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 #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon