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2015 Women Coaches Symposium   April 17, 2015

Media Coverage & Female Athletes


The Tucker Center has won a 2014 Upper Midwest Emmy Award in the Sports Documentary category for its video "Media Coverage and Female Athletes," an evidence-based research project co-produced with tptMN.

Forty percent percent of all sports participants are female, yet women's sports receive only 4% of all sport media coverage and female athletes are much more likely than male athletes to be portrayed in sexually provocative poses.

To highlight why this matters and address these disparities, the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota, in partnership with tptMN, have produced "Media Coverage and Female Athletes," a groundbreaking documentary that uses research-based information to examine the amount and type of coverage given to female athletes.

You won't want to miss hearing from expert scholars and award winning coaches and athletes who discuss this timely issue from a variety of perspectives, as they help dispel the common -- but untrue -- myths that no one is interested in women's sport and that "sex sells" women's sport.

Effective strategies are also discussed for increasing media coverage and creating images which reflect the reality of women's sports participation and why this is so important.

Watch the Full Video Here!

Source: The Tucker Center


Small town softball player goes from small school to Boston College

When Ally Moore arrived as a student-athlete at Clayton High School three years ago, she had a bright future as a softball player.

Her mother, Tracy, is a physical education teacher and girls basketball coach at the school and her father, Joe -- who had coached her in ASA -- would become her head softball coach.

But Clayton is a small school with a softball program that has traditionally struggled to even reach .500, and her parents -- despite their attachment to Clayton -- gave her the option to go to another high school.

Next June, Ally Moore will graduate near the top of her 79-student class at Clayton High School. And on Thursday, she will become the first player in the program's history to sign a letter of intent to play Division I softball when she officially commits to Boston College.

"This is where I'm from," said Moore, who also plays field hockey and basketball. "My parents said I could do whatever I wanted, but this is where I grew up, these are the kids I'd always gone to school with. I wanted to stay and graduate from Clayton and say I accomplished everything here. I didn't want to do that anywhere else."

Her father and coach Joe noted receiving an offer from an Atlantic Coast Conference school with an academic reputation like Boston College shows as much for Clayton and Ally's dedication to education as it does her softball skills.

"She's gotten a great education and done very well in school," said Joe Moore. "Her hard work in the classroom has helped her with other endeavors, She's third in her class, president of student council, honor society, world language club. She's well-rounded.

"There were other opportunities for her, but we owned a house here in Clayton, she was born here in Clayton. We believed in the school system and believed the kids would get out what they put into it. She takes the best classes, has the right friends. There wasn't a need for her to go anywhere else."

All of the recruiting in softball is done at the ASA level, so Moore's performance with the New Jersey Intensity is what drew the attention of college coaches more than her play for the Clippers. But that still doesn't stop many kids from seeking a higher level of competition on the high school level.

Moore, who is already the school's all-time hits leader with 110, said she sometimes is frustrated by the team's record and performance but puts it all in perspective. The Clippers are 28-40 in her career, but they've improved every season.

"Sometimes it gets frustrating not playing at that (high) level, but I always look forward to high school ball," she said. "Travel ball is so competitive. It's 24-7. High school ball is a little more chill. I get to play with my friends, my sister (Kelli). The community is very supportive. Our athletic director, Dan Antonelli, is like my biggest fan."

Said Joe Moore: "It works out well for her, she likes playing with her high school team. She understands some of the kid's levels are not quite there. There's a lot of pressure on her. When she grounds out or drops a foul ball, people look at her like she shouldn't do that because she's going to Boston College. But you look at her numbers -- she has four strikeouts in three years, 110 hits -- I'd say she keeps up her end of bargain."

When people ask Ally Moore where she is from in her softball travels, she always tells them Clayton, then waits for the inevitable follow-up question.

"It's always 'Where?'" she said. "So then I tell them all the big names around us and tell them we're the baby school next door."

Ally Moore hopes she can be a role model for other up-and-coming Clayton athletes to let them know they can stay in town and achieve their goals.

"That's always been my thing, I help out with the little league team and try to be a role model for them," she said. "I'm proud to say I'm from Clayton. I stayed home and chased my dreams, and I did it."

Source: High School Sports - New Jersey


New Wanamingo softball field takes shape

Construction of a new softball field has brought a striking change in appearance to the Kenyon-Wanamingo Elementary School grounds. The project recently began after months of planning and gathering bids for work.

Dave Rapp, owner of Rapp Surveying in Kenyon, surveyed the location and staked out dimensions of the new field. Zumbro Valley Landscaping of Wanamingo built a significant retaining wall, completed all excavating work, and hauled in red rock for the infield. On October 17, Tom Shane, owner of Shane Electric, trenched and ran electricity to the field, dugout, and future scoreboard locations. Project organizers said the field will be playable by the spring season, as long as enough funds are raised for the backstop and fencing to be installed.

The idea for the new ballfield came about last year when KW coach and teacher Kirby VanDeWalker started thinking of ways to build onto the baseball and softball programs. The softball program has the advantage of having both the varsity and junior varsity fields in close proximity to each another. However the JV baseball field is in Kenyon while the varsity baseball field is in Wanamingo. To bring the JV baseball field to Wanamingo, a new field needed to be constructed, and another field altered.

Currently, the JV softball team plays its home games on a field east of the elementary school, known as the "pool field" since it is north of the Wanamingo pool. This field would be turned into a JV baseball field, which is originally how it was used many years ago. VanDeWalker said, "Before we can return the pool field to the dimensions of a baseball field, the JV softball team needs a place to play, thus a new softball field is needed."

Having the junior varsity and varsity fields near each other offers major advantages. VanDeWalker said, "One advantage is the varsity coach has the ability to call on a JV player to play on the varsity if situations allow," such as during big leads or deficits. He added, "If the JV and varsity both have double-headers, it would allow for a player to play one game with the JV and one with the varsity." If the coach is not able to place the JV player into the varsity game, the athlete could easily return to the JV game to get some playing time.

Other advantages include:

  • It will also be easier for parents with players on different teams to catch both their children's games.
  • The JV teams can watch the end of the varsity games, to see the intensity of varsity competition and providing learning opportunities.
  • Adjacent fields would allow tournaments to be held in one location, rather than traveling between Wanamingo and and Kenyon.
  • Parking lots near all four fields make for easier accessibility for people of all ages to enjoy a game.
  • The fields will all be located near the elementary school for quick access if shelter is ever needed.

In summary, VanDeWalker said, "Having all four softball and baseball fields together makes it easier for parents, more convenient for opposing schools, provides many advantages for our baseball and softball programs, and makes it safer for all spectators and members of the teams."

Last year VanDeWalker and his father Larry proposed the idea of the new field to the KW School Board. The board gave its approval for the project, as long as no money from the district was used to cover the costs.

The total project cost is expected to be about $75,000. Fundraising will begin in the near future and donations are being accepted. They can be sent to the Wanamingo Community Fund, attention Ball Fields Project, PO Box 201, Wanamingo, MN 55983.

Source: Zumbrota News-Record


Disability case challenges MN high school transfer rule

The Minnesota State High School League, the governing body of high school sports, is pretty strict about talented kids jumping from school to school. When a kid transfers, he/she has to sit out a year. Otherwise, high school athletics would become like the pros  --  "free agents" would be jumping from school to school.

Should it make a difference if the athlete has a disability?

That's the question the League is considering at the request of a family in Duluth, whose hockey-playing son transferred from Duluth Marshall  --  a private school  --  to Duluth Denfield, a public school.

Cam McClure and his family say he transferred because he has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and could no longer focus on the 90-minute classes at the private school. The public school, with its shorter classes, will be easier, they say.

Last month, the MSHSL denied the request, presenting the problem. Cam is a senior and this is his last season playing high school sports; he can't sit out a year.

A hearing was held yesterday at the MSHSL headquarters and a judge had until Tuesday to decide, the Duluth News Tribune reports today.

Academically, the transfer seems to have worked. His his grade-point average was 3.75 in his first quarter at Denfeld. It had fallen to 2.0 at the private school. He also has an IEP, a tailored learning plan that makes accomodations for his disability.

"Kids who have to transfer from one school to another because of their disabilities cannot be penalized because of that disability-related transfer," the family's lawyer says.

The judge in the case has until Tuesday to decide.

Of course, there's another aspect to this. Rosters are limited to 20 players in high school hockey. What if you're the 20th kid on the roster and the transfer takes your spot at the last minute?

Source: Minnesota Public Radio


When is too soon, too soon?
Opinion by Damian Fantauzzi

There is a soon-to-be 13-year-old seventh grade girl, Deja (Dasha) Kelly from San Antonio Texas, who has verbally, committed to the University of Texas women's basketball program.

Yes, I said 13.

Wait a minute, how can that be? Doesn't the NCAA have restrictions about that? Well, yes and no.

At 11, as a fifth grader, Deja had multiple colleges express an interest in her, and last year as a sixth grader, her dream school, the University of Texas, came on to the scene. Because of her age, her commitment could only be verbal, which is non-binding, and that's a good thing.

I have seen video footage of this youngster and she is the real deal, and with her skill level, she's in a league of her own.

She's a very mature kid who looks older than her years. In an interview with NBC's Janet Shamlian on the Today Show, listening to her talk during the interview, you would think she was a 20-year-old. But, she's a middle school "KID" in the seventh grade, and at her age there are so many things that lay ahead for her.

Her dad, Darren Kelly, was a point guard at Texas and her mom, Theresa Nunn, who is her AAU coach, is a former Division II college player. Her parents seem OK with this process. Her dad did express that he would like to see her go through the recruiting process, with other schools in the mix, as she moves forward into the end of her high school experience.

What is the problem with this scenario and where do I start? Even though Deja is a story of exception, I feel what is happening in youth sports is that the kids are becoming, at a much younger age, too focused on the target of grandeur in the success of athletics, or stardom!

It's admirable that this kid is that mature, but for whose sake and at what cost? Is this exploitation by colleges and universities or an obvious fault in system of college recruiting --  or maybe both? Should this be allowed? Personally, I don't like it!

It used to be that college coaches and scouts would go to high school games around a prospect's junior year. Then, and only then, the universities could make personal contact with the players. Now that AAU has exploded onto the scene, and I do mean exploded, players are being seen and are coming under the scrutiny and consideration of college coaches, while some are still in elementary school.

There are a number of college coaches who don't even bother to go to high school games to recruit. Most head coaches will send their assistant coaches to the many AAU tournaments across the country, where on a weekend there are literally hundreds of kids playing basketball. It's like a candy store of basketball players. Many of these college coaches are over-stimulated by their sweet tooth for sugar-coated basketball players. This, unfortunately, has become the new norm.

So that means potential superstar Deja Kelly plans to become a freshman at UT by the year 2020. Oh, what could happen between now and then? A lot!

For one thing, she can change her mind, and that's on the upside because her commitment is non-binding. Maybe Geno Auriemma, UConn's extremely successful women's basketball coach, who has nine national championships, can sweep her off of her feet to play for UConn. Options are always good.

My quarrel with the NCAA asks the question, "Where's the integrity of ‘big time' college sports?"

It has become such a money game for these schools that they have gone too far by looking at "little kids" as prospects for the future of their athletic programs.

The integrity of collegiate sports is flawed when you look at what was just revealed about the University of North Carolina, where there was a period in time when some athletes were getting good grades as no-show students (a topic I will be addressing soon). The shame! Believe me when I say that UNC is not the only school fudging grades for their athletes.

Think how we used to feel. It was crazy watching these little girls in gymnastics competing in the Olympics. The OCC has an age limit. I'm sure it's 13, with rumors of China and Russia forging birth certificates. Thirteen? Color me surprised!

Winning has become the most important thing in the world of sports and I can't shake the idea of "winning at all cost."

There's more to playing sports than that. How far down can these college programs fall into the rabbit hole? Whatever happened to the revered philosophy, "do the right thing"?

Giving these starstruck "little" athletes the idea that they are already big time prospects --  is that fair to them and their families?

Sounds crazy, and in my opinion, it is! Believe it when I say the parents can be as starstruck as their children. These kids might still like watching the Disney movie, "Frozen," and then be expected to commit to playing basketball, or whatever sport, at a big-time University, like Texas!

This just doesn't seem right, and at the ages of 12 through 16, or 17, shouldn't these young players be enjoying the process of playing sports for the fun of it?

There are so many stories about kids who burned out from over-play, accompanied with the abusive tactics of some coaches who have personal goals and/or parents who are living their dream through their child. All this because of the unnecessary pressure put on these youngsters to excel in a sport.

This is fundamentally wrong and these college programs need to rethink their method of recruitment. I find this scenario disturbing and I see it as another black mark against collegiate sports.

Source: Saratoga Today


In sporting goods, the clock runs out on ignoring women

When 12-year-old McKenna Peterson opened her new Dick's Sporting Goods basketball catalog recently, the Arizona basketball player and superfan was frustrated to find a glaring misstep: The only girl in the catalog's pages wasn't actually playing basketball  --  she was sitting in the stands.

So McKenna began to type the company a fiery letter, not just praising her favorite female "dunking machines" but also tearing into the annoying imbalance the boy-heavy mailer seemed to represent. "It's hard enough for girls to break through in this sport as it is," she wrote, "without you guys excluding us from your catalog."

McKenna's letter didn't just spark a public outcry and lead the corporate giant's chief to apologize  --  it highlighted an unavoidable tension of the sporting-goods industry: Girls and young women are one of its fastest-growing markets, and one of its most ignored.

"That they're never represented athletically means we don't value them as athletes, and maybe, in the case of this catalog, don't value them as customers," said Janet Fink, a professor in sports management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The business case behind appealing to women couldn't be more obvious: Women account for the vast majority of purchase decisions, Nielsen research shows, and American girls' participation in sports has been on a growth streak for years. Retailers that have devoted floor space, time and creativity to women's apparel have profited in return.

Yet analysts said the sporting-goods world remains chiefly concentrated on and controlled by men, an outgrowth of a decades-long lack of focus on female athletes and the broader gender gap that still haunts modern sports.

About 40 percent of American athletes are female, yet only 4 percent of media coverage goes to female sports, according to the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota.

Women have "been vastly underserved by the industry. Sporting goods is a guy industry, and men dominate the executive ranks," said Matt Powell, an analyst with industry researcher SportsOneSource. "Even today we don't see brands making a ton of women's sporting apparel. With footwear, for example, they still tend to be female versions of a man's shoe."

One guiding strategy for apparel for women and girls remains what is known as the "shrink it and pink it" approach, in which the only options for women brought to market are smaller, more colorful versions of men's clothes, analysts said. And though some retailers have begun designing sportswear for women, the broader marketing and media appearances of female athletes have often lagged behind.

More than 19 million girls played basketball, soccer and volleyball last year, according to the National Sporting Goods Association, and girls' participation in sports has grown an average of 50 percent a year over the last half-decade. Young female athletes are not without role models: Mo'ne Davis, 13, was celebrated on the cover of Sports Illustrated in August when she became the first girl to pitch a shutout game in Little League World Series history.

But the odds can also appear stacked against female athletes. McKenna's mother, Donna Peterson, told The Washington Post there has been a lack of leagues around their town, Gilbert, Arizona, for McKenna to play in. The choices don't get any better when they look on clothing racks, she added, because the choices are hugely limited for girls' basketball jerseys, shorts and shoes.


Some companies are pushing hard to win women's spending. At Under Armour, the Baltimore-based retailer that got its start with men's football gear, nearly a third of its $3 billion in annual sales come from women, and founder and chief executive Kevin Plank has said he expects, under the company's new strategic "womanifesto," business from women will "equal or surpass our men's business in the future."

Led by its youth and women's divisions, Under Armour sales grew 24 percent last year.

Doubling down on its women's outreach, the company just launched its first worldwide ad campaign dedicated to women, tapping elite female athletes as head sponsors, including ballerina Misty Copeland, Olympian soccer gold-medalist Kelley O'Hara and pro surfer Brianna Cope. In one commercial, supermodel Gisele Bündchen spars with a punching bag as negative quotes pulled from the Web, like "Stick to modeling, sweetie," appear on the walls.

Foot Locker chief executive Kenneth C. Hicks has called women's sports apparel the company's "biggest opportunity," and the company has begun a dramatic remodeling of its growing Lady Foot Locker brand.

Some companies' bets on women's running shoes, tank tops, yoga wear and other gear have paid off handsomely: Sports giant Nike has so far this year seen sales of its women's sports apparel grow nearly 30 percent over last year.

"Big companies are seeing that the public is ready, more than ready, for clothing that's not just pink and purple and tight or short, but is functional and appropriate for athletes and girls of all shapes and sizes," said Judy Vredenburgh, the president and chief executive of Girls Inc., a girls' advocacy nonprofit.


Before the catalog shipped, Dick's was among that core of sports retailers hoping to win over a growing market for girls. At an earnings call in August, Dick's chief executive Edward W. Stack said the company had in recent months taken space away from golf equipment, the shrinking market that once made up a fifth of its business, to add much more women's and youth apparel, one of the company's strongest-growing markets.

Dick's did not respond to messages, but Stack responded Saturday to McKenna with a tweeted letter of apology, saying "we clearly messed up" and guaranteeing that next year's catalog would feature more female athletes.

In the days since, most of the company's tweets to its nearly 300,000 followers have included pictures of young female shoppers and athletes, as well as links to buy women's leggings, running shoes and sports bras.

Market watchers say better offerings for girls and young women may get their biggest jump-start from girls like McKenna, who are vocal sports fans and unafraid to call out retailers.

"We have 30-plus years of sport media research that document exactly what she pointed out," said Nicole LaVoi, an associate director of the Tucker Center in Minnesota. "We've been sounding this bell for years. It still hasn't permeated the consciousness of some of these sporting-goods companies," LaVoi said. "Why is the voice of one girl so powerful?"

Source: Portland Press Herald


There's a Reason Why Your Kids Aren't Playing - They're Not Good Enough

The fall sports season is reaching its zenith. Boys and girls at all levels and grades are running, stretching, planning and preparing for cross-town or cross-county rivals. Fall, especially in New England, is a wondrous time of year even if the Red Sox aren't participating. [Here in Florida, it's cause for a street party whenever the temperature falls below 70 during the day.]

For high school athletes, it means all those sweaty summer practices, workouts and sports-camps are finally going to pay some dividends.

The heart of any school athletic season brings with it busy schedules, frantic parents or older siblings driving kids from one field to the next, competition, camaraderie, joy, and disappointment.

One question every coach from Pop Warner and Youth Volleyball, on up through the highest levels high school competition in Texas, has heard in their coaching career is this:

"Why isn't my kid playing?"

This topic came up in the wake of a column that ran in the Boston Globe last week about the lack of play for some in youth sports.

The absurdity of many "win-at-all-cost" coaches in youth sports is neatly matched by the fanaticism of "play-my-kid-or-else" parents at the high-school level.

When the games start to count, the main reason why your kid isn't playing is simple:

"They're just not good enough."

"He/she just isn't fast enough."

"He/she just isn't strong enough."

"He/she just isn't tall enough."

"He/she is too fat/too skinny."

"He/she just didn't try hard enough in practice."

"He/she should not play over Jimmy/Jenny because they're faster, quicker, stronger, taller, and/or try harder."

Good coaches, however, are not usually that blunt or honest.

We'll focus on football for the rest of this conversation. Although much here applies to all sports, regardless of the game or gender. Many coaches are notorious for not telling what you and I would consider the "truth."

The coach of New England's NFL entry has mastered that skill. And high school coaches who fancy themselves as the "Belichick of the _______ League" are likely to follow his lead.

Parents get a little nutty at times when it comes to their children and youth/high school sports. Nearly parent ever [this one included], at one time or another in the dark recesses of their minds, fancies a scenario where their son or daughter can master this or that sport well enough to earn a free-ride to college. When that dream/delusion is squashed after meeting the reality of genetics, talent, and/or interest, it's hard to reconcile.

For the parents, that is.

The thing is that many kids know what they're good at, and what they're not good at. When it comes to football, for instance, most of the middle-schoolers or freshman already know the one or two kids who are good enough to play on the varsity team. And be the ones likely to catch the eye of a college recruiter. Their parents do not.

The rest play because they enjoy it, need the discipline, want to belong to a team, have dreamed of it since they were 5 or 6, are trying to make their parents happy, need a varsity sport on their college application, or some combination thereof.

There is another level of high school athlete, the non-elite, that encompasses about 99 percent of those who play high school and/or youth sports. They're the ones whose career in organized athletics will end with their final high school game. Some of these kids are very talented and skilled. They're able to throw the ball AND catch the ball, much to the delight of Gisele Bundchen. They can beat anyone in a footrace. They can bench twice their body weight.

Others possess marginal athletic skills, but make up for it practice, by getting stronger and quicker, and with on-field effort.

And no matter how much little Billy tries, no matter how much little Billy wants to play, there's no guarantee that he will play. [Unless he's participating in a league that mandates or guarantees playing time.] Participating in high school sports, for instance, is no different than any other education experience. You learn about winning and losing. You learn about bad calls and bad breaks. And some kids just aren't good enough to play, at least on a routine basis.

Far too many children today are living in a world where they never learn "no." They don't know how to handle disappointment and failure. Nor do they know how to react and move on when they don't get their own way. Interacting with actual people, and not just the screens on their iPhones or iPads, is a challenge, if not an impossibility. I won't call this "abuse," but it's pretty damn close.

This is a world constructed by "well-meaning" but dangerously naïve parents. The children know no better because this is what they're taught.

Playing a team sport, like football, with the right coaching can help students learn life's difficult lessons, including Mick Jagger's truism that "you can't always get what you want."

The joy of winning, the life-time friendships that are crafted among teammates, the sense of accomplishment and, for some, that varsity letter, makes the effort worth the risk. Some kids just aren't good enough to play at any competitive level . This is not a moral judgment. They're too big, too small, too slow, don't work hard enough off the field, or aren't physically strong enough to be safe while being on the field against better athletes who won't take it easy on them.

It sucks when your kid isn't playing. Been there, done that. No reasonable parent wants to see their child hurt. But no one escapes this life unhurt, emotionally if not physically.

When these kids move on in life, they are going to get rejected when they apply for college, turned down when they ask out someone for a date, fail to get the job they want, the shift they want at work, and taste failure and disappointment on multiple fronts.

Legitimate safety concerns aside, coaches should try to get make sure everyone gets some playing time. But that should never come at expense of other kids who are more talented, try harder or spend more time practicing.

My son earned a starting spot senior year on his varsity football team. When it became evident he wasn't going to play much after the first few weeks of the season, he made the difficult decision to leave the team. He focused full-time on his studies and conditioning, so he could qualify for a military scholarship. The sophomore who replaced him is now playing at a Div. I-AA school on scholarship. This turned out to be a great decision for my son, who is a third-year US Army ROTC cadet. Win-win.

Their coach wasn't very good, and would be fired before my son graduated. This taught my son another important life-lesson: All your bosses aren't going to be great. Sometimes, leadership is going fail and take everyone down with it.

No child should be forced to play sports. And no child should ever go out for any team thinking they're going to be guaranteed a spot or playing time, no matter how loudly their parents complain. There is, however, much on the upside to playing team high school sports that barely gets mentioned nowadays.

In that sense, sports is a true metaphor for life. No one is guaranteed "playing" time in life. For the most part, hard work, effort, planning and desire is rewarded. The benefits can be wonderful. But it's good to prepared when it doesn't work out that way.



Put our kids in, coach

It was a crisp, spectacular autumn Saturday, one of those mornings the Supreme Being placed on our calendar so footballs can be passed and kicked and spiked in triumphant end-zone celebration.

We were in Marshfield. The players were 12 years old. And with each minute that drained from the scoreboard, my blood pressure rose.

Like every contest in which the combatants have yet to acquire their first shaving kit, it was a meaningless game. Still, the coaches decided the stakes were too high to play all but the most gifted of their precious pre-teen athletes.

I don't recall who won. No one there that morning does. But after the game broke up, my young son and I headed for the parking lot and encountered a scene  --  a full 10 Octobers ago now  --  that remains seared into my memory.

A coach takes one of his small players aside  --  and the little boy is crying.

"What's that all about?" I asked my son. "Paul didn't play," he told me. After a pause, he added: "And I didn't either, dad." And then my son, too, burst into tears. There have been few times in my life that I have seen brighter shades of red.

Like most parents, I have been the beneficiary of the fine talent and the donated time of dedicated, hard-working coaches. They inspire. They nurture. They are treasures. And, thankfully, they outnumber the knuckleheads.

But there is a healthy minority who worship only the final score. Some of them, as the great Tommy Lasorda would say, couldn't hit the water if they fell out of a [expletive] boat. They are members of the win-at-all-cost club.

If your kid is the star quarterback, or the captain of the field hockey team, you probably love them. But if you're like most, parents of kids with average ability, you want to throttle them.

An estimated 20 million children register for competitive sports each year in America. With these frustrated wannabes patrolling our sidelines, it's little wonder that, according to the National Alliance for Sports, 70 percent of them quit playing by age 13.

"There are a percentage of coaches who shouldn't be coaching and there are some who are like a gift from God," Jim Thompson told me. "Our goal is to move everyone in sports in the direction of God's gift."

Thompson is the founder and chief executive of Positive Coaching Alliance, a national nonprofit that is working to make character building, not winning, the cornerstone of youth and high school athletics. It's a borderline disgrace that we even need such a group, but we do.

The group focuses its spotlight not on the my-way-or-the-highway coach, but on women and men like Chris Lindstrom, the head coach at Shepherd Hill School in Dudley. When he collected an honor at a breakfast meeting at Fenway Park earlier this year, Lindstrom told the story about a recent Thanksgiving Day game, the last for his seniors. When Lindstrom realized one of his seniors hadn't left the bench yet, he took out his talented son, and sent the back-up senior in for his moment of glory.

"Who cares who wins the game?" Lindstrom said. The answer, sadly, is too many coaches.

Lindstrom reminds me of one of my oldest childhood friends. Paul Constantino is the head football coach of Clinton High School. He has taken his teams to Super Bowl championships. He's also gone winless. He teaches respect. He carries himself with dignity. He loves to win. He doesn't throw tantrums when he loses.

And his proudest accomplishment is not his win-loss record, but the esteem in which he is carried by boys who grow into men and remember the imprint he made on their character.

He is, as Thompson would say, a gift from God, the kind of coach any parent would love to see on their sideline, the kind of coach simply incapable of making little boys cry.

Source: Boston Globe