Making Sports work for Youth

9-2-19 - Andy
Pop Warner football has more than 400,000
players ages 5-14...
9-2-19 - Andy
In soccer, girls suffer higher concussion 
incidents than boys...

Andy Dolich -- 2015

Youth Sports

By Andy Dolich

There is a growing gap in playability for young athletes who show unique skills. They are singled out to join travelling teams and elite squads before they know how to tie the shoelaces of their hyper expensive athletic footwear.

The downside of this trend is that many youngsters are no longer running around playing just for fun.Their parents or coaches have decided what is best for their sports futures. They are told to specialize in their best sport or a sport that fits their body type. This is a recipe that is contributing to the growing national trend of childhood obesity and sports inequality.

We have seen what is happening to many school programs in sports and the arts. Many of them are now "pay to play" on the team side or eviscerated as part of cost cutting. Physical Education in many schools is ancient history. I can remember the day that you could actually play Dodgeball in PE and hit players on the opposing team low and high without being dragged into Federal court. Those of us who came from the age of Full Contact Gender Equity DodgeBall remember lobbing a high floater to the unsuspecting class airhead and taking their legs out with a screaming low liner.

There are a number of themes underlying the challenges of keeping the youth of our country engaged in sports that can help them in later life.

*  Poor nutrition -- You are what you eat.
*  Lack of comprehensive PE programs at schools.
*  Lack of community playgrounds: Fear for our kid's safety, lack of well-supervised public playing areas.
*  Rise of video games: Kids' thumbs are more developed than their biceps or calves.
*  Social networking: Has led to a more sedentary lifestyle for young people.
*  Lack of creativity: What new stick and ball games are being created by kids today?
*  You won't be a star! Sorry, go play for another team or give up the game.

Size of Youth Sports market:
*  50 million athletes are participating in organized youth sports across the United States.
*  The Youth Sports industry accounts for $5 billion dollars of spending on an annual basis.
*  The level of participation in youth sports leagues is six times higher than high school and 100 times more than NCAA athletic programs.
*  US youth soccer claims over 14 million kids under the age of 18 who are kicking it around across the country.
*  Youth sports tournaments are a $17 billion dollar business.

Economic Impact:
*  Families can spend around $2,000 a year paying for their kids' youth sports participation.
*   It can cost up to $4,000 per summer for team travel if a child is good enough to play for an elite travel team.
*   Money spent on sports related equipment uniforms, team fees, travel and lodging and food can easily cost a family thousands of bucks per child per year.
*   If your young superstar is an elite little competitor, the total package could reach $10K or more. This doesn't include personal coaches and the time parents may take off from work and babysitting for kids left behind.

The statistics are concerning. A survey conducted by the Aspen Institute found that overall youth sports participation in the U.S. is in decline. 38% of kids are playing team sports today, down from 45% a decade ago. If you watched the Little League World Series the Aspen Institute's "Project Play 2020" project stood out with their "Don't Retire Kid" commercials, in which frustrated child athletes announce they are quitting youth sports.

The Institute for the Study of Youth Sports found that more and more young athletes in the 12-14 age group start to focus on one sport, even if they are multiple sport athletes.

Elite athletic talent at a young age is often misjudged by parents, coaches and others. The gold ring of a potential college scholarship or financial windfall from a pro contract can be delusional.

The Concussion Effect:
Pop Warner Football took action by instituting new rules relating to full contact. The youth football organization announced that it was banning head-to-head hits and limiting contact in practice to 40 minutes a day. Pop Warner has more than 400,000 players ages 5-14 participating in 43 states and international markets.

When you look at soccer by gender, girls suffer higher concussion incidents than boys, according to a study by the American Journal of Sports Medicine. Soccer concussions are directly related to heading the ball.

According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine the most dangerous sport is football, followed by soccer, wrestling and girls' basketball. The growth of youth lacrosse is sure to add additional concerns to the parents of multi-sport athletes.

As we learn more about the effects of playing sports on our children, the greatest headache for parents will be what to green light and when to put up the stop sign. The key is to keep our youngsters moving and giving them the opportunity to play multiple sports at their level of interest and ability.

Looking for an answer:
Many organizations are doing magnificent work in promoting childhood health and wellness. They are committed to keeping young people, coaches, parents, educational and recreational administrators focused on having young people playing for fun and fitness, not fame and fortune. Several of these groups are headquartered in the Bay Area.

Playworks --
638 3rd Street, Oakland, CA 94607
Coaching Corps --
310 8th Street. Ste. 300, Oakland, CA 94607
Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA ) --
1001 N. Rengstorff Avenue, Ste. 100, Mountain View, CA 94043   866-725-0024
National Fitness Campaign --
Fitness Court at Marina Green, San Francisco, CA 94111   415-702-4919

BASHOF Youth Fund --
235 Montgomery Street, Ste. 760, San Francisco, CA 94104   415-352-8831
First Tee --
National Golf Program for young golfers. Chapters in San Francisco, Oakland, Tri Valley or Silicon Valley
Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco --
55 Hawthorne Street, Ste. 600, San Francisco, CA 94105   415-445-5337
Clubs throughout the Bay Area.
Aspen Institute
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Andy Dolich has over five decades of leadership in the sports industry, including executive positions in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, pro soccer and lacrosse. Presently Dolich is COO of the Fan Controlled Football League (FCFL) and teaches sports business at Stanford's School of Continuing Studies. Dolich is also co-author of the new book:
East Bay welcomes professional soccer 

Oakland Roots
Jack McInerney scoring one of his three goals in the first half. Photo: Austin Brewin.

Michael Brewin

Oakland Roots debut

By Michael Brewin

On a beautiful Saturday night, in front of a sold-out, lively crowd at Laney College Stadium the Oakland Roots opened their inaugural season against the Cal United Strikers with a well-refereed, entertaining game. 

The Oakland Roots, coached by Paul Bravo, came out on fire. Right from the start the Roots pressured United and attacked relentlessly. They were rewarded after 10 minutes when MLS veteran and former US youth national team player Jack McInerney put it past United's keeper Kifilani Cabrera. The Roots kept up the pressure and dominated possession while United held on for life. McInerney soon struck again, putting the Roots up 2-0. United began to show some signs of life and put a few chances on goal which the Roots keeper and assistant coach, Larry Jackson, handled without drama.

Later in the first half the seemingly unstoppable McInerney found the back of the net again to complete his hat-trick. The game seemed all but over when just before the halftime whistle blew, United struck back with a corner kick which resulted in a beautiful head goal that Jackson didn't even bother trying to save. At halftime the Roots were comfortably up, 3-1, and the game seemed over except for the formality of the second half.

The second half was a mirror image of the first half, however, but in reverse. United had all of the possessions, attacks and goals. United kept pressure on the Roots throughout the half and were rewarded with goals midway through and in the last few minutes of regulation, tying the game at 3-3. Bravo tried to spark the Roots out of their slumber by subbing in Oakland-raised and crowd favorite Julio Cervantes. Cervantes' fans cheered his every move but he was ultimately unable to deliver a Roots victory. McInerney, who was unstoppable in the first half, could no longer find the back of the net in the second half. The game ended with a 3-3 draw and with a stunned crowd. Nobody wanted the game to end.

While the Oakland Roots did not win their home opener, they certainly hosted a great block party and thrilling game. Next on the schedule is Mexican league MX -- FC Juarez at Laney College Stadium on September 8. I certainly won't miss it.