in the male-dominated world of professional sports. She writes of athletes abusing their bodies with performance enhancing drugs, of testifying to Congress, of forming a non-profit organization to assist retired players in accessing NFL benefits.

Throwaway Players not only "shines the light on the underbelly of America's sport," but issues a clarion call to everyone involved in football, from the NFL to youth football, to make sports less violent and much safer.

Gay went to work for her father, Hugh, the original owner of the team, after she broke her back in an accident. She ended up staying ten years, the last three as president, until her father died and the team was sold.

Not surprisingly, she dedicates her book to the members of the Buccaneers teams from 1976 to 1994; her "extended family and the (her) reason to change the National Football League."

Don't kill football, just make it safer

Gay takes pains throughout the book to make clear that she "does not want to kill the game of football." Her goal, one that I share and have been advocating for as well for the past twenty years, is for there to come a day in the not-too-distant future, in which our sons, and their children, and their children's children, play a smart game of football; a world in which they aren't tempted to use performance enhancing drugs, one in which, after they hang up their helmets, they don't need, as is sadly the case with far too many, a drool bib because they suffer from early onset Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, dementia and or mind-dulling addictions; for football parents to make sure their sons develop secondary skills so they have a career after they leave the game.


In a chapter of her brilliant book, A Woman's Book of Life, author Joan Borysenko, Ph.D  talks about women reaching a stage in their lives when they become  "wisdom-daughters," with the ability to create new integral cultures,  "continu[ing their] psychological and spiritual development as ... truth-teller[s] while calling both people and institutions to their highest potential.

This is exactly what Gay is doing: by shining the light on the concussion epidemic at all levels of football, from NFL to high school and youth football, Gay is calling these institutions to their highest potential. Proof that she is succeeding is in the pudding: as a result, in part, of her testimony before Congress and lobbying efforts, the NFL now requires that an independent neurologist be present on the sidelines of every NFL game.

In her Congressional testimony, Culverhouse says she "spoke of the injustices done to the players who were put back on the field with injuries. Players forced themselves to play with concussions. They knew their back-up wanted on the field. They had to hold onto their jobs. I described the players who were injected with pain killers in the locker rooms so they could continue after half time."

Gay had the rare opportunity to see it all up close. Like most mothers and grandmothers of young football players, Gay is concerned not just with their safety, but with the safety of every mother's child, young or old. She freely admits in her book that, as an executive of an NFL team, she saw many things she questioned, yet dared not discuss openly, especially since she was a woman in a male-dominated culture and her degree had nothing to do with football.

I wanted to know how she handled her own son's football playing. "He never played," she told me. "We would sit directly behind the team during the game. My kids saw the blood, heard the bones breaking, and it took care of itself. My son is anti-violent."

What Gay was saying in so many words was what we all now know all too well: that if a player somehow beats the odds by making it to the NFL as a linebacker, his career lasts, on average, only 2.7 years, and, because they need to play four seasons to get health insurance after they retire, most walk - or in most cases, limp - away from the game without the health insurance

Developing Secondary Skills

One of the most powerful stories in the book was about nine-year-old Nathan Fisher. When Nathan was still in grade school, his mom was already dreaming about how he would one day play for the Gators at the University of Florida and go on to star in the NFL so that, "when Nathan makes it big, I will get a new house and retire."

When we spoke last week, Gay lamented that parents like Nathan's see a possible pro sports career, as much of a long-shot as it is, as more important than getting a quality education and their only chance at the  "American dream." Gay's dream is that someday all kids who want to play will do so without fear of suffering lifelong injuries.

Culverhouse also talks about doing more to make sure athletes have the training and education to have careers outside of football after they retire. "The majority of NFL players do not have secondary skills they can turn to when their football days are done," she writes in Throwaway Players.

"These players, these men, had been thrown away after their years of gripping our hearts with their plays. What remained were the broken bodies and lost souls of the men who have permanently left the locker room. This is what remains after the cheering subsides. This is what the National Football League does not want you to see."

Shining the spotlight

Gay Culverhouse wants us to all to see. She wants us to question whether our society is any different from the ancient Romans, who thrived on violence. She wants us as parents of football players to question why and how we push our injured sons. Most of all she wants to keep shining a light on the crisis.

How I asked should kids take control? "I want them to put an "I" in the word TEAM. Only when kids start feeling their own pain, and start thinking about themselves and learn to self identify will the crisis end.

I wanted to know how or if the recent guidelines and fines that the NFL put into effect would be helpful in cutting down concussions and direct hits that are intended to cause harm. "The quarterbacks have a bull's eye on their backs," she said, and "whoever causes harm won't ever pay the fine. The team pays and it is all part of the cost to do business."

Culverhouse has been trying mightily to spread her message. She speaks to youth leagues, only to be told ‘"we had a medical doctor speak before and he scared the parents. You will scare parents away from letting their children play the game."

Gay tells me she does not want to turn youth and high school football into "flag football, with stricter rules and guidelines," but she does want parents to be educated to the point where they begin to demand rule changes, as has happened in the NFL.

To that end, Culverhouse will continue assisting retired NFL players in accessing benefits through the Gay Culverhouse Players Outreach Program, Inc. She is definitely the real deal. She is also helping us at MomsTeam to continue our eleven year mission of educating parents on the best ways to keep their kids safe and happy, and to that end she is sharing with MomsTeam viewers a concussion video that she has produced which I know you will find informative and will want to share with parents and coaches, and kids, too!




Webinar on August 17: Effective Management Practices for a Winning Organization

The best-run youth sports organizations understand that a successful season is not measured by how many games are won, but by bringing out the best in athletes and their families, bringing players back season after season, and attracting new players.

If you find yourself in a leadership role as a board member, administrator, coach or team-mom, you may be wondering how you can help make this happen. Soccer ball with parents in background

Join me on August 17th to learn the answers in a FREE webinar hosted by our friends at Active Sports.  The topic will be Discovering the Most Effective Management Practices for a Winning Organization.

In addition to learning how to bring about better league management and, ultimately, continued growth for your organization, I will share:

  • The 10 most important steps to keep parents & kids coming back season after season;
  • How to manage your league effectively from a business perspective; and
  • How to use business best-practices as a league official.

After my presentation, I will host a Q & A session during which you can address the specific issues you've faced in your organization, hear what others have learned, and come away with the tools you need for run a great youth sports organization.

After I appeared as the keynote speaker at the AYSO's National General Meeting,  AYSO Marketing VP, Lynn Berling-Manuel, noted that my talk "was invaluable," teaching 800+ regional national directors "ways to keep their organizations growing and thriving."

Don't miss this opportunity to hear me share the tools needed for a winning organization in these times of high competition, as more leagues go head-to-head to attract the same players. Join us on August 17 for this important webinar.  Attendance is limited, so register now!


My Son’s Coach Is Making Him Wear Pads In 100 Degree Heat — What Can I Do?

I have really been feeling the heat lately, both literally and figuratively.

It began when I travelled to the steambath that was Williamsburg, Virginia last weekend to give two talks to over 1,000 parents of some of the most elite high school football players in the nation attending a four-day training camp, and the heat didn't let up when I returned to my office this week.

The heat index in Virginia was almost off the charts. By day three the heat index had peaked at 123 degrees F. The temperature on the artificial turf fields where the kids were practicing and playing was, of course, even higher, reaching 144 at one point. This truly was no place for a youth sport health and safety advocate like me to be standing (although not for long; after standing on the sidelines for 15 minutes, I retreated to the safety and comfort of an air conditioned car and hotel lobby).iHydrate screen shot

Or maybe it was.

To be honest, I had given serious thought to cancelling my trip because, as one who has consistently advised sports parents visiting MomsTeam to cancel or modify youth sports practices and games when the heat index is dangerously high, as I knew it would be last weekend in Virginia, I didn't want to be seen as giving the thumbs up to exactly that; in other words, to talking the talk, but not walking the walk.

But I ended up going in part because I was interested in hearing from the moms and dads of the nation's elite high school football players - all on track for Division I schools - why there prepared to let their sons play football in such heat, and, of course, because I had promised the organizers that I would put on two parent seminars. As it turned out, the trip and my talks were a big success. While some of the parents expressed concern for their sons' safety playing in such oppressive heat, as far as I am aware, no athlete suffered heat stroke, fortunately.

But I continued to feel the heat even when I returned to the office this week, but this time the heat was coming from concerned parents. My voice mailbox was chock full of messages from parents frantically calling from all around the country, all asking variations on the same question: "My son was told they would be playing in pads (football) tonight and it is already 100 degrees in the shade where we are in Oklahoma. What should I do? He won't make the team if he cannot try out." I tried my best to answer all the phone calls, which were coming in at a rate of at least one an hour,  and to respond to e-mails and Facebook posts, all asking how they could keep their kids safe in the high heat.

The problem was that I was becoming as hot and bothered as the parents. On the one hand, I knew that MomsTeam had the very best and most comprehensive Hydration Center on the Internet with some of the country's top hydration experts in the world who review and guide us to give out the most accurate up-to-date information. On the other, it seemed that, no matter how much information we provide, no matter how often coaches and programs are warned against the dangers of playing sports when the heat index soars, too many (with rare exceptions, such as the recent Schwan's USA Cup youth soccer tournament) continue holding practices and games without frequent hydration breaks, or having the ice baths on hand to rapidly cool down players if they suffer heat stroke. Either they haven't been properly educated about hydration and heat illness (which given the highly publicized deaths of high school and professional athletes is hard to fathom) or they stubbornly cling to the old school belief and macho culture that still pervades youth sports - especially in contact and collision sports like football and lacrosse - that forcing players to practice in excessively high heat somehow toughens them up and makes them better athletes, subscribing, I guess, to the old adage, "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger."

Knowlege is power

So how do I answer the parent phone calls and e-mails? By letting them know about the guidelines many state athletic associations and programs have put in place in recent years to try to keep kids safe playing and practicing football and other sports outdoors in the heat and humidity gripping the country. I suggest that they share the link for the articles to all of their Facebook friends and to print up copies to give to the coaching staff and other parents.

Knowledge, it is often said, is power. Our mission at MomsTeam, as it has been for the past eleven years, is to empower sports parents through education. We know that more and more parents are listening. Ultimately, though, it is up to the parents to turn the heat up on the coaches so they don't do the same to their kids. If they don't, we'll all be scrambling to put out the inevitable, but preventable, fires.


Win Copy of Sports Illustrated Kids' 3D Sports Blast Book

We rarely have so much fun with a new book as we have been having with the Sports Illustrated Kids' 3D Sports Blast. Everyone who comes into our office grabs the book and puts on the 3D glasses that come with the book and pour over the pages. Each walks away with a truly unique sports experience.Sports Illustrated 3D Sports Blast cover

We love this book and have two new copies to give away. Just follow the rules at the end of this blog to learn how to enter.

Sports Illustrated puts it best:

Most fans experience sports from afar, but now SPORTS ILLUSTRATED KIDS pulls readers right into the action. Over 50 photos in this 80-page hardcover book showcase the best 3D images by veteran SPORTS ILLUSTRATED photographer David E. Klutho. With big impact photography, all shot in state-of-the-art 3D technology, 3D SPORTS BLAST will knock sports fans of all ages off their feet.
In 3D SPORTS BLAST, readers experience firsthand what it feels like to grab rebounds with NBA stars, reel in a big catch with pro fisherman, and ride high on big waves. 3D SPORTS BLAST includes 3D glasses, so the entire family can jump in on the action together.

Some of the fun things that are included in the book are Included in 3D SPORTS BLAST:

  • How NBA forward Lebron James measures up against monster trucks
  • A look at MLB pitcher Tim Lincecum, "The Freak" 
  • Why Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has never missed a start
  • And much more!

Contest Rules

  1. Sign up for the MomsTeam newsletter (up right hand corner of home page at
  2. Send an email to Make sure that the subject line reads: "Sports Illustrated CONTEST." Provide your Facebook name and your @twitter name. Please note that MomsTeam will not share your e-mail information.

The winner will be drawn randomly on Monday July 18,th at 5:00 PM EST and announced at 6:00 PM EST.

For more about the book please visit


Heads Up New Jersey! Second Annual Sports Concussion Summit on Sunday, July 17 in Plainsboro

Heads up to physicians and health care providers in the Garden State: here's a chance to learn about sport concussions from some of top experts in the field as, this coming Sunday, July 17, 2011, the Athletic Trainers Society of New Jersey will hold its second annual sports concussion summit in Plainsboro.

The summit will feature a star-studded lineup of sports concussion experts, including MomsTeam's contributing expert emeritus, Dr. Robert Cantu of Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston, MomsTeam's expert sports concussion neuropsychologist and Director of the Sports Concussion Center of New Jersey, Dr. Rosemarie Scolaro Moser, Dr. Steven Broglio, Director of the Neurotrauma Research Laboratory in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Michigan, and Dr. Jason Mihalik of the Matthew A. Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.  ATSNJ Sports Concussion Summit

Among the important topics to be discussed will be:

  • Office/Sideline evaluation of concussion
  • Assessing balance in concussion
  • The role of  neurocognitive testing
  • Adolescent concussion and cognitive rest; and
  • Return to play considerations.

New Jersey is among the twenty-four states that have passed strong youth sports concussion safety laws in the past two years.  One of the components of New Jersey's law, which goes into effect for the 2011-2012 academic year, is a requirement that all school physicians, all those who coach a public or private school interscholastic sport, and all athletic trainers involved in a public or private interscholastic school program receive training in concussion evaluation and management.   

What better way to learn about sport concussions than from some of the country's most knowledgeable concussion experts.

To download a registration brochure, click here or visit the ATSNJ's website and click on Events.




Casting Call for The Revolution: Weight Loss Edition

Two weeks ago, my friend, Jacques, a Swiss endocrinoligst with a specialty in diabetes, came to Boston to visit for the week and to attend the Endocrine Society annual meeting. For two weeks each year, Jacques runs a successful sports camp for diabetic athletes in St Moritz, where they learn how to monitor their glucose levels and are taught ways to become motivated and more active and fit.

Joggers along Charles River with Boston skyline in background We got into a discussion about the fitness level of people from Boston versus other cities. One of his colleagues from France, also here for the meeting, remarked that the people from Boston seem to be more fit than in other parts of the USA.

I had to agree, as I have travelled extensively around the country for MomsTeam. Jacques wondered if, perhaps, it was not an illusion, and that the more sedentary folks are just not out and about, but inside watching TV.

Today, I had a chance to get to the bottom of his observation, which I share below. I was spurred on by a producer who sent the following WONDERFUL request:

"We are the Producers of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition & Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition. We are currently casting for a brand new daytime talk show for ABC, searching for inspirational and deserving women. Our show centers around weight loss and living a healthy lifestyle. We want women with 50-100 lbs to lose, and who've placed such importance on putting others first, that they've lost focus of taking care of themselves.

We give them all the tools they need to reach their goal; a trainer, nutritionist, meal delivery, etc. And follow their journey as they do it. It is a very non-intrusive process, they resume their daily lives, just with more help than they are used to :o). But this isn't just a weight loss show, we want people that are very deserving of this opportunity to highlight their story, kind of like "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition".

The producer was asking me to target and include women from Boston. Somewhat confused, as MomsTeam is a website with a national reach, I replied:

"Happy to help! It is a great idea. Just an observation-as I travel the USA as a speaker-I have noticed that folks in the Boston area seem to be much more fit than other parts of the country. I wracked my brain for someone (and asked my staff) for names and we don't have anyone in mind. We do have a huge following so will help with your search."

Not only is this a great opportunity for anyone, not just those in Boston, to participate, but for you as a viewer to get the heads up  about what looks like will be a great new show.

And, in case you are curious, according to a 2011 study from the American College of Sports Medicine, Boston is, in fact, one of the fittest cities in the nation, ranking third, behind only Minneapolis and Washington, DC. 

If you want to learn more about "The Revolution" : Weight Loss Edition, you can visit their website or contact the casting director, Natalia James at 424.236.7500 ext 7626.




The Decorah Eagles: Lessons for Youth Sports?

Since April I have had a front row seat watching the Decorah Eagles, one of best teams in the nation, at work.

Who are they? A baseball team? A lacrosse team?

No.  These Eagles are actually, well, a family of American bald eagles from Decorah, Iowa - members of the bird family Accipitridae and a proud symbol of America - whose teamwork between the eagle parents (coaches) and the players (eaglets, now fledglings) set an example from which every youth sports stakeholder- parents, coaches, fans and especially young athletes - can learn valuable lessons. 

A little back ground is in order. The non-profit Raptor Resource Project, which specializes in the preservation of falcons, eagles, ospreys, hawks, and owls, installed a video camera that monitored an eagles' nest 24/7 beginning back in February as the nest was just being prepared. I, along with millions of other viewers around the world, was given the gift of a front row seat, courtesy of Ustream, which allowed us to watch real-time, stream video of the eggs hatching, the eaglets growing, weathering the many challenges they faced in the wild, and finally, this past week, leaving the nest for the first time (becoming fledglings) and taking flight.

Lessons for youth sports coaches

What are some of the lessons I think youth sports coaches can learn from watching eagles care for and successfully raise their young?

First, the lesson of unconditional love: like the Decorah Eagle with eggsmother and father eagles, sports coaches are most successful, in my view, when they treat all players fairly and are committed to teaching them the skills they need to succeed, both in sports and out.

Second, that like eagle parents, if a coach gives players the tools to succeed, and understands that each will develop on their own, unique developmental timetable, whether they ultimately succeed (literally or figuratively fly on their own) will be up to the athletes/eaglets themselves (what is called natural selection or survival of the fittest in the wild or moving up the competitive ladder in sports). The three eaglets were born on different days (the first hatching on April 2nd, the second on April 2nd, and the youngest on April 6th), yet their parents played no favorites. All were treated the same, and given the same chance to succeed. So, too, it should be with youth sports coaches who have players of different ages, different skill levels, and different personalities: give every member of the team an equal chance to succeed by giving them equal playing time (before age 12 or 13), and significant playing time (up to, but not including high school varsity or elite level competition), and the rest will be up to them.

Third, that, like eagle parents successfully raising eaglets into fledglings, coaching requires dedication, patience and the ability to stay calm, cool, and collected. The three eaglets, branded E-1, E-2 and E-3, have different personalities: one was the "class clown", one was overly vocal middle child, and the third the laid back mellow team player. As I watched the "coaches" raise this diverse group, I realized that the eaglets had a successful outcome because of the dedication, devotion, patience, and unconditional love their parents showed them. Sure, I witnessed the coaches bickering about certain things (where to place a new twig in the nest, which was downright hilarious to watch), but for the majority of the time they were modeling teamwork and how to win.

The Decorah Eagles taught regular viewers of the video feed other lessons as well: like how to fight off the competition (owls), how to play in any weather condition (literally buried under snow during a storm at one point) and how to respect each other (an occasional peck by one eaglet to the head of another eaglet was the most sibling rivalry we ever saw), and, ultimately how to play well, have some fun and to win against the toughest competition nature could hand out.

A duty of stewardship

The eaglets are now out of the nest and on the wing, but are still being fed and watched over by mom and dad, yet soon they will all go their separate ways to live their own lives. I cannot claim to have played any role in how the eaglets were raised, though I have felt like a god mother, always watching and worrying. Pride is for those who have directly helped to determine the positive outcome: the eagle parents and the folks at the Raptor Resource Project, who have dedicated their lives to bringing back an eagle population that was close to being decimated in the 1980s. As one of the wonderful guest writers, Sherri Elliott, posted on the Raptor Research Project website, "If there's one thing the worldwide audience can take from this adventure it is that all life is so very, very precious, and as stewards it is OUR obligation to protect and preserve."

I wonder, if every youth sports venue across America sent a live video feed to the web to put on to display every action by the coaches, players, officials, and parents during a sports season, would we as parents be able to claim a similar sense of satisfaction as the eagle parents? Would coaches be able to claim their season was a success, even if they lost some games along the way, because they treated all their players equally, with the same respect, with the same commitment to helping them learn new skills and become better players? Would our young athletes take away lessons that they could use when their sports careers ended to survive in a competitive world outside of sports?

Like Sherri Elliott, I, too, feel that it is our duty as the adult stakeholders in youth sports, to see sports, like life, as "so very, very precious," and our obligation to be stewards of the game; "to protect and preserve."

If, as adults, we do not all contribute to healthy sports outcomes, I fear for the future of youth sports, just like the Raptor Resource Project feared for the future of eagles. I worry that the wrong kind of stewards will turn something that can be so beneficial to kids into something that is no longer about the process of learning and growing but only about winning and separating winners from losers.

I am betting on the Decorah Eagles in all of us.