League of Fans' Sports Forum
By Ken Reed
Sports Forum is an ongoing discussion about current sports issues. The host is League of Fans' sports policy director Ken Reed. The goal of the podcast is to find ways we can improve the sports experience for all stakeholders by enhancing the positives and mitigating the negatives in today's sports environment.
Professionalized Youth Sports Are Hurting Kids and Families
Linda Flanagan, author of the new book "Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids' Sports and Why It Matters," joins the podcast to talk about the ways heavily commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families. Linda has written extensively about how youth sports can hijack families to the point where family outings, non-sports activities and bonding time over dinners are lost in the pursuit of the next club team game or travel tournament. She also talks about the "why?" ... why youth sports began to transition from a positive recreational activity to a huge industry in which kids and their parents sometimes travel hundreds of miles to play 10-year-old soccer, basketball or volleyball games. We start the episode talking about why Linda decided to write her new book, get into some of the problems and issues in Youth SportsWorld today and then talk about ways the youth sports scene can begin to change, including a couple positive examples.
December 16, 2022
How Do We Fix Youth Sports?
In this episode of League of Fans' Sports Forum we chat with John O'Sullivan, Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project (changingthegameproject.com), a youth sports reform initiative. John is also the author of "Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids." A long-time coach and sports administrator at the youth, high school, college and professional levels, John offers great insight into the problems and challenges in the world of youth sports today and talks about some of the ways we can positively impact those issues for the benefit of our kids.
October 26, 2022
Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design
In this episode, we chat with Michael Horn, co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation. Michael is an expert on K-12 education and he believes in the power of physical education to improve academic performance and enhance physical, emotional and behavioral health. His recently released book is "From Reopen to Reinvent: (Re)creating School for Every Child." We touch on Positive Sum vs. Zero Sum in P.E.; how quality P.E. improves student attention and focus in other school subjects; and how good physical activity habits developed in the K-12 years lead to adults who prioritize lifelong physical fitness, among other topics. Horn believes the trend of schools dropping or deemphasizing physical education is the exact opposite of where we need to go in this country. In fact, he believes fitness should actually be the centerpiece of K-12 school design, not just an add-on.
September 26, 2022
Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma
Our guests on this episode are Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci, the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit organization created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities across the country through the power of sport, storytelling, and community creation. Mental health in college athletics is an important issue today. At least five student-athletes died from suicide during the last several months of the 2021-22 school year. A University of Michigan study found that only 10% of athletes with mental health struggles reach out for help compared to 30% of college students in general. In addition, 63% of college student-athletes reported having had an emotional or mental health issue that negatively impacted their athletic performance in the four weeks prior to the survey. Nathan and Taylor are former athletes at Oregon State University. In this episode, we talk about what drove them to start Dam Worth It; the challenge of getting past the stigma that says admitting to a mental or emotional health challenge in sports is a sign of weakness; how important it is for athletes to be vulnerable; the challenge perfectionism presents for elite athletes; and how Dam Worth It has expanded beyond Oregon State and is reaching college campuses across the country.
August 04, 2022
Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics
Benita Fitzgerald Mosley won the gold medal for the United States in the 100 meter hurdles at the 1984 Olympic Games. She also was on the 1980 American Olympic team and was an alternate on the 1988 squad. As a collegian at the University of Tennessee, Fitzgerald Mosley was a 15-time All-American. Following her athletic career, she embarked on a career in sports marketing and administration, holding executive positions with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, USA Track & Field and Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA. Benita is currently Vice President, Community & Impact for League Apps and President of Fund Play. Much of her current work centers around increasing sports opportunities for young people, especially those from underserved communities. During this episode, we cover several topics, including the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the challenges left in the quest for gender equity in sports, the changes in the Olympic movement through the years, and current youth sports issues.
July 07, 2022
Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra
In this League of Fans Sports Forum episode, we explore new ways to be a fan in the year 2022 with baseball and culture writer Craig Calcaterra, author of a new book called "Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game." Craig is also the writer and editor of a popular baseball, news, and culture newsletter called "Cup of Coffee." In this discussion, we get into why and how pro sports team owners and executives regularly exploit the often blind loyalty of their fan base and identify some of the ways the sports-industrial complex acts against the interests of fans. We also chat about how sports fans of particular teams act similarly to supporters of political parties. Toward the end, Craig talks about how to take some of the power away from SportsWorld's barons and become a sports fan on "your own terms." If you take his advice in this regard you might find that you are enjoying sports a lot more.
May 31, 2022
Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura
Pedro Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. He previously covered the Los Angeles Dodgers for The Athletic. His new book is titled "How to Beat a Broken Game: The Rise of the Dodgers in a League on the Brink." During this podcast episode, we'll discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to "fix" a great game. The focus will be on analytics; the good and bad. Analytics have not only infiltrated the game of baseball, to a large degree they have taken over the sport. Analytics have been good for baseball operations people in terms of providing evaluation and strategy development tools. On the other hand, they've been bad for business operations people because they've lessened the fan experience and hurt the game as an entertainment product. As an industry, baseball is challenged today to find ways to balance the positive impact of analytics as a strategic baseball tool with the negative impact they have had on fan enjoyment.
May 18, 2022
Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What's Best for the Athlete's Holistic Development
In this episode we chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber. Jim is Director of Coach & Curriculum Development for Breakthrough Basketball (breakthroughbasketball.com). He's won many championships as a coach and developed over 50 collegiate players and 10 professional players. But more importantly, he has focused on impacting the lives of his players by developing life skills and character through sport. Jim takes a holistic approach to coaching and discusses the importance of moving beyond the physical and positively addressing the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of the young athletes he coaches. We start off with a discussion of the dangers of early sport specialization.
April 01, 2022
Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock
This week's guest is Anika Orrock, author and illustrator of "The Incredible Women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League." For many, the AAGPBL was brought to light by the movie "A League of Their Own," directed by Penny Marshall and starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna. "A League of Their Own" was entertaining, funny and told the story of an important moment in female sports history in this country. The movie was a box office success, becoming the highest grossing baseball movie of all-time. But that's Hollywood, the true story of the AAGPBL is equally as fascinating as the movie, and Orrock's wonderful book truly captures the spirit of the pioneering ladies who played baseball in this league. Our conversation ranges from a discussion of the hoops these ladies had to jump through in order to play the game they loved, including having to attend charm school, take beauty lessons and where skirts while playing, to a chat about the long-term impact and legacy of the AAGPFL women when it comes to advancing sports opportunities for girls and women. Those who like baseball and inspiring stories about underdogs in sports should enjoy listening to Orrock's tales of the AAGPBL.
March 11, 2022
Talking About the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar
On June 23, 2022, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark federal civil rights legislation which prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program that receives funding from the federal government. We'll talk about the progress female athletes have made since Title IX's passage but also the hurdles that remain before we arrive at true equal opportunity for both genders in sports in the United States. We then move into a provocative discussion about the controversy surrounding transgender female swimmer Lia Thomas. Thomas has made the transition from biological male to transgender female and is a member of the University of Pennsylvania's women's swimming team. Since making her transition, Thomas has dominated women's swimming events. Some of her teammates have complained that she has unfair physical advantages -- derived from going through male puberty -- and that she's taking a roster spot for Ivy League and NCAA swim meets that should go to a biological female. The issue has spurred passionate debate on both sides. We talk with Nancy about the need for everyone involved to act in good will in order to find a "middle way" solution that is both fair and inclusive.
February 07, 2022
Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte
Robert Lipsyte was a long-time sports reporter and columnist for the New York Times. He later served as the ombudsman for ESPN and is the author of more than 20 books. One of Lipsyte's best-selling teen-age novels, "One Fat Summer," was recently made into a film with Donald Sutherland called "Measure of a Man." We chat about Lipsyte's amazing career and some of the athletes he covered and got to know well, like Muhammad Ali, as well as his relationships with fellow sports journalists like Bob Costas and Howard Cosell. We also dig into a wide variety of sports issues, from the new NIL era in college sports, to football and brain trauma, to pro sports involvement in China, to the increased attention given to the mental health of athletes in recent years.
January 06, 2022
Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice
Andrew Maraniss is a great storyteller. He writes sports books but not your stereotypical odes to star athletes. His books, while easy to read, have depth. They educate you and make you think about various socio-cultural issues, from a historical perspective as well as how they continue to impact society today. His first book, "Strong Inside," was a biography of Perry Wallace, the first Black basketball player in the SEC. His second book, "Games of Deception," is the story of the first U.S. men's basketball team at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. His most recent book, "Singled Out," is a biography of Glenn Burke, the first openly gay Major League Baseball player and inventor of the high five. It was recently named one of the 100 Best Baseball Books Ever Written by Esquire Magazine. In this episode, we chat about all three books, including interesting stories he came across in putting each book together, but we focus on "Singled Out" and Glenn Burke's life before, during, and after his MLB career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A's. I think you'll enjoy listening to Maraniss, a good guy with some important stories to share.
December 03, 2021
Sports Psychology With Dr. Tim Rice
In this episode, we talk with Dr. Tim Rice, the lead faculty member for the Sport and Performance Psychology program at the University of Arizona Global Campus. Dr. Rice is a long-time coach who transitioned into the field of sports psychology. He has been in higher education for nearly 20 years at colleges and universities across the nation. He is also a consultant with Basketball Ireland, the FIBA governing body for basketball in Ireland, as well as with Admirals Basketball Academy in the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine in Eastern Europe. Our discussion centers around the growth of sports psychology at all levels of sport. We talk about the positive impact that the number of high profile athletes (Michael Phelps, Kevin Love, Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles, etc.) who have opened up about their mental health struggles has had in changing the "just suck it up" narrative when it comes to psychological challenges in sports. The importance of everyone involved in sports -- athletes, coaches, trainers, physicians and parents -- caring for the whole athlete, mind and body, is emphasized. In addition, we talked about the need for increasing awareness of the mental health challenges coaches have to deal with in a high-pressure profession. We close with ways to find psychologists and counselors in the field of sports and what to look for in sports psychology education programs.
November 03, 2021
Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball
In this episode, we chat with Gary McCoy, an innovative strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked in many capacities throughout his career, including with several Major League Baseball (MLB) organizations. He's an Australian native who serves as head of performance for Team Australia's baseball program. He's also currently Vice President of Performance for Kinetyx Sciences USA, a data-based movement technology company. Our focus is the injury pandemic in baseball, what's causing it and how it can be fixed. We start off with McCoy's experience with a Taiwanese professional baseball team and how he helped the team drop from an average of 32 soft tissue injuries a year to eight in his first season with the team and an amazing zero soft tissue injuries by his fourth season. McCoy's strength, conditioning and performance philosophies and theories often go against the grain when it comes to the norms in his field. However, he has the numbers to support his data-driven approach. McCoy believes 80% of baseball injuries are preventable. His reasons underlying that belief make for compelling listening.
September 14, 2021
A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What's Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better
This week we get to pick the innovative and progressive mind of Dan Evans, former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Evans has also served in leadership roles for the Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays. Currently, he's a consultant for a variety of baseball organizations, including Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site. Evans was a key figure in the development of the recent MLB game at the Field of Dreams, featuring the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox. Dan serves on the board of directors of several organizations, including Athelytix Inc., a developer of a GRID-based sports analytics system that is used for player evaluation and athlete development. He's also a national board director for the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR). In this episode, we discuss Dan's experience at the MLB game at Field of Dreams; his thoughts on the appeal of the Field of Dreams, and baseball in general; what can be done to make the baseball fan's experience more enjoyable; and his thoughts on the experimental rules being studied in the minors and independent leagues. We also touch on what might be causing the epidemic of baseball injuries and discuss his role in the baseball career of Kim Ng, the Miami Marlins general manager and the first female GM in the major professional sports leagues in the United States. Finally, we talk about his time with Michael Jordan, when Jordan decided to pursue a baseball career with the Chicago White Sox organization.
August 25, 2021
A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
We take a lighter path in this episode. Our guest is Dan Gutman, author of the 12-book Baseball Card Adventure Series for children. The series features a boy who has the amazing ability to travel in time. Equipped with his trusty baseball cards, the boy uses his one-of-a-kind power to meet legendary baseball players -- including Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Roberto Clemente -- as part of a daring quest to alter history. Along the way, readers learn a little American history and pick up a life lesson or two. Gutman's books are fun, entertaining and educational, for kids and kids at heart.
July 26, 2021
The Latest on Brain Trauma, Concussions and CTE with Dr. Chris Nowinski, CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation
In this episode, we're fortunate to spend 45 minutes with Dr. Chris Nowinski, co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, a non-profit leading the fight against concussions and CTE and dedicated to improving the lives of those impacted. Dr. Nowinski is the author of "Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis" and has been profiled on HBO's Real Sports and ESPN's Outside the Lines. VICE Sports has called Nowinski "the man most responsible for making CTE part of the national conversation." During our conversation, we talk about why media coverage of CTE has fallen off the last couple years, why repetitive subconcussive blows to the head are as dangerous as concussions when it comes to CTE and long-term brain health, why the focus needs to shift from NFL players to youth and high school football players, the future of youth and high school football, some of the latest CTE research, what can be done in football and other sports to lessen the risk of brain trauma, and how close we are today to diagnosing and treating CTE in the living.
July 15, 2021
An Issues Discussion With Cleveland Indians Owner/CEO Paul Dolan
Cleveland Indians Owner/CEO Paul Dolan joins us on this episode of Sports Forum. We jump right into a hot topic: the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams in general and the Cleveland Indians in particular. Dolan describes the process the team went through in dropping the Chief Wahoo logo, banning face paint and headdress at the team's home field, and the decision in December of last year to change the club's name. Other topics include the team's move to put safety netting down the foul lines at Progressive Field, the club's Covid safety protocols, and the upcoming collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the players' union. We then touch on some baseball issues, including the record level of strikeouts in Major League Baseball (MLB), pace of play, the lack of action in today's game, and what to do, if anything, with the shift. We conclude by talking about how to get more kids from all backgrounds playing the game, and touch on MLB's decision to move its All-Star Game from Georgia to Colorado.
May 11, 2021
Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader
We have a very special guest on this episode of our Sports Forum podcast: Ralph Nader. Nader is a long-time consumer advocate and four-time presidential candidate. He was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. Nader is also the founder of League of Fans. Our conversation begins with a discussion about how he became interested in sports as a child, and who his favorite baseball team and player is. We then talk about why he formed the League of Fans, and turn to several sports issues he’s interested in, including the focus on spectator sports vs. participatory sports in the United States, the decline of physical education and intramural sports during a childhood obesity epidemic, concussions and CTE, and the need for a National Sports Commission. We touch on a couple additional sports issues as well, highlighted by Nader's rant about the ubiquitous, obnoxious in-game ads on baseball radio broadcasts. Towards the end, we spend a few minutes talking about an affliction called Sports Syndrome and conclude with a Nelson Mandela quote and a short discussion about sport’s potential to positively impact society.
May 06, 2021
How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization?
My guest in this episode is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor at Ohio University. He teaches classes with a focus on Governance, Ethics, Leadership and Intercollegiate Athletics. He is also a member, and past president, of the Drake Group, whose mission is to defend academic integrity in higher education from the corrosive aspects of commercialized college sports. Our conversation begins with a discussion about college athletes' fight for the right to control -- and profit from -- their names, images and likenesses (NILs), a right every other student on campus already enjoys. We also talk about the NCAA's failure to protect the health and safety of college athletes, highlighting recent examples associated with the Covid pandemic, as well as in the area of brain trauma and concussions. This failure is especially troubling given the fact the health and safety of athletes was the original reason the NCAA was formed. We discuss how little educational objectives factor into decision-making in college sports, especially at the big-time power conference schools. We touch on how the European model for athletics is preferable to the American model. Finally, we talk about the shame that is 1,900 schools in the United States still having Native American mascots and nicknames.
April 02, 2021
Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee
This might be one of the most important Sports Forum podcasts we've done, or will ever do. Our guest is, Ann McKee, M.D., a true superstar in the field of neuropathology and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Dr. McKee has been named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World and one of the 50 Most Influential People in Healthcare. She is an expert on brain trauma and its impact in the world of sports. Dr. McKee has examined the brains of hundreds of former football players, at all levels, from high school through the NFL. She has demonstrated that "mild" repetitive head trauma can provoke CTE, a devastating neurodegenerative disease. In this podcast we talk about how Dr. McKee got involved with examining the brains of former football players and the mechanism by which repetitive brain trauma can turn into CTE. She says this isn't just an NFL player issue, and explains why youth and high school football players are suffering brain damage as well. Dr. McKee debunks the idea that there is -- or soon will be -- a high-tech football helmet that prevents, or greatly lessens, the risk of brain injuries and ultimately CTE. Later in the episode, Dr. McKee talks about the risk of developing CTE based on how many years one plays football. We discuss the controversial topic of whether or not public schools should be sponsoring football and end with some positive developments in detecting the presence of CTE in the living and possible treatments.
February 12, 2021
The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever
In this episode we chat with SHAPE America board member Clayton Ellis. Clayton is a former national physical education teacher of the year. He's one of our nation's leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active so they can enjoy the physical, mental, behavioral and academic benefits. Clayton and I talk about the physical inactivity epidemic plaguing our youth and how the problem has worsened since the onset of Covid-19. Over 75% of our young people aren't active for even 20 minutes a day. Physical education isn't just about physical wellness, it's also about mental wellness. Fit kids perform better academically and have fewer behavioral problems. We talk about Phil Lawler, the "Father of the New PE" and how he created a model physical education program in Naperville, IL. Clayton ends with some comments about how the pandemic represents a great opportunity to modify education in general and physical education in particular.
January 12, 2021
Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from "win-at-all-costs" to a positive, character-building experience. PCA conducts thousands of workshops every year for youth sports leaders, coaches, parents and athletes. Thompson is the author of numerous books on youth sports, including Positive Coaching: Building Character and Self-Esteem Through Sports; Elevating Your Game: Becoming a Triple Impact Competitor; and The Positive Sport Parent. In this episode, we discuss what the biggest problem in youth sports is today, why the actions of adults contribute to burn-out for young athletes, the scary trend of sport specialization by young athletes, the lack of child development training for youth coaches, the need for more "double goal" coaches, and why kids say they quit youth sports. We also chat about Jim's upcoming book on the need for a new vision for youth sports. Finally, we talk about Jim's new passion: fighting climate change.
December 11, 2020
The Biggest Issue in Sports Today? Brain Trauma
In this episode of League of Fans' Sports Forum podcast we talk with Patrick Hruby, a journalist who has done extensive research and in-depth writing on the topic of brain trauma in sports, most notably football. Patrick believes brain trauma is our country's most important contemporary sports issue. We touch on brain injuries and CTE at the NFL and college levels, however, the focus of our discussion is on the millions of kids playing football at the youth and high school levels. Patrick and I talk about how repetitive sub-concussive impact can be as damaging long-term as multiple concussions and how it's very unlikely that a high-tech helmet will ever be developed that will protect the brain inside the skull. Our discussion moves on to other sports in which brain injuries can occur, like hockey and soccer, and why football presents unique challenges. We close with Patrick discussing current scientific efforts to develop a way to detect CTE in the living and what that could mean for football's concussion crisis.
November 24, 2020
Coaching Styles: Moving From Autocratic, Dehumanizing Approaches to More Humanistic Coaching Methods
In this episode we talk coaching styles with veteran sports sociologist Jay Coakley. Jay is a former college basketball player who went on to earn a Ph.D. in Sociology from Notre Dame. He then became one of the nation's preeminent sports sociologists. He is the author of the leading sports sociology text, "Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies," now in its 13th edition.
November 12, 2020
College & High School Athletics: Where Do We Go From Here?
In this episode, we chat with John Gerdy, a former college athlete and NCAA and SEC administrator who became a sports reformer later in his career. We talk about the current situation in college athletics amidst a pandemic; compensation for college athletes; big-time Power Five college sports vs. Division II and Division III athletics; how college athletes might gain a stronger voice on policy matters; the role of high school athletics in public education; and which delivers the better bang for the buck, varsity athletics, quality physical education programs or top-notch music programs. We end with a look forward for college and high school athletics.
November 05, 2020
Talking Title IX and Equal Opportunity in Sports with Donna Lopiano
Title IX, the landmark law that was created in 1972 to prohibit educational programs that receive federal financial assistance from discriminating on the basis of sex, has been a great success in terms of creating athletics opportunities for girls and young women in high schools and colleges across the country. That said, the gap in athletics opportunities and athletics funding between males and females is still quite significant, and sadly, the gap is increasing in recent years. In this episode, we talk with Title IX pioneer, Dr. Donna Lopiano, the former director of women's athletics at the University of Texas, and the long-time CEO of the Women's Sports Foundation. She has regularly been named one of "The 100 Most Influential People in Sports" by the Sporting News. We chatted with a passionate Lopiano about her early experiences fighting for equal opportunity in the '60's and 70's, why Title IX enforcement has been lax, the myth that Title IX hurts male sports, the shortage of female athletics administrators, how Title IX benefits society as a whole, and what's needed for us to finally reach true equal opportunity in sports.
October 20, 2020