Sport has long had a conservative militaristic mindset. Our country’s leaders have viewed athletics as a way to prepare soldiers for battle, as well as develop leaders for authoritarian business cultures. In SportsWorld, it’s widely-accepted that coaches need to be drill sergeants — autocratic leaders who treat athletes in demeaning ways and rule by fear — in order to be successful.
Wheelock College in Boston has turned that mindset on its head. Winning not only isn’t everything, as the famous Vince Lombardi quote goes, it’s only a secondary consideration — well behind education, effort, character, team-building, and the development of athletes as people. See “Where ‘Try Again’ Finds Victory” in the Boston Globe.
Athletic director Diana Cutaia brought the “people first” philosophy to Wheelock six years ago. She’d had success as an athlete and coach based on the traditional measure of wins and losses but she’d grown to see the negative effects of a win-at-all-costs approach to sports.
“So, it wasn’t that winning was foreign to me,” says Cutaia. “It was that over time I saw how destructive it was to the players to hear how important winning a game was. It is a distraction, if you think about the fact that the vast majority of college athletes — 99 percent — will never play professionally ….”
Ironically, under Cutaia, the school has been winning more games and adding more sports programs to the athletic department. But its the impact Cutaia’s having on the culture of sports that is most impressive — and attracting the attention of her peers in athletic administration.
Del Malloy, commissioner of the New England Collegiate Conference, of which Wheelock is a member, says he’s heard from other athletic administrators that Cutaia’s philosophy is stirring interest.
“What I’m hearing is that when coaches focus on creating winners, rather than winning, they win more! And they graduate well-adjusted young adults who are better prepared for life after college sports.”
Shouldn’t that be the ultimate objective for athletics as part of a college or university’s educational mission?
One of Cutaia’s policies is that there will be no punitive reactions by coaches against athletes who mess up. No screaming, swearing or sprints for punishment. It’s all about giving your best effort and trying again.
James Michener, who wrote Sports in America, once said coaches in the United States get away with forms of discipline that simply wouldn’t be tolerated in any other activity.
Why, he wondered, are they tolerated in sports?
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan in the year 2022.
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Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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