A Call to Arms

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Rice University

“Why don’t you fix your little problem and light this candle?
Captain Alan B. Shepard, Mercury Freedom 7 Astronaut

Whenever my friend and colleague Tom Avischious from USA Swimming and I meet at a coaching conference or event we always end up saying “Gee didn’t we hear the same things 10 years ago, the same problems, the same lets do something about this.” And its true, we have talked about the need to organize our sports system better, share coaching education resources, standardize coaching certification and have a national leadership and vision for sport in this country……the result : crickets chirping….We always seem to say we are at the tipping point for youth sports change, and yet we just still just go on the same course we have been on for the last 30 or 40 years….

Kids aren’t as active, they don’t play as much. Instead of having fun playing with their friends in parks and backyards they are dressed up in mini uniforms and trotted out on fields to perform adult organized sports for the delight of their parents (and the profits of the sports equipment compamies) and if they are “champion 8 year olds” they get to spend countless hours travelling around to play other “champion 8 year olds” to become the Triple Gold Crown 8 Year Old Champion. This is the best we can do? Really????

I have read numerous books over the years saying what we should do, but the authors never go far enough and actually do it (writing a blog is not really doing it). The closest I have seen is the work Tom Farrey, author of Game On, is doing with the ASPEN Institutes Project Play. The meetings and conferences Project Play has undertaken have brought together the countries sports development leaders to discuss and develop ideas and solutions to our present youth sports problem. The report of the findings and recommendations will be released in late January in Washington. But then what? Will Nike quit making $120 basketball shoes for 6 year olds?  Will the Federal government form a sports institute to guide the development of sport development in the US like the AIS does in Australia? Will contact in youth sports like football, rugby and hockey be banned to protect kids from concussions? Oops the guys at USA Hockey already did that (”Good on ya” Kenny and Dave!) Will parents stop enrolling their kids in high pressure, max competition leagues and teams and paying foreign coaches thousands of dollars in the deluded hopes that they will get a college scholarship? I’ll be taking a redeye to Vegas to put the mortgage money on a “No” bet to all of those.

So we have the JFK part down, we know we need to change things, we know we need verbalize and write down what we want to change…..what we need to do is work on the Al “the Ice Commander” Shepard part, and “F%#*ing do it!”

Next week…lighting the candle…..

BTW….I really want to hear what you guys think. Am I hitting the problem on the head or am I full of horse manure? Either comment, or better yet send me a guest blog. I’ll post it (heck it will give me a day off!)

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About the Author : David McCann

Dave McCann is the Founder of Sport Development Concepts, which provides consulting on all matters having to do with the development of sport, including recruitment, retention, and advancement of athletes. He is the nation’s leading expert on Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD). Previously he served as Director of Rugby Development and Director of Coaching for USA Rugby, Manager of Coaching Education for the US Olympic Committee, and Director of the Institute for Sport Coaching. In 2011 he created the National Coaching Conference, which brings together coaches, coach educators, and program administrators to discuss and develop solutions to improve our national sports development, education, and performance system. In 2007 he was elected President of the National Council for Accreditation of Coaching Education. Throughout his career he has trained over 3,000 sport coaches and instructors in clinics across the nation.

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