I am constantly asked why I started a kids sports website. Twelve years ago, with the help of some of the country's most respected experts in the worlds of sports, medicine, psychology, law, technology, business and marketing, I launched MomsTeam.com® to address the needs of sports parents. I knew, as a mother of triplet sons who all played sports through high school, that it would take an entire team of people to give youth sports parents the information and support they needed to be successful, keep them safe, and playing.
I recall the day I was standing on the sidelines of my son's first lacrosse game chatting with some other parents. We were comparing notes: where did we go to buy our kids' sticks, pads and helmets? Did our kids' pediatricians ask the same questions during their pre-participation physical evaluations? What the best mouth guard, and do I really need to get the dentist to make a custom-fitted one for my kid? How are we ever going to manage to get our kids to all of their games on time and in uniform? Did anyone know the coach, and what was the best time and place to talk to him if we had a concern? We stood there sharing our collective wisdom, concerns, and questions for the entire game.
Near the end of the game, one of the parents remarked, "Wouldn't be great if there was a manual for kids sports parenting?" One of the dads turned to me and said: "Brooke, you could write that one." I responded, "I couldn't do it all by myself. I would need a team. I know a lot from my experience as an athlete, coach, fundraiser, community activist, and from starting a brand new soccer club, and I do seem to be the go-to person when any parent has a question. But, frankly, I have just as many, if not more, questions of my own about sports parenting."
Changing the culture
Thus, from a sideline discussion between a lawyer, emergency room nurse, child psychologist, and a few other sports parents - what one of my sons so aptly called Mom's team - was born MomsTeam.com®.
Fast forward nearly a decade after that "ah-ha" moment, and, instead of standing on the sideline of a youth lacrosse game I am sitting at my desk in the editorial offices of MomsTeam huddling with my staff. Again, everyone is asking questions, but this time the questions are much more difficult to answer: First, is there any way to solve the crisis in youth sports in this country that has seen it become focused on the needs of adults, to make it child-centered again, to make it as much about having fun and skill development as it was about winning, to reduce the alarming number of injuries kids are suffering playing sports: not just physical injuries such as concussions and of the overuse variety, but emotional ones as well. And, second, how can MomsTeam leverage its position as the trusted source of information for youth sports parents to advocate for change while at the same time upholding the high standards of journalistic objectivity that had become our trademark as much as our name?
We came up with a plan of action to answer the first question. It was one I had already answered in the conclusion to my book, Home Team Advantage: the way to change the culture of youth sports is to bring all of the stakeholders together in one place to work as a fully inclusive TEAM. In other words, to understand that everyone with a stake in youth sports - whether parent, coach, administrator, health care professional, or make sporting goods or safety equipment - is part of the same team, and that, like any other team, the only way to put the word "youth" back into youth sports and to make it the best possible experience for our children is to work together as a team.
To that end, MomsTeam has spent the last couple of months designing and re-building our "field house." With a strong foundation we knew we needed a bigger home so that every person who wants to help take youth sports back from the adults who have been running, and in some cases, ruining the sports experience for our children, has a place to express their opinion, to talk to each other, to write blogs and contribute articles, to share videos and ideas, or to become a sponsor so MomsTeam can continue to provide information completely free to our viewers; to be part of a nationwide movement for a better, safer, saner, less stressful and more inclusive youth sports experience for everyone. At the same time, we re-committed MomsTeam to providing the best and most accurate and objective information on youth sports.
The re-launching of the MomsTeam site has been a huge undertaking. Inevitably, there will be bugs to be worked out along the way. But our message is loud and clear: Just as has always been true, there will be no cuts from the new MomsTeam team. If you want to help your child - any child - have a more enjoyable and safer sports experience, if you have ideas, or products, or wisdom to share, if you have money-and time-saving tips for sports parents wondering how they are going to pay for gas to and from away games, feed their kids nutritious meals and keep them hydrated, or to balance sports and family in our winner-take-all society, the doors to our field house remain open. We will host your blog, we will consider your product for our new MomsTeam Seal of Approval, we will promote your services, and we welcome your articles, videos, and your comments. You will shape how MomsTeam grows and develops.
We are counting on you and our sponsors to help grow our community. We invite you to start a dialog in our forums. In the past we have had to turn many fine folks away because, frankly, we simply did not have the technology. Now we are arming everyone with the Web 2.0 tools they need to make MomsTeam the social community for youth sports that I envisioned back so many years ago standing on the lacrosse sideline. Visit us on Facebook. Follow our tweets. "Like" an article and share it with your social network.
From my work deep in the trenches of youth sports, from the thousands upon thousands of e-mails I field every month, I know that there is a solution-orientated community of people in this country ready and eager to take a much more active role in youth sports and help everyone have a more enjoyable sports experience - from the first day of T-ball to the last day of high school lacrosse.
In closing, I would like to share one of my favorite quotes from Gandhi:
"Be the change you want to see in the world."
The change all of us at MomsTeam want to see is a safer, saner, less stressful, more inclusive youth sports experience. With your help - with each others' help - we know we can do it.
All the best for a safe and fun sports season.