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How to Improve Youth Sports Safety: Focus On Protecting The Whole Child

Use the power of the purse. Women are responsible for ninety percent of a family's primary shopping and write eighty percent of the checks. As Celinda Lake and Kellyanne Conway observe in their book, What Women Really Want, "a woman will rarely commit her time, money, or passion unless something has real meaning for her. She wants to know, ‘Do I like it?' and ‘Is it me?' These questions express a female need to identify with her choices, to feel right about them, to own them." Support companies and programs that reflect your values. Shop at stores that carry sports apparel for girls and companies that sponsor women's sports. Buy products from companies that underwrite youth sports reform initiatives. It can make a difference. As Sports Authority CEO Martin Hanaka told Forbes after a comprehensive survey of Sports Authority stores and shoppers found that women aged 25 to 45 contributed 70 cents of every dollar spent, whether the purchase was footwear, fishing equipment or Little League gear, "Mom is pivotal."

Re-examine Title IX. As a number of recent books argue, Title IX, as it is presently interpreted, isn't working. True, an amazing amount of good has come to girls from the passage of Title IX. The tragedy, however, is that the law has increased athletic opportunities for women at the college level by eliminating opportunities for men. Something is wrong when colleges have a difficult time finding female athletes to fill teams while many men (especially wrestlers) are being deprived of the opportunity to continue playing college sports in the name of gender equity. The law also has appeared to have given female high school athletes an unfair advantage in the college admission process. Although a full discussion of the inadequacies and inequities of Title IX are beyond the scope of this article, this is an issue that is not going to go away. As Jessica Gavora argues, if boys and girls are hard wired differently, "it is time to take a serious look at a federal anti-discrimination law that has come to assume exactly the opposite."

Improving Youth Sports: A Checklist

  • Below high school varsity: no cutting, equal or significant playing time, winning = trying one's best, no playoffs/championships
  • After-school exercise/sports programs for non-varsity athletes
  • Same-sex physical education
  • More fun-based sports programs
  • Teams at the elementary school level comprised of kids the same age and mixed abilities
  • Limits on number of hours of practice, games per week
  • Games/practices on holidays and Sundays off-limits
  • Fewer tournaments
  • No penalty for missing games/practices because of religious/family obligations
  • Adoption of comprehensive risk-management and child protection programs
  • Increased safety training for coaches and officials
  • Adoption and enforcement of anti-hazing policies
  • Accountability and transparency for youth sports organizations
  • Benchmarking
  • Increased coaching education
  • Parent training
  • Re-examine Title IX

Adapted from the book, Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports, by Brooke de Lench, Executive Director of MomsTEAM Youth Sports Safety Institute, and Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com is also the Producer of: The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer (PBS) and author of: Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (Harper Collins) is well known as the “Mother of Youth Sports Safety” for her tireless advocacy and solutions based work in safeguarding young athletes.


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