Doubt

Category: 2013
Published: Monday, 25 November 2013
Doubt

 

We hear this word a lot in sports and in life. Many people go through life doubting their ability and therefore who they are. This doubt permeates their persona to such an extent that it affects relationships, performance, and outlook.

 

Doubt has now become part of the youth sports landscape. People doubt whether they are going to be able to get an athletic scholarship, or be able to pay for college. Children’ self worth, attached to their on field performance raises doubt in their minds. Family’s doubt whether they are going to be able to pay for their child’s participation in “elite” travel sports.

 

Youth sports in its original concept was supposed to help children manage, and erase that doubt by teaching them life skills and the importance of teamwork, hard work, sacrifice, and fun. How things have changed.

 

 Young athletes feel their bodies betraying them for the first time in their lives, with injuries, that children at such a young age should rarely if ever experience. They doubt whether they can keep up with the other kids playing on their team. Some children, feeling pressure from their coach and parents, doubt themselves.

 

 They do not understand, nor should they, why so much emphasis is being put on something that in it’s very description cites PLAY as an important, if not interval part of the experience. We say our children “Play youth sports.” That is right. We do not say our children have job at a very tender and influential young age. Because, for many children, coaches, and organizations youth sports has become so much more than it ever was intended to be.

 

And I doubt very much that this is a healthy thing.

 

At Frozen Shorts we have turned the tables on doubt. Every day we question the validity of the way the majority of people are being told, led, and treated in today’s youth sports environment. We question everything. We constantly test people and preconceived notions.

 

We believe strongly that this “doubt” is a healthy thing. It is a natural reaction to something that can be quite unhealthy for all involved. We want people to “doubt” the validity of what they are doing just as they would question and doubt a suggestion to go out on a frozen stretch of lake, or down a dark alley.

 

With the injury rate skyrocketing in youth sports and the more is better mantra permeating this environment, a small, but growing group of people are presenting empirical evidence that this journey is flawed and doubt seriously that the facts support the continued pursuit of scholarships versus the reality of the situation.

 

When 10 year old children are being described as “athletes” and talented, when in fact they are just children playing.  I have been told that we have to question the definition of fun, and that youth a sport does not have to be fun, I seriously doubt that. People have suggested to me that getting children back into the game instead of concentrating on them getting healthy is not such a bad thing. I doubt that.

 

But most of all I doubt whether children really want to do this. 70% of all children playing youth sports at the age of 10 quit by the time they are 13. I’m told they quit because of other interests. I doubt that and so do major studies done.

 

 In 20123 there are now more children playing video games than there are children playing youth sports. In a recent weekend the Staple Center in Los Angeles was sold out for a video team game tournament. Seems the creators have figured out a way to get the kids the enjoyment of playing youth sports and competing into their entertainment paradigm.

 

These kids have great eye hand coordination. They get to PLAY, not sit on the sidelines every day. They put together teams. They have tournaments, leagues. and standings. They compete just as if they were on a youth sports team, except for two major differences. They are sedentary and they don’t ever have to sit on the sideline and watch others play of they don’t want to. Someone has given them an alternative to today’s youth sports model.


The kids are voting, and I doubt whether the outcome is healthy.

if You Build it They Will Come..and Play

Category: 2013
Published: Monday, 18 November 2013
This is a story about a high school varsity team that set a record for most participants on the team at their school. As you probably already know, the sport does not matter to me. The coach, believing that an atmosphere of relaxed coaching, with no yelling and clam instruction, would be a way for athletes to perform at their best, and he thought that he would attract more children to his team using this method.

 

He started out coaching this team with only seven participants. As the years passed, and word spread amongst the students in this high school, other kids decided to try this sport. More and more kids started to come out for the team and soon this team was known for eclectic discussions, innovative games during practice, and charitable events.

 

The amount of fun was directly related to the children’s performance. It certainly seemed that the more the coach relaxed the atmosphere around his team the better they performed. Children were given repeated chances to play and when they did play they were enthusiastically supported by other teammates and the coach. They got better quicker than if someone had told what to do.

 

 In a day where kids are constantly being told what to do during a game by coaches, parents, and teammates, this coach decided to let the children’s own inner desire for competition be reinforced by letting them be creative and relaxed when they participated. No yelling at the kids. No deriding an athlete when they made a mistake. The coach gave constant encouragement to have fun while they were playing.

 

Sure there were detractors. I heard of people in the school disparaging the coach and his team for not playing their best players. They were scolded by people they competed against for having “too much fun” and disrespecting their sport. Quite interesting that adults, supposedly there to set an example and model the behavior they wanted the athletes to have, took a negative approach to this team’s actions and behavior. The coaches demanded that they be part of the show and get credit. They wanted validation, status, and status quo to be the rule. Times have changed. The world no longer believes the earth is flat!

 

Then it happened.

 

 I am getting this story second hand so I can only relate to you another person’s account, although I trust this person to tell the truth. During a practice six athletes on the team were given the opportunity, along with others, to play three games against each other. After two games were completed, one of the boys went up to the coach and asked him if it was okay if they switched teams. I’m told the coach asked why and the children’s response was classic. They had figured out how to make the teams even. On their own, and by having the coach create an atmosphere where all the kids would have a chance to compete, the kids wanted fairer competition. ALL ON THEIR OWN. They figured it out. Really, isn’t that our goal as coaches?

 

 The final game was extremely competitive. It created a stir amongst the other players on the team not playing in this contest and soon had a “playoff” atmosphere surrounding the participants.  The kids went at it under an aura of positive pressure and had a blast, high fiving each other, encouraging each other, and they played at a very high level!

 

By now, you should know how strongly I believe in this approach and the Zen of life. It is so much better for the children to be allowed to make mistakes in a safe and positive atmosphere than it is to constantly be at them with instruction. They got better with less instruction, not more! This example is going to resonate with the children for the rest of their lives.

 

When this story was related to me I was beaming. But being the tweaker that I am I commented to my friend that this story and team bothered me, and it bothered me quite a bit. You should have seen his face! Why I wondered, was this kind of coaching/teaching and the children’s response, an anomaly? Why wasn’t this standard operating procedure?


If we have anything to say about it here at Frozen Shorts, and we do, they, and other teams like theirs, will soon become the rule, a shining example, not the exception, for coaches to coach, for players to behave, execute their skills, and to have fun while playing youth and high school sports.

Bullying 2.0

Category: 2013
Published: Monday, 11 November 2013
Bullying 2.0

 

In the wake of the problems of bullying in the Miami Dolphins organization, I wanted to take a different approach to the topic, as usual. There is so much more to the story down there in Miami that I can’t begin to have an informed opinion about their complex situation until I get all the facts--And I may never get all the facts.  It is professional sports and the more I research this industry, the more I am stunned at what truly goes on behind the scenes and how much of a long term effect playing a professional sport has on an individual both positively and negatively.

 

 I can say for sure that bullying is wrong.

 

Today’s essay is going to address what I believe to be the environment that makes bullying, hazing, or entitlement, a problem that is unlikely to be lessened without a  concentrated effort to change how we see, interact, work, and play with each other.

 

 In my opinion there is an atmosphere existing in youth and high school sports, and society in general, that fosters an environment that makes this behavior of bullying, hazing, and me now, more likely to continue than subside.

 

When I was growing up bullying was present. I witnessed bullying in many shapes and forms. My older brother was a bully; the captain of one of teams I played on in High School was a bully. A kid that lived on our street was a bully.  In most cases and by that I mean 90%, we took care of the bullying on our own. We had older friends who saw it and corrected it. They taught us younger kids the proper way to behave to others. And if for some reason we didn’t get the message, our dad’s were there to set us straight or our mom made us feel guilty by explaining what was wrong with what was being done.

 

 Now I’m not here to preach the good old days to all that read my words. This essay is here to expose a side of life that most of us see, but don’t see the cause and effect. Our lives go so fast and there is so much stress involved that it is not uncommon for people to lament that they just want to get through the day. They just don’t have time to get involved, or they fear repercussions, or even physical harm.

 

What has happened? Let’s start from the top down. Entitlement. Yes, this is not the word bullying in the form you are used to seeing, but it is just as insidious. From the corporation, to the politician, to the professional athlete, to our schools, and children, an atmosphere of bullying has been created by allowing people, organizations, and ideas, to promulgate the effect of allowing people to be mean to others without remorse or consequences.

 

Something bad happened to me, so it is okay for me to do something bad to someone else, totally unrelated to what happened to me. I get my pound of flesh. This form of bullying can be seen while driving down the road.  (When I am in a situation in traffic that gets me upset, I say “have a nice day” to the other driver quietly to myself in the car. It takes away the angst.) It can be heard at just about every youth and high school sporting event. Stories appear regularly about bullying in schools.

 

 It is now a news flash when someone does something for another person with empathy and no expectation of reward.

 

Why? Stress, in the form of monetary concerns is a key factor. The lack of community in our neighborhoods and schools leads to an atmosphere ripe for angst, immediacy, and jealousy.

 

Simply put, manners, in the simplest form of “please” and “thank you” have lost their meaning, value, and importance in our world. The idea that your life will be better and you will feel better, by helping someone who is less fortunate, instead of climbing over them to the win at all cost, and is anew mantra and mentality that is thriving in our world.

 

Specialization. We all know the mantra of “more is better.”Specialize at your job, specialize at your sport, specialize in academics, and my favorite one who you hang out with. Well that specialization comes at a cost. It now has come to be a status symbol instead of a short term solution to a problem.

 

 This form of bullying allows coaches to run up scores. It sanctions not playing kids on a team because of “safety” issues, or because they just aren’t good enough. It allows coaches to coach NOT to lose all the while saying they are coaching to win.

 

 Inside of teams it allows segregation of “starters” and “role” players to be established early on in a young person’s life as an example on how to treat people and be treated.

 

 But mostly, by putting a tangible monetary value on a child’s ability, it fosters an environment that ensures most children, families, and organizations will be teaching, mentoring, and modeling the very behavior that sets a base for bullying to appear. My child is more valuable than yours. My organization is better than yours. That’s just bullying in a new form and kids need to learn positive life lessons, not negative reinforcement.


That’s Bullying 2.0

Part IV of the Youth Sports Apocalypse: Injuries

Category: 2013
Published: Tuesday, 05 November 2013
Part IV of the Youth Sports Apocalypse: Injuries

 

For those of you who have followed my journey to try and reform youth and high school sports with a radical change in philosophy. The goal of Frozen Shorts, and of course my personal goal, is to have kids play for fun. By having more kids participate, and keep them participating, our new organic holistic approach, is a healthy alternative to the present day paradigm.

 

 Most of you are aware of my many concussions. I also have had surgery on my right elbow and left wrist. My right knee aches every time the temperature changes or rain is coming. My left shoulder and right ankle ache for no apparent trigger. In interviewing over 25 former Division I athletes over the age of 40 ALL had a chronic injury. We all paid a price for what we did.

 

 We chose to do what we did. These injuries that we have are now trickling down and being seen in children as young as 8 years old. I was just told of an 8 year old child who had reconstructive knee surgery after a football injury. A 16 year old is undergoing his 3rd operation.  I heard about a12 year old girl having knee surgery after a soccer injury. The list goes on and on.

 

Preventing youth sports and high school Injuries are a huge part of what we concentrate on here at Frozen Shorts. Last year alone $2.5 BILLION was spent on youth and high school sports injuries. About half of them were for overuse injuries.  3.5 million Children went to the hospital with injuries last year. We routinely check the A.O.S.S.M., S.T.O.P., and CDC websites for up to date injury statistics and data. We are interviewing athletes, Doctors, Certified Athletic trainers, and parents as to the extent of this problem.

 

Let’s look at some startling statistics:

 

About 2 million high school athletes are injured every year. Over 500,000 go to a doctor for treatment.

 

3.5 million Children under the age of 14 are treated each year for youth sports injuries

 

Very young children ages 5-14 have more than 40% of the injuries

 

Most injuries occur in practice, over 60%

 

Almost 25% of all children between the ages of 8-14 will have arm pain during a given calendar year

 

Since the year 2000 there has been a 500% increase in elbow and shoulder injuries in youth and high school sports

 

Dr. James Andrews performed 50 “Tommy John” surgeries in 2000. In the year 2010 he performed 251

 

About 175,000 children are treated in Emergency rooms each year for Traumatic Brain Injuries

 

Nearly half of ALL youth and high school sports injuries are overuse injuries and can be prevented

 

The statistics I have given you today are staggering. But in and amongst themselves they can and are dismissed by many people. Here is the catch. Even though your child may not have received a youth sports injury in their time playing sports, the injuries that are happening to their teammates do effect them.

 

Children learn mostly from observation. They see other children playing through injuries.  Other children they are with brag about their injuries, or about the personal trainer that they have. Still others say that if you want to get to the top, and get that Division I scholarship and a professional career, you have to sacrifice.

 

But very few talk about luck. They don’t  talk about how lucky you have to be to get to the collegiate level, no less being a professional athlete, and how less than 1% of 1% get there.

 

 They don’t talk about how many children are hurt each year playing youth and high school sports that will have a long lasting significant physical and mental effect on their lives 20 or 30 years down the road.

 

At Frozen Shorts we try each and every day to get out as many facts as possible so families can make informed decisions about their participation in youth and high school sports.

It’s not our job to decide when if or even how the light goes on for those participating in youth and high school sports. Our job is to just keep flipping the switch.

Part III of the Youth Sports Apocalypse

Category: 2013
Published: Sunday, 27 October 2013
Part III of The Apocalypse

 

 Elite teams, parents, and coaches:

 

One of the major problems facing youth and high schools sports today is the proliferation of “elite” teams. Many factors go into this burgeoning problem. First and foremost is the word “elite” and how it has been watered down to fit most any travel program. This word gives status to the adults, organization, the children and the coaches. When in fact, this team at this level of play, may not be elite at all.

 

Secondly, the amount of time money, effort, and status that goes into making this become way more than it really was. What it really is, is kids from a very select area, and with the financial backing of their families agreeing to pay to play on a team that may or may not benefit them and their athletic journey.

 

Because of the money involved, an average weekend on the road cost me $500, a certain false belief of value came to the forefront and helped create an environment ripe for hostility, angst, disappointment, and failure. These teams became a family focal point and people would defend their time money and effort spent by saying their family was spending time together and making long time friends. While that was true the $10,000 Clayton’s team spent on this tournament could have been better spent at home playing a pickup game and then going out for pizza.

 

I confess that I “drank the Kool-Aid.” My son was the youngest player on the team and was actually playing “up” a year. When asked about him I would be sure to include that fact in my response, “GULP GULP.” Since I had been to a showcase many years ago when I was being recruited to play college hockey I was excited for Clayton and this supposed opportunity. Let me give you this example.

 

  His team went on a trip to a “showcase” in Virginia. I supposed that since out team had to “apply” for this tournament, that it was legit. I also wanted to take a look at some athletes that were headed to college and to see how good they really were. A hobby of mine, gleaned from years of recruiting for the college hockey team I coached, was to try and pick out the “studs” before they even started to play.

 

I would watch them walk on to the field and then warm up. Truly people, at this age, it is not very hard to pick out the athlete fairly quick.

 

 When we got there I found the head of the tournament asked him were the college coaches were. He said they had been there last night and would be arriving today. I told him I was a college hockey coach. He asked me to sign in. I did, confused, but what the heck. Maybe I would get to talk to a couple of the coaches when they arrived.

 

 OH, you should know that college coaches can only make these off campus visits at certain times of the year depending on the sport being played. Also, because of the proliferation of theses showcases, many of them are “watered” down and there really isn’t a whole lot to see at these showcases.

 

As a matter of fact, there were about 600 children playing in this tournament. After the warm-up in Clayton’s first game I turned to my wife and said:  “his is crazy.” What a waste of time. I then proceeded to map out a form, (it is on my website) so families would know what it would cost them per hour to have their children play “elite” travel sports.” I was so stunned at the lack of talent, that I told my wife I was sticking around after the game and would stay and watch more games while my family went back to the hotel.

 

The scores of his four games were 2-0, 2-2, 0-1 and 1-3. Can anyone tell me how this was any better than the games and the scores playing around our hometown? Of course it’s not. And to hear the parents brag about it was hilarious and sad. It became another status symbol to brag about how tired you were from all the travel and of course mentioning the cities and dropping names whenever possible.


It was the last one we went to ever. I watched more games that weekend than anyone else at that tournament.  I saw 3 players that I would consider elite athletes with a future in college athletics at the D! Level. That’s it.