Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Problem with Youth Sports

Quote: "I've seen parents spend $100K pursuing athletic scholarships. They could have just set it aside for the damn college."

I've been saying that - hell, even ranting about that - for years, and it makes little difference in the knock-down-drag-out crazy world of competitive youth sports. The most recent spotlight comes in this week's Time Magazine ( which features the expose on "How Kids Sports Became a $15 billion industry." Writer Sean Gregory takes a detailed look inside the youth sports industry and shines a spotlight on the absurdity of it all. This dark side of the industry is nothing new, and it's been building momentum like a freight train since the dawn of club sports - notably soccer - in the early 1980s. The essence of youth sports, of games, has always been believed to be about fun and the joy/thrill of competition. And for many kids it may still be that way. But it's hard to find the basic pursuit of fun in youth athletics anymore. Nearly every conversation turns to the cost of competition.
Years ago I read a fascinating exploration of the issue - Fred Engh's Why Johnny Hates Sports: Why Organized Youth Sports are Failing Our Children. Published in 2002, I'd imagine Engh's data and anecdotes are somewhat dated - but his argument and claims are probably as timely and relevant as ever. The competition with a long-term career and investment focus, rather than the pursuit of fun and activity, has led to a pressure-filled and increasingly joyless sense about sports. Certainly, all parents and kids enter the youth sports world for some fun and camraderie and competition. At a certain point, however, it becomes a business for far too many.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Some Late August Thoughts

I live a two-minute walk from school, and there are few nostalgic moments I enjoy more than hearing the return of the sounds of our marching band's drum line wafting through the neighborhood. The rythm truly energizes me, letting me know the summer days are fading and the kids will be back on campus soon.

The solar eclipse of 2017 has now come and gone, and we here in Denver experienced nearly 93% coverage. While that sounds pretty intense, I have to say that in all honesty I found the whole experience a bit underwhelming. That said, I know quite a few people who spent the day in the path of totality, and the unanimous word is that the experience is quite special.

Sanity has returned to Dove Valley, as the Denver Broncos have finally ended the charade and named Trevor Simian as starting quarterback. Thank goodness. While Simian is the textbook example of a journeyman quarterback, the hard and obvious reality is that first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch is simply not ready for the NFL ... and may never be. So, even though John Elway should have lots of 'splaining to do (but won't have to because he's John, and this is Denver), the team and town can get down to the business of winning championships with D-Fense.

I still think that "Feel It Still" by Portugal, the Man is the song of the summer, and it should probably be the Song of the Year.

The Netflix series Ozark starring Jason Bateman is an incredible bit of television, and its debut season was worth all the hype. In fact, I believe it's a better show than Breaking Bad.

I must admit that I am late to the hype of the McGregor-Mayweather fight, but I am certainly intrigued, and I sort of wish I knew someone willing to fork out the $99 for pay-per-view. Though I am not a big MMA fan, I was stunned by the video of McGregor's title-winning bout.

Still don't think college athletes should be paid - but I am intrigued by the most recent discussion of the issue from the WSJ's Jason Gay.

Every teacher should read some books by Cris Tovani about literacy, and every school should entertain the idea of PLCs and the work of Rick Dufour.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Healthy Living would "Make America Great"

OK, let's be clear about one thing:  countless national problems could be alleviated, or even solved, if most people simply felt better. And more people would feel better if more people were living healthier. America is certainly no model for healthy living, though the self-help industry seems to indicate that many Americans want to live healthy. Yet, according to, a new study from the Mayo Clinic indicates (or exposes) that "Less than 3 Percent of Americans Live a Healthy Lifestyle."

The study authors defined a “healthy lifestyle” as one that met four qualifications:
  • Moderate or vigorous exercise for at least 150 minutes a week
  • A diet score in the top 40 percent on the Healthy Eating Index
  • A body fat percentage under 20 percent (for men) or 30 percent (for women)
  • Not smoking

There is much to unpack in a study and an article with such claims.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Not every child is "uniquely brilliant"

OK, granted it was an advertisement and slogan designed to sell a product, but every time I hear it I recoil at the absolute absurdity of the claims made by K12, an alleged "tuition-free online public school," which is actually a for-profit education and curriculum company.

The claim made in the commercial by some teacher named "Bryan" is that "at K12 we believe every child is uniquely brilliant." That is selling point meant to appeal to parents/families of kids who are not served by the traditional institutions of public education. Outside of the standard bad press exposing mediocre to poor results at such online learning programs, I am bugged by the implication that qualities of brilliance and giftedness actually common and present in everyone. That is simply not true in any objective reality or rational discussion. Too often and for nefarious reasons, the ideas of giftedness are diluted by people misuing an equity lens to promote education profiteering. In reality, Bryan is not much of an educator and certainly not a credible education advocate if he truly believes that everyone is brilliant. That perspective defies the very nature of the idea of brilliance. Not everyone is gifted. In fact, not everyone even has a gift. The concept of average is a very real thing, and anyone in education touting the idea of unique "giftedness" in every child clearly has no knowledge of or experience with "gifted" people. That borders on educational malpratice, and it's a disservice to the institution, especially if we want all students to reach their potential. Potential is something that all children have. Giftedness is not.

There are many exceptional athletes and even more extremely hardworking athletes who achieve success. However, historical figures like Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt or Lebron James are in many ways "freaks of nature." They are exceptions to the norm, and they have gifts which exceed even the hardest working athlete. The same can be said for numerous gifts in math or science or the arts or creativity or dexterity or countless other areas. Giftedness, or "GT" in my world, is a legally defined "exceptionality." Being brilliant, to use Bryan's term, is not common. It is unusual and unique and rare. Cam Newton is a "GT" football player. Yo-Yo Ma is a "GT" cello player. Lil Buck is a "GT" dancer. Barack Obama is a "GT" orator. Jonathan Franzen is a "GT" writer. Adele is a "GT" singer. Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake are "GT" entertainers.

They are "uniquely brilliant."