A recap of some of the most popular stories from Better Young Athletes in 2021.
Welcome to the year-end issue of Better Young Athletes. This week, we take a look back at some of the stories featured in the first six months of the newsletter’s existence. I’ll present portions of articles with the links to each so you can read them in their entirety.
A big thanks to every one of you who take the time to read Better Young Athletes, and feel free to leave a comment. I’m excited about the coming year, and hope you will share the experience by subscribing or spreading the word.
How I Almost Became a Helicopter Sports Parent
When an obsession with winning almost caused an injury to his own child, this parent realized it was time to readjust his priorities.
During a youth flag football game, the parents of a 12-year-old boy noticed he was constantly rubbing his right eye.
“What’s wrong?” his mom asked during a timeout.
“My eye hurts,” he said. “I don’t think I can keep playing.”
The boy wasn’t having a particularly good game. His dad thought he was simply looking for an excuse to come out. He began lecturing his son on the importance of perseverance and not quitting just because he wasn’t playing well.
The team won, and was scheduled to play again an hour later. But the boy’s eye was beginning to turn red. During the break between games, his mother insisted they take him to a minor emergency clinic. Sure enough, he had gotten something in his eye that would have caused an infection if it had continued to be overlooked.
That boy was my son. The dad who thought he was teaching a valuable lesson… Yep, it was me. As it turned out, I was the one who needed a life lesson. If we had continued to ignore the redness in his eye, who knows what damage might have been done?
Click here to read the rest of this story.
What Youth Athletes Can Learn from Simone Biles
Players, coaches and parents can learn a lot from the Olympic gymnast's decision to withdraw from most of her events during the Tokyo Games.
It’s easy to root for someone like Simone Biles. How can you not appreciate the grace and beauty of her routines, her versatility and the way she makes it all look so effortless?
But Biles did something at the Tokyo Games that places her even higher among the elite. It had nothing to do with winning another medal, or even pulling off one of those Yurchenko double pikes many were hoping she would try.
No, this was something much more impactful that will live on long after she leaves a sport that owes her so much more than she owes it.
Biles listened to her mind and body. Both were telling her to stop, that going any further could lead to catastrophic results.
And you know what? She did the right thing.
Can you imagine the turmoil she must have been feeling? After all, this was the Olympics, perhaps the biggest stage in sports. It may have been her last chance to leave yet another stamp on a career that already has so many.
But it was the best thing she could have done for herself.
Click here to read the rest of this article.
For Blind Children, Beep Kickball Levels the Playing Field
Thanks to this adaptive form of kickball, blind children no longer have to sit on the sidelines watching their sighted peers have all the fun.
Bryan and Hayley Alli adopted their daughter Raveena from an orphanage in India
when she was 10 months old. Hayley met the young girl while volunteering at the orphanage, and the couple brought her back to their home in Atlanta, Georgia about two years later.
Raveena was born blind from a rare eye condition called bilateral anophthalmia, or an absence of the eyeballs. A strong believer in being active, the couple wanted their daughter to take part in activities like other kids. The challenge was where to find those activities.
That’s when the couple became involved with the Center for the Visually Impaired (CVI), a rehabilitation program for blind and visually impaired individuals in downtown Atlanta. It was there they discovered beep kickball, an adapted form of the sport played by blind children and adults.
Like many parents raising a blind child, Hayley was a bit apprehensive. But once she saw how much the other kids enjoyed playing, she allowed Raveena to give it a try.
Raveena will never forget that feeling of nervous anticipation the first time she kicked the ball.
“I was really excited to get out there and try it,” Raveena, now 15, recalled. “When I first played it, I didn’t run flat-out. But after I did it once, I was like, ‘OK, I’m not going to bump into anything’. It has definitely boosted my confidence.”
To see the rest of this story, click here.
Learning Sportsmanship the Hard Way
My actions during a meet almost got me kicked off the team. It also taught me a lesson about sportsmanship I'll never forget.
I spent two years on a pee wee wrestling team at my school when I was about 11. I wasn’t any good; I don’t think I won a single match. But it was something to do, and the coach was a very persistent recruiter. He could have probably been a highly successful recruiting coordinator for a Division I program. They would have loved him.
One dual meet during my first season stands out. We traveled by bus from Austin, Texas to Houston, where we took on a tough team from a local boys’ club.
I walked out to the mat and shook hands with my opponent. He was introduced as ‘Red’, obviously a nickname. But I didn’t care about that. This guy was built like a tank. Here I was, a skinny kid who couldn’t intimidate a flea if he tried. Am I in the right weight class? I thought to myself.
When the referee blew his whistle, I knew I was in trouble. Red’s takedown had me on the mat so quickly the ref probably hadn’t even taken the whistle out of his mouth yet. Somehow, I managed not to get pinned and made it through the first period.
But when the second period began, Red was on a mission to end the match quickly. He picked me up and flipped me on my side. The crowd gasped in awe. My humiliation was complete when he put me on my back and finished me off.
I’m ashamed to admit what I did next.
To read the rest of this article, click here.
Making Golf Cool for Kids
I fell in love with golf from watching my grandfather play. These 10 tips can help parents get their kids excited about the game.
As a kid, I remember watching golf matches on television with my grandfather. He would play a lot of golf on the weekends, and I would occasionally accompany him (when I was motivated enough to crawl out of bed at 6 Am on a Saturday or Sunday morning).
I wanted to learn the game so I could play with him. I was born blind, so finding someone who was willing to teach a blind person how to play golf was a bit challenging. I could have learned from him, of course. But he felt I needed instruction from a pro, or at least someone who knew how to teach the game.
My chance finally came in college, where I took a golf class as part of my physical education requirements. The teacher also coached the men’s basketball team, and he became very close to me and my grandfather. He would help me line my club up with the ball and make sure I was set, then let me do the rest.
Several months after I took the course, my grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer. It eventually spread to his liver. His health began to deteriorate significantly. I wasn’t sure if I would realize my dream of playing a round with him.
But on one of his good days, he agreed to take me out to the nine-hole course at the college and play as many holes with me as he was physically able. I don’t remember what my scores were the first two holes, except they were bad. But I made par on No. 3. It was at that point my grandfather had to stop. He was too tired to continue.
But I was OK with that. I had finally gotten the chance to play golf with the man who helped raise me as a child. Besides, why not end on a positive note?
My grandfather passed away a few weeks after that. But my love of golf remains to this day, although I haven’t played in years. Every time I watch a PGA event, I think of him. He’s the one who turned me on to sports. He also encouraged me to play adaptive sports like baseball and golf, believing that I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to despite my blindness.
Golf can teach many of the same life lessons as other sports: discipline, building relationships, and perseverance. But it’s even tougher to get kids into golf today than when I was growing up. How many kids do you know who will spend hours glued to the television or their mobile devices watching golf? I can’t think of one, and I was probably an exception during my childhood.
But all hope is not lost. If you love golf and want to pass it along to your kids, here are 10 tips that can help.
Click here to see the rest of this story.
Adaptive Sports for Kids Brings Joy to Special Needs Children
Through adaptive sports, this Texas-based organization is changing the lives of disabled children and adults.
If Allen Nation had a dollar for every smile he saw on the faces of special needs children each time they hit a baseball or caught a fish, he’d be a wealthy man.
Nation, the executive director of Adaptive Sports for Kids in Nederland, Texas, has seen hundreds of happy kids and parents since co-founding the nonprofit organization in 2011. Kids and adults participate in different sports throughout the year, including taekwondo in January, baseball in the spring and fall, bowling and soccer in June, and basketball in August. A banquet is held each year, and participants receive trophies, certificates and medals.
The best part is all activities are 100 percent free for all participants.
“We get paid in smiles,” said Nation, who works for a company that services ATM machines. “It doesn’t cost anything to make a person smile. That’s the way we look at it. There is no greater feeling than to watch a child that doesn’t think he can do it, and ends up doing it, and to see the satisfaction and how proud he or she is that they just accomplished something they never thought they would be able to do.”
Click here to read the rest of this story.
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