Shaquille's Mom Lucille O'Neal Shares Life Lessons

I recently had a chance to interview the mother of NBA star, Shaquille O'Neal, Lucille, whose inspirational book, Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go (Thomas Nelson 2010), has just been published.

Before I get to the interview, I want to say I loved Lucille's book! It is one of those books you just cannot put down. I'll be the first to admit I do not follow professional basketball enough to know much about her son, Shaquille "Shaq" O'Neal, other than knowing that he is a future Hall of Famer.

My main interest in reading the book was to learn more about how a mother raises an elite athlete who is also a wonderful person. While writing about youth sports and running MomsTeam has given me the opportunity to talk and interview many parents of elite athletes over the years, I have only felt that I really got to know a few of them. After reading Lucille's book I felt like I really knew her.

Raised by a sharp-tounged  abusive grandmother, Lucille spent her first thirty-six years working to overcome all the challenges life put in her path. Growing up during the Civil Rights era of the 1950's and 1960's and in a place, Newark, New Jersey, especially hard on African-Americans, Lucille suffered from a total lack of self-esteem and confidence, what she called a "mental welfare state."

But she found strength in her faith and in her mother Odessa's love. "We both hated conflict of any kind, and we both worried constantly about other people's opinion of us. We both also felt that other peoples happiness was always much more important than our own. Though I didn't know it then, this is exactly how mental welfare thrives and survives." Lucille O'Neal

Teased because she was so tall (she was already six feet by age twelve), Lucille fought her way through high school and had a serious scrape with the law. But, every time she got back on track, she would suffer another setback. A year from graduating high school, Lucille got pregnant with the first of her four children, Shaquille ( Muslim for "little one"). Ridiculed and verbally abused by her grandmother, it is hard to imagine how Lucille was able to raise Shaq into the person he is today.

Looking back over the years, Lucille agreed with me that "even though times were really tough, they were part of a master plan." I told Lucille that, as bad as things in her life were, it was wonderful that she could look back now and say, "If that did not happen, then an important lesson would have been missed."

The book recounts how it wasn't until Lucille divorced her second husband and realized that she was the glue holding her family together that she was able to emerge from the "mental welfare" maze in which she found herself and truly blossom. Finally on her own, her four children grown, Lucille went back to school, eventually earning not only an undergraduate degree, but a Master's.

As difficult as life was during the first 37 years of her life, it taught Lucille many life lessons, which she has shared in her book and as a motivational speaker.

So I was curious to find out what advice Lucille had for MomsTeam's audience of parents about raising young athletes, especially in these tough economic times:

Brooke: Today, we learned that police in Orlando had used a stun gun to subdue the stepfather of a Celtics basketball player, Marquis Daniels, after he responded angrily to some Magic fans who were teasing his son during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. You talk in your book about your history of anger issues, especially in your teen years. We are all such mama bears when people diss our children. How do you control your anger as a mother when fans or the media have mean words for Shaquille?

Lucille: For every action, there is a reaction. When you fight with the NBA fans you are constantly fighting. I learned very early on that the media is going to say what they will and some fans will say anything they want, so there is no use arguing with them. It is a waste of time so I learned how to ignore them and be positive.

Brooke: In the chapter of your book called "The Best Of My Life" you wrote this about Shaquille: "When he first decided he wanted to become a professional basket ball player, it seemed so far-fetched to me then, but Shaquille was always convinced it was going to happen. Part of my disbelief in him achieving his dream was connected to the fact that I was so preoccupied with the life I wasn't living. I couldn't see anything because I was so miserable."

Do you think if everything in your life had been going smoothly that you may have become one of those pushy parents who smother their kid's dreams and passions?

Lucille: I always felt that I should let my children be who they are. I got out of Shaquille's way. I had my things to do and he did his. I would always tell my children, ‘You can do anything you want to do.' I was not saying to them, ‘You can do anything I want you to do.'

Brooke: Tell me about feeding your family with limited means. It sound like you served them mostly hash, grits, corned beef, chicken a la king, beans and franks. One of my own sons is 6"6" and I know how hard it is to keep them from being hungry. What did you do?

Lucille: I got really good at taking a chicken and cutting it into thirteen pieces. Buying food in the army commissary helped a lot.

Brooke: What about sibling rivalry. I never once detected that your children had any sibling rivalry. I am curious about Jamal. Despite being 6' 8", he does not play basketball. Was there any pressure on him to follow in his brother's footsteps?

Lucille: Oh, he played basketball, and so did my daughters. It just wasn't his thing.

Brooke: You mention twice in the book about the social after-school programs that were cut during the Reagan Administration and how hard it is for parents today, which I also find very troubling. I know you run a wonderful non-profit organization, where I bet your Master's in Organizational Management comes in handy. Are you involved in any programs that help kids after school?

Lucille: No, I focus all my time on the Odessa Chambliss Quality of Life Fund, which is in honor of my mother, who was a nurse and died of ovarian cancer. My brother and sister founded the fund with several ideas in mind. It is a quality of life fund that helps pay for nurses' education, computers, etc. and, each year they run fundraisers to help different organizations, such as the United Negro College Fund and for diabetes research.

One last question

At the end of our interview, there was one last question I had to ask. I was curious about Joe Toney, Shaquille O'Neal's biological father, who had a substance abuse problem and left seventeen-year-old Lucille to fend for herself. To this day, Shaquille has wanted nothing to do with Joe. I asked her, with all of the bad things that happened to her, whether she viewed the fact Joe Toney never stuck around as a blessing? Lucille, said, "Yes. I have thought about that many times. I have no ill feelings about him. If I ever see him I will have open arms for him."

Lucille's answer did not surprise me. It reminded me of one of my favorite lines from her book. One day, as Lucille sat giving baby Shaquille much tender loving care, her grandmother barked, "That ain't no baby!" A strong mother who has always put her kids first and has the family together holds no grudges. She practices forgiveness.

Lucille's book is wonderful and inspirational and full of surprises.

If you know of a struggling young person, this is a book for them. A best seller--my prediction.

MomsTeam has five copies of Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go to give away to the first five people who request one.

And, if you want to contribute to Lucille's charity, here is the address:

Odessa Chambliss Quality of Life Fund
6130 Foxfield Court
Windemere, FL 34786

Average: 5 (1 vote)

Heart Rate Monitors: An Essential Training Partner?

A  fitness center catering to women recently opened near my home.  As part of its grand opening, the center offered me a free week classes which it claimed would "transform" my body. I told them I was game.

When I arrived for my first class, one of the first things my trainer asked me was whether I had brought a heart rate monitor.

When I said no, that I didn't own one, she told me that I needed to bring a heart monitor to my next session if I wanted to achieve my fitness goals.

Fortunately, as a result of my efforts over the years advocating for the placement of automatic external defibrillators at every youth sports practice and game (the fitness center didn't have an AED, by the way), I was able to quickly obtain not one but three monitors to try on a demo basis.

But I was still puzzled as to why I needed a heart monitor in the first place and how it worked. After all, I had never had any heart problems, and, given all the biking, kayaking , walking and yoga I did, thought I was in reasonably good shape (albeit carrying a few extra pounds; not an uncommon problem for women my age).

I found out that the monitor was not to measure how strong my heart was (I am sure I didn't look like I was ready to keel over!), but so my trainers could help me achieve a heart rate that would not just maintain fitness but burn off some of those extra pounds.

I learned that if I used the monitor the correct way, it is like having a personal trainer with me at every workout, bike ride or walk, whether in the fitness center or exercising on my own, and its use ensured that I trained at the correct intensity - not too hard, not too easy. When I wanted to push myself and work harder, my heart monitor would show me when I reached the right intensity.

I also learned that fitness depended on three variables: (1) Frequency (how often I exercised); (2) Duration (how long each exercise session lasted); and, (3) Intensity (how challenging the exercise session was).

To maintain fitness and weight, a few workouts each week was all I would need, and a heart rate monitor wouldn't be needed. But since my personal goal was to become more fit and lose weight, a heart monitor would help me achieve the workout intensity to achieve those goals.

Finding the proper frequency and duration of exercise was easy. I had already committed to riding my bike, paddle my kayak or walk to my office every day and engage in weight and Pilates-type band workouts once I was there.

But workout intensity was more difficult to gauge, I learned, and the most important variable in achieving my fitness goals. The heart rate monitor has made achieving the right intensity of my exercise much easier.

I have had to decide what my heart rate will be during each workout and then I actually monitor my monitor to make sure I reach it. With a monitor, it's easy.

Polar FT7Over a two-and-a-half month period, I tried out all three of the heart rate monitors I had been sent. I ultimately chose to stick with the Polar FT7. Polar actually calls the FT7 a "Training Computer." Fair enough: it is that and then some. Not only does it monitor my heart rate but it can also sync with my computer and upload training results to the Polar Personal Trainer website, providing me clear training guidance that lets me know if I am improving fitness and/or burning fat and it displays calories burned. I have found it very comfortable to work with.

That leaves my second question: How does a heart rate monitor work?

Heart rate monitors work by detecting the electrical activity that the heart creates each time it beats. As the heart beats faster, the nervous system detects more closely-spaced electrical firings. The most accurate way to get this information is to wear a sensor around your chest as close to the heart as comfortable. My "personal training computer" also lets me know how many calories I have burned in my workout.

Is a heart monitor just another in a seemingly endless series of fun, but non-essential, tech gadgets? No, I don't think so. Young athletes who are already in peak physical condition don't need them.

For folks who have a few extra pounds (or more) they would like to take off, and are looking for a training partner, a heart monitor may become your new best friend.


High School Football Coach Charged With Negligent Homicide in Heat-Related Death: A Needed Wake-Up Call?

The news last year that a Kentucky high school football coach was charged with reckless homicide in the heat-related death of 15-year-old Max Gilpin was not a shock to me.*

Hewas not the first youth sports coach to be charged with reckless homicide of a young athlete and, until we can get the word out to all sports parents and coaches about why football players are especially vulnerable to heat illness, the steps that can be taken to reduce those risks, including following a strict fluid replacement strategy, I am afraid he won't be the last. Sadly, even though heat-related illness is one of the most preventable of all youth sports injuries, players continue to die. In 2008, six players at the high school and college level died from heat-related illness, matching the average for the last several years.

The day after Max died, I received an e mail from a Kentucky dad in the same school league as Max to tell me what had happened and what had almost happened to his son practicing with full pads during some brutally hot days. He was asking permission to download a number of YouthSportsParents articles from the MomsTeam Hydration Safety Center to hand out to all of the coaches and parents, permission which, of course, I gladly granted.

Each summer for the past nine years MomsTeam has received hundreds of emails from parents complaining about coaches putting their children at risk of heat stroke by running practices when the NOAA heat index says that there is an elevated risk of heat illness, or worse, and by failing to take the frequent fluid breaks and other steps that are needed to protect them. Parents are at a loss of what to do or what to say, especially during summer try-outs.

Perhaps, it will take a football coach going to jail to bring increased awareness and finally get coaches to think twice about pushing their players too hard during pre-season practices in the sweltering heat of summer, some out of ignorance but many out of a misguided, macho belief that it toughens them up and that they need to learn to "take it like a man."

At some point, though, I am afraid the only way to really protect our kids from heat stroke is to pass legislation that mandates the steps that every coach must take to eliminate the risk and makes them criminally liable if they don't.

I have been researching and writing about youth sports for over fifteen years. Central to my work is to keep kids safe while participating in sports. Whenever I am interviewed by the media or while giving community talks I remind parents to remember that the three "H"s( Head, Heart and Hydration )are the key to preventing catastrophic injury or death in sports. To that end, MomsTeam has comprehensive safety information about concussions (head), cardiac safety (heart) and hydration.

I encourage you to visit the Health & Safety Channel on MomsTeam, to link to our site and to download our articles to give to your child's coach and to hand out to other parents on your child's team.

Together we can make sure that Max did not die in vain.

* The coach was later acquitted 


Homemade Sports Drinks: An Eco-Friendly, Less Costly Alternative?

Baseball catcher drinking waterWater has been on my mind a lot lately. The town I live in, Concord, Massachusetts, recently became the first place in the country to ban the sale of bottled water in plastic containers.  Just days after the vote at our annual town meeting a major water main broke two towns away sending over 2 million residents of  eastern Massachusetts (including Boston) scrambling for ... you guessed it: bottled water in plastic containers.

Actually, safe drinking water has been on my mind for a long time, ever since lead was found in the drinking fountains at the seven of our schools (including the one my sons attended), prompting me to lead a successful effort by a group of concerned parents to force the board of health and school committee to turn off the drinking fountains until new water pipes could be installed, and a lead testing program started.

To be on the safe side, I sent my kids to school with re-usable plastic bottles filled with filtered tap water. I still drink nothing but filtered tap water, but now I pour it into a stainless steel bottle. Not only does this save money, of course, but it is much better for the environment, saving not only space in the local landfill, but the energy (and oil) it takes to make all those plastic bottles.

Over the past ten years, MomsTeam has worked hard to educate parents about the importance of keeping kids well hydrated during sports, whether it be with plain water or sports drinks. While we have long recommended that parents have their children drink from their own re-usable water bottle, we haven't focused on the question of whether whether our kids, our bank accounts, and our environment might just be a lot better off if, instead of sending our kids to practices and games with big plastic bottles of sports drinks we buy at the store, we buy one stainless steel bottle for each of our kids and fill it with a homemade sports drink. Perhaps it is time for parents to at least consider alternatives to throw-away plastic bottles and store-bought sports drinks. Water bubbler

One of the readers commenting on the Globe story about the Concord plastic water bottle ban was quick to point out that the ban had to be the work of an 82-year-old activitist with "way too much time on her hands" and couldn't possibly have been the idea of Concord's "soccer moms", because they all sent their kids off to sports games or practices with water bottles, juice boxes, and sports drinks that weren't the least bit eco-friendly.

I don't think the generalization was fair, but I would love to hear what MomsTeam nation thinks. How do you keep your kids hydrated for sports while protecting the environment? Do you have a recipe for a homemade sports drink you'd be willing to share? Send your ideas to and we'll post them on the site under a new topic we have added to the Sports Hydration Center on the Nutrition Channel called Homemade Sports Drink Recipes.



Average: 5 (2 votes)

Number of Youth Tennis Players Up: USTA's Quick Start, No-Cut Programs Credited

Which youth sport, golf or tennis, is gaining in popularity in recent years, and which is losing? You might be surprised to learn, given their overall public profiles, it is the number of youth tennis players that is up, with participation jumping 43% since 2000 , with the USTA's innovative QuickStart and No-Cut programs credited for the increase.

For years, I have been on a mission to change the culture of youth sports: to think about sports, not just as a place to showcase the gifted and talented but as a place where all children can begin a love affair with sports and physical exercise lasting a lifetime, instead of ending, as too often is the case, in early adolescence.

To grow a sport is actually pretty simple, if you implement a five-part strategy:

  1. Shrink courts, fields and diamonds down to size for the youngest kids (this is something youth baseball and soccer have been doing for years, of course);

  2. Give younger kids age-appropriate equipment with which to play; 

  3. Eliminate cuts at the high school level;

  4. Increase access by building more courts, fields and diamonds and use the "power of the permit" to give preference in using existing facilities to programs that are inclusive and child-centered; and

  5. Bring women and mothers out of the bleachers and from behind the counter at the concession stands and on to the coaching sidelines and into the board room.

In other words, make sports more fun, more inclusive, more accessible and no longer a No Mom's Land.

Growing youth tennis: recipe for success

According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, it is formula that the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the folks in charge of tennis in this country, have used with great success to grow the sport of tennis. 

Putting a lie to the myth that kids' participation in tennis would rise and fall with the rankings of U.S. pros, the USTA has been able to increase the number of children age 6 to 17 playing tennis from 6.8 million to 9.5 million (43%) since 2000, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association.  To do it, the USTA basically followed my four-pronged strategy:

  1. Grab kids early with the USTA QuickStart tennis program, an affordable ($500) and fun child-version of the game using foam balls and played on a "court" (gymnasium floor, parking lot, driveway) about one-fourth the size of a regulation court.

  2. Keep high school kids playing with the USTA "no-cut" program in which, in return for discounted equipment and training help, participating high schools (3,000 at last count) agree to let every kid who wants to keep playing tennis practice with the full team, even if they don't get to play against other schools;

  3. Maintain the interest of college players by supporting club and intramural co-ed tennis.  Of the 290,000 high school players who aren't able to make it on to college rosters, 40,000 are now playing club and intramural tennis, making it one of the fastest-growing club sports at the collegiate level; and 

  4. Provide seed money for new or refurbished courts: The USTA has contributed $5 million over the past six years as part of a $50 million program that has built or re-built 2,600 courts across the country.

Again, notice the theme here: making tennis more fun, more inclusive, and more accessible to kids, teens, and young adults so that it becomes a sport that provides a lifetime of enjoyment. 

Youth golf: off course?

On the flip side of the coin, I also wasn't surprised to read in the same Journal article about the decline in the number of youth golfers.  

Despite programs such as The First Tee, the well-publicized national program aimed at introducing younger players to the sport, and the infusion of $65 million in grant money by the United States Golf Association, some of it specifically targeting increasing access to golf by youth golfers, the number of youth golfers (age 6 to 17) dropped 24% from 3.8 million to 2.9 million between 2005 and 2008.

The reason is obvious: unlike tennis, little has been done to make golf kid- and family-friendly.

  • Regulation, 18-hole courses are way too long for kids (the Journal article put it best by posing the following question and answer: "Want to make an eight-year old cry? Tee up a ball for him on a 450-yard hole with a green surrounded by bunkers and tell him to hole out before the group waiting to tee off starts complaining to the course superintendent.")
  • Most of the new courses being built are resort and premium courses, not accessible, affordable courses for kids and families.  While there are 492 more courses in the U.S. today compared to 2000, the number of id- and family-friendly 9-hole and par-3 courses have dropped and pitch-and-putt courses where kids and families "can hone their skills playing a mini-version of the game that doesn't involve putting through a windmill" are, sadly, few and far between.

Among the suggestions offered by those interviewed for the Journal article for growing youth golf:

  • start kids out on the putting green, instead of the driving range, to build success (and a love of the game and self-esteem) with a shorter swing before progressing to a longer one;
  • build more 9-hole and pitch-and-putt courses, and
  • retrofit existing courses to include "mini-tee boxes" 130, 230 and 300 yards from every hole, so a family can play together.  

Again, notice the theme here: grow the sport by making it more fun, more inclusive, and more accessible to kids.

Lessons learned

As a lifelong golfer, it was sad to hear about the decline in the number of young golfers. But not only was I happy to hear about the USTA's success, but I was gratified to have played at least some small role in the new programs it has initiated to grow youth tennis.

In August 2007, nine months before the launch of the QuickStart program, I was asked by executives at the USTA to advise them on the roll-out of the new program. They had read my book, Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports, and thought I could help them on ways they could "avoid the problems that [some] of the national youth sports organizations have encountered over the years," including the conflicts between parents and coaches that had plagued many other youth sports organizations.  Hours of consulting time ultimately led the USTA to invite me to attend the 2007 US Open in Flushing Meadows, where I delivered a keynote address to USTA's Regional Directors who were charged with growing youth tennis by making the sport fun for kids to learn.

QuickStart tennis ballsIt thus comes as no surprise to me that USTA Youth Tennis has grown as fast as it has since the QuickStart program was launched close to three years ago.  They went to school on the mistakes so many national youth sports organizations have made, which have led to declines in their participation numbers, and followed my most important advice: critical to growth and success in youth sports participation is to value and include women's voices, not only as team parents but as coaches and administrators.

Bravo USTA! Game, set, match!



Athletes' Brains Give Them Edge In Complex Decisionmaking

I have known for a very long time that athletes are better than non-athletes at making quick, complex decisions. I just didn't know why.

A new  Discover article, The Brain: Why Athletes Are Geniuses, concludes that the brains of elite athletes are simply better at processing information and adapting to changes in circumstances.

I have long been able to tell which adults grew up playing sports by how quickly they maneuver through crowds and congested areas.

I recall one day when I was in a hurry to get to my office. I stopped at the local corner store for a cup of coffee for the ride to work. As I opened the door a woman I will call "Sue" followed me in, standing so close behind me that I could not open the door without bumping into her.  We laughed a little as she realized her confusion. She seemed to have little clue as to how the door naturally opened out. Later, after I paid the cashier and turned towards the coffee dispensers, I again bumped into Sue, who apparently didn't see the direction in which the line was moving. Clearly, Sue was not anticipating movements or flow.

I proceeded to the self-serve coffee pots, following the natural flow, from getting the cup, to pouring the coffee, to pouring the milk and sugar, to putting the top on the cup and going back out the door. But, there, once again, was Sue, blocking the flow of people and sweetly apologizing to everyone she bumped into.

After I filled my coffee and turned towards the door to leave, I once again smashed right into Sue! I spilled a bit of my coffee and, by now, I was becoming very annoyed at her.

I recall thinking that perhaps the reason I could anticipate movement - and the reason, perhaps, that Sue could not - had to do with all the years I had being playing sports (field hockey, basketball, skiing, squash, lacrosse, tennis etc.), where anticipating body movement often made the difference between a positive and a negative outcome.

Perhaps it was the journalist in me, or maybe it was just that I was trying to figure out why Sue kept bumping into me, but I finally asked Sue if she played sports. She looked at me quizzically and replied, "Nope. Never was very athletic." Bingo.

Since my days as a young tennis and squash player my mantra in life has long been: "keep your eye on the ball, stay on your toes and have a backup plan." I am never amazed to hear that other athletes have a similar mantra.

Nice to know that there's now a scientific study that shows why!


Raising A Gifted Athlete: Supporting Child's Dream, Knowing Role

What is it like to be the parent of a gifted athlete? Last week I learned a little more when I attended a panel discussion hosted by the Cambridge Center for Adult Education (CCAE).

On the panel were Tom Brady Sr., father of New England Patriots quarterback, Tom, Tom Sr.'s daughter Nancy, a triathlete; and MomsTeam blogger and author of Minor League Mom, Pam Carey, and her son, Todd, who played seven seasons in the minor leagues for the Boston Red Sox. Red Sox Minor League Todd Carey

Did either Tom, Sr. or Pam have any idea that their sons (Todd's brother, Tim, was also drafted by the Red Sox and played two seasons in the minors before hanging up his spikes) would ever make it to the big leagues. "You know they're good because they keep making it to the next level," remarked Todd and Tim's mom, Pam. "You just want them to have the skills to make the high school team."

Tom Brady agreed; he had no idea if Tom would even continue to play after a disappointing freshman year in high school. Tom was the backup freshman quarterback at his high school in San Mateo, California. "Tommy rarely made it off the bench, never threw a touchdown, and his team never even won a game that season," he said. But he loved football, so Tom Sr. did everything a parent could do to help his son make the most of his god-given abilities, hiring private coaches, sending him to football camps, and producing a recruiting video that Tom Jr. used to earn a scholarship from the University of Michigan.

After he got to Ann Arbor, Tom announced to his family that his goal was to someday be an elite quarterback in the NFL, even though, at the time, he was only the back -up quarterback for the Wolverines. Tom Sr. thought his son was dreaming, but he kept his doubts to himself. "It wasn't my place to limit my child or detract from his dreams. The rough world will do that," he told the audience that was eager to ask questions. "You don't limit their horizons because of your horizons. We got our chance. Now they get their chance."

Like Tom, Sr., Pam Carey never imagined her sons would get as far as getting drafted by the Red Sox and playing in the minor leagues.  Her most important job was to make sure her boys got a great education. "There are priorities in life," Carey told me over a cup of coffee before the talk, "one being education." Pam kept her sons on task, never allowing them to watch TV during the school week.

With a master's degree in education from Columbia, Pam was always involved in her sons' school and afterschool activities, including the Boy Scouts and music. She and her husband expected their sons to each bring home "A's." "Our expectations became their expectations and they expected certain things for themselves," she said of her sons.

Whatever they did as parents worked: Both ended up graduating from Ivy League schools, Tim from Dartmouth and Todd from Brown University, and went on to earn graduate degrees, Tim in Asian Studies and International Relations from the University of California at San Diego and Todd an MBA from Bryant University in Rhode Island.

Perhaps the most surprising answers of the night came in response to a question from the panel moderator: "You weren't like any of those crazy out-of-control parents, were you"? Tom, Sr. was quick to admit that, "Yes, yes. I was ... I was all over my kids' sports." (Tom Jr. has three older sisters who grew up being very involved in sports, especially softball). Pam, too, admitted that she was one of "those crazy hockey moms up in the stands being too loud and overly engaged."  But Todd was quick to point out that "we put an end to that right away." Although neither Tom, Sr. nor Pam seemed to me to be the pushy or aggressive type, it was clear that their total involvement in their kids' sports was pivotal to their success.

Pam said that, by the time her sons went off to college and then into the minors, she had learned to take a bit of a back seat and step back.  Even though she felt she could voice her opinion, she realized then that her role wasn't to be a critic when, one day, after critiquing Todd's play, he proceeded to tell her that she "was ill-informed and should just watch the game." It is good advice, she says, which she now shares with other parents, telling them that "there were coaches to do that. Your role is always that of a supporter, and once you leave that role, it's tough for the child to accept."

I will be writing more on the subject of parenting elite athletes in future blogs.  Is your son or daughter a gifted athlete?  Are you dreaming that your kids will one day become elite athletes? Do your kids share those dreams? What are you doing to help make those dreams a reality?

I would love to hear from you and share your stories with our viewers.

In the meantime, remember Pam Carey's advice: be a supporter, not a criticizer. 


Obese Children Need Sports, Not Bullying

Today has been a busy news day on the subject of obesity. Not only was the National Activity Plan announced in Washington, D.C, as part of a new grassroots effort to combat America's alarming rates of adult and childhood obesity and decreasing levels of physical activity, but a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan and reported in the June 2010 issue of the journal Pediatrics proves what many have suspected: that obese children are more likely to be victims of bullying than their non-overweight peers. 

Obese children: continued sports, end to bullying needed

It was a difficult situation. We all knew that the best thing for Nat was for him to be active in sports. Whenever Nat came to play with my sons he would spend lots of time running around and I could see that he had the potential to be as gifted as Paul and that he enjoyed himself. Yet, he told me that he did not like being part of a team. The story my sons were telling was a bit more detailed. "Nat, doesn't like to play team sports because he gets teased and bullied: kids have nicknames for him that hurt his feelings."

In middle school, Nat was given a chance to wrestle. The coach had encouraged Nat to give it a try,, telling himt that, if he toned up, he could use his weight to his advantage.  Still,  kids taunted and bullied Nat.

The new Pediatrics study confirms what I always knew: boys, especially boys who are obese, are bullied more often than average weight children.

The message: obese children need sports, not bullying.  It is up to every adult involved in youth sports to stop bullying in sports.

Average: 5 (1 vote)

New Concussion Rule for High School Wrestling Is A Good Move

Good news on the concussion safety front today from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Wrestling Rules Committee and the NFHS Board of Directors.  Among the four rule changes it approved for the 2010-2011 season was one requiring that  wrestlers showing signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion be removed immediately from the match and not allowed to return to competition until cleared by an appropriate health-care professional.

The new rule is a good one for four reasons. 

First, since the vast majority of concussions do not include a loss of consciousness, it jettisons the outdated rule that only required a wrestler to be removed from a contest if he was "apparently unconscious." 

Second, it continues to empower referees to remove athletes from competition if they exhibits signs of concussion, which is something I have been advocating for years that football referees be allowed to do.

Third, while the old rule required return-to-play clearance from a medical doctor, the new rule allows a wrestler to return to play after being cleared by "an appropriate health care professional," including, presumably a certified athletic trainer, who play a key role in concussion evaluation and management.

Fourth, the new concussion language is being placed in all NFHS rules books for the 2010-11 season, as well as the "NFHS Suggested Guidelines for Management of Concussion." 

To the NFHS, I say, "Keep up the good work!"
Visit the MomsTeam Concussion Safety Center for over 300 pages of information.
Average: 5 (1 vote)

MLB Pitch, Hit & Run Contest: Girls Softball Division Now Included (Finally!)

Sofball player running basesAs a young girl growing up with three sisters and a dad who was a good enough baseball pitcher to be invited to join the White Sox farm system (just before leaving to fight in the Pacific in WWII), I will never forget the long summer nights of playing baseball in our backyard with all the neighborhood kids. My dad was a favorite with the neighborhood boys. He taught us all how to throw a mean baseball, pitch like a pro, how to hit for the "neighbors windows" and how to run like the wind.

Each spring a Pitch, Hit & Run contest was held at the local elementary school. It was for boys only; girls were excluded. After the enactment of Title IX in 1972, I wondered how long it would take before girls would be included. As it turned out, it took a long time, but it has finally happened!


2010 MLB Pitch, Hit & Run Program Adds Girls Softball Division  

When I learned the other day that, for the first time ever, girls will have a chance to participate in the Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run (PHR), the "Official Youth Skills Competition of Major League Baseball", I was floored. It is truly a wonderful time for girls who shine at baseball like I did when I was a youngster. History is about to be made!

There are over 4,000 competitions planned across the country for boys and girls ages 7 to 14. The official skills competition of Major League Baseball, PHR is intended to encourage youth participation and emphasize the fun element of baseball and softball. All participants must begin by competing in a local competition, which can be hosted by any organization, league, civic group or volunteer groups in the community. PHR is free of charge to both the participants and the local hosting organization.

Pitch, Hit & Run is inviting kids to demonstrate their skills, competing in pitching, hitting and running competitions. PHR participants can advance through four levels of competition, beginning at the local level, and continuing through sectional and team competitions. All 30 MLB clubs will host team championships at their ballparks on weekends from May 29 through June 27. The top competitors nationwide from each age group (7-8, 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14) will advance to the 2010 Aquafina Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run National Finals during MLB All-Star Week in Anaheim, CA.

Go girls!

For more information, click here.

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