Archive for August, 2015

Coaches behaving badly…

August 25, 2015

In the regionals of the Little League Softball World Series the big story this past week was a rematch between Central Iowa and Washington for the right to advance in the playoffs. But here’s the back story: Central Iowa, which finished 3-1 in pool play, could have advanced to the semifinals if South Snohomish, Washington, either scored three runs vs. the U.S. Southeast representative from North Carolina or won the game to finish 4-0 in pool play. However, Washington rested its top four players and, according to Central Iowa Little League president Chris Chadd, ordered its players to bunt and reportedly had players swinging at pitches in the dirt. The goal? To prevent Central Iowa from advancing.

The result: North Carolina no-hit the Washington team in an 8-0 victory, and the Central Iowa All-Stars finished in a three-way tie — and out of the tournament. The Central Iowa coach protested to the tournament director, who denied the protest. Iowa then took the protest to Little League International, which didn’t disqualify Washington but did order a one-game playoff between Iowa and Washington to see who’d advance. In what some would say was an act of Karma, Central Iowa won and advanced (but lost in the semi-finals). For his part, Washington coach Fred Miller said he was only trying to rest his starters and his team was unfairly punished.

Now, let’s face it: It’s not unheard of for pro teams to “rest their starters” to get a better draft position, but this is Little League, where the Little League pledge says, in part, “I will play fair, and strive to win, but win or lose, I will always do my best.” Coach Miller says his players were harassed with notes left on their hotel room doors after the game. Coach, it wasn’t the players’ fault—they were just doing what every team member is told to do—follow the coach’s orders.

We’ve talked a lot about the good and bad in youth sports, and the lessons to be learned. Here’s one lesson for all those involved, as former Jets Coach Herm Edwards famously said: “You play the game to win.” Let’s hope so.

Little League Softball

photo courtesy Little League Softball

Winning isn’t everything…

August 17, 2015

In this age of “everybody’s a winner” in youth sports, and trophies are handed out just for showing up, Pittsburgh Steeler James Harrison has given us a different perspective on who should get a trophy when.

In a lengthy Instagram post this weekend, Harrison showed a couple of trophies his sons “earned” and then explained why his kids won’t be keeping them:

I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalues

Now we can all argue the value of giving out participation awards to young athletes—it motivates them to be in sports, it makes them feel good about their participation, etc.—but James Harrison has a point: How do you know if you’re any good if you get an award for just being part of the game?

Harrison maybe is taking his opinion to the extreme, but it’s still an interesting topic. And it says volumes about how kids are being raised. Because how do they handle losing later in life, if they’ve always been told that they’re a winner–and have the hardware to prove it?

James Harrison Post

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Steeler, James Harrison

NASC hosts board retreat in Grand Rapids to Preview City for 2016 NASC Symposium

August 13, 2015

The NASC Board of Directors were in Grand Rapids this week for their annual board retreat while previewing the region’s venues, hotels and restaurants in anticipation of Grand Rapids hosting the 24th NASC Sports Event Symposium April 3-7, 2016. Today, they named Mary Free Bed Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports as the beneficiary of the NASC Sports Legacy Fund in 2016 – an NASC tradition to make a lasting impact on the community hosting its annual symposium.

“This is an exciting week for Grand Rapids to showcase its incredible sporting event assets while the NASC is in town for its summer board retreat,” said Mike Guswiler, president of the West Michigan Sports Commission. “And just as important as leaving with positive impressions about our region, they leave with a promise to invest in our community by naming Mary Free Bed as the 2016 beneficiary of the NASC Sports Legacy Fund.”

As the only nonprofit 501 (c) (3) trade association for the sports tourism industry, NASC produces the NASC Sports Event Symposium that it has held annually since 1992 – and Grand Rapids will host it for the first time, April 3-7, 2016 at DeVos Place.

Mary Free Bed Named 2016 Beneficiary of NASC Sports Legacy Fund

Established in 2006 by the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission, the NASC Sports Legacy Fund awards an annual grant and sports equipment donation to an organization in need in the host city of the NASC Symposium. The Sports Legacy Fund is a way for members of the sports tourism community to make a personal and lasting impact on sports programs and initiatives. The West Michigan Sports Commission nominated Mary Free Bed Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports and its wheelchair tennis program since it fits with the NASC’s criteria of donating to not-for profit organizations that provide individuals – particularly at-risk youth, veterans, or physically or intellectually disabled individuals – opportunities to participate in sport and encourage healthy lifestyles.

“Choosing Mary Free Bed Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports as the NASC Sports Legacy beneficiary means that our athletes are provided more opportunities to participate in the many sports we offer without a financial burden, allowing them to gain confidence, empowerment and life skills as individuals,” said Alicia Hass, sports coordinator at Mary Free Bed Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports. The NASC Sports Legacy Committee organizes a silent auction and raffle to raise money for the Sports Legacy Fund at the NASC Symposium each year. Proceeds from the auction and raffle will support the 2016 beneficiary and the NASC Sports Legacy Fund endowment. Originally developed as an equipment donation program by the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission, the NASC Sports Legacy Fund became a monetary donation in 2009 and has contributed more than $63,000 since then to programs in its conference host cities, including $20,000 in 2015 to the Running Rebels Community Organization in Milwaukee.

“The NASC has seen steady growth in donations to local charities in the host cities of the annual NASC Sports Event Symposium since 2009,” said Don Schumacher, CSEE, executive director of the NASC. “It is very exciting to come to a new market and raise funds to assist in the development of programs that will benefit the residents of the community.”

As an added benefit to the host city, the NASC also organizes a community service project as a program that all NASC Symposium attendees have the option of volunteering for while in town for the conference. This was launched as a new initiative at the 2015 NASC Symposium in Milwaukee, and due to its success, will be continued for the 2016 Symposium in Grand Rapids. The Grand Rapids project and location will be named at a later time.

About the West Michigan Sports Commission

The West Michigan Sports Commission, a non-profit 501 (c) (3), works to identify, secure and host a diverse level of youth and amateur sporting events to positively impact the economy and quality of life in the region. Since its inception in 2007, the WMSC has booked 400 sporting events and tournaments that attracted 560,000 athletes and visitors, generating $145 million in direct visitor spending. For more information, visit westmisports.com.

About the National Association of Sports Commissions

As the only nonprofit 501 (c) (3) trade association for the sports tourism industry, the National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC) is the most trusted resource for sports commissions, convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs), and sports event owners. The NASC is committed to the success of more than 700 member organizations and 2,000 serious-minded, sports tourism professionals. Our promise is to deliver quality education, relevant industry research and ample networking opportunities to our members – sports destinations, sports event owners, and vendors to the industry – and to protect the integrity of the sports tourism industry. For more information, visit sportscommissions.org.

About Mary Free Bed Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports

Mary Free Bed started wheelchair and adaptive sports programs more than 40 years ago with a single tennis team. The program has grown tremendously, and now approximately 400 children and 300 adults participate in a variety of organized team sports, clinics and camps every year. The Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports program is designed for anyone age 7 or older who cannot participate in traditional sports in the typical way, whether they were born with their disability or are challenged as a result of an injury, accident or illness. For more information, visit maryfreebed.com/sports.

BOD_Retreat 2015

NASC Board of Directors Summer Retreat

BOD_SLF Beneficiary

NASC Board of Directors with 2016 Sports Legacy Fund Beneficiary, Mary Free Bed Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports Program.

Comfy Chairs

NASC Board of Directors testing out comfy chairs at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, MI.

Go Fund Them

August 11, 2015

With students going back to school this month (if they haven’t already), families are facing a familiar task: Getting kids into sports and finding the money to pay for the activities.

With schools pinched for resources and parents nickled-and-dimed with school fees this time of year, some teams and/or individual families are now looking at the crowdfunding route to pay for their kids’ recreational fees.Youth gymnastics.jpg

This example comes from KATU in Portland, Oregon, where the coach of a cheerleading squad, Oregon Dream Teams in Beaverton, was looking to pay for a trip to the cheerleading World Championships in Orlando. The cost was $1,200 per cheerleader—and that’s on top of the minimum $4,000 the athlete pays for practices and regular competition.

Cher Fuller, the head coach, started a GoFundMe.com on line account for the squad, and asked people to make donations. Her goal was a thousand dollars, and raised a little more than that.

She’s not alone. Also in the Portland area, Karen Emmett, one of the crowdfunding parents quoted in the KATU story, set up a crowdfunding site for her daughter’s soccer expenses. In explaining why she did so, Emmett posted on the station’s Facebook page: “What isn’t mentioned in the video is not only am I a single mom, I’m working two jobs to pay our bills … and my daughter and her soccer team have been doing other fundraising (rummage sales, bake sales, can drives, yard work for neighbors, etc).

“I only opened an account because I was pushed by a lot of family and friends to do so. I was told to swallow my pride and admit that I need help paying for this.”

This isn’t unusual. Go to the gofundme.com website and on the left side you’ll see a menu of causes to which you can donate. Click on the ‘sports’ tab and you’ll see requests from teams (especially Little League teams in World Series playoffs) and individual athletes, all asking strangers to help pay for their expenses to play a sport, travel to playoffs, whatever.

Crowdfunding is a relatively new phenomenon, but now that it is pervasive in youth sports, perhaps it’s time to look at the cost of youth sports altogether. For those who wonder why those kids aren’t washing cars and doing other fundraisers to pay for their sports, see the quote from Karen Emmett, who says the team had been fundraising in more traditional methods to get enough money.

Are youth sports, especially traveling team costs, too expensive now? Are parents less willing to chip in or are financially unable to pay for their children to play? As sports professionals it’s up to us to make sure EVERY child who wants to play sports can, regardless of financial status or ability to pay. If you haven’t done so, perhaps its time to look into charitable funds connected to what we do, to make sure kids can still play sports.

Tragedy in Kansas..

August 3, 2015
Photo courtesy nbcphiladelphia.com

Photo courtesy nbcphiladelphia.com

We talk a lot about getting kids involved in sports, and we all know it’s a great thing for youngsters to learn teamwork, playing by the rules, etc. But every once in a while tragedy seeps into our mission of sports.

Case in point: A 9-year-old bat boy who was hit in the head as a player was taking practice swings died Sunday evening of his injuries. Kaiser Carlile, who was a bat boy for the Liberal Bee Jays, an amateur baseball team, was retrieving a bat (and wearing his helmet) when a player warming up took a practice swing during Saturday’s game and hit Kaiser in the head. Absolutely an accident, but a tragedy nonetheless.

Kaiser was injured near the on-deck circle during the game on Saturday, a playoff game in the National Baseball Congress World Series. He was initially treated by the home plate umpire, an experienced paramedic, before being rushed to Via Christi-St. Francis Hospital in Wichita. A spokesman for the National Baseball Congress confirmed Kaiser was wearing a helmet, which is mandatory for all teams.

Perhaps this statement from National Baseball Congress General Manager Kevin Jenks says it best: “It’s difficult to remember a day that is darker than this one. Sometimes life doesn’t make sense and this accident certainly is a memorable example. Kaiser was simply doing something he loved.”

A couple of reminders here: First, anyone involved in youth sports or events management knows that importance of having first aid, athletic trainers and an ambulance on site. Second, accidents do happen that no amount of medical personnel can prevent. This tragedy is not a reason to keep kids away from sports, but there’s a good chance new safety rules and/or equipment may come into play in the future to try to prevent future accidents like this.