Friday, August 3, 2012

Gaming the games

It is easy to define cheating, but tricky to use only one, unchanging definition in sports.

During the 2012 Olympic Games in London people were shocked when four women’s badminton teams purposely tried to lose a final match in the round robin pool stage of the Olympic tournament to gain a more favorable draw in the knockout rounds eventually leading to the gold medal match.  

The teams were disqualified, the players were shamed, the coaches were investigated, and officials from china, South Korea, and Indonesia—the nations of the offending teams—were quick to issue apologies and try to restore their standing in the word of Olympic sports.

But despite the condemnations and apologies, the practice of “gaming the game” has a long history in sports, and is naïve for IOC and Badminton World Federation (BWF) officials to think otherwise. They know that this occurs regularly in tournaments organized in this way where teams often have an incentive to lose in order to eventually win a medal or prize money.  

Whenever the stakes for winning a medal or money are high most professional coaches and athletes will use strategies to achieve their ultimate goal, even if the strategies violate game rules, or involve under-performing or strategically losing in the short run to be successful in the long run. In fact, when they don’t do this, many fans and commentators accuse them of being naïve or incompetent.  

Most of us who follow sports know that strategic rule violations and strategic “tanking” (not trying to do one’s best or win a game, match, or contest) occur regularly. For the most part, we see it as “part of the game.” Examples include the following:
·       Strategic rule violations: Basketball players are taught to commit “good fouls” and “hard fouls,” and NFL teams deliberately take penalties by letting the 30-second play clock run out so they can gain better field goal position or waste time at the end of a close game.
·       Strategic under-performance: Baseball pitchers intentionally walk a batter instead of using their skills to face the batter directly, basketball teams try to run out the clock by holding the ball rather than trying their best to score, top swimmers slack off during qualifying heats to save their energy for the ultimate medal race, and playoff-bound NFL teams use second and third team players instead of their best players in late season games that they can lose without affecting their place in the playoffs.
·       Strategic losing: Tennis players tank matches to be eliminated early from low status tournaments to save their bodies and let injuries heal before upcoming high status tournaments, and NBA teams don’t try to win late-season games so they can be placed in a team lottery for the number one draft pick.

Of course, there’s a difference between violating rules in an effort to win and not trying to win or purposely losing. But this difference becomes fuzzy when the outcome of an end-of-season NFL game has no bearing on winning subsequent playoff games and the Super Bowl. Similarly, losing or tying a match in a group pool badminton match to gain an advantage in the draw for the knock out rounds in the Olympics can be part of an overall strategy  to win a medal.

So what is cheating and what isn’t? When are violating rules, under-performing, and losing—or at least not trying to win—a form of cheating and when are they part of an accepted strategy for obtaining an ultimate win?  These were the issues raised by the badminton teams during the 2012 Olympic Games.  

To put this in perspective for people in the United States, imagine that Misty May and Kerri Walsh, the best beach volleyball team in the world, strategically lost a match that would not affect their quest for a medal but would prevent them from meeting and possibly eliminating another skilled US team that also had a chance to win a medal. Imagine further that this strategy put both teams in position to win gold and silver medals by allowing them to play each other in the gold medal match. Imagine even further that the US beach volleyball coach told them to use this strategy and their sponsor—also the sponsor for the other US team—told them that this strategy was a win-win for everyone involved. 

With all this at stake, let’s imagine that May and Walsh cleverly tank their match and eventually meet the other US team in the finals, guaranteeing them the gold and silver medals. Additionally, this double win increased the fund raising power of the USOC and the volleyball federation, and increased visibility for their sponsor that gave endorsement contract extensions to the four women and additional money to promote beach volleyball among young people in the United States.

This may sound like a far-fetched scenario, but it is very similar to the scenario facing the Chinese team in the badminton scandal. Given this similarity, here are questions from a U.S. perspective:  What would be the response of fans in the U.S. where Olympic medals are used as part of a global scorecard for nations? Would they condemn May and Walsh as cheaters or praise them as wise tournament bracket managers? How would media commentators represent May and Walsh to their audience—as cheaters or “team players”?

Here are questions from perspectives outside the U.S.: If the Olympics were in Rio, Brazil and many Brazilians of moderate means had sacrificed to buy ticket to see the best in the world play during the day of the tanked match, would they see May and Walsh as cheaters and demand refunds for their tickets? How would Sky TV commentators represent May and Walsh to their European audience—as ugly or loyal Americans? And  how would the IOC and other officials Rio Olympics respond?

These questions raise issues about who draws the line between cheating and acceptable strategy in various situations and how they make their decision. For example, if there were no spectators or only nonpaying spectators who knew the players, there would be no issue and certainly no moral condemnations of the players. In fact, in this situation, the team benefiting from a loss might just forfeit the math so the rest of the competition schedule could continue.

But the cheater versus acceptable strategy line shifts in the case of commercial sports where sponsors seek revenues, promoters seek legitimacy, and paying spectators seek excitement. This is why Sebastian Coe, the chief organizer of the London 2012 Olympic Games said in response to the badminton scandal, “It’s depressing. Who wants to sit through something like that?” Of course, what he meant was that “we set high ticket prices (about $115 for the badminton session) with the promise that spectators would see athletes conform to the spirit of the Olympic Games. Coe is familiar with the reality facing athletes for whom winning medals is usually a life changing achievement, but he chose to view the situation from the perspective of the spectators. However, neither he nor other officials refunded money to those who bought tickets to the tanked matches.

The athletes who make it to the Olympics are well aware of “spirit of the Olympic Games,” but many of them have heard it so many times from people who profit from saying it that they see it more as a marketing slogan than a non-negotiable, all-encompassing principle. They also know about the overwhelming commercialization of the Olympics, the power and influence of corporate sponsors and media companies, the billions of dollars that change hands in connection with the games, and the life changing stakes associated with winning medals. And this makes it beyond naïve for IOC and BWF officials to think that the abstract notion of “Olympic Spirit” will be the sole guide for athletes in the Olympics. So why did they organize the badminton competition in a way that gives teams an incentive to tank matches in a quest for medals?

Of course, the spectators who consume the Olympics and believe myths about the “essential purity and goodness of sports” are likely to condemn competitors that fail to reaffirm their beliefs. It is easier for them to condemn individual athletes and coaches than it is to revise long held beliefs that sport somehow transcends  the realities of everyday life.      

Monday, July 23, 2012

Welcome to the Olympic celebration!

The NBC talking heads tell us repeatedly that the Olympic games are a celebration of dedication and sacrifice, with homage paid to martyr-like mothers whose support make success possible. But mainstream media narratives notwithstanding, the games are a celebration of wealth, technology, self-absorbed athletes, and monopoly capitalism—something that people from wealthy, high tech, medal winning corporate capitalist states now see as normal.
Those tuning into the spectacle won’t be told that 80 of the 204 nations participating in London have never won a medal, and another 51 claim less than 5 medals in Olympic history. Some nations have not won a medal for at least 40 years. But many wealthy nations have enjoyed much success with the U.S. winning 2,549 medals and various configurations of Russia/USSR and Germany winning 1755 and 1,698, respectively, since the modern games began in 1896.

China and India with over 35 percent of the world’s population have won 429 and 20 medals respectively, with all of China’s medals being won since 1984 when wealth began to accumulate for some people. Furthermore, the generally poor nations that have won medals often are represented by athletes who have trained in the U.S., Canada, or Western Europe or benefited from resources delivered to their region by talent scouts and athletic training missionaries from wealthy nations here there are resources to travel the world and spot medal winning potential amidst poverty and then help to train them.

Even in wealthy countries, a disproportionate share of medals is won by athletes from well-off families. We’ve heard more than a few times that women made up half of Britain’s 2012 Olympic team but little is said about half of the team attending exclusive private schools and training in sports that require resources that are out of reach for 90-percent of living human beings. If data on the socio-economic status of Olympian’s families could be collected in other wealthy nations, we would see similar patterns.

Exceptions to this celebration of wealth are Cuba and the former Soviet Union where central state planners used public money to produce an impressive number of medal winners. Other exceptions are the individual athletes with wealthy corporate sponsors. For example, U.S. hurdler Lolo Jones has the face and physique to attract corporations seeking to capitalize on the media attention she receives. But even Red Bull, her major sponsor, hedges its investment in Jones by arranging for 22 scientists and technicians to work with her over the past seven years. These performance specialists monitor her every move with 40 motion-capture cameras, an Optojump system that replicates how her feet hit the track surface on every stride she takes during 110 meters of hurdling. The Phantom Flex high speed camera moves astride of Jones and records 1500 frames a second as she runs. The resulting analyses of these data and input from other specialists shape her daily training.

Because athletes in a growing number of events are maxing out the potential of the human body, they now see technology that will give them an edge. That technology is delivered and managed by physiologists, biomechanists, medical experts, biochemists, strength coaches, nutritionists, psychologists, recovery experts, and statistical analysts who work with coaches as they turn science and technology into a training necessity for winners. Access to this technology and the people who can use it costs more than most villages in developing nations produce every quadrennium.

Elite athletes today focus 24/7 on training to maintain their access to these experts and the technology that sponsors provide. This leaves them no time for normal developmental experiences. But we hear glowing narratives connecting this endless self-absorbed training with character and leadership development, discipline, and overall success in life. What we don’t hear how many of their friends and family members no longer enjoy their company, how many of their athlete peers are left in the wake of this training regime, and how training for highly specialized athletic performances leaves many of them unprepared to cope with post-sport challenges.

For spectators who pay outlandish prices to enter the areas in and around the Olympic Village and the athletes staying there, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, and the IOC make sure that free enterprise is nowhere in sight. Logo spies roam London’s commercial zones to see if any form of the word “Olympic” is being used in shop windows. Tech detectives monitor millions of blogs, tweets, and social media sites to identify ambush marketing. The message: it is illegal to benefit financially from the Olympic spectacle and its unpaid athletes unless you pay millions upfront to do so.  

Docu-dramas in the media coverage of the games won’t include up-close and personal stories about the people fined $200 for entering street lanes reserved for Olympic officials and the executives and guests of sponsoring corporations, or about small businesses that suffer and sometimes fail due to the disruption caused by the games.

For the 17 days and thousands of hours of television coverage, people watching the games at home will marvel at the bodies and performances of the athletes. Most conclude that there’s no sense leaving the couch to do sports at level that is embarrassing after watching Olympic athletes. As spectators experience their highs from sugar-filled soft drinks and carbo- and fat-laden fast foods, they will hear about WADA making certain that the athletes are competing clean. The media companies spending billions on rights fees cannot afford to have spectators think otherwise.

So enjoy the games and the media generated fictions created about them. It would be a shame to use that giant flat screen TV and pay those budget-breaking monthly provider fees just to watch reality shows and play video games.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Flag Football, Anyone?

As football in the United States has come under increasing scrutiny in connection with brain damage caused by shockingly high rates concussions and repeated sub-concussive head trauma, league official at all levels have either tried to defuse concerns or they have changed rules to reduce head contact that can cause brain damage among players, especially young players.

Apologists for football who cannot imagine life without regular doses of violent contact between males of all ages have defensively argued that accidents and injuries are a part of life and that young people can be injured while riding bikes or crossing the street.

Of course, hard hits to the head are not an inevitable part of riding bikes and adults have taken great care to see that children are safeguarded as they walk home from school. Parents religiously teach their children to cross streets so they will never be hit by a car. But when it comes to tackle football and the growing evidence that it involves regular head hits that can cause brain damage, these same adults and parents say that there is a need to reduce hits to the head and chances of brain damage.

Apparently, the elimination of dangerous head hits and the preservation of heavy contact football is valued enough to accept a reduction rather than an elimination of brain injuries. Violent contact, the apologists argue, is inherent in “the game” and valued by some players and most spectators.

But remember, we’re talking about brain damage here, not torn ACLs, stitches on a chin, or broken arms.

Parents who remember this are now beginning to ask why they should encourage or even allow their children to engage in an activity that involves regular hits to the head, sometimes with concussive force.

Think about it: if we see a parent regularly hitting a child’s head with enough force to occasionally cause a concussion, wouldn’t we intervene or call social services? In most states we are obliged to do the latter and a child protection worker or police officer would intervene. But if parents permit their children to play heavy contact football and attend games during which regular hits to the head are endured, they are seen as praiseworthy.

So if the officials running youth football programs change a few rules to reduce head hits rather create a game that eliminates them except as relatively rare accidents, does this meet our expectations for responsible action?

Would we approve of a child protection worker who told parents that regularly hit their 12-year old son on the head that they should hit the boy less often or only on weekends?

Or to use a less dramatic example, would we praise parents who allowed and even encouraged their children to play a bike riding game in which potentially concussive head trauma was inevitable?

Of course, few parents would approve of this game and even fewer would praise their kids and pay for the equipment needed to play it five times a week and another time on the weekend when they would watch and cheer for them.

Are parents really willing to suspend reason and the safety of their children’s brains simply to maintain the revered place of heavy contact football in U.S. culture?

We shall see.

In the meantime, is there anyone for replacing heavy contact youth football with incidental contact flag football?

This piece was provoked by a June 13th New York Times headline that read, “Trying to reduce head injuries, youth football limits practices.”

Monday, September 27, 2010


We heard it often through the first half of 2010: “The World Cup will transform Africa.” “It will bring South Africa together.” “It makes us proud in South Africa.” “The World Cup will boost the South African economy and everyone will benefit.”

But for the people of South Africa, and certainly the rest of the continent, the 2010 Men’s World Cup did not provide adequate shelter, bring heat into homes, or put food on their tables. Nor did it reduce unemployment, provide support to underemployed day laborers in segregated townships, boost salaries of workers to meet the basic needs of their families, or reduce the socio-economic inequality that erodes the foundation of the young South African democracy.

For a few, mostly wealthy and well-connected South Africans, he flow of capital generated by the 2010 World Cup brought additional material advantage and political power. It also provided an opportunity to promote neoliberal ideas about the importance of individual responsibility as the way to solve pressing problems. At the same time, the pride and spirit created by hosting the Men’s World Cup were palpable to those consuming media representations of the event. But it didn’t take long for these feelings to be replaced by the desperation that was suppressed and repressed during Cup matches and festivities.

In this sense, there’s nothing so over as a World Cup—or the Olympic Games. Like other mega-events, the Cup leaves a combination of memories, exhaustion, and debt. People were sold the myth that everyone benefits from hosting the World Cup, but they quickly discovered that the event brought only a few of them temporary jobs and left their country with massive cost overruns and few resources to maintain social programs. The legacy that they expected was displaced by the harsh realities of layoffs and the absence of a social safety net.

Overall, the World Cup did little more than increase economic disparities in the population as a whole. Efforts to attract capital did not lead to programs and opportunities for underserved populations. When billions of dollars are at stake, people with power and influence position themselves to benefit from the flow of capital into a host city and region. However, the vast majority of people do not have access to that capital nor do they enjoy its benefits.

As unemployment has reached 33-percent generally, and over 50-percent for 15-34 year old blacks, conditions for have worsened for most South Africans. Public employees went on strike as they face job insecurity and anticipated cuts in public programs for the most socially and economically vulnerable South Africans. At the same time, factory workers making far less than the $57 per week minimum wage have struggled to keep their jobs in the face of industrial decline.

The desperation caused by worsening poverty is not softened by the presence of new stadiums or memories of vuvuzelas. This is a hard lesson to learn after having been seduced by the emotions that come with hosting such an event. Unfortunately, these seductions continue around the world with nation after nation learning that spending billions of public money to host major sport events is neither the best way to maintain democracy nor stiumlate overall economic growth.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

For those who may have read the following in the NYT:

Weber, Bruce, and Juliet Macur. 2010. A champion against cancer, under siege. The New York Times (August 21),

Jay Coakley

Hi _____,

Here's my official response--going to the authors of the article and others who are contacting me and forcing me to respond to maintain a 30-year reputation as a good scholar and careful thinker.

Jay Coakley, Ph.D.,
Professor Emeritus
Sociology Department
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

Wow! I'd forgotten about that interview—an hour-long call that took me out of my brother’s room at a cancer treatment center where he deals with the ravages of late-stage melanoma, the same cancer that killed my 32-year old son 10 years ago. It was a call from Bruce Weber, a New York Times writer with whom I'd never talked. I didn't know him, but I looked him up later. He’s done obituaries for years (good ones, by the way), and also did a feature article on Armstrong back in 2005.We had a nice long talk, partly about cancer-related issues. My goal when talking with journalists, which I do dozens of times each year, is to help them see their story in a larger perspective informed by what might be called a sociological imagination—that is, an ability to connect the biographies of individuals with larger social and cultural factors when making sense of what people do.

I see my conversations with journalists as reciprocal teaching and learning opportunities, and nearly always, that is what they’ve been. That’s why I took nearly an hour away from my brother to talk with Weber. Too bad, he didn’t listen very carefully or chose not to represent the spirit of my comments when he attributed comments and quotes to me.

First, and most important, Weber writes, "[Coakley] said that he had no doubt that Mr. Armstrong was guilty of doping, but that it did not matter. For athletes, [Coakley] said, the line between performance enhancement and medical treatment has become so fuzzy that it is impossible to discern." What I did say to Weber was that I had no doubt that Armstrong, like all elite cyclists who are contenders in the Tour d' France and other major road races, is taking some substances, legal or otherwise, that enable him to recuperate and consistently perform at a high level in a grueling schedule of training and racing. I made a point of saying that he may not be taking anything that is banned by the cycling federation and that he probably knew more about the physiology of training and performance and the effects of performance enhancing substances, including various chemical compounds that are not officially classified as drugs, than most top athletes in history, due to his treatment experience when he had cancer. I noted that he undoubtedly used that knowledge to assist him when participating in 21-day 2100-mile races up and down mountains.

I also explained that in elite sports today, the line between using medicine to treat injuries and using it to maximize training effects and performance is all but gone. Today, I explained, many people in sport medicine are focused more on performance than treatment—or they make no significant distinction between the two.

The "morality comment" attributed to me is taken out of the context of our long conversation (I never considered it an "interview"). I said to Weber that in the current culture of elite sports, athletes use many different and often new and even experimentally untested technologies to train and perform at a high level, and that the use of various substances that aid training and performance is not viewed in moral terms in this culture. I did note that athletes don’t see this increasingly normal part of their training as a moral issue. Instead, they see it as what they must do to maintain their identity as an elite athlete, honor the sport to which they are dedicated without qualification, and meet the expectations of all those who depend on them to perform well, including their families, teammates, support staff, and sponsors. I emphasized that the athletes who take these substances often are the ones who work the hardest, even to the point of literally wearing out parts of their bodies.

Finally, I did not so flippantly say that if Armstrong had told the truth, he'd be gone along with all the money he's raised for cancer research. Again, I put my comments in the context of elite sports and said that we in American society have created unrealistic norms that lead us to demonize athletes who use performance enhancing substances, many of which are now regularly prescribed to 50+ year olds who use them, like athletes use them, to maintain their edge (and their identities) in business, medicine, law, other occupations, and even in the bedroom. In the face of these unreasonable and morally self-righteous expectations, athletes are forced to deny part of what they must do to maintain their bodies and perform as is expected by all those who want to be entertained by their superhuman feats. In this context, if Armstrong had told the truth about what he was taking at any point in time, even if it wasn't on the banned substance list (as Mark McGuire did with androstendione, which wasn’t on MLB’s banned list when he took it), his career would have been over—and this would have destroyed his ability to raise money for cancer research.

Finally, I even sent to Weber material on deviant overconformity as it is meticulously explained in my book, Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies (10th edition, McGraw-Hill, 2010). Additionally, I told him that research published in Europe (in French) shows that many of the substances traditionally and currently taken by athletes have been developed by researchers working for national defense departments and the military in various nations in an effort to maximize the performance of soldiers expected to push human limits in the course of performing their duties. I even made the case that athletes have been socialized to see themselves in terms very similar to how soldiers see themselves—representing their communities, schools, nations and families as they do what they have committed themselves to do. Unwisely, perhaps, I disclosed to Weber that I take a substance that prevents debilitating fatigue caused by multiple sclerosis.

My point was that this drug is banned for athletes (Marion Jones lied about taking it, among other things, and went to jail), but it was developed by researchers seeking to find a drug that would enable soldiers to maintain alertness during tedious hours of piloting long range bombers and jet fighters or enduring long stretches of guard duty for which alertness is a matter of life or death. I went so far as to say that if I was on a 20 hour trans-Pacific flight I hoped my pilot would take the same drug when experiencing severe drowsiness, or if I was rushed to the hospital for heart surgery in the middle of the night I hoped my surgeon would use the drug if he or she was dead tired.

Please note this is the first time I’ve been misrepresented by a journalist for the New York Times, a publication that has excellent sports journalists. When I’ve talked with them many times in the past, they’ve always been sensitive to the spirit and context in which my comments are made and then represented them very accurately. I learned the hard way many years ago that talking to journalists who only want provocative sound bites is never a good idea.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The NFL’s BACK TO FOOTBALL FRIDAY: The latest corporate con job

A quick trip to brings you to this message: Learn how you could win a $10,000 grant and a visit from an NFL player for your school! As your classes resume in the fall, the NFL goes Back to Football. Your class or school can celebrate by showcasing your NFL team pride on Friday, September 10, 2010.

This NFL social influence campaign is a masterful response to the changing media landscape and its impact on sport media sponsorship patterns; it also is consistent with longterm trends that may eventually lead to an NFL network as the dominant channel through which people will consume NFL football in the US and possibly the world.

Marketing people have known for decades that their success requires that they develop a commitment to their brands as early in a consumer’s life as possible. Some corporations have tried to do this through the schools, but there is growing parental and teacher resistence to this strategy as manifested by drink machines in hallways, logos on buses and school walls, and branded fast food in cafeterias.

At the same time, Pepsi, a longtime Super Bowl sponsor, decided that they would not buy their customary ad spots for the 2010 Super Bowl; instead, they used the $20+ million dollars to develop a new media campaign to link Pepsi with local service projects created primarily by younger people whose beverage decisions are essential to Pepsi’s domestic market share and profits.

This move by Pepsi is among the factors that led the NFL to develop alternative strategies to link its brand with young consumers. Using the local network social influence framework refined by Obama’s campaign team in 2007 and mimicked by Pepsi and others more recently, this new NFLRush “celebrate your team pride” campaign is the NFL’s attempt to create supportive, peer driven networks among younger fans and their significant others. The total “awards” given to schools in this particular campaign cost the NFL about one-tenth of the income the league receives for one 30-second ad during the Super Bowl. But the potential payoff is mind boggling in Gramscian terms: establishing peer maintined message “outposts” in the heads of elementary school children nationwide. If it works, it will be the latest coup by pro sports to boost profits by coopting space in the public sphere.

The campaign appeal to parents is consistent with neoliberal definitions of parental moral worth; as the parents’ page for the campaign states: Let your child's teacher, school administrator or PTO/PTA leader know about this program so you can be a super parent [emphasis added] and your child's school can have a chance to be an NFL PLAY 60 Super School! ( ). Similarly, as school budgets have been decimated by neoliberal policy approaches to public education, desperate teachers may be eager to join the NFL RUSH.

This campaign takes the cynical but effective announcement, “Let’s hear it for your (sic) Denver Broncos” to new and more lofty heights. To paraphrase Antonio Gramsci, an Italian political theorist who wrote from a jail when fascits controlled Italy in cell in fascist Italy (1928-1937): “It’s difficult to fight an enemy that has outposts in your head”—or the heads of your children and students.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Youth Sports: A Manifesto

There’s always a need to regularly remind parents, coaches and other adults of the “do’s” and “don’ts” of youth sports. Here are six recommendations based on youth sport research over the past half century:

Don't: Use adult sports as models for organizing youth sports.
Do: Encourage children to play informal games, and facilitate informal games by providing children with time, safe spaces, and various indirect forms of guidance.

Don't: Use coaches of elite adult teams as models for organizing your own coaching. Bela Karolyi and Bobby Knight may be heroes to many for their ability to keep young athletes totally dependent and dedicated, but they are not good models for how to socialize children when it comes to anything that I would call positive character development.
Do: Use child-oriented teaching methods grounded in the realization that children are not little adults, and should not be treated as such.

Don't: Use an "Obedience Model" of coaching - based on:
-Providing constant and pervasive supervision
-Using established and non-negotiable rules for athletes on and off the field
-The use of sanctions to produce compliance with rules
-Encouraging athletes to look to authority figures for approval
-Emphasizing the consequences of failure to obey and follow rules
Do: Use a "Responsibility Model" of coaching - based on:
-Providing information for decision-making
-Enabling athletes to develop individual and team rules for on and off field
-Focusing on consequences of decisions and learning from mistakes
-Encouraging athletes to be responsible for their decisions
-Emphasizing an awareness of how decisions impact others and the overall context

Don't: Make underage children sign contracts committing themselves to long-term goals. Remember, it takes informed consent to sign a contract, and children cannot give informed consent no matter how talented they are in a sport!
Do: Help children take control of their own lives so they will be able to set realistic goals when they are ready to do so.

Don't: Use dominance over others as the measure of excellence.
Do: Use personal progress in the development of physical competence as an indicator of excellence. The goal should be to create achievement motivation, not the desire to feel compelled to beat others to feel good about self.

Don't: Emphasize external rewards as a source of motivation.
Do: Emphasize internal rewards associated with participation and competence as a source of motivation. Many young people today have never developed a deep love for the sports they play apart from all the perks that come with them. Such love is grounded in joy combined with a sense of personal achievement.