Prospect Communication's Youth Sports Blog - "Taking You Beyond the Game!", features our own articles and commentaries that deal specifically with youth sports. Browse the site to read any articles that may be of interest to your sports organization. The articles are copyrighted to the authors (Michael Langlois & Mary-Louise Langlois) and they may not be reproduced without permission. To inquire about licensing the right to reproduce any of the site's content please contact us at inquiries@prospectcommunications.com

Prospect has a unique and specialized approach to communications skills and issues management geared towards those involved with youth and minor sports. Michael and Mary-Louise's work in this area is ideal for parents and coaches who want to make the most of children's involvement in sports.

Friday, October 17, 2014

New Jersey high school bullying incident shows we still have a long way to go…

We have written here over the years about our concerns around bullying and hazing.  The attitude that creates that bullying mindset still seems to exist in the high school and youth sports culture.

A recent series of stories in the U.S. national media (here is a link to a story on ESPN) revealed that a decision was made to cancel the football season of a prominent local high school in New Jersey as a result of an investigation into bullying behaviour.

Sadly, too many still cling to the notion that sports is its own world, and does not have to adhere to the moral and ethical codes that the rest of society adopts.  How often have we heard phrases like “boys will be boys” as though that makes terrible behaviour acceptable?

Similarly, for generations youngsters have actually been encouraged by some adults to believe in the maxim, “What’s said or done in the locker room, stays in the locker room”.  In other words, there is a clear threat that if you want to be part of “the club”, you have to set aside personal ethics and norms of behaviour and not only tolerate but say nothing about behaviour that is, in some cases, morally bankrupt.

The added kicker is this:  if a young person witnesses or experiences hazing or bullying in a sports environment, they are not supposed to report it, because that breaks the old “code” cited above: that the “team” and the locker room is a brotherhood and everyone sticks together.

How many times are frightened young people put in a situation where they are abused and then threatened and told by their peers not to say anything? If the young person “tells”, they will be shunned or harassed by teammates.  If they don’t “talk”, they inadvertently cover up behaviour that should be revealed so those in authority can deal with the situation properly.

It’s unfair and intolerable that these youngsters are made to feel they are doing the wrong thing by reporting what they know to adults.

When it comes to intimidation, hazing, threats and bullying, the idea that “what is said and done here, stays here” is wrong-headed. That thinking—and that type of behaviour—was never acceptable and should never have been tolerated.

Ironically, we are sickened when we hear about professional athletes (e.g. Ray Rice) acting in a manner that is violent, harmful and unacceptable on any level.

Yet where does that kind of behaviour begin? 

Often times it is in a world where young athletes are treated as “better than” because of their athletic skill.  They have a sense of entitlement. They believe that they are above consequences for their behaviour. These youngsters are made to feel they are better than everyone else and can do whatever they want—without having to answer for their actions.

When that attitude leads to unacceptable behaviour, it cannot be tolerated.

For many, hazing is still “tradition”.  It’s acceptable.  It is not only OK, but it should not be criticized or even talked about. It should be swept under the carpet.

We should applaud that school officials in Sayreville, New Jersey took a stand.  Whether the officials should have acted sooner is difficult to determine, but a firm stand was called for—and evidently taken.

Hazing and bullying have nothing to do with team building. The New Jersey situation is one that we heard about. How often do we not hear about behaviour that should not be tolerated—because people are afraid to speak out?

Greater awareness has developed around the issues of bullying and hazing in schools, sports and society in general in recent years.  But there are some old attitudes that still need to change—and it can’t happen too quickly.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

You can’t play youth sports with a piano on your back!

Whenever I have the opportunity to conduct our seminar on how communication can help to build confidence and characters in young athletes, one of the things I stress to the youth coaches on hand is this:  a kid can’t play youth sports with a piano on their back.
I try to reinforce that message—and others—in a recent podcast hosted by Craig Haworth, from “Winning Youth Coach".
Craig launched his program earlier this summer and has been able to attract outstanding coaches to discuss a wide range of topics to assist fellow coaches in preparing to work more effectively with young athletes. I was delighted to be invited to appear as a guest, to discuss my perspective as someone who has been a sometimes coach but more importantly as a longtime communications professional and sports parent for more than 25 years.
Here’s a link to Episode 18 of the Winning Youth Coach podcast: ‪winningyouthcoaching.com/wyc-018/ 
If you visit Craig’s web site, you’ll see a link to all the other episodes. I hope you enjoy the programs.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Youth hockey coaches: you can inspire your players and help build confidence through better communication

We have written extensively over the years about a wide range of issues, from building organizational trust and credibility to how leaders can prepare to interact with the media in an engaging, thoughtful and credible manner.

One other area of significant interest for us remains the role of the coach in youth sports. 

The impact a youth coach has is enormous, and with this in mind, we have just released another in our series of eBooks on “Common Sense Communication” in youth sports.  Geared to youth hockey coaches, the book is entitled, You Can Be anInspirational Youth Hockey Coach!”.

The book provides a range of practical tips to assist coaches in recognizing some of the ways they can help build confidence and character in the players they work with. 

To be clear, this is not a book about “x’s” and “o’s”.  There are many great books available that offer hockey coaches that kind of information.

We hope to fill a gap in an area that we believe is crucial for coaches: communicating better with—and inspiring—young athletes.

The book is available on Amazon in Canada and Internationally as well.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Missing too many late bloomers in youth sports

In observing the youth sports culture over the past almost thirty years as a parent, it has been a relief in recent times to notice what I hope is a permanent shift in attitude.  There is at least a spoken commitment these days (we will have to wait and see if actions follow words) regarding the notion of developing young players for the long term.

That strikes me as a very good thing.

I raise this in part because it has been my experience over the years that, too often, youth sports coaches focused on building winning teams at the expense of helping all the players on their roster get better. This approach tended to include selecting and/or giving the most playing time to the biggest, fastest and oldest (those born early in the calendar year) kids and any youngsters who were really outstanding at the early competitive ages.

On the one hand this is understandable, I suppose.  Coaches naturally gravitate toward young athletes who stand out at those early ages (e.g. ages 9 through 14). They want to create a roster that will win games today if they are involved in competitive leagues.

That “win now” focus may create some short-term team success in terms of winning medals, but often at a much larger cost to kids who deserve better.

If coaches (and parents) step back and reflect, they will recognize that the vast majority of kids play sports for fun and to be with friends. Sure they like to compete, but most aren’t thinking (at least not seriously) of a professional career in athletics.

So what do most youngsters want, when it comes to their experience in youth sports?

They want to play, they want to have fun, and they want to improve their skills so they can enjoy the game even more and compete better.

If a coach is really doing his or her job, then they are also looking to build the skills of all their players.  Even the really good young players may suffer if a coach does not have the ability to really develop players to their potential, because the coach doesn’t help them improve their overall game.  Too often coaches with the “win now” mentality just focus on the things those gifted youngsters do well to help their team win today, when they could also be helping that youngster become an even better player.

And what about the other, supposedly less talented players?

Many young athletes develop later than others their age.  Physically or emotionally they may not “find their game” until they are older.  These youngsters often may be extremely coachable, have big hearts, work hard and do all the right things.  But maybe they may lack the technical skills, speed or size to compete at a high level when they are very young.

Over time, however, if their level of dedication remains high, they improve by leaps and bounds and become very good players.  By then, however, the system has often passed them by, and there is little or no chance to get noticed for opportunities to compete at the more elite levels.

Of course, really good players can sometimes find their way through that system later than others, thankfully.  But my concern is for those youngsters who may lack the confidence early on to continue on in their sport.  How many kids do we lose because they are deemed “not good enough” in various sports when they are only 12 or 13?

Hopefully the current focus on long-term player development in sports will have a carry-over effect that ensures youth coaches (and scouts for higher-level teams at the provincial/state and/or national levels) always keep an eye out for that player who may emerge later in life than some of the early obvious standouts.

Those coaches just have to know what to look for.

Sometimes the late-bloomer can win the race—if given a chance.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Confidence and young athletes

Maintaining confidence can be an elusive thing for the very best professional athletes.  So it’s no wonder that many young athletes need support when it comes to their own development in this area.
Even highly paid professional athletes go through times when their confidence is quite fragile.  A “goal scorer” who doesn't score for a few games, a baseball player who goes a few games without a hit and suddenly, they start questioning what they’re doing, even wondering if they’ve “lost it”. And these are the best of the best, proven over many years as absolutely outstanding in their field.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

“Are You an Inspirational Youth Sports Coach?”: our new eBook now available…

We’ve written here over the years about ways that youth coaches can better connect (or connect even better, in the case of those who already do a great job) with their players.

It’s always easy to give advice—much more difficult when you are the individual with the responsibility of working with, teaching and leading young people.  But because the task is indeed so important, almost everyone who cares about being their best can look in the mirror and find ways to do a better job of instructing, motivating and inspiring young athletes.

And it’s worth making the effort to do just that.

That is why we have developed, “Are You an Inspirational Youth Sports Coach? ”.  In this new eBook, we bring together a number of the original articles that we have developed over the years—articles that provide youth coaches with tips and ideas for building better relationships with their players. 

In the seminars that we conduct on building confidence and character in young players, I often remind coaches in the audience that, if nothing else, the one thing they must never do is to kill the love a young person has for their sport.

That’s a minimum.

And as important as that is, I think coaches can do a lot more than that.

If you’re interested in checking out “Are You an Inspirational Youth Sports Coach?”, here is the link to the Amazon book preview page in Canada.

Acknowledging there is room for personal growth and improvement is a good start. So whether coaches are looking to be better when it comes to issues management, want to improve their overall communication skills or recognize that they simply want to connect better with youngsters, this book can be one more tool at their fingertips. (There are also a number of articles in the book geared toward parents that will assist them in navigating the youth sports experience and help them to help their own youngsters.)

Really good youth coaches are always looking to inspire their players to be their best on and off the field of play. We hope “Are You an Inspirational Youth Sports Coach?” will help you—and your players.