Losing Is Good for You
As children return to school this year and sign up for a new year's worth of extracurricular activities, parents should keep one question in mind. Whether your kid loves Little League or gymnastics, ask the program organizers this:
"Which kids get awards?" If the answer is, "Everybody gets a trophy," find another program.
Trophies were once rare things -- sterling silver loving cups bought from jewelry stores for truly special occasions. But in the 1960s, they began to be mass-produced, marketed in catalogs to teachers and coaches, and sold in sporting-goods stores.
Today, participation trophies and prizes are almost a given, as children are constantly assured that they are winners. One Maryland summer program gives awards every day
-- and the "day" is one hour long. In Southern California, a regional branch of the American Youth Soccer Organization hands out roughly 3,500 awards each season -- each player gets one, while around a third get two. Nationally, A.Y.S.O. local branches typically spend as much as 12 percent of their yearly budgets on trophies.
It adds up: trophy and award sales are now an estimated $3 billion-a-year industry in the United States and Canada.
Po Bronson and I have spent years reporting on the effects of praise and rewards on kids. The science is clear. Awards can be powerful motivators, but nonstop recognition does not inspire children to succeed. Instead, it can cause them to underachieve.
Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, found that kids respond positively to praise; they enjoy hearing that they're talented, smart and so on. But after such praise of their innate abilities, they collapse at the first experience of difficulty. Demoralized by their failure, they say they'd rather cheat than risk failing again.
In recent eye-tracking experiments by the researchers Bradley Morris and Shannon Zentall, kids were asked to draw pictures. Those who heard praise suggesting they had an innate talent were then twice as fixated on mistakes they'd made in their pictures.
By age 4 or 5, children aren't fooled by all the trophies. They are surprisingly accurate in identifying who excels and who struggles. Those who are outperformed know it and give up, while those who do well feel cheated when they aren't recognized for their accomplishments. They, too, may give up.
It turns out that, once kids have some proficiency in a task, the excitement and uncertainty of real competition may become the activity's very appeal.
If children know they will automatically get an award, what is the impetus for improvement? Why bother learning problem-solving skills, when there are never obstacles to begin with?
If I were a baseball coach, I would announce at the first meeting that there would be only three awards: Best Overall, Most Improved and Best Sportsmanship. Then I'd hand the kids a list of things they'd have to do to earn one of those trophies. They would know from the get-go that excellence, improvement, character and persistence were valued.
It's accepted that, before punishing children, we must consider their individual levels of cognitive and emotional development. Then we monitor them, changing our approach if there's a negative outcome. However, when it comes to rewards, people argue that kids must be treated identically: everyone must always win. That is misguided. And there are negative outcomes. Not just for specific children, but for society as a whole.
In June, an Oklahoma Little League canceled participation trophies because of a budget shortfall. A furious parent complained to a local reporter,
"My children look forward to their trophy as much as playing the game." That's exactly the problem, says Jean Twenge, author of
Having studied recent increases in narcissism and entitlement among college students, she warns that when living rooms are filled with participation trophies, it's part of a larger cultural message: to succeed, you just have to show up. In college, those who've grown up receiving endless awards do the requisite work, but don't see the need to do it well. In the office, they still believe that attendance is all it takes to get a promotion.
In life, "you're going to lose more often than you win, even if you're good at something," Ms. Twenge told me.
"You've got to get used to that to keep going."
When children make mistakes, our job should not be to spin those losses into decorated victories. Instead, our job is to help kids overcome setbacks, to help them see that progress over time is more important than a particular win or loss, and to help them graciously congratulate the child who succeeded when they failed. To do that, we need to refuse all the meaningless plastic and tin destined for landfills. We have to stop letting the Trophy-Industrial Complex run our children's lives.
This school year, let's fight for a kid's right to lose.
New York Times
She never should have made it home
Editor's Note: Most of the time I post the whole article or major portions of an article and provide the link to the source. This is an exception. I am going to only post a few excerpts from the article. You need to read the complete article in its'native format at the link provided.
To survive, avalanche victims must be recovered in the first 15 minutes.
Erica Wilson '11 was entombed for 22 minutes under five feet of snow on a remote mountain in British Columbia.
The rushing snow vaulted Adam into a tree and snapped a bone in his leg before burying him beneath four feet of snow.
After removing more than four feet of snow, Erica was able to provide Adam with enough open space around his head to take in a few deep breaths. She would still need to carefully remove the snow from around his body while protecting his fractured leg.
Suddenly, the mountain collapsed in front of her.
"So what? ... Next pitch"
Surviving an avalanche -- in any conditions -- is harrowing. How could Erica know the biggest challenge was yet to come?
Erica -- who was described as "relentless,"
"a bulldog", and "a fierce competitor"
"Athletics is an avenue to connect mind, body and spirit. Our goal is for our student-athletes to master their minds so they may master their bodies. We teach sports psychology, but in reality it's more life psychology.
See the full article on the
St Thomas web page
Kim Jones is Pine Island's new varsity softball coach
Activities Director Craig Anderson presented the recommendation to hire Kim Jones as the 2014 Pine Island School varsity softball coach on February 6. The school board approved the recommendation.
Anderson said that there were two applicants for the position. Jones was selected for her experience with youths. She was also a pitching coach at the college level. She has been working with the junior varsity with Coach Ron Lenoch.
Jones said, "
Thank you very much, Mark Passow and I will work together on this."
She said she is excited to work with the athletes and ready for them to have fun and learn the life lessons that come along during the softball season.
Zumbrota News Record
5 Lessons About Youth Sports From an Athletic Prodigy
Mikaela Shiffrin is, at only 18 years old, the top slalom ski racer in the world, a favorite for Olympic gold in Sochi, and a veritable fount of lessons that athletes, coaches, and parents can learn from to help athletes achieve their competitive goals. After reading a profile of Mikaela in The New York Times recently (be sure to watch the videos in the article), I felt five more lessons crying out to be told.
Inborn Talent Matters
With all due respect to Dan Coyle (author of The Talent Code) and other recent authors, "10 years 10,000 hours"
isn't enough to achieve athletic greatness (BTW, here's a great rebuttal to that argument). It is abundantly clear that much of what makes Mikaela exceptional can't be taught. Early videos of her demonstrate a feel for the snow and a sense of balance that just isn't trainable. I'm going to argue that Mikaela is just wired differently than us mere mortals.
Of course, that inborn hard wiring wouldn't have been enough to take her to the top of her sport without the drive that enabled her to put in the long hours of training to master the physical, technical, tactical, and mental aspects of ski racing.
Drive Must Come From Within
I've certainly know athletes whose success was driven primarily by their parents, but I can assure you that there were often two casualties in that experience: the athletes'happiness and their relationship with their parents.
One thing is clear about Mikaela is that she didn't need anyone to push her. For whatever reason, she had the mojo to ski race from an early age, whether due to genes, her parents'role modeling, wanting to keep up with her brother, Taylor, or who knows what. Mikaela's incredible drive to train and compete has resulted in a determination, focus, and off- and on-hill preparation that was absolutely necessary for such early success.
Training Still Matters
What is also clear about Mikaela that she put in a prodigious amount of time in her physical conditioning and on-snow training (yes, hours matter, but not as much as many believe). As you can read in The New York Times article I provide a link to above, Mikaela spent hours a day as a child engaged in activities, such as riding a unicycle, playing soccer, inline skating, and juggling (and she thought she was just playing and having fun!) that developed essential physical skills that benefitted her as an athlete. Also, as someone who watched Mikaela train, I saw firsthand the hours she put in on the hill.
Parents Must Create Opportunities
Few great athletes make it to the top without their parents supporting them. Mikaela is no exception with Jeff and Eileen giving her and her brother every opportunity to pursue their goals and, perhaps more importantly, have a lot of fun. There is no doubt that Jeff and Eileen made many sacrifices (e.g., financial, family separation) to support their children, but my guess is they would call them choices that they are glad to have made.
It's a Family Thing
One thing is for sure about the Shiffrins: They are in it together as a family. There is a collective love of sports in general and ski racing in particular that you can't help but feel. I also believe one thing that has really helped Mikaela is that, by remaining a tight-knit family unit, they were able to maintain a sense of normalcy in her that contrasted markedly from the decidedly non-normal experiences she has had as a ski racing prodigy. This same normalcy was evident during her time at Burke Mountain Academy, where she attended high school, where, despite her successes, she was treated like just another kid there.
What's the overall takeaway from these lessons? First, there is no magic to athletic success. Mikaela wasn't the first athlete to go pursue sports greatness. She was just fortunate to have the combination of controllable and uncontrollable contributors to success go her way. Second, Mikaela, despite appearances, is not superhuman. Rather, she just put in the time to fully realize the innate ability she had. Finally, what I always emphasize about Mikaela aside from her considerable talent is that somehow, in the crazy world that she has lived, she is not only a remarkable athlete, but, perhaps more importantly, a genuinely nice and humble person. And, in this day and age, that is what her parents should really be congratulated for.
The costly obsession: Youth sports -- is it worth it?
Concussions are the topic du jour these days in the NFL and NHL.
Despite the concerns, there's no question athletics can, and do, benefit young people. Sports can teach children confidence, teamwork and discipline, keep them healthy, create family memories and help establish an active lifestyle into adulthood.
But make no mistake: youth sports is a high-stakes, big business.
An estimated 45 million children ages 6 to 18 play organized sports in the United States, with their parents spending more than $5 billion a year trying to groom their kids into the next LeBron James or Serena Williams.
And there's no end in sight. Experts foresee the industry growing by at least $250 million a year.
Doting moms and dads happily shell out big bucks for equipment, uniforms, team dues, sports camps, private lessons, practice space, travel expenses and medical costs.
Kevin and Kim Atchison spend at least $10,000 a year for their 11-year-old, Erik, to play hockey. He plays for a Las Vegas travel club and roller hockey league, takes private lessons, attends summer hockey camps and flies around the country for elite ice hockey games.
"He has told me over and over since he was 6 years old, this is what he wants to do,"
Kevin Atchison said.
Still, it is highly unlikely most young athletes will ever play in college or a professional league. In fact, they're literally more likely to get struck by lightning than go pro.
Odds are, your kid won't be the Yankees'next pinch hitter
Most parents and young athletes dream of college scholarships and professional careers. But the odds of either happening are minuscule.
Just 3 percent of male high school basketball players make a National Collegiate Athletic Association team. Only 0.03 percent, or three in every 10,000, go pro.
The odds for football players are slightly better but not by much. Six percent of high school football players make the NCAA, while only 0.08 percent, or eight in every 10,000, play professionally.
"The goal many of us are focused on is not a realistic goal,"
said Mark Hyman, author of three books on youth sports.
No pain, no gain?
Almost 1.4 million children went to emergency rooms in 2012 because of sports-related injuries. The most common ailments were strains and sprains, but many were far more serious: fractures, cuts and concussions.
Concussions in youth sports rose 66 percent from 2001 to 2009, with high school athletes far more likely to suffer serious head injury than college players.
Young women are at particular risk. Researchers hypothesize that girls'long, thin necks and lower body mass make them more susceptible.
Almost a quarter-million children suffered concussions or other sports-related traumatic brain injuries in 2009, the most recent year for which data are available. Football, boys and girls ice hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, soccer and girls basketball were most dangerous, and children who suffered previous brain injuries were far more likely to suffer more-severe recurrences.
Most young athletes typically recover from a brain injury in a week or two, but 10 to 20 percent suffer symptoms that take weeks, months or years to abate. Some never heal completely. Athletes who return to sports before their brains have fully healed are at more risk for lasting, serious consequences.
The autopsied brains of former professional football players have shown evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which has been linked to clinical depression, suicide, dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
And helmets seem to offer little protection. A recent report by the Committee of Sports-Related Concussions in Youth, affiliated with the nonprofit National Academy of Sciences, found limited evidence that helmets reduce the risk of concussion.
Still, half of reported youth sports injuries come from overuse, not traumatic injury. Even at a young age, children's joints and limbs give out from overuse and repetition.
Dan Kazmierski, president of Green Valley Little League, regularly sees kids who are dominant pitchers at age 10 or 12 and by 14 or 15, "they can't raise their arm above their shoulder."
Worse, many kids hesitate to report injuries because they feel that the game and their team are more important than their health. They play through concussions, sprains and chronic pain to avoid letting down their teammates, schools, coaches and parents.
Some teams and leagues have instituted measures to try to reduce player injuries
-- adopting "hit counts,"
for example, to limit the number of collisions an athlete can experience in a practice or game
but no data exist to show whether such approaches are effective.
A Massachusetts brain doctor also has started a campaign to ban heading, or using your forehead to hit the ball, in soccer for girls under the age of 14, but his proposal has encountered much resistance. One of the most vocal critics is Brandi Chastain, the Olympian who helped the United States win a World Cup. She maintains heading is an important and "beautiful"
part of soccer and is perfectly safe if done correctly.
Comprehensive statistics on youth sports injuries in Nevada are hard to come by, as they're not compiled by state agencies or the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association. However, the Center for Health Information Analysis at UNLV tracks some youth sports injuries
-- those that result in a hospital visit, as opposed to merely an examination by a private health care provider such as a physician or trainer. The numbers on injuries that led to hospital visits in Nevada are as follows: basketball 874, soccer 618, baseball 405, swimming 159, cheerleading 127, football 64, ice hockey 23.
Parents gone wild
Pee Wee football parents fight in a Texas parking lot after a coach shoves a referee. A Colorado dad sparks a brawl after confronting an opposing coach at his son's baseball game. A Massachusetts father gets sent to prison for eight years after beating another man to death at their sons'hockey practice.
Youth sports are supposed to be fun, and for kids, but too often, parents steal the show.
To prevent outbursts, many youth leagues in Las Vegas and elsewhere require parents to sign codes of conduct which, if violated, can ban parents from games and suspend children from playing. Twenty-one states have laws addressing assaults on officials.
The Heat Football Club, a soccer team in Henderson, makes parents sign a 16-point memo outlining acceptable behavior.
"I will not harass, yell at or agitate a referee before, during or after a game."
"I will not badger, ridicule or taunt players from my team or the opposing team. They are ALL children and they ALL have feelings."
"I will not interfere with a coach during a game or practice. If a problem arises, I will abide by the 24-hour 'cooling-off'period before contacting the coach in any way (email, phone or in person.)"
Goodbye, free time
The Vegas Encore Volleyball Club includes an elite group of high school athletes. Many of the girls have played in the Junior Olympics and are set to play volleyball in college.
But being that good comes at a price. Volleyball is the main focus of their lives.
Vegas Encore members practice four days a week, work out twice a week with strength and conditioning trainers and receive "mental toughness training"
twice a week. The squad also travels 16 times a year, including for several national tournaments. Registration costs $3,600 a season
"You can't have a social life,"
club Director Rodney McKimmey said. "You've got to make a decision."
McKimmey's athletes are on the court year-round. They play for their high school teams, and when that season ends in November, they join Vegas Encore, which runs until July. Then they enroll in summer camps.
"They love it,"
McKimmey said. "It's a commitment."
Trophies for all
First place? Here's your trophy!
Fifth place? Take your medal!
Last place? Lift that trophy high!
Youth sports leagues throughout the country have taken a new approach to competition, handing out "participation trophies"
to players simply for showing up.
Proponents say it emphasizes fun, effort and teamwork. Opponents argue that it coddles kids, instills in them a sense of entitlement and fails to equip them with the tools they'll eventually need when they do face disappointment.
On a larger scale, critics worry that the phenomenon is creating a lazy generation of ego-inflated people who don't understand the value of hard work and expect to be patted on the head not for doing anything special but simply for existing.
Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck found that while children respond positively to praise, if they are lauded for insignificant things, they quickly catch on, lose trust in the praise and collapse at the first sign of difficulty. Worse, they stop taking risks for fear of failure.
Parents and coaches are catching on, too, and spearheading a trophy backlash. Moms and dads increasingly are steering clear of trophy leagues, and sports officials are doing away with trophies for all.
In Texas, the Keller Youth Association football league garnered national attention last fall when its board of directors decided to stop giving trophies to every player.
"The biggest thing is we want to teach these kids (that) everything in life isn't going to be given to them,"
a league official said. "Your boss when you go to work isn't going to give you a trophy just because you showed up on time."
Trophy and award sales are an estimated $3 billion-a-year industry in the United States and Canada. Some leagues spend more than a tenth of their budget on medals and awards.
And while awards certainly can motivate kids, nonstop recognition doesn't inspire children to succeed.
"If children know they will automatically get an award, what is the impetus for improvement?"
author Ashley Merryman wrote. "Why bother learning problem-solving skills, when there are never obstacles to begin with? This school year, let's fight for a kid's right to lose."
How are coaches screened?
Leagues require coaches and other volunteers with direct access to players to undergo background checks conducted by a private company or local police department.
Volunteers cannot have a history of assault, child molestation or other criminal incidents involving children.
League administrators typically check references and call other league officials to ask about a potential coach's character. "Our volunteer coaches are interviewed and screened each season to ensure they are here for the kids and not their personal glory,"
the Southern Nevada Pop Warner Football Conference website says.
Coaches can be suspended for threatening parents or other coaches, attacking referees or abusing players. Some infractions, such as assault, can send a coach to jail. Lesser offenses can result in league suspensions, with lifetime bans possible.
Las Vegas Sun