What Do Mothers Want from Youth Sports?

In two days, espnW and the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Project will co-host an espnW: Women + Sports Summit at which they will report the results of a survey in which a nationally representative sample of moms were asked what they wanted and needed for their kids from youth sports. At the conclusion of the summit, a group of thought leaders will react to the survey findings and explore issues facing both moms and their daughters in sports during a Project Play roundtable .

While I will not be able to participate in the roundtable, it is probably just as well because, with MomsTEAM Institute's SmartTeams Play Safe summit in Boston in my rear view mirror, I am devoting all my energies the rest of the fall sports season to working with an incredibly talented and dedicated group of certified athletic trainers at the grass roots level on our SmartTeamTM pilot program, which is helping parents, coaches, administrators, and more than 800 athletes in youth football programs in six states play safe by being smart.

Besides, with 15 years under my belt listening to parents, particularly but not exclusively moms, and having written an entire book exploring the subject of what moms want from youth sports, I don't need a national survey to know what sports moms want. I am willing to bet you do, too, especially if you've spent any time over the years visiting MomsTEAM.

Brooke de Lench with mothers in Newcastle OK

So I guess I am wondering, why a poll, why yet another roundtable? The answers to those questions are less clear. I do know that there are more and more sports organizations and politicians who now at least say they are listening to what moms are saying they want from youth sports, including President Barack Obama, himself the parent of two athletic daughters. Having spent a great deal of my time in 2012, including two trips to New York City, consulting with the National Football League on why they needed to pay more attention to the concerns of sports mothers if the league wanted youth football to survive, I wasn't the least bit surprised that, at a youth sports concussion summit the President hosted at the White House back in May - one which appeared to me to have been little more than a 'dog and pony show' orchestrated by the National Football League and USA Football - the roundtable moderator, Fox's NFL sideline reporter, Pam Oliver - herself a concussion victim - acknowledged the importance of sports moms: "In a nutshell," said Oliver, "you need to get the mom vote - when the moms are educated and they look at the risks ..., they start to see there is something they can take charge of ..."

The men in attendance that day at the White House didn't disagree with Oliver's assessment. "We know that as dads put[ting] this information in the hands [of moms] is a critical thing we need to do," said Gerard Gioia, PhD,  Division Chief of Neuropsychology and the Director of the Safe Concussion Outcome, Recovery & Education (SCORE) Program at Children's National Health System.

While many men may see moms as what the Aspen Sports Institute characterizes as "gatekeepers", what we as women and moms know is that our primary role is as what I have long called the "guardians of children at play." 

So, will a poll and a roundtable help? Perhaps. A poll done correctly, asking the correct questions, should help continue to validate and bring some additional awareness to what we as most mothers, most women, already know. 


SmartTeams Play Safe Summit, Pilot Programs, And "The Today Show" : It Was Quite The Week!

Today, I begin my blog again after taking the full summer off from writing.

The reason for my summer hiatus, at least from blogging, wasn't that I was relaxing on the beach or by the pool (oh, if only). 

No, it was because I was at my desk at MomsTEAM Institute working hard on two major initiatives: our inaugural SmartTeams Play Safe Summit at Harvard Medical School, and the launch of our six SmartTeam pilot projects.Brooke de Lench and Coach Bobby Hosea at Smart Teams Play Safe Summit

A week ago today, I had the honor of being joined by some of the nation's top youth sports safety experts at Harvard Medical's beautiful Joseph Martin Conference Center for a full day of fast-paced, extremely informative, and, at times, emotionally gripping 15-minute presentations on a wide range of youth sports safety topics.  (The entire event was captured on videotape, so look for some video highlights in the months to come)

I was extremely gratified that so many athletic training students, youth sports safety advocates, researchers, orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine practitioners, and other youth sports stakeholders came out on a gorgeous late summer day in Boston to hear about a new approach to youth safety (at least for those who haven't been reading MomsTEAM for the past 15 years),  one which focuses, not just on cataloging all the SmartTeams Play Safe summit materialsproblems the nation faces in making youth sports safer, but on steps we can, must, and are taking right now to help young athletes play safer through education and by following best practices, summed up in the SmartTeam's catchphrase: Be Smart to Play Safe.TM

As MomsTEAM has always advocated, the speakers offered a holistic approach to sports safety, one which addresses not just a child's physical, emotional, psychological and sexual safety, but their need for proper nutrition and hydration as well.  I think it is safe to say that I speak for all those who spoke or who attended that, by adopting best practices, youth sports programs around the country, whether at the youth, middle school, or high school level, can stem the rising tide of injuries that have become an all-too-common and unfortunate byproduct of today's hyper-competitive, over-specialized, and over-commercialized youth sports environment.

Among the highlights of the SmartTeams Play Safe summit - and there were many - was a panel discussion, led by Tamara McLeod of AT Still University, about the launch of pilot programs in six communities around the country - each coordinated by a university-based athletic training educator, clinician and researcher - designed to test MomsTEAM's innovative new SmartTeamTM program. (That's me in the picture at right with Marisa Colston, Ph.D., ATC of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, co-coordinator of our Hixson, TN program)  

Modeled on the community-centric approach to improving youth sports safety highlighted in MomsTEAM's PBS documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer", the program will award SmartTeam status to organizations which commit to following best health, safety, nutrition and hydration practices.  [In case you missed the segment on "The Today Show" about our Grand Prairie, Texas pilot program being coordinated by Cindy Trowbridge of the University of Texas at Arlington, here is the video]



Although some advocates view legislative mandates as a way to safer sports *and I am a strong supporter of safety legislation, such as the excellent sports safety bill introduced in the United States Senate this summer by New Jersey senator Robert Menendez), I believe that a free market approach via public recognition of youth sport leagues and interscholastic athletic programs that voluntarily comply with best-practice standards conferred by an independent advocacy organization such as MomsTEAM Institute, one which is free of influence from the potentially self-serving interests of any professional group or trade organization, is the best way to improve the safety of youth athletes.

I honestly believe we can achieve a paradigm shift in the way we talk about sports safety in this country, but it is only going to happen at the grassroots level, and it is only going to happen if parents want it to happen.  The SmartTeams program is designed to help do just that: to give parents a benchmark against which to measure the commitment of their child's program to a safer sports experience so they can support those programs that measure up and demand change from those that don't. As I have said so often in blog posts, articles, and my book, Home Team Advantage, over the years, our children deserve no less.

It will take all stakeholders communicating with and working together to make youth sports safer. The fact that so many of the nation's top sports safety experts came together in Boston last week is proof positive that they are ready to do just that. The enthusiastic support which the SmartTeaBrooke de Lench and Dr. Lyle Micheli at Harvard Club of Bostonm program has already received from so many in the youth sports community has been gratifying, and I look forward to working with every expert, researcher, parent, coach, administrator, certified athletic trainer, athletic director, league administrator, sports safety equipment and testing manufacturer, trade organization, medical society, and interest group to clearly define and communicate best practice standards for sport health and safety to the general public in the months and years ahead.

A heartfelt thanks to our Board of Advisors and all of our speakers who joined us for our welcoming reception at the Harvard Club on Sunday night, courtesy of Dr. Lyle Micheli (pictured with me at left), who was also our host on Monday, to all those who were able to join us in person for the summit, to our sponsors, and to those who Tweeted about the event, before, during, and after, especially MomsTEAM Institute Board of Advisor Dr. Jim MacDonald (a/k/a @sportingjim) and our new friend, Jessica Schwartz, DPT (a/k/a @DPT2go).  


Brooke de Lench is Executive Director of the non-profit MomsTEAM Institute, Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com, Producer of "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer", and author of "Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports" (HarperCollins). You can email Brooke (delench@MomsTEAM.com), and follow her on Twitter @brookedelench.  As an independent youth sports safety watchdog and advocacy group, MomsTEAM depends on the continued support of visitors like you.  Won't you please consider supporting the SmartTeam campaign by making a donation? We thank you and your kids will thank you.





NOCSAE Meeting: Lots Of Questions, But No Answers

Last Friday, I attended the summer meeting of the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) at the Boston Harbor Hotel. It was hard to be inside on such a spectacular summer day, but made easier by the location of the meeting: in the Atlantic Room, directly above Rowe's Wharf, with a view of a sparkling Boston harbor filled with sailboats and power boats. Boston harbor skyline with Rowes Warf

Notice that I said easier, not easy, because, as I sat at the back of the room I kept wondering to myself why I traded such a gorgeous day for a chance to listen to presentations by members of an organization that, frankly, has little credibility with me, and, I suspect, with others.

The event, if it can be called that, had been circled on my calendar for months. The room was packed with media, and at least one youth athlete safety advocate (me). We were there to hear the NOCSAE Board of Directors finally approve a football helmet performance standard designed to reduce concussion risk (which, to its credit, it did).

I was also there to learn what, if any, amendments NOCSAE was prepared to make to its policy on helmet add-ons and third-party certification, which caused such an uproar when it was announced, and then almost immediatly clarified, last summer. (It decided to change from a process of self-certification - the same one used by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for youth bicycle standards - to requiring third-party certification, beginning in January 2015, in accordance with ANSI/ISO international guidelines, in particular, ISO:17065)

But, most of all, I was at the NOCSAE meeting to find out if it was making any progress towards adoption of a youth football helmet standard, which was first proposed three years ago in April 2011, and updated in January 2012 from proposed to draft . Here's what I found today on the NOCSAE website about that change: http://nocsae.org/media-newsroom/2012/09/youth-football-helmut-moved-fro...).

After deliberation and consideration of input from multiple interested parties, the board voted in January 2012 to change the Youth Football Helmet Standard from "Proposed" to "Draft" so that more input can be received, and to permit development of that standard to follow a separate track. There was also concern that some may misinterpret the "proposed" status to indicate that NOCSAE has reached a tentative final decision with regard to the content and parameters of that standard, which is not the case. Significant hurdles remain to the development of a youth football helmet standard that will address the specific injury risks and biomechanical forces involved in youth football, and that data has not yet been well developed. Recently published studies such as Daniel RW, Rowson S, Duma SM. Head Impact Exposure in Youth Football. Annals of Biomedical Engineering. 2012:1-6 is an example of the data being developed. And other programs focused specifically on injury epidemiology in youth football, some directly funded by NOCSAE research grants, are still in the data collection and analysis stage, and will provide additional science necessary to support an effective and reliable performance standard for youth football helmets. A Draft version of the standard is available here ND006-11m11.

Interestingly, the link to the "draft version of the standards" now takes you to a "Page Not Found." But if you want to download the .pdf of the "Standard Performance Specification for Newly manufactured Youth Football Helmets" the link can be found (for now) here: http://nocsae.org/wp-content/files_mf/1351111531ND00611m11MfrdYouthFBHel.... [If this link goes dead, please let me know, and I will send you a pdf.]

NOCSAE June 2014 meeting in Boston, MA

I was hoping that longtime NOCSAE board member, Dr. Robert Cantu, MomsTEAM's original concussion expert and co-founder of the Sports-Legacy Institute, would at least address the urgent need to move the youth helmet standard towards adoption before acting on any other standards, but no such luck.

One line in particular stands out in the youth helmet standard proposed in 2011:

7.4 The mass of the helmet including all accessories, attachments and facemask shall not exceed 2.866lbs (1.3kg).

From my work with football parents in teaching them about the Six Pillar approach MomsTEAM has developed to concussion risk management, and from spending time observing the measuring, purchasing, fitting, and testing of hundreds of helmets on youth football players, my anecdotal experience is that kids prefer lighter helmets. The laws of physics (KE=0.5mv2) seem to suggest that lighter helmets, because they have less mass, create less kinetic energy.

Given the fact that kids under age 14, as Bob Cantu has repeatedly pointed out, have disproportionately large heads and disproportionately weaker neck muscles (which create what some call the "bobble-head" effect: a violent snapping back of the head when force is applied), it would stand to reason that a lighter helmet would protect younger kids better against the rotational forces that more and more experts, including Bob, believe cause the most serious concussions.

I also have to believe that, with a lighter helmet on their heads, kids would be less tempted to lower their head to use the helmet as a weapon (something that the kids who I interviewed for "The Smartest Team" documentary admitted they did).

Are there youth helmets that meet the 2.86 pound limitation? The only one of which I am aware is the SG helmet. All the rest weigh more than 2.86 lbs. I talked to representatives from Schutt, Riddell and Xenith last week about the weight of their youth helmets, but I had to really prod them to answer my questions.  They conceded that they all weigh over 3.8 pounds; most are closer to 4 lbs.

Keep in mind that for an 80-pound child a 4 pound helmet represents 5% of their body weight. Given the weakness of their necks and the size of their heads in relation to their bodies, I am left to wonder how many times a youth football player lowers his head because the helmet is just too heavy to hold his head up during a game, especially when they get tired.  How many helmet-to-helmet collisions, and helmet-to-ground collisions result? How many could be avoided were the helmets lighter?

I am not alone, of course, in thinking that there needs to be a youth specific helmet standard. I know that Stefan Duma and Steve Rowson and their colleagues at Virginia Tech-Wake Forest are collecting data on head impact exposure at the youth level, and hope to issue STAR ratings next year on youth helmets in 2015. Indeed, it was their 2012 study that NOCSAE cited in its discussion of youth football helmet standards.

But I left to wonder whether we are moving fast enough. As Dave Halstead, a biomechanics specialist at the University of Tennessee and the Southern Impact Research Center testing laboratory who advises NOCSAE, noted at the meeting, "Our concussion problem has not gotten better."

Unfortunately, the meeting was abruptly adjourned shortly after the lunch break without the media and others, including me, having a chance to ask any questions. I was not surprised that they didn't want me asking questions. They knew I was in the room and that I have been a NOCSAE critic in the past, especially critical of their third party certification ruling last summer.

If I had had a chance to ask questions, here's what I would have asked:

  1. NOCSAE voted in January 2012 to change the youth football helmet standard from proposed to draft, but two years later, hasn't acted. Why not? (I suspect the answer is that it is waiting for more data, of which there is very little so far).
  2. When can the youth football community expect a final standard to be approved and implemented?  (I suspect that the answer is, don't hold your breath)
  3. Isn't it long past the time to set a standard that requires youth football helmets to be lighter than helmets for players at the high school, college and pro levels (the draft standard requires the helmets to be no more than 2.866 pounds). (A rhetorical question, to be sure).
  4. What about the face mask? It contributes about 1.5 lbs of weight. Can anything be done to make it lighter?
  5. Is the delay because there are currently no youth football helmets on the market that meet that weight limitation with the exception of the SG helmet? (NOCSAE has often been criticized for at least the appearance of protecting the interests of helmet manufacturers; as a newcomer to the football helmet field (albeit with years of experience in manufacturing helmets for race car drivers, SG isn't part of the group with a vested interest in not adopting a standard that would force them to design lighter youth helmets)
  6. Why does NOCSAE insist on using "drop tests" and "impact attenuation tests" that were developed for car crashes in the 1960s instead of using full form crash dummies?

As for the adult and youth football helmet standards and the third-party certification issue, stay tuned; there is much more coming on this later this summer, including announcements by two new groups who are working with full size adult and youth dummies to provide data, and who may just prove that there is no way to meet the revised " Standard Performance Specification For Newly Manufactured Football Helmets" that was opened for a year of comment last Friday.

Here are links to the previous articles on the NOCSAE 2013 statement and clarification on third-party add-ons:

NOCSAE Ruling On Helmet Sensors Generates Controversy 

NOCSAE Clarifies Stance On Voiding Of Helmet Certification With Add-Ons 

Brooke de Lench is the Executive Director and Founder of the non-profit MomsTEAM Institute, Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com, and Producer/Director of the PBS documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer," which will be airing again on stations across the country in the fall of 2014, and author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers In Youth Sports (HarperCollins).



Mouth Guards and Concussions: The Continuing Controversy

If you have been following the subject of concussions in sports for any length of time, as I have for more than a decade, the question always seems to come up: do mouth guards prevent concussions?

The answer, at least to this point, seems to continue to be no, or, perhaps more precisely, we don't know.  Jigsaw of head with missing piece

Why am I revisiting the subject?  Well, it seems I caught some flak when I recently suggested that a story in a new book about a college athlete who was allowed to continue playing contact sports - despite a history of multiple concussions - on the condition that she wear a certain kind of mouth guard, sent the wrong message by implying that mouth guards can prevent concussions.

One of the co-authors of the book claimed that I hadn't done my homework, suggested, erroneously, that I had not taken the time to check the literature carefully before completely trashing mouthguards (which I didn't do), and urged me to enlighten readers of MomsTeam about what the author claimed was the current mixed state of research on the subject, including a preliminary, pilot study of college football players reported in the journal Dental Traumatologyin 2009 that claimed to find a protective effect.

Well, to begin with, the health and safety editors of MomsTeam and I were well aware of the journal article that the book author cited, and that one of the co-authors of that study was the manufacturer of a line of mouth guards.  Indeed, the book review links to an article by Dr. William P. Meehan, director of the Sports Concussion Clinic at Children's Hospital Boston and MomsTeam's new concussion expert, which refers to the study, among others, but concludes that whether mouth guards prevent concussions, remains unclear.  For the past decade, we have been following the mouth guard controversy and have been waiting for a well-designed peer-reviewed study to come out establishing, once and for all, that mouth guards prevent, or reduce the risk, of concussion.

In June 2011, Chicago Tribune Health Editor, Julie Deardorff, did her own research for an article she wrote for the newspaper, "Can mouth guards and football helmets really prevent concussion?"  She called me asking whether I knew of any recent studies establishing that mouthguards prevented concussions.

I again reviewed the literature, including a January 2011 article in the journal Clinics in Sports Medicine by researchers at Boston University and the Sports Legacy Institute, including among the co-authors MomsTeam's first concussion expert, Dr. Bob Cantu),2 which confirmed her conclusion, based on a comprehensive review of the medical literature to date (109 footnotes!), that no such studies existed. Julie's advice to athletes: wear mouth guards to protect against facial and dental injuries.

Interestingly, as support for the view that mouth guards prevent concussions, the book author's e-mail to me also contained an excerpt from the Cantu, et. al. article, commenting on a 2005 study of National Hockey League players,3 which found that the concussion rate was 1.42 times greater in players who did not wear mouth guards compared with those who did, but that the difference was not statistically significant. 

The same study, as later noted in a 2009 literature review in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, including two of the authors of the 2005 study,4  did note that symptom severity on a concussion evaluation post-concussion symptom scale was found to be significantly worse in athletes who were not wearing mouth guards than in those who were.

But a reduction in symptom severity, of course, is not the same as saying mouth guards prevent concussions; to suggest otherwise is to try to compare apples to oranges.

Indeed, not only does the 2011 literature review by Dr. Cantu and his Boston University colleagues state that "there is little evidence that mouth guards provide protection against concussion," and criticize the 2009 study of college athletes reported in Dental Traumotology1 as being marked by "several design flaws",  but it concludes with the following statement:

Although mouth guards have been shown to be effective in preventing dental and orofacial injury, there is currently no evidence that standard or fitted mouth guards decrease the rate or severity of concussions in athletes. The bulk of the evidence indicating a potential protective effect of mouth guards on concussion incidence has been based on a limited case series studies and retrospective, non-randomized, cross-sectional surveys. There is also evidence that mouth guard use does not result in any difference in neurocognitive test performance after concussion.


The preponderance of evidence seems to indicate that helmets and mouth guards provide a significant benefit in protecting against many catastrophic head, neck and orofacial injuries.  However, there is not yet significant evidence to advocate their effectiveness in preventing concussion.  ... Although newer equipment remains a promising potential tool in minimizing concussion severity and incidence, other methods such as rule changes, improved concussion education, and proper coaching and training may prove more effective in the immediate future.

Waiting for Godot?

So where do we go from here?

I would love nothing more than be able to report to MomsTeam readers that mouth guards in general, or a particular mouth guard, protects against or reduces the severity of concussions. 

But until such evidence is found, MomsTeam and I will continue to work - as we have for the past 14 years - towards a reduction in the severity and number of concussions in youth and high school sports by advocating, along with such groups as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Athletic Trainers' Association, for rule changes (such as the ban on body checking in youth hockey at the Pee Wee level and below, and new rules limiting contact practices in Pop Warner football) and stricter enforcement of existing rules, improved concussion education (which MomsTeam will continue to provide in its comprehensive concussion center), proper coaching (such as training youth hockey players how to anticipate body checks and teaching youth and high school football players how to tackle with their heads up, as my friend, Bobby Hosea, has been training coaches to do for more than a decade) and concussion training (now required of coaches by law in most states).

Update #1: On August 16, 2012, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement prohibiting mouth guard manufacturer Brain-Pad from making claims that its product reduced the risk of concussion.  I am not in the least bit suprised!

Update #2:  Three studies released within weeks of each other in March 2013 (5,6,7) all conclude the same thing: there is no valid evidence that mouth guards reduce the risk of concussion.

Update #3: A July 2014 study of high school football players by researchers at the University of Wisconsin published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine (8) found that the rate of sport-related concussion (SRC) for players who wore a specialized or custom-fitted mouth guard was significantly higher than for players who wore a generic mouth guard provided by their school (a finding McGuine and his co-authors admitted was "unexpected", and might have been due to a variety of factors, including chance, or to players with custom mouth guards feeling that they have greater protection against a sport-related concussion and play with less regard or fear for sustaining an injury).   The study agrees with the opinion of previous researchers that "well controlled prospective studies in athlete populations have not shown that [the fact that mouth guards have been shown in laboratory settings to dissipate impact forces sustained to the jaw] translates into a decreased risk of SRC."  

1.  Singh GD, Maher GJ, Padilla RR. Customized mandibular orthotics in the prevention of concussion/mild traumatic brain injury in football players: a preliminary study.  Dent. Traumatol 2009;25(5):515-21.

2.  Daneshvar DH, Baugh CM, Nowinski CJ, McKee AC, Stern RA, Cantu RC.  Helmets and Mouth Guards: The Role of Personal Equipment in Preventing Sport-Related Concussions.  Clin Sports Med 2011; 30: 145-163.

3.  Benson BW, Meeuwisse WH. Ice Hockey injuries. Med Sport Sci 2005;49:86-119.

4.  Benson BW, Hamilton GM, Meeuwisse WH, et al.  Is protective equipment useful in preventing concussion?  A systematic review of the literature. Br. J. Sports Med 2009;43(suppl 1):i56-67.

5. Giza C, Kutcher J, Ashwal S, et al. Summary of evidence-based guideline update: Evaluation and management of concussion in sports: Report of the Guideline Development Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology 2013;DOI:10.1212/WNL.0b013e31828d57dd (published online before print March 18, 2013)("There is no compelling evidence that mouth guards protect athletes from concussion.")

6. McCrory P, et al. Consensus statement on concussion in sport: the 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport held in Zurich, November 2012. Br J Sports Med 2013;47:250-258 (There is no "good clinical evidence mouth guards will prevent concussions, although they have a "definite role in preventing dental and orofacial injury,")

7. Benson B, McIntosh A, Maddocks D, Herring S, Raftery M, Dvorak J. What are the most effective risk-reduction strategies in sport concussion. Br J Sports Med 2013;47:321-326 (characterizing studies that appeared to show mouth guards reduced concussion risk, including the Sing study (n. 1) as having "several limitations which threaten the validity of their results.") 

8. McGuine TA, Hetzel S, McCrea M, Brooks AM.  Protective Equipment and Player Characteristics Associated With the Incidence of Sport-Related Concussion in High School Football Players.  Am J Sports Med. 2014;20(10)(published online ahead of print, July 24, 2014 as doi:10.1177/036354651541926.



NOCSAE Voiding of Certification For Sensor-Equipped Helmets: A Big Blow To Player Safety

Last week many of the technology manufacturers who have been working diligently to produce products to make helmeted sports such as football safer were dealt a severe, if not crippling, blow by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) when, out of the blue, it decided to view modification of helmets with third-party after-market add-ons as voiding its certification, which could only be regained if the helmet is retested with the add-on. Newcastle Racers wearing three different football helmets

As is discussed in great depth in my companion article,  NOCSAE's July 16, 2013 decision, which it said was made in order to "protect the integrity" of its helmet standards, was greeted with predictable enthusiasm by helmet manufacturers (whose licensing fees fund NOCSAE and who understandably are interested in the standard), but has beem heavily criticized, not just by the companies affected, particularly those in the emerging field of helmet impact sensors, but by football safety advocates, and at least one national football organization, all of whom see the ruling as a severe setback to their collective efforts to improve concussion safety through technological innovation.

Unique perspective 

As someone who has been writing about and following the concussion issue for many years, and as the producer and director of the new high school football concussion documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer", I  have been in the unique position of havingTaylor Lench and Brooke de Lench filming The Smartest Team documentary direct, first-hand experience with with all football helmets and helmet impact sensor technology, and of having addressed the issue of whether the addition of such sensors to a football helmet would likely void the NOCSAE certification and manufacturer's warranty.

I have followed with interest developments over the last few years in the emerging field of impact sensors: small microchip-sized accelerometers and gyroscopes embedded in mouth guards, chin straps, skull caps, ear buds, skin patches and attached to the inside and outside of helmets which, in either send data to sideline personnel or flash an alert about a heavy hit.

By my count, there are now 9 companies with sensor products that have already come on the market, or are in the product development pipeline

  1. i1Biometrics' Hammerhead mouth guard
  2. MC10/Reebok's Check Light (hangs from a skull cap)
  3. Riddell's InSite Impact Response System (NOCSAE-certified) 
  4. Impackt Protective's Shockbox (inside helmet)
  5. Brain Sentry (affixed to the back of helmet)
  6. gForce tracker (affixed to the outside of helmet)
  7. X2 Biosystems' X Patch (patch behind the ear) 
  8. Safe Brain (quarter-sized sensor inserted in helmet)
  9. Battle Sports' Impact Indicator (chin strap).

Impact sensor technology, while still obviously in its infancy, holds out the promise, in my view and that of many others, of becoming the most significant advance in concussion safety, ever.  For those of us who devote our lives to keeping sports active children safe, impact sensors have the potential to provide staunch opponents of collision sports such as football a chance to reconsider whether they can be made safer by solving one of the most pressing and chronic problems in concussion safety: the chronic underreporting of concussion by athletes; what a new report from the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council calls a "culture of resistance."

After following closely developments in the impact sensor area for a number of years, and believing that this cutting edge technology had the potential to revolutionize the sideline identification of concussion in contact and collision sports and combat the chronic underreporting of concussions by athletes (which a new study has just shown persists, despite increased education), we decided to beta test the Shockbox football helmet sensor (one of the sensors nearing market launch).  Our plan in the summer of 2012 was to equip new Schutt football helmets worn by several of the football players on the Newcastle, Oklahoma high school team with Shockbox sensors for beta testing over the course of the 2012 season.

When liability and warranty concerns were raised, both by the school's attorney and by Schutt, we moved swiftly to address them by having a Shockbox-equipped Schutt helmet drop-tested at Schutt's testing facility.  After the testing showed that the insertion of the 3 1/2 ounce sensor in a space between the interior padding of the Schutt helmet did not in any way effect its performance characteristics, Schutt was able to assure the school that the helmet modification did not void its warranty, and we were able to proceed with the beta test.


Bike to Work Week: Every Week is Bike to Work Week for Me

The League of American Bicyclists is promoting Bike to Work Week 2014 from May 12-16, with Friday, May 16 designated as Bike to Work Day. 

For me, every week is bike to work week.  Four years ago, I made a major lifestyle change when I  bought a commuter bike, helmet and locMay is National Bike Month posterk at the local bike shop.  At the same time, I moved the MomsTeam offices closer to my home so I could get to work under my own power and eliminate an hour of commuting (and all the gas and carbon monoxide that driving involves).  

Now, whether permitting, I walk, bike or kayak to work, or a combination, each day. It is a four-mile round trip and I feel great about my choice and, now that the warmer weather is finally here in the colder-than-usual Northeast, I am back on my bike again, and it feels great!  So far, my knee (which I originally injured playing lacrosse in college) is holding up fine.

For pointers about cycling, I have been reading the articles and blogs of MomsTeam cycling expert Erin Mirabella (yes, including her most recent How to Crash and Road Rash articles!)

With fewer and fewer kids riding bikes to school (the 2014 United States Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth gave a flunking grade of F on the percentage of U.S. children and youth who usually walk or bike to school, I am aware more than ever about the need of this country and the world to use active transportion to work and school, not just to stay fit but to reduce the consumption of fossil fuel wherever possible.

In some places in this country (Portland, Oregon comes immediately to mind), biking to work is fairly commonplace.  In other parts of the world (Amsterdam, Asia, India), the bike is the primary mode of transportation, so I applaud efforts like Bike to Work Week to get more Americans thinking about pedal power instead of putting the pedal to the metal.  In addition, of course, biking is great exercise and, for a family, a fun way to spend time together outside.

For more on National Bike Month visit the bike league's website.  Be sure to check the events section often to see what bike month and bike to work week events are being held in your community. If you would like to submit your event information to be posted on their site, email it to communication@bikeleague.org. Please make sure you write, "Bike Month Event" in the subject line of the email.

Let me know how you celebrated the week. I know what I'll be doing!

Brooke de Lench is the Executive Director of the non-profit MomsTEAM Insitutte, the author of HOME TEAM ADVANTAGE: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (HarperCollins 2006), and the Founder and Publisher of MomsTeam.com.




On The Road Again: A Report From The Concussion Summit Trail


For those of you wondering where I have been lately, I have been taking a break from blogging and writing because of a heavy speaking and consulting schedule, because I have been busy working on updating our documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer" with new edits and information in time for broadcast in the summer and fall 2014, and because  I have been preoccupied with getting our new 501(c)(3) non-profit, MomsTEAM Institute, off to a good start.

I hope to be in a position soon to share details about an exciting new national youth sports safety campaign the Institute will be launching, one which will build on the knowledge and expertise we have developed at MomsTEAM.com over the past fourteen years to do even more to keep kids playing sports safe.

In the meantime, I invite you to check out videos of some of my recent appearances on the concussion summit trail:

Future of Contact Sports poster

The first was at the Coalition for Concussion Awareness Summit at the United Nations on the Future of Contact Sports on a panel which included: 

  • Nicholas J. Conti Ph.D., M.B.A., Corporate Business Development, Quest Diagnostics Incorporated
  • Chris Larcheveque, Executive Vice President of Sports and Entertainment, International Specialty Insurance
  • Sean Sansiveri, Legal Counsel, NFL Players Association  
  • Patricio F. Reyes M.D., F.A.A.N., Chief Medical Officer & Board Member of NFL Retired Players Association
  • Brian Hainline M.D., Chief Medical Officer of the NCAA


The second was as a panelist during "The State of Concussions" Symposium held at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law earlier this month (my talk begins at 63:09 and the Q & A in which I participated begins at 129.23):

Brooke de Lench at University of Maryland School of Law 

Back to Tennessee

I am looking forward to my next talks, hosted by the Chattanooga Concussion Coalition, to be held at the University of Tennessee at Chatanooga  April 15 (evening talk) and 16th (full day summit)(one of the speakers is Brian Hainline, Chief Medical Officer of the NCAA, who seems to be at every stop on the concussion trail with me - the fourth in less than three months!  I hope to able to post a video of that after I get back.  For those in the area, come and join us. Both sessions are free and open to the public. Click here for more information. 

In the meantime, as sports parents across the country gear up for the spring sports season, remember that the best way for you to keep your kids safe playing sports is to be smart!  



Brooke de Lench is the Executive Director of MomsTEAM Institute, Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com, author, blogger, and documentary film producer. Her most recent film, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer," is airing on selected PBS stations in 2014.

You can email Brooke @ delench@MomsTeam.com and follow her on Twitter @brookedelench.



Indiana Teen Unfairly Kicked Off Basketball Team Because Of Length Of His Hair

Last October, 14-year-old Austin Hayden earned a place on his Greensburg, Indiana middle school boys' basketball team.  A week later, he was told he could no longer be a member of the team after refusing to cut his hair (which was long, but not long enough to pull into a pony-tail) to comply with the coach's policy, which required that his hair be above his collar and ears.

When I spoke to Austin's mother, Melissa, last week, she told me that the school claimed that the coach had the right to impose a hair length policy because he wanted to portray team members as "clean cut boys" and for the sake of "team unity", but that other school teams, Austin Haydenincluding the football and track teams, didn't require players' hair to be of a certain length in order for them to play.

When Melissa's efforts to get the school to change the coach's policy fell on deaf ears, she and her husband filed a federal lawsuit, claiming that coach's hair policy violated Austin's First Amendment rights of freedom of expression and ran afoul of Title IX because it required him to conform to a gender stereotype: that boys have short hair and only girls have long hair.


First off the bat, it seems clear to me that the punishment didn't fit the alleged "crime."  One simply has to ask the question - is a refusal to follow a rule dictating the length of a player's hair a sufficient basis to kick him off the team? - to come to the immediate conclusion that the rule simply can't be justified.

When an athlete gets kicked off a sports team, it is usually for a serious rules violation, such as drinking, or because he or she is academically ineligible. Kicking a teen athlete who chooses (with his parents' approval, by the way) to wear his hair over his ears and collar off the team? Come on!

School-sanctioned hazing?

I also believe that requiring athletes with longer hair to cut their hair in order to play basketball borders on school-sanctioned hazing and a form of emotional abuse. In terms of its practical effect, it is hard to for me to understand how it is any different than, say, a coach who allows a hazing ritual in which veteran players shave the heads of rookies.

I can only imagine the embarrassment a teen like Austin, who chose to wear his hair long as a matter of personal choice and as part of his identity, would likely suffer in having to then attend school with a bald head until his hair grew back.

Granted, the coach's rule in this instance didn't require the players' heads be shaved.  But forcing Austin to cut his hair would likely have had much the same effect: instead of being proud to have made the basketball team, Austin faced a loss of self-esteem and self-worth.  Worse, his change in appearance would likely have exposed him to possible taunting, teasing, and perhaps even bullying by classmates ('Hey, dude! Nice 'do'!").  No wonder Austin decided not only to refuse to cut his hair but to move in with his grandparents so he could attend another school which did not have such a policy.

Promoting bullying?

Tragically, one month before Austin was dropped from the basketball team, along with another student who also refused to comply with the hair length rule, Billy Lucas, a ninth-grader at Greensburg High, committed suicide, allegedly after being bullied at school. According to an article in the Greensburg Daily News, bullying was "run[ning] rampant and unchecked through the school."

How is a no-hair over the ears or collar policy justified out of a desire to portray the boys as "clean cut"? How is it any different than bullying a boy into doing what the bullier considers the norm?

In light of the bullying problem in its schools, that the Greensburg school superintendent refused to drop the rule makes his subsequent commitments to continue utilizing a nationally-recognized anti-bullying program and to engage an outside expert to train Greensburg staff "on social issues our youth face, with a particular emphasis on diversity, sensitivity and tolerance" ring particularly hollow.

Nor can a policy that forces all players to wear their hair above their ears and collars be justified as furthering the goal of team unity. Hazing hurts rather than helps team unity, and constitutes just the kind of emotional and physical abuse anti-hazing laws and policies are designed to prevent.

Gender stereotyping

To those who say the coach was within his rights to require players to cut their hair because playing sports is supposedly a privilege, not a right, one need look no further than Title IX, which, for nearly four decades, has stipulated that "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

As a youth sports expert and mom of triplet boys, I know from first-hand experience that kids Austin's age are struggling to find who they are as individuals and they need to be able to express that individuality, as Austin is in terms of his hair, as long as it doesn't create a major problem for the school.

Most telling is the fact that girls in Greensburg aren't required to have long hair - or prohibited from wearing their hair short - in order to participate in sports. That says to me that the "clean cut" justification is just another way of saying boys on the basketball team can't have long hair because it doesn't conform to the coach's narrow definition of how a teenage boy should look; in short, gender stereotyping that federal anti-discrimination laws prohibit.


As a trained social worker, Austin's mom, Melissa, was probably more aware than most about the emotional damage complying with such a rule would cause her son, and the damage the rule, left unchallenged, was likely to cause other boys like her son, and, indeed, the larger school community.

She had the courage, along with her husband and son, to challenge the rule, to the point of making the proverbial federal case out of it, and I applaud her for taking a stand.

I know from personal experience that advocating for change in the status quo in youth sports comes at a price. When my efforts to persuade the local travel soccer club to become more inclusive fell on deaf ears, I started a new travel soccer club to give players a chance to play who had not been offered spots on the existing club's teams.  While many applauded my efforts, I met with stiff resistance from the powers that be, to the point that they did everything within their power to see that our application to join the county soccer league was denied. To say that I got the cold shoulder from the entrenched interests running youth sports in my town after that is an understatement.

From talking with Melissa, I know that, while the Hayden family has received support from some members of the Greensburg community, they are also being vilified in some quarters for their stance.  I am sure it has been a highly stressful situation, not only for their family, but for the broader community. 

My only hope is that they will ultimately be successful in their efforts to break down the gender stereotypes that cause such damage in communities around the nation, and, if they are successful will feel that it was worth the effort.

Grassroots change

As I wrote in my book, Home Team Advantage, "Most parents in this country want a youth sports system that serves the interests of children. They represent a vast silent majority who just need the courage to stand up and band together to fight those who want to preserve a status quo serving the interests of adults."

My advice to parents now, as it when I wrote my book, is that if they see inequity or unfairness in youth sports, if they see safety issues, or if they see a lack of inclusiveness, they need to have the courage to speak up like the Haydens, to advocate not just for their children but for all of the children in their community. Speak up at pre-season meetings. Talk to the athletic director at your child's school. Attend school board meetings and board meetings of the youth sports organizations in your town.

Ultimately, the path to making youth sports safer, fairer, more inclusive, and more child- instead of adult-centered, can only be accomplished at the grassroots, community level, through the actions of concerned mothers and fathers like Melissa and Patrick Hayden.

[Update: On February 24, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in a 2-1 decisin, reversed a lower court decision, finding that the hair policy violated Austin's constitutional right to equal protection, as well as Title IX restrictions against discrimination in education]

Brooke de Lench is Executive Director of the non-profit MomsTEAM Institute, Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com, Producer/Director/Creator of the PBS documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer," and author of "Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports" (HarperCollins 2006). 

Average: 5 (1 vote)

"Friday Night Tykes": Episode 4

This week's episode of "Friday Night Tykes" hit a new low.

In case you missed it, have it in the queue on your DVR, or plan on watching it on reruns, be forewarned: while it is chock full of "teachable moments" which continue to show precisely how not to run a youth football program, it is really getting to the point where it is painful to watch, making it increasingly difficult for me to say, as I did for the premiere and Episode 3, that it continues to be "must-see TV" or that it has any educational value whatsoever.  Friday Night Tykes

Things have gotten so bad that, yesterday, I was not at all surprised to see that the National Athletic Trainers' Association felt compelled to issue a terse statement condemning the show and Esquire Network for allowing it to air, saying it was "concerned and disappointed" that Esquire was "providing a platform for the blatant disregard for player safety."

In particular, the NATA lamented the lack of  "proper medical personnel such as an athletic trainer available at practices or games," and said, in the absence of such personnel, "it is incumbent that responsible adults assure the safety of these young athletes," a recurring theme in the show that, I'm afraid, promises to only get more pronounced as the weeks roll on.

There is "no shortage of valuable information available" on topics such as hydration, heat acclimatization, concussion and head down contact in football," the NATA continued, pointing to the guidelines it has issued, most or all of which, of course, can be found on the MomsTEAM website.

There is a lot I could talk about (the continued bullying by coaches, the improper use of exercise as a punishment, denying water breaks as punishment, among others), but here are the Episode 4 highlights (or should I say low-lights), with links to relevant MomsTEAM content:

Mismanaged concussions/intent to injure

The absolute worst part of this week's episode - the one that got me and the NATA so steamed - was undoubtedly the way concussions continue to mismanaged.

When Eric Burnett of the Junior Broncos took a helmet-to-helmet blow in the first half of the game against the Outlaws and came off the field crying, his coach told him he was "all right."  Incredibly, he was allowed to return to the game, and, on the kickoff to begin the second half, took another brutal hit which knocked him senseless.

After lying on the ground for several minutes, he was helped to the sideline, where he sat with a towel on his head for the remainder of the game.  In neither instance does it appear he was evaluated by anyone, much less an athletic trainer or doctor.  He should NEVER have been allowed to return to the game, and should have been given a full evaluation on the sideline, not just for concussion, but to rule out a more serious brain injury.

Sure, the parents were quick to criticize the coaches for failing to "protect our players." But they didn't mean "protect" them by making sure they were properly evaluated for concussion. No. What they really were asking the coach to do was to make sure their players were the ones inflicting injury, not the ones who were injured. As one parent was overheard saying, "HIt with your helmet." 

Where did she get the idea that hitting an opponent in the helmet with an intent to injure was somehow okay? Because that is exactly what, in one of the practices leading up to the game, Junior Broncos' head coach, Charles Chavarria, told his players to do! Pointing to the earhole of a player's helmet, he told his team to "hit players [right here] so they will lose players one at a time" 

That is shameful advice that isn't tolerated even in the NFL (remember how New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended for a season for putting a "bounty" on opponents' heads?), and it shouldn't be tolerated in youth football. Period. End of story.

[Update: almost at the same time I released this blog, a story appeared in the San Antonio Express reporting that the Texas Youth Football Association had suspended Coach Chavarria for at least a year for encouraging his players to injure opponents. According to the Express, TYFA President Brian Morgan said that the league had planned to wait until the series had finished airing before taking any action, but couldn't wait any longer after Tuesday's episode. "I was truly disgusted," Morgan told the paper. The league also suspended another coach, Marecus Goodloe, for the six game spring football season for encouraging profanity on the series. Morgan said the league was keeping a tally of other violations that have been aired. (As we have!).]

Related MomsTEAM content

Any article on concussions in the MomsTEAM concussion center. Take your pick.

Misbehaving parents

This week's episode is full of parents behaving badly: taunting other parents, players and coaches, running on to the field to confront coaches from the other team.  Out-of-control parents have been a problem we have been talking about on MomsTEAM since Day 1. In particular, I direct your attention to a wonderful article from our archives by sports psychologist Shane Murphy, adapted from his book, "The Cheers and Tears," that spins the question of whether your child is ready for youth sports on its head to ask whether you, as a parent, are ready for your child to play youth sports.  Clearly, some of the parents in this week's episode weren't ready.  

Related MomsTEAM content:

Is Your Child Old Enough For You To Deal With Stress of Competition? Teaching Parents How To Stay In Control On Youth Sports

Sidelines Misbehaving Youth Sports Parents Too Common Five Ways To Model Good Sportsmanship For Your Child 

Over-involved coach

This week's episode made a big point of showing just how much of Coach Chavarra's life was wrapped up in youth football.  He was heard to say that when the team won, it was "his" loss; when it won, it was "his" win. "It's what I do. It's who I am," he said. His life is so out of whack that his coaching a team of 8- and 9-year-olds, none of whom were even his own, meant that he only ate dinner with his family one night out of the week.  Because he had "chosen football over family," his wife intimated that their marriage was on very shaky grounds. She said she had given him an unspecified ultimatum. It isn't likely that this is going to turn out well (ah, the drama of reality television).   

Related MomsTEAM content:

Over-Involved Youth Sports Parent: Are You One?

Bad coach

A while back I wrote an article listing the tell-tale signs of what I consider to be a bad (not in the sense of being evil, but in the sense of being bad for the kids they coach). Some of the coaches featured in "Friday Night Lights" would definitely be ones I would be trying to avoid if I still had kids in sports, but the fact that the parents with kids on the teams, by and large, seem to be happy with them suggests that my definition of a bad coach may not be everyone's, at least in San Antonio, Texas.  Has winning become so important that we should be willing to sacrifice our kids physical, psychological and emotional safety by entrusting them to coaches like these? I don't think so. Read my article, and then watch the show. See how many items on my lists you can check off.

Related MomsTEAM content 

How To Spot A Bad Coach

Youth Sports Coaches: Building Character, Winners, Or Ego?

What Life Lessons To Teach Is Coach's Choice 

Coaches Need to Be Patient, Stay Calm And Never Lose Their Cool

Good Youth Sports Coaches Understand Gender Differences but Avoid Reinforcing Gender Stereotypes

Why So Many Coaches Have Anger Issues 

Playing time

We have been seeing the issue of playing time building since the first episode in the by-play between Jr. Broncos "general manager" Lisa Connell and head coach Charles Chavarra, and this episode continues down what I expect will be a path towards Lisa eventually pulling her kid off the team because all he does is ride the bench.  What I found interesting about their discussion of playing time was Coach Chavarra's statement that she had signed her kid up "to win" and that meant playing the "best 11" no matter what.  Whether you agree with that "win-at-all-costs" philosophy, their discussion does raise a good point, and that is about parent expectations.  From the very beginning of MomsTEAM, I have always advocated in favor of teams developing mission statements and holding pre-season meetings so that parents understand going in what the team's philosophy is about matters such as playing time. When I was coaching youth soccer, and I continue to believe, that equal playing time at the "rec" level and for grades six and below, and "significant playing time" after that, except for high school varsity, should be the rule, not the exception, it appears that this is becoming more and more a minority view, a development I find unfortunate and will continue to fight against.

Related MomsTEAM content

Youth Coaches: Meaningful Playing Time For Every Player Is Job One 

Mission Statements: Important in Youth Sports Programs

I can hardly wait to what kid's safety will be put at risk next week (tongue planted firmly in cheek).

Missed the earlier blogs in this series? Here are the links:

"Friday Night Tykes": A Viewer's Guide To Episodes 1 and 2

"Friday Night Tykes": Episode 3

Brooke de Lench is Executive Director of MomsTEAM Institute, Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com, author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers In Youth Sports (HarperCollins), and Producer/Director of the PBS concussion documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer." You can email Brooke at delench@MomsTeam.com and follow her on Twitter @brookedelench.


"Friday Night Tykes": Episode 5

"You can't do what you want to do on this field" 


These are the words assistant Outlaws' coach Tony Coley barked at 8-year-old Tamari Hayes in last night's fifth episode of "Friday Night Tykes."  Ordered to run a lap (as punishment for a mistake or rule violation so trivial that I somehow missed it), Tamari walked around the practice field instead.  "I asked you to run the lap and you walked it. Everybody has rules. You have to follow them or face the consequences," Coley scolded.

How ironic that Coley was lecturing Hayes for violating a rule when, as FNT has shown us, time and again, is the Texas Youth Football Association is the Wild, Wild West of youth football, a league where there are very few rules, at least when it comes to the conduct of coaches, who continue to scream profanity at their players (to the point that one has already been suspended for the spring football season), engage in what many, including me, view as out-and-out child abuse, and put the safety of athletes at risk in countless ways, not just in terms of head injuries, but heat illness, and emotional and psychological safety as well.  Friday Night Tykes

Granted, last night's episode didn't hit a new low, thankfully (although I'm holding my breath, worried about what we might see as the teams ratchet things up as they head towards the playoffs). In fact, as I will get to in a moment, it actually had some positive moments.

But parents need to remember that even something as seemingly innocuous as the coach playfully giving a player a wedgie could be considered by some, including me, as inappropriate.  Abuse, as I have been saying for many years, takes many forms.  

Now for the "teachable moments":

FNT: Sportsmanship

The scene in which the President of the Northeast Colts, Marecus Goodloe, arranges for an autistic boy on the team to score a touchdown, which almost brought Goodloe to tears, was a touching display of sportsmanship. It reminded me of some of Doug Abrams' monthly Youth Sports Heroes blog honoring similar acts of sportsmanship, and was an important reminder that, even in the midst of all the win-at-all-costs mentality on display in FNT, there are coaches and parents doing the right thing, not nearly as often as we would like, but at leat sometimes.

Related MomsTEAM content:

Youth Sports Heroes of the Month: Acts of True Sportsmanship 1200 Miles Apart 

Youth Sports Heroes of the Month: Ethan McConnell and Davan Overton (Oregon)  

Youth Sports Heroes (One Year Later): Jonathon Montanez and Mitchell Marcus (El Paso, Tex.) 

Youth Sports Heroes of the Month: Acts of True Sportsmanship 1200 Miles Apart

FNT: Age-Appropriate Coaching

When the coach of the Judson Junior Rockets decided to simplify his team's offense because it "was too complicated for the kids to understand," he was probably motivated more by a desire to win than by anything else, but it was a reminder about how a good coach understands the need to set age-appropriate expectations.  In other words, expecting 8- and 9-year-olds to run a West Coast offense worthy of Bill Walsh's great 49'er teams of the 80's was, well, unrealistic.

Related MomsTEAM content: 

Setting Realistic Expectations Depends on Age of Youth Athlete

Set Realistic Expectations For Child in Sports

Ten Signs of A Good Youth Sports Coach

Twelve Signs of A Good Youth Sports Program

Good Youth Sports Coaches Get Training, Emphasize Safety

Youth Sports Coaches Need to Set Realistic, Age-Appropriate Expectations


Bullying continues to be a huge problem, so it was nice to see Eric Nolden, an assistant coach with the Outlaws, talking to kids he was mentoring in a basketball program about how to deal with bullies.

Related MomsTEAM Content:

Bullying: An Ongoing Problem In Youth Sports

Dealing With Bullying: 10 Tips for Parents

Critical Coach or Bully?

Stop Youth Sports Coaches Who Bully By Recognizing Techniques They Use To Avoid Blame

Obese Children Need Sports, Not Bullying

Obese Children Bullied More Often: Study

Bullying On Sports Teams: Advice for Parents

Ten Tips To Prevent Bullying

Youth Sports Heroes of the Month: Queen Creek (Arizona) High School Football Team

Ten Ways To Tell If Your Child Is A Bully


Missed the earlier blogs in this series? Here are the links:

"Friday Night Tykes": A Viewer's Guide To Episodes 1 and 2

"Friday Night Tykes": Episode 3

"Friday Night Tykes": Episode 4 

Brooke de Lench is Executive Director of MomsTEAM Institute, Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com, author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers In Youth Sports (HarperCollins), and Producer/Director of the PBS concussion documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer." You can email me at delench@MomsTeam.com and follow me on Twitter @brookedelench.

Photo credit: Walter Iooss - Esquire Network