What Should Sports Be Teaching Our Kids? Guest Post By Author Anne Montgomery

Please welcome Anne back to the blog for her illuminating post about kids playing sports. I am a great admirer of Ms. Montgomery’s opinions when it comes to most topics – especially sports; she advocates for the kids and for the games they play.

Thank you for all you do, Anne!

I’ve spent most of my life in the sports world. I ice skated, skied, and swam as a kid. I was a sports reporter for about 15 years. For the past four decades, I’ve officiated amateur sports: mostly football and baseball, but I’ve called basketball, ice hockey, and soccer games, as well.

So, I feel qualified to take a good hard look at the American sports scene. And what I see isn’t pretty, which is upsetting for someone who’s always believed that participation in sports makes us better people, endowing us with skills needed to be successful in both our personal and professional lives.

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I read a book recently that crystalized some of the issues affecting sports in the U.S.  In Norwich, a story detailing a tiny Vermont town that has produced an inordinate number of well-adjusted Olympic athletes, New York Times reporter Karen Crouse writes, “(T)he parents of Norwich learned through trial and error the best methods of nourishing happy athletes: by valuing participation and sportsmanship, and stressing fun, community, and self-improvement.”

Anyone who has attended a youth-level sports competition over the last two decades must surely know that idyllic communities like Norwich are about as common as unicorns. The “winning is everything” adage is on display in the behavior of parents, coaches, and fans even when children are in elementary school, a time when sports competition should focus on teamwork, building friendships, and learning to win and lose gracefully.

What has changed? Dollar signs. Parents see pro athletes in an 11-year-old Pop Warner football player or a Little League pitcher. The inevitable leap to specialization and year-round club teams all in the hope they will spawn the next major leaguer is both sad and disturbing.

I have spent the last 19 years teaching in an inner-city high school in Phoenix. Way too many of my students say they want to be professional athletes. I explain they should have a Plan B, since statistics clearly show most will never play organized sports after high school, and that, even if they receive that rare college-sports scholarship, the chance of ever getting a professional tryout is like winning the Powerball lottery.

Why do my students want to be pro athletes? They imagine that multimillion-dollar lifestyle. These kids – like the previously mentioned helicopter parents – seem to care only about the fame and financial riches to be gained. When I point out that pro careers are difficult, generally very short, and that the vast majority of athletes are not banking millions and living in mansions, they scoff.

According to Crouse, children in Norwich are not raised to believe that the raison d’être of sports participation is material gain. “(T)he social tapestry of Norwich represents a triumph of nurture over the natural order of the modern world, which has given us a wealth and acquisition model that favors autonomy over relationships and independence over community.”

The point in encouraging children to participate in sports has never been about money and fame. It’s about teaching them to be happy, well-adjusted adults. Competing in sports teaches discipline, respect for authority, persistence, teamwork, dedication, self-esteem, and, perhaps most importantly, how to cope with failure.

However, forcing a child into a single sport, in order to chase dreams of college scholarships and a pro career, ignores the possibility that they might excel in different areas if given the opportunity, and often produces injuries, burnout, and depression. This strategy differs greatly from that of the parents of Norwich who, “When in doubt, erred on the side of giving their children freedom. They were determined not to be like the parents who control their children’s choices for reasons having to do with their own egos or anxieties.”

Young people need to have the opportunity to try new things, which is the first step in determining what they might like to do in the future. While I encourage my students to compete in sports, I would be remiss if I stopped there. I want them to take art and music and drama and woodworking and culinary arts and any other subject that stirs their imagination. These experiences will help guide their decisions for the future, when they must consider what they like, what they’re good at, and what someone will pay them to do.

I am sometimes reminded of a moment I witnessed while refereeing a high school football game. At halftime, the marching band took the field. And there, in the horn section, was a football player — sans helmet and shoulder pads — playing the trumpet. I wanted to applaud him for branching out, and congratulate his coach for granting the player the opportunity to pursue music.

I wish I could say sights like this are common, but sadly they’re not. I only mention it because I think the people of Norwich would have been proud.

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

Thoughts?

Thanks for reading!

Gina

Looking For A Job When She Had One All Along|Guest Post by Author Anne Montgomery

Anyone who has ever been unhappily unemployed – even for a short time – can testify to the damaging array of emotions that come with that particular package. So much of who we are is wrapped up in what we do.

After I aged out of TV reporting, I often found myself lerry of running into acquaintances: the thought of addressing my lack of a fulltime job enough to make me queasy.

When the Great Recession hit in 2008, a financial meltdown that saw the nation’s unemployment rate rocket to 10%, there were so many unemployed people that support groups were formed. The unemployed could meet and chat and prop one another up amidst their hunt for a paycheck. Being on an extended job search became so common that, I’d like to think, the stigma of unemployment vanished to a certain extent.

When I was without work, there was no one with whom to share my pain. Still married at the time, my now ex was frustrated that I no longer brought home a big paycheck.  I spent my days alone while the world went on without me. I was left wallowing in my own self-pity, which, as anyone who has ever lingered in that neighborhood can tell you, can become an awfully lonely outpost.

One afternoon, I returned home from yet another “thanks, but no thanks” interview, this time with a sports bar manager who had not too subtly appraised my buxomness quotient, multiplied it by my age, and deemed me unworthy, despite my skills with a shaker, my ability to pour a perfect shot every time, and in-depth knowledge of sports that would have kept even sober patrons entertained.

Shortly after that, I found a phone message from a temp agency. They’d gotten me a gig working on the assembly line at a Revlon plant in South Phoenix. I was to report early the next morning.

Now, I had always thought I was a tough girl. But I must be honest here. As I pictured myself Lucy-like – product slipping by on a conveyer belt too fast to handle – I cried. And, unlike that famous red head, I wouldn’t be able to eat my way out of the problem.

Full-time employment would evade me for several years, a time during which the only thing that sustained me was a skill that I had always considered just a means to an end. The fact that officiating amateur sports – an avocation I practiced in order to get my foot in the door in the sports-reporting business – would put food on my table was something I had never considered. And yet, it was the one place that felt normal, that I still had some semblance of control. The one place I felt like me.

Me and Don Baseball

The only place I felt comfortable those years I was without a fulltime job was on the field, especially with my longtime baseball umpiring partner Don Clarkson.

There was a rhythm to my world on the field that, no matter what was happening outside those lines, remained constant. Perhaps it was the need for punctuality, the ritual of donning the uniform, or the customary procedures in regard to game management. Maybe it was the camaraderie: players, coaches, fans, and fellow officials all involved in an endeavor that mattered to them. Or maybe it was that feeling after the game – whether the contest went smoothly or not – that I had done my best and learned from my mistakes.

Funny, it sounds like a job.

The day I broke my back copy
Me Umpiring 3

I wish I’d thought so at the time.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

Fighting about Fouls at ESPN by Anne Montgomery (A Light in the Desert)

Anne Montgomery is one of my favorite storytellers. I’m always honored when she stops by the blog to share experiences from her career as a sportscaster.

Thank you for your many wonderful tales, Anne!

ESPN_logos

In a perfect world, sportscasters would get long leisurely looks at the highlights they use in their live broadcasts. They’d get to rehearse a few times, using their own verbiage to describe a sweet double play or a long touchdown run.

But in the real world, there are times when sportscasters don’t get to view the video prior to a broadcast. Imagine trying to look pleasant, sound authoritative and knowledgeable, and having to describe a previously-unseen set of highlights, while someone is yelling in your ear. Now, try to do it when the highlights are poorly written.

At ESPN, there was a group of workers called PAs: production assistants who spent almost all their time observing games and picking plays for SportsCenter broadcasts. I’m sure to rabid sports fans the gig sounds like having one foot in heaven. A PA would be assigned a game, they’d sit back, watch, and pick three or four highlights. All they had to do was get the plays edited and write a script explaining what was happening in the shots they chose. A final score would then be added. That was it.

Generally, the PAs would appear at the anchor’s newsroom desk before the show and hand over their version of the script. I would always go view the video, make my own additions to the copy, and thank the PA. Beautiful.

However, sometimes there were late games that were still in progress during the SportsCenter broadcast. It was one of these contests and a subsequent set of highlights I received that got me into a bit of a pickle.

One evening, a sheet of game highlights was slipped onto my desk just as the crimson camera light blinked on. I smiled and read the intro. Then, as the video rolled, I eyed the script with my left eye and focused on my desk monitor with my right. (Not really, but it sort of feels that way.) And there it was, a screaming line drive hit into the first row seats, beaning a spectator squarely on the noggin. I read the script and immediately knew there’d been a mistake. The copy read that the fan had been hit by a foul tip. I knew this was impossible, but the next play quickly appeared and I had no time to right the wrong.

download-1All fouls are not created equal.

It wouldn’t be until the postmortem – the meeting that followed each show, a time during which errors were discussed by everyone involved in the broadcast – that I would get the chance to point out the obvious problem.

“Rich,” I said to the PA, who like all of his ilk was just out of college, sans any previous TV experience, and while they were sometimes treated like slave labor, were willing to do almost anything to get into the business. “Here,” I said, pushing the highlight sheet across the conference table. “Look at the first play.”

“The one where the guy gets hit with the foul tip?” He asked without looking at the page.

“That’s the one.” I smiled. “You don’t want to do that again.”

“Do what?” Rich squinted.

PAs lived in fear of making a mistake, knowing there was a long list of kids who’d do anything to get into ESPN. They worked without contracts for so little pay three or four of them often rented tiny apartments together, and they could be terminated without cause. Still, they lined up in droves to work at the network.

“It wasn’t a foul tip that hit the guy, Rich. It was a foul ball.”

“What’s the difference? The producer asked, palms up.

I looked around the table, finding it odd that no one else seemed to understand. “A foul ball is one that goes out of the playing area in foul territory. It’s a dead ball. Nothing can happen on the field. A foul tip, however, is a ball that generally goes directly from the bat to the catcher’s glove and is legally caught. A foul tip is always a strike and, unlike a foul ball, can result in strike three.”

“So?” Rich said defensively.

“A foul tip is a live ball.” I paused, waiting to see the light bulbs go off in the brains of my SportsCenter peers, but they just stared at me. “If there are runners on base, they can steal at their own risk,” I went on. “That makes it impossible for a fan to be hit with a foul tip. It was a foul ball.”

“It’s the same thing,” Rich insisted.

“No, it’s not.”

“Why do you care?” The PA said, sounding petulant now. “No one else does.”

I looked around the room. None of the other members of the crew had chimed in. Generally, in these meetings, everyone had an opinion and no one was timid about sharing.

“I care, Rich. I’m an umpire. And there are people out there who know that. It embarrasses me to make that kind of mistake.”

Rich’s face turned bright red. “You’re just being a picky bitch!” Then he got up and left the room.

The next day, I was called into my boss’s office. He had been apprised of my comments and insisted that I apologize to Rich.

“But he was wrong,” I said. “I never raised my voice or got defensive. I simply explained that he’d made a mistake.”

My boss was unswayed. That the young PA called me a bitch did not seem to matter. I was forced to apologize.

And all these years later, it still rankles.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

A Light In The Desert by Anne Montgomery – First Look for Fans of Cold Case Mystery

Releasing November 6th!

A Definite MUST READ from Anne Montgomery

Acclaimed journalist Anne Montgomery weaves her latest mystery/suspense novel around one of the most enduring cold case crimes in Arizona history.

Following in-depth research into the deadly 1995 cold-case derailment of an Amtrak train in the wilds of the Arizona desert, novelist Anne Montgomery  penned the story of Jason Ramm, a broken former Special Forces sniper, and Kelly, the lonely pregnant teen who appears to be his salvation in the 2018 suspenseful mystery.

A Light in the Desert releasing November 6, 2018 from Treehouse Publishing Group.

Set in Hyder, Arizona, Montgomery’s A Light in the Desert details the crumbling world of a former soldier whose crimes assault his conscience and an isolated child who, in the guise of love, falls victim to abuse. Is Ramm her savior or something more insidious? Montgomery suffuses the tale with heartbreaking melancholy, both from the point of view of a rejected child who understands little of the outside world and the assassin who’s descending into the grips of an odd mental illness, the Jerusalem Syndrome, that threatens to replace who he is with something else.

A former ESPN sportscaster, Montgomery, a foster mom to three sons, works in Arizona as a football referee and high school teacher at a Title I school where many of her students live in poverty, some are abused, and others are relegated to foster care. On why she wrote the book, Montgomery says, “I have seen the suffering of neglected and abused children first-hand. Often, their voices go unheard. I believe child abuse needs to be a topic we address with ardent regularity, loudly and often, so that someday, perhaps, this cruelty can be relegated to the past.”

This novel is a definite must read!

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.

When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil as local and state police, FBI investigators, and a horde of reporters arrive on the scene. As the search for the saboteurs heats up and the authorities question members of the cult, they uncover more questions than answers.

And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.

BUY NOW from MIDPOINT BOOK SALES

Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.

Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on FacebookLinkedin, and Twitter.