A high school athlete, along with parents of other players, says they have to pay thousands of dollars to private sports clubs or risk getting cut from their school team.
The allegations include coaches blurring the lines and having conflicts of interest at Chicago Public Schools. CBS 2's Dave Savini investigates whether students are pressured to pay to play.
Whitney Young Magnet High School's volleyball team is one of the best in Chicago with competitive players who win championships and hope to earn scholarships.
The team means "just about everything" to one senior who does not want her name used. She says she had been a starting player for Whitney Young since her freshman year, but then she was cut.
She was cut from this year's team, she says, after she quit playing for a private volleyball club. The private club coach and Whitney Young public high school coach were the same: Jaime Walters.
"It's all connected, which it shouldn't be," said the senior, who believes she suffered retaliation. "This whole club fee should have nothing to do with Whitney Young at all."
The player's mother, along with the mothers of two other players, all say it is a conflict of interest to coach the high school and club teams. Other moms -- whose names CBS 2 also is not using -- say athletes must "pay to play" at some schools in the Chicago Public Schools system.
They say their daughters were either benched or cut after they switched from the private club where the coach also worked.
"This is what will happen if you pull away from the club, regardless of how good of a player you are," one mother says.
"It's about the money," another parent says. "You're talking about maybe $1,300, maybe $1,400 per player, just for dues."
Their daughters all played for the club called Powerhouse, where Walters coached them. The former owner, Joel Anderson, is a CPS coach at Walter Payton.
"I think that there should be a greater degree of oversight," says one mother. Her daughter, a Division 1, college-bound senior, was pulled as a starter at Whitney Young when she quit the club, the parent says.
"She was the only scholarship player and she was the one who was riding the bench."
"What hurts me the most is that I trusted the coach, and I gave her my all," says the Whitney Young senior. "I miss just putting on that jersey."
CBS 2 has been unable to Walters, the Whitney Young coach.
Anderson, the Walter Payton coach, no longer runs Powerhouse. He now co-owns another private club, where he says Walters coaches, too. Anderson denies a pay-to-play atmosphere, and says only some of his high school players go to his club.
CPS indicated officials are looking into the complaints.
"This matter is under investigation to review compliance with the Board's ethics and disciplinary policies," according to a written statement.
The CPS Inspector General would neither confirm nor deny a separate investigation.
Source: CBS Chicago News
People who doubt Jaide Bucher should probably think again.
As part of its "Win From Within" series, Gatorade put the spotlight on Bucher, a 15-year-old softball catcher who was born with only one hand. In a video on Gatorade's YouTube page, the teen said she faces people questioning her abilities, but their doubt simply serves as her motivation.
"There was this one game where I got up to bat and the coach went, 'Bring it in, ladies, scoot in, scoot in' and I ripped a line drive right past them," she said in the video.
Bucher has made an impact on her coach and teammates, who gave touching testimonies of her strength and ability in the video. Her brother, Brock Bucher, also had some kind words to say about his big sister.
"The reason why I wanted to become a catcher is Jaide is a catcher," he said. "She would be amazing if she had another arm or not."
As part of her "Win From Within" experience, Gatorade surprised Bucher with a meeting with Jim Abbott. The former major league baseball player was also born with one hand and has been an inspiration for Bucher. The two even had the chance to play catch together.
Source: Huffington Post
The mantra is a myth.
Discussions about softball pitchers always return to the same long-accepted, rarely challenged theory: It's not baseball; the softball pitching motion is safe and natural; a girl can windmill endlessly without physical consequences.
Schraer grew up like just about every North Jersey pitcher age 8 to 18. Her world was guided by this "safe and natural" idea that is the rationalization behind pitching one dominant girl multiple games in a day, multiple days in a row, on multiple teams in a season.
It is a myth -- and a dangerous one at that, according to several sports medicine experts, pitching coaches and at least two former standout Bergen County high school pitchers.
"It's absolutely a myth," said Dr. Nikhil Verma, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, who has done research on the windmill delivery. "Anything that you do that's repetitive at that level with the type of force and velocity that these girls are generating puts you at risk for injury."
No less an authority than Dr. James Andrews, renowned orthopedic surgeon to the pros, debunked it in his 2013 book, "Any Given Monday," writing, "There is a common belief that throwing underhand is a natural way to keep the player safe from injury, but this definitely is not true. . . . The repeated movement and velocity of pitches thrown, even in the windmill style, are now even tearing the 'Tommy John ligament,' resulting in a UCL injury. Pitching limits matter in softball as much as they do in baseball."
But pitch count limits don't exist in softball at any level. Innings restrictions put in place by some leagues are meaningless, because a player can throw any number of pitches per inning. Theoretically it can be as few as three, but girls -- especially younger girls just getting started -- can routinely throw 30 or 40 pitches per inning.
'They just don't want to hear it'
Sherry Werner runs the Sherry Werner Fastpitch Academy in Fort Worth, Texas. She not only coaches young pitchers, she has done research and analysis on the windmill motion, including with U.S. Olympians. She has data showing that the force on a softball pitcher's shoulder and on that of a baseball pitcher's are equivalent, she said.
"It just drives me nuts," said Werner, who has a Ph.D. in biomechanics and has held research positions at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, the American Sports Medicine Institute and Tulane Institute for Sports Medicine. "Every week I hear, 'It's safe and natural.' It's just a myth that is out there, and I think the powers that be . . . they just don't want to hear it."
The Amateur Softball Association, the leading softball organization in the country, did not return repeated messages seeking comment.
This weekend fall ball will wrap up for most of young North Jersey softball players. Third-graders through high school seniors have spent weekends the last few months on club and town travel teams playing two- and three-day tournaments with four, five or six games for each team.
Indoor winter workouts will soon begin, with many players getting additional personal lessons from pitching coaches.
Brittany Baiunco, The Record's softball Player of the Decade for 2000-2010, started windmilling in second grade and had a pitching coach by fifth. Always a three-sport athlete, she didn't start playing only softball until after her sophomore year in high school, but by middle school was throwing at least 100 pitches at least five days a week, year-round.
The Ramapo High School star pitched in four Bergen County championship games, winning three, and led Ramapo to a state title in 2006, but during a game at the end of junior year she felt something "funky" happen in her shoulder, she says. It was her rotator cuff and posterior labrum tearing.
"I'm probably a testament to the fact that there is absolutely an effect," the 25-year-old said of being over-pitched.
She had surgery, and although she came back and led Ramapo to the 2008 county title her senior year, she says she never felt fully recovered and still struggles with pain and an inhibited range of motion today. She did not go on to pitch in college for various reasons, including feeling like she was never her pre-surgery self.
Her advice to girls now?
"I would just say take care of yourselves, know your limits and don't be afraid to speak up," she said.
Just as every baseball pitcher won't tear his rotator cuff or require Tommy John surgery, not every softball pitcher will suffer an injury either. Many try to say softball pitchers who get hurt had mechanical problems that caused the injury.
"It's not that if you had proper mechanics you'd be fine," said Dr. Stephen Nicholas, orthopedic surgeon and director of the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. "But the amount of stress you place on the body is less and because of that, you do last longer before you go to an overuse situation. . . . To think we can pitch ad infinitum makes no sense to me."
Softball injuries are coming to light now as more girls get serious about the sport, according to Nicholas. Parents are rushing players to the doctor to get them back on the field -- as they have done with baseball players for years. In the past, a girl in pain would sit out for a couple of weeks; now they often pitch through it and suffer a more serious injury, sports medicine specialists say.
Despite doctors reporting more and more softball pitchers as patients, there are no peer-reviewed studies showing cause and effect for softball pitchers, according to Dr. William Levine, orthopedist and co-director of Columbia University's Center for Shoulder, Elbow and Sports Medicine.
"If you have the data, you can be more thoughtful about it, otherwise it becomes more anecdotal," Levine said.
That anecdotal evidence is mounting.
"I've seen more and more rotator cuff [injuries]," said Dr. Jeffrey Dugas, orthopedic surgeon, sports medicine specialist and managing partner of Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Birmingham, Ala. "I've seen more Tommy John injuries in softball throwers."
Still, softball pitchers needing surgery are not as numerous as baseball pitchers needing it, a comparison that hurts efforts to get research done that could help put appropriate regulations in place for softball.
"The problem is sports medicine injury counts tend to be at surgery centers and tend to be how many surgeries [are done]," said Glenn Fleisig, Ph.D., research director at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Alabama. "I think that's missing the data on softball, because those injuries aren't typically surgical injuries."
The good news is that the research is under way, according to Dugas.
"There's some really high-end research going on in the softball world," he said, citing Werner's work among others. "There's so many kids doing it and the injury risk is not really well-appreciated, and we need more data.
"We know a lot about baseball. We know a lot about football. We know a relatively fair amount about soccer. Softball, in terms of just the epidemiology of softball, we don't have enough data about that, so there are things under way that I would say over the next five years we'll probably have a lot more data that resembles what we know about the other sports that are well-studied."
'Obsessed with winning'
They should know enough in 5 to 10 years to have an impact, Dugas said. Until then, best-guess recommendations can be put in place to help prevent overuse injuries.
"There should be some regulations for softball pitching to prevent the excess beyond common sense, an overuse injury for these girls who play this one activity year-round," Fleisig said.
But word hasn't made it to the field and pitchers continue to exert incredible force on their shoulder, biceps, elbows, wrists and all ligaments and tendons in between, often on bodies with still-developing muscular and skeletal systems.
Schraer is now a teacher who spends her nights as a pitching coach for North Jersey youth pitchers. She tries to educate parents and keep her girls from being overused.
"In tournament ball, these coaches become so obsessed with winning that they will ride a kid's arm over and over and over again," she said. "I try to educate my parents, as well as my kids, because the more they know, the more they can advocate for their kids."
Nobody has ever told the coaches otherwise, they say.
"I don't want to harm anyone," said Lee Ehlermann, involved in Mahwah softball for nearly two decades and currently the coach of the town's 12-and-under NJ Sparks club team. "You don't get any money for winning. It's not that important. If I was told a girl's arm would fall off or there would be medical issues like there are in baseball ..."
While he knows they're out there, Dugas said he has never met a coach who intentionally does something that could injure a player -- and that includes those who send the same softball pitcher out to throw three games in a day.
"That kind of stuff is unwise, but that's the industry standard and that's on us as the medical professionals," he said. "We need to prove that point, and we're in the process of getting there."
It's on us. We, the parents of softball pitchers, must protect them -- their arms, their health, their futures. We must not simply accept the idea that a girl can windmill endlessly without physical consequences. It is not safe. It is not natural. We cannot pretend we don't know.
It's not our fault, really. We've been told it's OK to let her stand in the circle and throw and throw and throw. But surely we've been told other things before and countered the logic.
Certainly someone once said, "We rode our bicycles without helmets and never got hurt." Yet we still strapped the protective gear on our child, because it's not worth the risk.
We must bring that mind-set and sense of responsibility to the fields next time along with the chair, coffee and phone. Watch our daughters. Stop and think about what's happening in her shoulder, elbow and wrist. Again and again and again.
Coaches aren't always going to put a player's health and future first, and sometimes they don't know if a child is ailing.
"The people who are most responsible for helping to avoid injuries in kids are the parent and kid," said Dr. Jeffrey Dugas, orthopedic surgeon, sports medicine specialist and managing partner of Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.
Parents must step in when necessary and, equally as important, they must make sure their kids know to speak up when anything hurts.
"At every parent meeting I go to, I encourage parents to sit down with their kids -- and it doesn't matter what age group they're in up through high school -- sit down with your children and make sure they know they can come to you and tell you how they feel," said Dugas, who has worked alongside preeminent orthopedic surgeon James Andrews since 1999. "That you expect them to tell you how they feel."
Throwing, any kind of throwing, should never include pain for a young athlete, according to Dugas.
"There are times the kids just have to say, 'Not today,' " he said. "That's a hard thing for a teenager to do. They don't want to do that. They're dis-incentivized to speak up."
Youth sports are big business, with club teams and year-round training facilities and talk of college scholarships. Parents have played a part in that evolution, for sure -- now it's time to be part of the solution.
"They're really their only advocate," said Sherry Werner, a sports medicine researcher who runs Sherry Werner Fastpitch Academy in Fort Worth, Texas, where she tries to get parents to understand what her research and Ph.D. in biomechanics and years in the softball world have taught her.
"I have a handful of girls whose parents are proud as punch if she pitches eight games in a weekend. They don't get it."
Diana Schraer coaches North Jersey youth pitchers and does her best to educate parents to speak up as well.
"Unfortunately, a lot of times it takes an injury to spark the interest of people starting to advocate in terms of pitch time for their kids," Schraer said.
Brittany Baiunco never thought she'd be injured. Her father was very careful to make sure she iced and stretched after every workout, she said. But The Record's softball player of the decade for 2000-2010 is now 25, and the anchors that helped surgically repair her torn labrum creak in the rain. If she reaches back too far when putting on her shirt, the former Ramapo star "tweaks" her pitching shoulder -- which also suffered a torn rotator cuff -- and is sore for days.
When asked her advice for parents of young pitchers, she said, "First and foremost, it should always be about health. Educate yourself about the specific sport your child is playing. . . . Whether it's softball pitching or you're throwing a baseball, there's still a limit. Just being conscious of that."
At a college showcase tournament in October, a mom watched her daughter, a prominent Bergen County high school pitcher. The girl has been pitching just about year-round since she started at age 9 or so. Pitching coach. Club teams. All in. Just like everybody else.
Asked if she was concerned about her daughter being injured by overuse, the mother dutifully repeated the "safe and natural, not-like-baseball" refrain. When told the contrary opinions of doctors and researchers, she dismissed it.
"They are wrong," she said, adding that doctors don't know everything.
Fair point. But this is not one doctor or even two. Many highly qualified, experienced sports medicine specialists and researchers say softball pitchers need rest and restriction. And what if we add the preeminent orthopedic surgeon in the country to that list?
For anyone who has ever coached youth sports of any kind, from pee-wee to middle school, and even high school sports in some cases. . . I have a deep question that has been floating in my mind in recent days. Just give me minute to circle around to it.
My youngest daughter wrapped up her high school soccer career tonight. The days leading up to it flooded me with memories of all her games past, both far and near. Thoughts of different leagues, cities, coaches, teammates, hotel rooms, victory, defeat. Reflections of how she changed over the years as a player, a competitor, and a person. Wondering how and why things have played out exactly as they have. Thinking about influences both good and bad that could have or would have made things better or worse if they'd been different.
And I started thinking about the kids that I have coached as my kids have grown up, from youth soccer to travel soccer, Upward basketball to middle school basketball. And I just can't help wondering. . .
If all coaches could see into the future, to that very day when a kid puts away the cleats or the hi-tops for the last time and walks away from a game. . . would they choose to coach individual kids differently than they presently do?
Every kid walks away from their chosen sport someday. . . then what?
Effective youth coaching is psychiatry and it is parenting. Each player is unique, and they have specific needs that team sports can bring them.
Many coaches fail to fill those needs because they falsely assume they are training the next state champs. They fail to see each child beyond that day when the sports equipment goes in the yard sale or the closet.
Shouldn't the journey of sports teach these things and more to prepare kids for life beyond sports?
These things still matter when the cheering stops.
The cheering stopped for Maddie tonight. Her team lost in the regional semi-finals. In a game where she and her teammates truly "left it on the field", the score was tied at the end of 80 minutes of regulation. Two 5-minute overtimes later, the score was still tied. Penalty kicks would now decide the match.
Maddie stood over the ball, ready to attempt her shot with her team facing a nearly hopeless 3-1 deficit.
If she missed this shot, the game was over. The season was over.
Sitting on my knees beside my wife, I simply mumbled, "Maddie needs to be to one to take this shot."
Not because it could be the game winner. . . because it would be the shot that would seal the loss if she missed.
I don't know what kind of reaction or look Kristy gave me, but I went on to say, "Maddie needs to be the one to take this shot, because I know she can handle missing the shot to end the game. She can handle it. That's my daughter!"
And my voice cracked at the enormity of what I was saying in a trailing voice. . . "that is OUR daughter".
She missed. Game over. Season over. High school career over for her and her senior teammates.
Maddie played her heart out. And I was so proud of her. But when those words came out of my mouth, "that's our daughter" it hit me so clearly. I was not proud of her effort or her performance.
I was proud of who she has become.
She met her mother and me after the game with head held high. That's our daughter.
Do your best. Have fun. Train and play to win. In the end it's just a game. The end came tonight. I'm thankful for all those who have prepared her in the right ways to go beyond this "end".
If you're coaching your 1st game or your 1000th, take an occasional peak toward the end. Winning is a by-product of doing all things the right way. Some lessons can't be cast aside for the sake of early wins or just because you ARE winning games.
And while your players are dreaming of making that dramatic game-winning shot, you better spend some time preparing their toughness and character. . . for missing it.
Source: Karrick Dyer
The number of children playing team sports is falling, with experts blaming a parent-driven focus on elite travel clubs, specialization in one sport and pursuit of scholarships for hurting the country's youth sports leagues.
Baseball, basketball, softball, soccer and touch football -- long staples of American childhood -- have all taken hits, worrying public health advocates, league organizers and professional sports organizations.
More than 26 million children ages 6 to 17 played team sports in 2014, down nearly 4 percent from 2009, according to a widely cited survey by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. Total sports played have plummeted by nearly 10 percent.
Some of the drop-off is attributable to the recession, particularly in low-income urban areas. But experts fear larger socioeconomic forces are in play, especially in the suburbs, where the shift to elite competition over the past two decades has taken a growing toll: Children are playing fewer sports, and the less talented are left behind in recreational leagues with poor coaching, uneven play and the message that they aren't good enough. Seventy percent of kids quit sports by age 13.
"The system is now designed to meet the needs of the most talented kids," said Mark Hyman, a professor of sports management at George Washington University and the author of several books on youth sports. "We no longer value participation. We value excellence."
And those studying the issue say they know whom to blame: parents.
"The adults have won," Hyman said. "If we wiped the slate clean and reinvented youth sports from scratch by putting the physical and emotional needs of kids first, how different would it look? Nothing would be recognizable."
The Aspen Institute, the Clinton Foundation, and several amateur and professional sports organizations are working on solutions. Officials came together last month for a roundtable at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York and earlier this year at a Washington summit attended by the U.S. surgeon general. Dick's Sporting Goods is appealing directly to customers, asking for donations at the checkout counter for Sports Matter, its new program to pump money into underfunded youth sports teams.
The toughest problem, Hyman said, is that no parent wants to "unilaterally disarm" and acknowledge that the system is broken.
"It's just about impossible to stand up to it if you want your kids to play competitively," said Elizabeth Pelcyger, a Washington mom whose son felt pressure even from his baseball teammates because he wasn't playing year-round. "They could somehow point out that he hadn't been playing since he was 4."
Many of the adults trying to fix the problem remember a simpler, less competitive, less expensive time in youth sports. There were no travel teams, no faraway tournaments -- now a $7 billion industry. There were pickup games with friends and leagues at neighborhood parks, with the focus mostly on fun. All of the kids in the neighborhood played together: the stars, the stalwarts, the daisy pickers. One of the most popular movies in the 1970s: "The Bad News Bears."
Amazingly, kids still made it to the major leagues.
"Sports was everything in my life," said Dick's chief executive Edward W. Stack, who played baseball and football. "I don't remember every teacher I had, but I remember every coach I had. If I didn't have those things, I don't know what I would have done."
Although Wall Street analysts have expressed some concern about how participation drops could affect the sporting goods business, Stack says: "The whole problem is very personal to me. This is not about business. I saw how my life was impacted though sports."
Parent bragging rights
There is little debate over the value of playing sports for children, although the risk of concussions in contact sports, particularly football, has become a concern for parents, pediatricians and coaches. Still, active kids are less likely to be obese and are more likely to have higher test scores, attend college and have higher incomes. And when active kids become parents, they start the process again with their children. Built on Gatorade and shin guards, it is a virtuous, wholesome loop.
That is the idea. It is no longer the reality.
In the past two decades, sports has become an investment to many parents, one that they believe could lead to a college scholarship, even though the odds are bleak. Parents now start their kids in sports as toddlers, jockey to get them on elite travel teams, and spend small fortunes on private coaching, expensive equipment, swag and travel to tournaments.
Youth sports is the new keeping up with the Joneses.
"The parents try to one-up each other," said Tony Korson, founder of Koa Sports, a nonprofit sports league in Montgomery County that tries to provide an alternative to the youth sports status quo, with trained coaches and encouragement of multiple sports. "You get one parent who says, 'I traveled to Tennessee for a tournament.' Another says, 'Well I flew to California.' And then, 'Oh my son is going to Puerto Rico.' "
Some parents -- usually those on the outside -- look at the situation with astonishment.
"What I want to know is why there are so many families that are into travel sports?" asked one poster on DC Urban Moms and Dads, a popular online chat board. Someone answered: "Honestly I think there are many parents who like it," adding, "in their own mind they are thrilled at their son being an 'elite' athlete." Another person replied: "What playing a travel/club sport can do is take a kid who is a decent athlete and give them a leg up."
But nobody bothered to ask the kids what they wanted. Now, researchers are beginning to survey children. Not unsurprisingly, they have a different idea of what youth sports should be.
Amanda Visek, an exercise science professor at George Washington University, recently surveyed nearly 150 children about what they found fun about sports. (Her sample included kids who play travel and recreational sports.) The kids identified 81 factors contributing to their happiness.
Number 48: winning.
Also low on the list: playing in tournaments, cool uniforms and expensive equipment. High on the list: positive team dynamics, trying hard, positive coaching and learning. Whenever Visek presents her findings to win-hungry parents and coaches, there is a lot of pushback.
"They don't want to believe it," she said.
Yet the No. 1 reason why kids quit sports is that it's no longer fun.
Fixing the problem
This is how youth sports looks now: The most talented kids play on travel teams beginning at age 7 (or sometimes younger), even though many athletes bloom much later; the best coaches (often dads who are former college athletes) manage travel teams, leaving rec leagues with helpful but less knowledgeable parents in charge; and coaches of elite teams pressure kids to play only one sport (the one they are coaching), even though studies show this leads to injuries, burnout and athletes who aren't well rounded.
Particularly with specialization, parents believe they are making the right choice in pursuit of a scholarship.
"I'm done trying to tell parents that the odds are against them," said Hyman, the GW professor. "That's a loser's game. They don't want to believe that. The better approach is to tell them that what they're doing is not helping you reach your goal."
Those who study the issue are more worried about the millions of kids who just want to play sports for fun but get the least attention.
"The rec leagues become much less sustainable," said Tom Farrey, a sportswriter running the Aspen Institute's initiative on youth sports. "These kids kind of know they are second-class, and they check out quickly. The quality of coaching isn't as good. The kids fall behind. It becomes a compounding effect."
With traditional team sports in decline -- the number of kids playing touch football is down more than 7 percent, slow-pitch softball down 5 percent, and baseball, basketball and soccer all down nearly 2 percent -- niche sports might be benefiting from some of the quitters. Lacrosse is up nearly 12 percent. Field hockey is up nearly 8 percent.
Meanwhile, the race is on to put solutions in place. The Aspen Institute has made eight recommendations, including revitalizing in-town leagues, reintroducing free play, encouraging sports sampling, training coaches and, perhaps most important, asking kids what they want.
The largest organizations in sports are making moves. Major League Baseball is partnering with the Positive Coaching Alliance to train youth coaches. The U.S. Tennis Association is encouraging sports sampling and hosting roundtables on the topic. U.S. Youth Soccer is moving next year from 11-on-11 games to 9-on-9 and 7-on-7, which youth sports advocates believe will be more fun and increase skills development.
"Hopefully, these ideas can help change things," Farrey said. "You're not going to change the culture by telling parents to stop acting like fools."
Source: Washington Post
Editorial Note: One of the first pitchers I coached left softball shortly after one year. I asked her why she was leaving. Her response was: "I'm going to dance. My dad knows nothing about dance."