By Ken Reed
I’m enjoying watching the Little League World Series (LLWS) on ESPN but part of me is wondering if I should be. Am I part of the problem?
Williamsport, the Little League village and Lamade Stadium are all so … well, cool. While watching, I reflect on my Little League days and think “Man, would that have been cool to play there!”
I love watching the kids have fun before, during and after the games. It seems each team has a few stereotypical kids that can be found on every Little League team in the country. The coaches too are Everyman, with regular jobs that we can all relate to.
And then there’s the parents. Some good. Some bad. And some just crazy. Again, similar parents can be found at every Little League diamond in America.
I guess I enjoy watching the LLWS because it brings back fun memories, reveals the spirit and innocence of baseball through 12-year-old faces, the skill level is amazing for such young kids, and of course, because of Mo’ne Davis. What an awesome story she’s been. It’s been a blast watching her knock down some gender barriers, prejudices and ugly stereotypes.
But, and it’s a big “But,” what about the pressure on these kids brought on by national television, hundreds of newspaper, radio and television reporters, and now a Sports Illustrated cover for Davis?
Does being in the bright media spotlight for a couple weeks when you’re 11, 12 or 13 positively or negatively impact the rest of your life?
When asked what she thinks about adults coming up to her asking for an autograph, Davis said, “It kind of creeps me out.”
Me too — especially when her autograph ends up being sold on Ebay for $500
ESPN aired a documentary a few years back called “Little Big Men,” the story of the 1982 Kirkland, Washington team that won the World Series. Director Al Szymanski wanted to know what happened to the boys from Kirkland in the years after they left Williamsport. How did having such a high point before their lives actually began impact them as they became young adults?
In some cases, the impact wasn’t positive as the kids struggled to adjust to regular life through their teen years and beyond.
The LLWS organizers and ESPN have received their share of media backlash. This piece from Rick Telander, columnist for the Chicago Sun Times is typical of LLWS critics:
“ESPN is there with more cameras than we see at many major-league games … pandering, quivering, praying for even a single tear drop. Thirty or 40 years ago, any rational parent would have said this is too much for kids, too big an invasion of privacy, too close up for unformed pre-adolescents.”
Many parents think the same thing today.
However, to Mo’ne’s credit, she’s handled all the attention with aplomb — to this point.
When asked if the media spotlight was bothering her, Davis said, “Not really. I can always say ‘no,’ so that’s like my special weapon for the media.”
Quite the mature answer for someone who just recently turned 13. Maybe today’s kids are better able to handle these kinds of things in this social media world we live in.
Let’s just hope that 20 years from now, when Mo’ne and all the other participants at this LLWS are 32 and 33, they’ll view their time in Williamsport this past week as having had a positive impact on their lives.
If not, if it was all too much to process for such young kids, then shame on all of us as a society for allowing this to happen.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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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.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
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.
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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