By Ken Reed
It was refreshing to read this week about two highly successful high school football coaches promoting the positives of multi-sport participation on the part of their athletes and how they detest the recent trend toward one-sport specialization at the youth and high school levels.
Rod Sherman of Valor Christian High School and Jay Madden of Pomona High School were at a press conference talking about their championship football game in Colorado’s 5A classification this Saturday. The questions were about the matchup but then a reporter asked them what they thought about multi-sport athletes and the trend towards single sport specialization at the high school level.
Here are their responses — refreshing responses I might add:
Rod Sherman, head coach Valor Christian High School:
“I think one of the things that’s worst about our youth sports culture, is the early push for specialization. I think that’s why you see more student-athletes burn out as they get older. I look out here at our young men and I see a young man that’s a scholarship lacrosse player to the University of Delaware. And I would actually encourage that it’s not just about multiple sports. It’s about multiple activities. We have a young man on our team that’s in the school play. I see many young men travel across the world on mission trips.
“I see some of our coaches who were able to play at the highest level, in the NFL. And none of them woke up everyday and just thought about football and worried about football. They were able to be young men that grew in wisdom and stature in multiple sports and activities. And I think that kids should do that more. But I think, unfortunately, there’s a push from, at times, outside trainers, parents, to specialize earlier.”
Jay Madden, head coach Pomona High School:
“I agree 100 percent. I look out here at my players I have here, and all of them play more than one sport. And if I could get them to play three, I would. You’re only young once. Life is all about experiences, and experiences is not lifting in the weight room. … (It’s about) basketball practice, or wrestling practice, or track. Obviously, my brother’s a baseball coach, so I love all the other sports. I wish this club sports thing would disappear, but obviously we know it’s not going to.
“With all of the scholarship money out there … that everyone thinks you’re going to get by specializing — great athletes are great athletes. You don’t create a great athlete, folks. It doesn’t happen. If you’ve got the talent, you’ve got the talent. Christian [McCaffrey, the Valor Christian graduate who is now a Heisman Trophy candidate at Stanford] played three sports, didn’t he? And he’s probably going to make money playing sports someday. But most people are not. So why not play as many sports as you can while you’re young?”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
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Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
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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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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