Concussion Bill of Rights #6: Information to Parents on Follow-Up-Care and Written Consent Before Return to Play

Too often, parents are in the dark about the important role they play in their child's recovery from concussion and the all-important decision on when it is safe for their child to return to the playing field.

The sixth right of parents under the Parent's Concussion Bill of Rights is therefore the right to receive written notice of injuries suffered by their child and to provide written consent before their child is allowed to return to play.

In the case of concussions, parents should be provided with:

  • information on post-concussion signs and symptoms and signs of deteriorating mental status to watch out for in the first 24 to 48 hours after concussion, 
  • instructions on follow-up care, including the need for cognitive rest (i.e. no homework, no school), and 
  • the steps their child must complete, after all symptoms have cleared, in order to qualify for a return to play.

All of this information is contained on the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool developed by the authors of the 2004 Prague Consensus Statement.

Implementing these notice and written consent requirements will, by itself, prompt all of the stakeholders to take every injury to an athlete with the appropriate degree of seriousness.


High School Sports Safety Law Passes Kentucky Legislature But Could Have Done Much More

A bill requiring all high school coaches to complete a 10-hour sports safety course and pass an exam before the 2009-2010 school year was passed this week by the Kentucky legislature, but not before important safety provisions were strippped from the bill.

The legislation, if signed by Kentucky governor Steve Beshear,* would also require the presence of at least one coach with training in emergency planning, heat and cold illnesses, head, neck and facial injuries and first aid at every youth sports practice or game.

Noteworthy, however, is what the bill does not contain.

Deleted from the final bill were provisions that would have required:

What makes the deletions of these provisions so frustrating for me as a youth sports safety advocate is that they are all supported by sound medicine, would provide much greater protection to the nation's high school athletes, and are similar to laws enacted elsewhere.

In requiring that ice pools to be available when practices are held in extremely hot weather, the original bill was supported by a study in the February 2009 issue of the Journal of Athletic Training that viewed ice-water or cold-water immersion as the "definitive treatment" for athletes suffering hyperthermia caused by physical exertion or exertional heat stroke (EHS), and a treatment far and away better than any other method in saving heat stroke victims from death.

Likewise, this site has long advocated in favor of AEDs at every youth sports practice or game and shortening or cancelling practices in extremely hot weather based on the NOAA heat index or high levels of ozone or fine particulate matter pollution.

Ironically, the original legislation was introduced in response to the heat stroke death in 2008 of 15-year-old Max Gilpin, which led to the indictment of his coach, David Jason Stinson, on a charge of reckless homicide in the death.

It is a sign of progress, of course, that more states are enacting laws to protect the safety of young athletes, like the bill on sports concussions that is awaiting the governor's signature in Washington State.

I guess I should view the glass as half full. But I can't help but feel that the glass is still half empty.

* Update: on March 25, 2009 Governor Beshear signed the bill into law.

Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

California Ski and Snowboard Safety Organization:Making Snow Sports Safer

The tragic death last week of actress Natasha Richardson after hitting her head during a ski lesson at a resort in Canada has been widely - and my opinion, correctly - viewed as a cautionary tale about the risks of participating in winter sports, the need for participants to wear helmets and to take even the most seemingly minor head injuries seriously.

When I was growing up in the nineteen sixties and seventies, I spent most of my winter weekends and all of my vacations at my father's home in Vermont. From dawn ‘til dusk I was on the slopes at Stratton or Bromley with my six siblings and friends skiing all over the mountain, often using beginners' trails as short cuts to the "Black Diamond" trails cut out of steeply sloped "glades".

Back then, of course, the only skiiers wearing helmets were racers. (By contrast, the National Ski Areas Association reported that in the 2007-08 season, 43 percent of U.S. skiers and snowboarders wore helmets, up from 25 percent in 2002-03, with the number jumping to 70 percent for children under 10.)

Nevertheless, I can only recall one serious accident. It happened when I was about seventeen following a faster friend through the glades. He stopped short and I ended up careening into a tree.

Years later I was skiing with my then thirteen-year-old sons when Spencer took a bad fall snowboarding on an icy slope, hitting his head (again, he wasn't wearing a helmet back in 1996). His triplet brothers noticed right away that he just did not seem right and they quickly located me.

After initially evaluating Spencer (like most boys his age he tried to shake it off), I took him to the ski patrol hut. A few minutes later we were on our way to a local hospital twenty five minutes away. Even though it appeared that he had suffered, at worst, a mild concussion, I wanted him to be at a hospital in case he started exhibiting any symptoms of a more serious head injury. Tests confirmed that Spencer had suffered a concussion and would need to be watched closely. Two hours later Spencer was cleared to leave the hospital.

I can still vividly recall the lecture that the emergency room staff gave Spencer and his brothers. They told them a story about a boy who had been left in a comma from a snowboarding accident. They told my sons that 75% of all accidents on the mountain involve teenagers not wearing helmets and being reckless.

But Natasha was not a teen age boy and she was not being reckless. I am still having a difficult time understanding how she hit her head hard enough to cause bleeding between her skull and her brain unless the snow she fell on was more ice than packed powder. Would natural snow have cushioned her head? Probably. Would a helmet have helped save her life? Probably. Might her life have been saved had she been seen in a hospital emergency room immediately after she fell? Maybe. Did her death bring awareness to people about the high rate of death and catastrophic injuries sustained while skiing-absolutely.

Is the ski industry doing everything it can to help prevent future accidents? I don't think so. And that is the big problem.

Yesterday, I spent some time talking with Daniel Gregorie, M.D. an internist and founder of the California Ski and Snowboard Safety Organization (CSSSO), which promotes and supports safety improvements in California skiing, snowboarding and recreational snow sports. The CSSSO also serves as an independent source for information about the safety of California ski resorts. Dr. Gregorie formed the CSSSO in memory of his daughter, Jessica Gregorie, who died in a tragic snowboarding accident at Alpine Meadows in 2006.

Dan is leading the CSSSO's efforts to spotlight California's lack of uniform ski-and-snowboard-safety protections, to serve as a statewide repository of information on ski-resort-related deaths and injuries, and in lobbying the state's 30 ski resorts to publicly release their safety policies.

As I spoke with Dan I had a flood of my own emotions. What a wonderful person he is for all he is doing to keep our families safe. He is a gift to each of us. But my thoughts for most part were stuck on how Jessica, such a beautiful, athletic and recent Smith College graduate, could have fallen to her death in a ravine Alpine Meadows that should have blocked off from skiers and snowboards. As I listened to Jessica's father I had a difficult time finding words.

My mind was stuck on the dates. Natasha Richardson died one day after what would have been Jessica's twenty eighth birthday. But instead of dwelling on the past Jessica's father was providing tips and advice for other parents.

Dr. Gregorie understands that the ski and snowboard industry, for the most part, "is a rescue culture and not a prevention culture." He is working hard to make snow sports safer in California by supporting a bill (AB 990) that has just been introduced in the California legislature by state assemblyman Dave Jones.

In a future blog I will talk more about my conversation with Dr. Gregorie and the new California ski and snowboard safety bill; but for now I want to share some questions he thinks parents should ask before they hit the slopes  to make snow sports safer:

  • Is the resort at which you are planning to ski or snowboard safety conscious? Is it proactive in preventing accidents? What is its safety policy? Does it even have a policy?
  • What is the resort's emergency plan? Are paramedics at the mountain or does EMS have to come from off-site? Where's the nearest hospital?
  • What do the resort's trail signs look like and are they uniform and easy to understand? Like highway signs, everyone should be able to understand the signs. Unfortunately, there isn't uniformity when it comes to trail signs.
  • Is the beginner's slope off-limits to the other skiers and snowboarders? Many times faster, more experienced skiers will take short cuts through these trails resulting in serious accidents.
  • Are helmets mandatory? (Remember: helmets are not a panacea -- they provide considerably less protection once a person exceeds 14 miles per hour -- and occasionally can induce complacency. "Sometimes you can put a helmet on a 13-year-old and he thinks he's invulnerable," notes Michael Berry, president of the Colorado-based National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). "The helmet's only part of the issue. Behavior and education about when the helmet can be effective are another part.")

I am not sure if this is being done anywhere, but I have often thought it might be a good idea to issue special bibs to skiers and snowboarders under a certain age to alert others to their presence and, hopefully, cut down on collisions between out of control skiers and snow boarders and reckless behavior.

Dr. Gregorie would also like to see resorts have some type of skills assessment and a type of parental reporting system so people who are skiing to endanger the lives of others would be held accountable and the number of serious accidents curbed.

I am looking forward to working with Dr. Gregorie and will continue to report on his progress. In the meantime, if you are a skier or snowboarder and want more information and/or would like to make a contribution to the California Ski and Snowboard Safety Organization, visit its websites by clicking here or here.


More About "Family Bye" Days

In my last blog I wrote about how I incorporated "byes" as a family day for members of my soccer team. I always made it my policy that everyone on my team played three-quarters of the games and I alternated the players that played the entire game. I encouraged kids to take "byes" as a family day, so that when I had a fuller roster we could pull off the ¾ policy.

Since I posted my blog I have received numerous emails asking me to elaborate. Some found the idea intriguing; others were skeptical that it could work. The majority were anxious for their leagues to implement such a policy. Six readers asked, "What would you suggest would be a great way to spend the day so my son doesn't feel left out?"

Basically, if there are too many kids on the roster for each to play three-quarters of every game, my suggestion is to mandate that each player take a designated day off. In some cases, two players might be asked to take a day off. The players should be given the option to attend the game but with the understanding that this is his/her day for rest or family fun. Instead of playing twelve (or however many) games a season, each child would play one less game. The intent is for the child to spend the day with his family to allow every child ¾ playing time.

When I was coaching, I always explained the "de Lench plan" (as it became known) at the pre-season meeting. I circulated a form for each family to fill out asking for their first, second, and third choice for the bye day. Interestingly, I never had a problem or a family protesting. The most difficult assignment was for a child to take the first or last game off. Most seasons I had volunteers. When there was an issue I simply sweetened the deal for the player who volunteered by giving him the option to pick the position he wanted to play at his first game or something else that was of interest. Families actually loved knowing when they had a Saturday or Sunday to spend travelling, attend a wedding or whatever without having their child penalized.

Family day ideas

So, back to the questions from six parents looking for new family day ideas.

One of my favorite things to do on our family bye days was to go for a canoe trip complete with fishing poles and a picnic. Turns out I'm not alone in loving fishing: fresh water fishing ranks number eight in the March 2009 Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association list of most popular sports and fitness activities.

I always suggest fishing and canoeing or kayaking because they are activities that put families into a natural peaceful yet exciting setting. Many times we would come face to face with a turtle, fish or water fowl.

As a youngster I spent endless hours fishing with my best friend, Lisa, and her father, "Mr. G". Mr. G was one of those wonderfully patient dads who made sure that we girls (or "fellas" as he always called the two of us; even on my wedding day, with Lisa as my maid of honor, he said, "Don't you fellas look beautiful!") were given the opportunity to enjoy activities as children that we could carry into our adult lives (because we grew up in the pre-Title IX era, we were pretty much excluded from team sports). Mr. G spent hours upon hours swinging golf clubs, flying kites, swimming, rowing, throwing a Frisbee and, most of all, fishing with us.

Fishing was his favorite activity. A top fly fisherman with an extensive collection of hand-made flies which he had tied over the years, he spent as much of his leisure time as he could with a fly rod in his hand. For many years, from the time we were pre-schoolers until the time we entered adolescence, Mr. G would reserve Saturday mornings for fishing with Lisa and me. As far back as I remember he would take us digging for worms, keep us busy tying flies, hiking around the local lake, and sitting with our legs dangling off our town's dock in the harbor on the bay, a fishing pole in one hand and an ice cream cone in the other. Mr G was the one who taught me at age seven how to row a dingy out into the bay where the striped bass were running.

A bobber from heaven

Last week, Lisa called me to plan our next get-together. She wanted to go kayaking on the Concord River, which flows right past my back yard. Our conversation turned to her dad, who passed away in September 2001, right after 9/11. Fittingly, he had suffered a fatal heart attack while standing knee deep in waders fly fishing in a river in Maine. He was 79. As we reminisced I told her, no doubt for the umpteenth time, how "Every time I see a bobber floating in the river when I am out kayaking, I think of your dad." I don't see more than 2 or 3 bobbers a year, but when I do I know Mr. G. is smiling down on me from heaven.


Later that day, I took my afternoon walk around the reservoir near my office. Toward the end of my walk I happened to look into the water. There was a bobber peacefully floating close to the shoreline. Ignoring the "no trespassing" signs, I took off my shoes, rolled up my pants, and waded into the water to untangle the fishing line and retrieve the bobber. I brought my new prize back to my office, snapped a picture with my iphone and sent it off to Lisa.

Spending time fishing with my best friend's dad was the perfect way to forget the lonely feeling I had as a girl growing up in the 1950's and 1960's of being excluded from the team sports that were open to Lisa's older brother and boys our age. All those Saturdays are forever indelibly etched in my mind.

It's no wonder, then, that my vote was always to spend the "family bye" day off from my sons' sports on the river, bay or pond.

Average: 5 (1 vote)

Coach Puts Safety First, Forfeits X-Country Meet

The other day I got an e-mail from a sports mom in Nevada with a link to an article about her daughter’s cross-country coach.  Seems he forfeited the team’s first meet of the season against the defending state champion out of concern for the runners’ long-term health had they run over a hilly 2.75-mile course consisting mostly of pavement in 90 degree heat.

The first time I read the article I thought, “Bravo! Bully for the coach.” The second time I read it some doubt crept in about the coach’s explanation for the forfeit, so I wrote the mom back and asked if was any reason to doubt that the reason offered by the coach was the true reason. Nope, she replied. The reasons he gave were legit. Relieved, I thought to myself, “Finally, a coach not willing to put his team in harm’s way.”

According to the article, South Tahoe High School coach, Dan Wilvers, pulled his girls’ team out of the race because he was convinced that running primarily on pavement (much of the grass portion from previous years had been replaced by asphalt, which is really tough on a runner’s legs).  Wilvers told the Tahoe Daily Tribune, “I was just concerned about the kids' health because we have all of these kids who are always fighting nagging stuff that can really debilitate them throughout the season with the training. Those downhills on the pavement were just not going to be good.”

This country needs more coaches like Wilvers: ones who are child-centered, not adult centered; ones who put safety first. In my book, Home Team Advantage, I extolled the virtues of women coaches.  One of the advantages I cited was the finding by evolutionary biologists that woman have an inborn instinct to protect children from harm, whether their own or others, while men, from the beginning of time, have been more inclined to value competition, winning and risk taking.  Yet here was the rare male coach who had, dare I say it, instincts more typical of a woman.

Wilvers is the type of coach we all want coaching our children: he saw an unacceptably high risk of long-term injury from running down hill on hard pavement in a highly competitive cross-country meet and decided that beating the defending state champion simply wasn’t worth it.

For a list of ten signs of a good youth sports coach, click here.

Average: 5 (1 vote)

A-Rod's Admission of Steroid Use Another Lesson For Kids That Users Are Just Cheating Themselves

The admission by New York Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez that he used performance enhancing drugs from 2001 to 2003 while playing for the Texas Rangers is just the latest in a sorry stream of admissions about the use of steroids by current and former Major League Baseball players.  President Obama said Rodriquez's confession to ESPN's Peter Gammons "tarnishes an entire era to some degree."  He re-stated the obvious when he said  that drugs use by sports stars "sent the wrong message to the nation's youth."

But what is the message our children should get from Rodriquez?  That steroid use is cheating, not only in that it gives the athlete an unfair advantage and thus hurts the sports he or she is playing but because it is cheating the athlete himself, denying him the chance to prove how good he actually is? That steroid use is dangerous? That steroid use is illegal and wrong?

All of the above.  

Some news reports suggested that Rodriquez was prepared to repair his public image by helping to get the message out to young people about the dangers of steroids.  If so, great.

But the sad fact is that steroid use is still rampant among high school students.  There need to be more public service campaigns like the award-winning  "Don't Be An Asterisk" public awareness campaign and more anti-steroid education programs for high school students, like the award-winning ATLAS (Athletes Training & Learning to Avoid Steroids), a program for male high school athletes, and its sister program for high school female athletes (ATHENA) (Athletes Targeting Healthy Exercise & Nutrition Alternatives).

 But until professional athletes stop using performance-enhancing drugs, and, if they don't (I hate to be cynical, but I think cheating is never going to be completely eliminated from sports; some athletes will always be looking for an unfair edge), and until our children learn not to look up to professional athletes as role models  (which probably also isn't going to happen any time soon, either), our mantra at YouthSportsParents and of coaches and athletic trainers everywhere has to be "Education, Education, Education."



Average: 5 (1 vote)

Concussion Bill of Rights #3: Adoption and Enforcement of Conservative Evaluation & Return-to-Play Guidelines

The sad fact, and what makes it sometimes hard for parents to truly believe that programs are taking concussions seriously, is that many of the sports programs in which their children participate do not follow any set of return-to-play guidelines, and if they do follow guidelines, they are too liberal in terms of same-day return-to-play (RTP). When parents are kept in the dark like that, when they have no clue as to how a program treats concussions, their anxiety level naturally goes up. This happened to me when my son Taylor sustained a soccer concussion and his ATC told him he only needed to sit out one day.

Thus, the third point in the Concussion Bill of Rights for parents is that the athletic director or administrator, coach, athletic trainer (if there is one) and team doctor have, at the very least, agreed upon and adopted a philosophy for evaluating and managing concussions before the start of the season which prohibits players who experience concussion signs or symptoms from returning to the same game or practice, and that they use it consistently during the season, regardless of the athlete or circumstances surrounding the injury. In other words, no double standard when it comes to concussions will be applied - one for regular players, one more liberal standard for the "stars."*

Same Day RTP Debate

Some advocate against any rule that would flat out bar players who experience concussion signs or symptoms from returning to the same game or practice. They view such a rule as not only unworkable but counter-productive. Their fear is that such a strict, unyielding rule is likely to be evaded by the very players it is designed to protect, leading players to simply stop telling sideline medical personnel that they have any symptoms so as to avoid being benched for the remainder of the game. Many parents, either out of ignorance of the risks or out of a desire to see their child achieve athletic success, adhere to this view as well.

Others, including many of the YouthSportsParents audience, believe that the rule that best protects our children, is the easiest to apply and the one best supported by the available science, is the one reflected in the consensus statement of the 3rd International Conference on Concussion in Sport held in Zurich in 2008 (and published in May 2009): a rule that recommends no return to play for concussed athletes in the same game regardless of how quickly the symptoms appear to clear.

If the penalty for not reporting symptoms, for not playing by the rules, is to be suspended or kicked off the team, then players will not, as some fear, try to evade the rule and adoption will not lead players to simply stop telling sideline medical personnel that they have any symptoms so as to avoid being sidelined for the remainder of the game.


Same day return to play should be banned


All of the recent consensus statements recommend such conservative management of concussions in athletes under the age of 18. In the face of such consensus, the only reason I can think of for allowing a youth athlete to return to play in the same game after concussion symptoms clear is because it increases the team's chances of winning.

As I write about at length in my book, Home Team Advantage, and elsewhere on this website, our youth sports culture has become so obsessed with winning that not only has fun taken a back seat, but, more dangerously, so has safety.

Winning at any level of sports simply isn't worth it, at least when it comes to concussions, which are simply in a league of their own apart from other types of injuries.

To the extent our culture teaches that winning is more important for athletes who don't get paid to have their clocks cleaned for a living, it needs to change.

If parents know about the rule banning same-day return to play in advance, if the reason for the rule is explained before the season begins, I think that, by and large, they will see it as putting their child's safety first, which is exactly as it should be in youth sports.

No excuse


The alleged lack of scientific studies and the amount of clinical judgment involved in concussion management, and the lack of unanimity, either about grading the severity of concussions or in return to play guidelines, while it complicates efforts to educate about and manage concussions, should not be used as an excuse to do nothing. Conservative management of youth concussions is also necessary, in my view, in order for a program to fulfill the fundamental duty of care - a duty embodied in the United Nations' Conventions on the Rights of the Child adopted by every country in the world with the notable exception of two (Somalia and the United States) - our sports programs, like the rest of adult society, owe every child.


Concussion Bill of Rights #5: Neuropsychological Testing for Athletes In Contact Sports

With several recent studies demonstrating the clinical value of neuropsychological (NP) testing in evaluating the cognitive effects of and recovery from sport-related concussions, such testing has become increasingly popular in recent years, with the 2008 Zurich consensus statement on sports concussions1 viewing NP testing as an "aid in the clinical decisionmaking process" and an "important component in any return to play protocol." 

Thus, the fifth right of parents under the Parent's Concussion Bill of Rights is the right to expect that, if their child is playing contact sports, that he or she undergo pre-season baseline and post-injury neuropsychological testing.

But while baseline pre-injury and post-injury testing is now ubiquitous at the professional and collegiate level and is becoming more common at the high school level as well, the cost of either conventional pen-and-paper or computerized testing, and the fact that most states require advance training and licensing to purchase and use them, have thus far restricted how widely testing has been implemented at the youth level and in rural areas where access to neuropsychologists for consultation is limited.

Ways need to be found to fund such testing programs and to allow for Web-based testing on a wide scale, especially for high risk sports such as football, hockey, soccer, basketball and lacrosse, regardless of the age or level. It is our goal at YouthSportsParents to become a place where every youth athlete can come to get the kind of testing that is currently out of the reach of the vast majority of athletes in contact sports.


Sports Team Tryouts: The Controversy Over Cutting

Thirteen years ago, on their first day of their first year of middle school, my triplet sons each received a thick green booklet packed with school rules and policies, and survival tips for incoming sixth graders .  Parents were provided with a copy of the same booklet.

Printed on the inside of the front cover was a selection of 295 tips from the complete booklet given out to freshman at the high school titled "Advice to incoming freshman from those who have made it." The booklet was written by the high school faculty, staff and twelfth grade students.

Prominently placed at the top of the list of tips was #4: Tryout for at least one sport each year.  Number 5 stated: "If a person says hello or waves to you, respond." Number 11 warned, "Avoid leaving your stuff around; you may never see it again," Number 15 advised to  "Avoid shortcuts on homework." And so on all the way down the list.

Out of all of the handouts my sons received during their school years, I saved a few that I found poignant and important.  The front cover, with its list on the back, recently turned up in an old file folder.  It was stapled to the cover of the booklet which they received three years later on their first day of high school titled: Advice to incoming freshman from those who have made it: 295 tips.

While I am not a sentimental hoarder of piles of old school stuff, I am sentimental and do recall the specific reason for saving the list. It was just about that time when I first began writing a book with the working title, A Parents Survival Guide to Youth Sports.   I knew that the list, and in particular, tip number 4, was powerful and worth incorporating into the book.

Although my literary agent found tremendous interest in the book from the top publishing houses, each wanted me to write a series of books because, as one said, "she has so much great information and wisdom to share." 

At the time my first book was being "shopped around" my love affair with the Internet was growing.  I concluded that no book, as a limited container of content, could compete with the Internet, so I decided instead to launch and put the book idea on the shelf.  

When I dusted off the book idea three years ago and began writing  Home Team Advantage the powerful 295 Tips list resurfaced in a crate of sports-related information as I was  researching information for Chapter Fourteen, my favorite chapter: The Controversy Over Cutting

From working deep in the trenches with literally tens of thousands of sports parents over the years I view the practice of cutting athletes from middle or high school teams as arguably the most controversial practice in youth sports all the way through high school years. While it is true that it is important for kids to learn the value of overcoming obstacles with hard work and how to grow through failure, the fact is that being cut from a middle school or high school sports team is often one of the most upsetting and traumatic events in a teenager's life.

I believe that the goal of childhood should be to prepare children for adulthood by giving them a chance to develop coping skills and the self-confidence needed to succeed in the adult world in a safe and nurturing environment. 

There are many folks working in the youth sports field who agree with me that cutting isn't necessary to ensure strong athletic programs, that the goals of school-based athletics are educational; that to teach the athletic and - yes, social skills  - teenagers will need to both compete and collaborate as adults, the practice is outmoded and deprives a greater percentage of student athletes who want to keep playing sports every year.

Think about it.  In 1924, when interscholastic sports were in their infancy, the average size of a high school was 128 students. Today, the average size is roughly 1,840 students. Yet, all schools still only have one boys varsity basketball, football and baseball team.  No longer is there a roster spot for every child who wants to play, which was the case in 1924.

With the tryouts for fall sports over and the cuts having been made, it is no wonder that the majority of  e-mail questions I have been getting lately all ask variations on the same theme: How can we eliminate this antiquated practice and adopt sports programs in our middle schools and high schools that give every student wanting to play an opportunity to continue playing? 

I can't tell you how many times a mother or father writes asking what to do now that their child, who has  played soccer all the way through 11th grade, has been cut from the varsity in his senior year.

It is time we as a nation grasp the importance of belonging to a school team. Not just playing intramural sports, but having a roster spot on the team that competes against other towns. The kids know it.  Even high school boys list the number one reason for playing sports is -To Have FUN!

One of our staff, a mom of freshman high school boy/girl twins , came into work last week with a similar booklet to the one my sons came home with.  One of the tips was  "Participate on a school team."  Except instead of being listed #4, it was now #1.

Like the booklet my sons got, the booklet given to her twins was compiled from hundreds of suggestions by faculty, staff and twelfth grade students.

My question is this: if participating on a school team is always at or near the top of the list of tips for incoming first-year students, why is it that our schools can't seem to find a way to provide interscholastic sports to every child who wants to play? 

It is too late to do anything about the cuts that have been made for this fall season.  But it isn't too late to start thinking about the next sports season, and the one after that. 

By reading this blog and by visiting YouthSportsParents, you have demonstrated a committment to our mission of making youth sports more inclusive.  The YouthSportsParents community represents a powerful group of parents. Let's begin the work!  One of our members has started a forum  on cutting to start the conversation.  I encourage you to join the discussion. 

As controversial a subject as cutting is, we need to talk about it if we are ever to see more kids involved in after school sports.

Oh, and last on the list of tips from 1996 and 2008? Have Fun and Good Luck!


Dealing with the Cost of Sports in the Tough Economy

Last week, I spent an interesting hour as a guest on the "Charlotte Talks" show on Charlotte's National Public Radio station. The show was titled "Youth Sports and The Law."

One of the issues I spoke about was the lack of inclusion in youth sports today. It is becoming about the haves and the have not's. Unfortunately, our sports programs are becoming more and more elitist and exclusionary. Many children are left out because their parents cannot afford the equipment, registration fees or even the gas to drive them to and from various games, practices and tournaments.

In an average week, I communicate with hundreds, if not thousands, of sports parents. For the past six months the big issue has been how to afford sports in these tough economic times. In communities all across the country parents are struggling every day to afford youth sports activities. Some programs are shutting down. In many cases, the only way parents are able to afford the expense of sports is by cutting back on other expenses.

I am concerned about the children whose parents cannot afford to have their children participate. Many times a week I field e mails or calls from disgruntled moms and dads about the steep fees they are being charged and are questioning why they have to pay $100, $200 or more for their children play on a team whose season only runs about ten weeks.

For articles and advice on ways to handle the cost of sports for your child, click here for our Successful Parenting Channel.