All is quiet at the MomsTEAM office this week. As we have done for the past thirteen years, we take a two-week year-end vacation to gear up for the New Year.
Stopping by to pick up a book, I look around the quiet office, I close my eyes and reflect on the biggest youth and high school sports stories of the year and wonder if we as a nation are any closer to our MomsTEAM mission of making sports safer, saner, less stressful and more inclusive or if we continue to spin wildly out of control in the crazy vortex that is youth sports in the 21st century. I would like to think we are making some progress on the safety front, but less stressful? More inclusive? Not so sure we are making progress there.
Concussion story dominates
The big story of the year, as it has been for the last half-dozen or so years, continued to be about head injuries and concussions, from the pros all the way down to the pee-wees. As those of you who have been following us for the last 14 years know, this is not a new subject for MomsTEAM - it is one we have been following in depth since 2001.
But this year the story was bigger, much bigger, not just for the mainstream, popular media, but for MomsTEAM. Amidst all the finger pointing and negative reporting on the dangers of concussions, 2014 saw us redoubling our efforts to be pro-active, to offer practical advice to the youth sports community, not just on ways to reduce the rate of concussions, but to how to do a better job of identifying and managing concussions when they occur.
We knew that all the reporting in the world, all the documenting of injury and death, while drawing attention to the problem, offered little in the way of solutions, so in early 2012 we decided the best way we could educate the largest possible audience on the steps that can be taken right now to make football safer was to produce a video to show the steps one high school football program took to make the sport safer by implementing what we now call our Six Pillar approach to concussion risk management. We undertook the project with no prior experience making films, with minimal underwriting, and with no assurance that, once we were done, the finished product would ever be broadcast. Our expectation was that the video would be posted on MomsTEAM, and that would be it.
As anyone who has been following my blog over the past year now knows, we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. What started out as a simple video for MomsTEAM morphed into "The Smartest Team: How To Make High School Football Safer"; a documentary, I am proud to say, was good enough to be picked up and broadcast by more than 300 PBS stations in the fall of 2013 (some airing up to ten times), despite the fact that it was submitted to affiliates after most had already set their schedules, and will be re-broadcast on many of those stations in 2014 (and, hopefully, be picked up by the rest of the networks 380 some odd stations).
So, not surprisingly, MomsTEAM's big story for 2013 was how we have been able, we believe, to help make football safer and to start shifting the concussion conversation from focusing on the problem to providing solutions. While "The Smartest Team" has not achieved the notoriety of the other big-budget concussion documentaries that have been released in the past couple of years (all of which focus on the problems), slowly but surely the word is getting around. We have you, our readers and Twitter followers, to thank for the essential role you have played in letting the country know about the film and about MomsTEAM as a trusted source for objective, well-researched information, not only about concussions, but about youth sports injury prevention and treatment, nutrition, hydation, heat safety and parenting.
As much as we have accomplished in 2013, we look forward to an even bigger 2014, not only for MomsTEAM.com but for MomsTEAM Institute, the non-profit we have recently established to take our efforts on making youth sports safer to the next level, as well as to expand on our ability to produce the kind of in-depth "White Papers" - like those we issued in 2013 on, among other topics, CTE, heading in soccer, the emerging importance of so-called "return to learn" after concussion, and the controversy surrounding the July decision by NOCSAE to void the certification for helmets with third-party add-ons, and subsequent clarification - which many of you tell us you find particularly valuable.
I will continue as Publisher of MomsTEAM but will be shifting my focus to being the Executive Director of the Institute. While we aren't quite ready to share our plans for the Institute, we are excited about the powerful youth sports safety initiatives it will be launching. Watch this space.
Until next year, play smart, be well, and keep your suggestions, comments and concerns coming in 2014.
All the best,
Brooke de Lench is Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com and Executive Director of MomsTEAM Institute. She is author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (New York: HarperCollins), and the producer and director of the PBS documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer."
You can follow Brooke on Twitter @BrookedeLench and email her @ delench@MomsTeam.com