RECENT ARTICLES
  • Tennis Court Surfaces Continue to Evolve

    by Mary Helen Sprecher July 2014

    No question, the sport of tennis has evolved. Players — like the colors they wear — are louder, bolder and more attention-grabbing than their predecessors. And the courts they play on have dragged the sport (some laughingly say kicking and screaming) into the 21st century. Courts have evolved since the days of green grass facilities and white chalk lines. Not that those don't still exist, but they're the exception, rather than the rule — particularly when it comes to recreational installations.

  • Police Cadet Program Puts Extra Eyes in Parks

    by Emily Attwood March 2014

    With warmer weather somewhere on the horizon and construction at the city’s Festival Park wrapping up, police in New Baltimore, Mich. are preparing for an uptick in park activity. The department’s Cadet Program, started more than a decade ago, brings in the extra help the department needs and gives citizens interested in a criminal justice career an opportunity to gain experience. 


     “It’s really just a great opportunity,” one former cadet told The Voice . “You typically start in the summer and then work your way up in the field. As a cadet a lot of the focus is on the parks and you take on that responsibility.” 

    The cadets, paid $8 per hour, patrol city parks and also have the opportunity to experience other aspects of a police officer’s job, including parking enforcement, administrative office work and going on ride-alongs. In addition to the experience, the program opens doors for cadets to move into permanent law enforcement positions.

    “This is the golden ticket program,” says police chief Tom Wiley, who was also the program’s first cadet. “It’s a springboard into the profession.”

     

  • Youth Participation in Team Sports on the Decline

    by Michael Gaio February 2014

    The Wall Street Journal recently published a lengthy article detailing the drop in participation in the four most-popular U.S. team sports — basketball, soccer, baseball and football. The results are not pretty. The author examined data from youth leagues, school sports groups and industry associations from 2008 to 2012.

  • Blog: Event Organizers Can Do Better Than Free T-Shirts

    by Mary Helen Sprecher January 2014

    A group of us happened to be in the midst of organizing a recent racquetball tournament when the chairman looked at me and said, “Can you think of anything other than a T-shirt to give out here?”

    The more I thought about it, the more I thought about how right she was to ask. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t have way more than enough T-shirts? Specifically, is there anyone out there reading this who doesn’t have an entire boatload of T-shirts gained from participating in an athletic event?

    Like anyone else who is looking at this, I’ve played in tournaments, run in 5Ks and gone swimming for charity. I’ve ridden bicycles, given blood and probably a bajillion other things I don’t remember, all in the name of health and benefitting a non-profit. And I have a drawer full of T-shirts to prove it. Most of them I haven’t even worn yet. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the shirt; it’s just that honestly, there are only so many you can wear. Ever.

    Need proof? Every year, my church flea market receives donations of hundreds of T-shirts emblazoned with the logos of frat parties, scout camps, mud runs, sports teams, community fairs, you name it. Even neatly folded, they fill multiple cardboard boxes. We have to give them away to people who collect them for shelters and other groups. Why? Because after more than a decade of doing this, we know: nobody will buy them. Nobody. Ever.

    A few months ago, I spoke with someone who happened to be in the business of providing logo merchandise and other souvenirs for various events. He told me there has been a definite shift in the choice of souvenirs people are offering.

    “In fact,” he noted, “I can’t even remember how long it has been since someone ordered a box of ceramic coffee mugs for souvenirs.”

    These days, he said, souvenirs are small, light and easily packed (thanks in part to weight restrictions on airline baggage, for those who travel to participate in events) and there is a distinct preference for two types of souvenirs: tech items (thumb drives, smart phone holders, mouse pads, iWallets – those are cases that stick on smartphones and provide a place for credit cards and whatnot), and what he termed eco-friendly souvenirs (in this case, meaning items that could be used long after the event is over, like pens, reusable grocery bags, etc.)

    T-shirts, he noted, were the ‘evergreen’ of souvenirs since there was always someone who wanted them – but, he cautioned, “most people already have too many plain cotton ones.” Shirts in wicking fabrics, shirts cut for women and in fashion knits, shirts in a color other than white, and so forth were apt to be more desirable than the traditional 100% cotton T-shirts.
    Of course, he added, all those do cost more.

    So as we sat around, trying to decide what to give away as souvenirs for the tournament, we ran through the various other possibilities: hats, towels, socks, magnets, lanyards, sweatbands, water bottles, travel mugs, you name it.

    In the end, we went back to T-shirts because we’d put on the registration form that everyone got one. But we resolved to think more creatively next time (I refuse to say ‘think outside the shirt’) and come up with some ideas for better souvenirs for future tournaments.

    So what about you? Are you stuck in the same ‘T-shirt rut’ we are? If not, what are you offering as a souvenir for your 5Ks, tournaments and so forth? Less creative minds want to know.


    Mary Helen Sprecher is a technical writer with the American Sports Builders Association and the editor of Sports Destination Management.

  • In Kids' Fitness, a Renewed Focus on Basic Movements

    by Nancy Cambria, St. Louis Post-Dispatch December 2013

    AthleticBusiness.com has partnered with LexisNexis to bring you this content.

    Copyright 2013 Southeastern Newspapers Corporation
    All Rights Reserved
    The Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)

    ST. LOUIS - Eric Lay, the head trainer at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School, loves to see student athletes succeed, but he and fellow trainers aren't always impressed with fastballs or hat tricks.

    They're more concerned about whether the athletes can do a pushup without their body undulating like a worm. Can they do leg lunges without flailing their arms, wobbling or falling to one side? Are they able to touch their toes? Pull up to their chin? Can they shuttle back and forth?

    In a nutshell, trainers want to know whether these kids really know how to properly and safely move, and later, can they add strength to those established movements?

    It's all part of a growing push among trainers and others in fitness fields to get schools, parents, coaches and kids back to basics with physical fitness. Instead of focusing primarily on acquiring fitness through organized youth sports - an exploding business with many well-meaning but poorly trained coaches - they want parents and kids to refocus and acquire proper movement skills beginning as early as kindergarten and progressing all the way through high school.

    If it sounds like a throwback to gym class, it is. Those movements first emphasized in P.E. - skipping, lunging, twisting, jumping, stopping and starting, to name a few - are the building blocks of high-performing athletes and the key to enjoying all sorts of recreational activities that encourage lifelong fitness, said Larry Meadors, a former national high school strength and conditioning coach with the National Association of Strength and Fitness and the author of a paper urging "physical literacy" among youth.

    But yet, "For some ungodly reason we've skipped teaching fundamental movement," Meadors said.

    "We all learned the alphabet, and as we learned the alphabet we learned how to put two letters and then three and then four to form words, and pretty soon we had a word, a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter, a book. And you should apply the same things for athletics."

    In an age where kids have seemingly endless opportunities to play sports outside of school, all-around good movement is not always something Lay says he sees with seasoned middle and high school players. That particularly can be the case with specialized year-round, single-sport athletes. Often he'll see unbalanced movement, out of whack from years of kicking with one leg in soccer or pitching and throwing on a softball or baseball team.

    Those physical fitness deficits can lead to injuries. That's because the kids do the same thing over and over again, and coaches and organizations can have little emphasis on proper training beyond a few sometimes misguided skills drills.

    Meadors, a retired 50-year educator who runs a conditioning program in the Burns-ville, Minn., school district, said he has seen a significant decline in movement skills in kids over the past decade.

    Part of it is because of a decline in physical education in schools and a more sedentary lifestyle. Yet kids also face problems in competitive youth sports, where they learn a limited regimen of movements basic to the sport but might lack other critical movement skills to help them fully succeed.

    More than 3.5 million kids 14 and younger are treated annually for sports injuries, and the numbers are increasing. More than half of all youth sports injuries are preventable. In about half the cases, the injuries are associated with overuse, often linked with the growing trend of children specializing in one sport and playing year-round.

    In a paper published with the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Meadors said musculoskeletal injuries in youth are the result of overall low strength levels, incorrect landing mechanics, incorrect deceleration techniques, ligament loose-ness, muscle tightness, overly developed quadriceps, and over-reliance on a particular limb. These essentially are tied to poor conditioning and a lack of knowing how to move properly in a variety of fitness situations.

    Many kids simply don't know how to properly slow down and stop when running. Others can't land a jump properly, he said.

    Meadors says all he asks for is a greater conversation among schools, parents, coaches and kids to identify the big connection between proper movement skills, lifelong health and true athletic performance.

    "When we get to the point of 3.5 million kids injured in a given year - that's the fourth-leading health risk by the World Health Organization - there's something wrong about that," he said. "The media loves to hit on the sedentary side and the link to obesity in kids, and that's a real critical issue. But so is misuse of kids in sports and the mis-training of children."

     

    December 14, 2013
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  • 2013 Excellence in Youth Sports Award Winner: Mecklenburg (N.C.) County Park and Recreation

    by NAYS Staff November 2013

    Mecklenburg (N.C.) County Park and Recreation takes a holistic approach to youth sports, using the power of sports as a vehicle to teach their participants life skills. Rather than just providing leagues for children, the department's programming focuses on character building, fitness, nutrition and health to help develop the whole child.

  • 2013 Excellence in Youth Sports Award Winner: Glynn County (Ga.) Recreation and Parks Department

    by NAYS Staff November 2013

    It has been a busy couple of years for the Glynn County (Ga.) Recreation and Parks Department. Since winning the Excellence in Youth Sports Award in 2010, the department has continued to build upon its child-focused programming and offer superior service to its citizens, which enabled it to earn the prestigious award again this year.

  • 2013 Excellence in Youth Sports Award Winner: Fort Rucker (Ala.) Youth Sports and Fitness

    by NAYS Staff November 2013

    The road to excellence began five years ago for Fort Rucker (Ala.) Youth Sports and Fitness. Randy Tolison took over as youth sports and fitness director, bringing with him a fresh perspective to rejuvenate the program. "The program looked good from the outside, but it was a little stagnant on the inside," says Tolison. "The staff on board was doing okay, but it appeared that they were satisfied with just being okay."

  • 2013 Excellence in Youth Sports Award Winner: Botetourt County (Va.) Parks, Recreation and Tourism

    by NAYS Staff November 2013

    Activities and programs at Botetourt County (Va.) Parks, Recreation and Tourism are developed around putting the children first. When new activities and options are added to the youth sports program, the impact on the youngsters served is always examined first.

  • Safeguarding Youth Sports Programs Against Embezzlement

    by Emily Attwood October 2013

    On a sunny Saturday morning, as parents gather along the sidelines and chatter idly while their children warm up for a morning of soccer practice, the last thing on anyone's mind or lips are questions about the financial records of the organization.