Monthly Archives: February 2013

“Lessons” from the Super Bowl

by: Rick Howard

Aren’t we always espousing the benefits of sports, such as how sports develop sportsmanship? Isn’t part of why we’re so excited to fill the talent pool that we also are creating citizens who will positively contribute to society?

Well then, what about the Super Bowl? What better stage to show our young people that sportsmanship matters!! In youth sport, aren’t we always encouraging the end-of-game line up and handshake with the other team? Don’t we often comment that the mark of great athletes and sportsmen is that it is difficult to distinguish who won and who lost at the end of the game? Aren’t we often upset when we hear that teams cannot conduct themselves properly during this time-honored tradition?


Look, I understand that emotions run high in the Super Bowl. Endorsement potential is huge. Popularity can skyrocket. But why can’t our professional athletes, in the biggest game of their lives, walk the walk?

If we want our young athletes to value sportsmanship and if we continue to expose our young athletes to talent above theirs in order for them to benefit and succeed, then can’t we ask athletes at those levels to remember who is looking up to them, who is going to emulate them in their youth games, and who’s impressionable eyes are on the Super Bowl?

Let’s bring back the team handshake with style. That would be a better focus for our aspiring athletes than a half-time show (it was a great show, though, but there are concerns about the half-time show if there is inclement weather during the Super Bowl at Giants Stadium). How great would it be for kids to see their favorite athlete displaying good sportsmanship at the end of the game, just like the kids are asked to do? And, if we ever are fortunate again to have brothers participating as players or coaches, wouldn’t it be great for their parents to meet them both at midfield and congratulate them together on their outstanding accomplishment, and for the brothers to congratulate each other for their success, win or lose?

Fill the Talent Pool with sportsmanship at ALL levels of play!!


How tall is your pyramid?

by: Rick Howard

Build the Base

According to Martin Rooney, author of Training for Warriors (not to mention awe-inspiring displays by Egyptians, Mayans, and esteemed mathematicians), a pyramid can only be as tall as its base. How does this revelation help you fill the talent pool?


All youth athletes need to develop a strong physical, social, and psychological foundation (the base of the youth development pyramid) in order to realize not only athletic potential but also to have the skills, confidence, and poise to be physically active for their entire lives. Unfortunately, however, the youth sport and the youth physical education/physical activity popular cultures are “built” on bases that are too narrow to support complete youth development at each youngster’s appropriate level.

What should youth sports be doing to build the base?

Youth sport programs must produce results to generate customers. But being the U-9 champs should NOT BE the primary objective. The focus should not be on the product (winning) but on the process (engaging). Less than 0.01 % of Little League World Series players ever play professional baseball.  Statistics on the ever-elusive-college-scholarship are equally as dismal. The pressure to win often leads to burnout, injury, and discontinuation not only in the sport but in physical activity, in general. The result youth sports programs SHOULD BE producing is successful movers in a variety of environments, with an eye on continued improvement, enjoyment, and participation (did you know that 70% of kids drop out of youth sports by age 13?).

Is being physically active enough?

The physical education/physical activity paradigm has shifted emphasis from building a strong foundation through motor skill development, sports skills, tactics and strategies, and positive attitude toward games, fitness, and sport to what they call lifetime fitness activities (defined by adults, not kids). These activities include: walking, jogging, swimming, tennis, and weight training. While part of an active lifestyle, shouldn’t all youth be exposed to a variety of sports and activities so that they can make the choice which one(s) to continue throughout the lifespan? The answer, of course, is YES!!  Physical fitness (improving qualities like strength, endurance, balance, power, and speed) has been replaced with health-fitness (which, in theory would help kids decrease risk of cardiovascular disease, low back pain, etc. but has not been longitudinally measured) and includes cardiorespiratory endurance, muscle strength and endurance, flexibility and body composition.

Lifetime fitness activities and health-related fitness are only a piece of the puzzle, certainly not enough to build a pyramid. Sports are often what excite kids to exercise, be outdoors, go to school, etc. (It’s no accident that the spokespersons for most fitness and activity programs are athletes, with whom kids (and adults) can identify— —not low back pain specialists or cardiologists). By focusing on the end-product of being moderately to vigorously active within a very narrow performance base, with no measurement of progress of becoming proficient movers, is selling our kids short.

How you can broaden the base to help Fill the Talent Pool

So, how do you broaden the base of the pyramid with positive physical, social, and psychological skills to make the pyramid be as tall (leading to physically literacy) as possible? Include, at all developmental stages, for both boys and girls:

  • Physical components, such as strength building, agility and balance, speed, and fundamental motor skills, incorporated into a variety of sports and games opportunities
  • Social components, such as trying different activities with different groups of youngsters, providing non-structured play opportunities, and ensuring that a consistent message of sportsmanship, camaraderie, and teamwork permeates the organization
  • Psychological components, such as providing positive experiences that lead to the development of intrinsic motivation, matching youngsters to sports and activities that are age-related, not age-determined, and knowing how to provide proper cues and feedback at different stages of development,

The incredible challenge is that not every child is at the same developmental level at the same time and developmental progress is not always linear (i.e. there may be some back-sliding along the way—that’s ok!). The base of the pyramid does not need to be a regimented program of drills and exercises but a carefully thought out plan (which involves your aspiring lifelong sport/physical activity participant) that balances youth sport, physical education, structured and unstructured play, and being a kid!

Keep filling the talent pool!!



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