New Short Videos of My Research Talks on Girls & Women in Sport

30 03 2010

Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi

I just posted new videos of two research talks I gave in the last week on girls and women in sport.

The first talk was a Tucker Table on “Coaching Youth Soccer as a Token Female” and the other was “Current Research of The Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport” for the St. Paul AAUW.

To see some short clips go to The Tucker Center’s YouTube Channel.





One Boy’s Perspective About Youth Sports

19 03 2010

A colleague sent me this video of a young Canadian hockey player describing his “magic hockey helmet”. I thought I’d pass it along…enjoy!

Speaking of helmets…. stay tuned to this blog for upcoming information on the first-ever Mayo Clinic Ice Hockey Concussion Summit, to be held October 19-20, 2010 in Rochester, MN. I’m on the planning committee and I can tell you the program is excellent!





Effective Behaviors for Coaches Regardless of Athlete Gender

3 03 2010

Is coaching boys and girls different?

I’m putting together a presentation on “Differences Coaching Boys and Girls: The Facts and the Myths”. Given my position as the Associate Director in The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, without fail every time I give a coach or parent workshop, this question is raised– “What are the differences in coaching girls?”

I can’t summarize an entire hour presentation here, but I will tell you there are a set of evidence-based coaching behaviors every coach should employ regardless of the gender of the athlete.   Here are a few of those strategies:

•Develop skills
•Provide rationale for tasks & limits
•Inquire about & acknowledge feelings
•Allow as much choice as possible within limits

To learn more about this workshop or to schedule one for your organization, contact me via email at nmlavoi@gmail.com





Two Triggers of Background Anger in Youth Sports

15 02 2010

Over the weekend a Minnesota sport parent assaulted a youth basketball commissioner following an in-house game played by sixth graders. The the father was disgruntled over the officiating during his son’s game. From some of the research I’ve conducted with colleagues pertaining to what we call “Background Anger” the spark to this parent’s violent behaviors is consistent with our data.

We’ve found that many things make sport parents angry, but two big themes are more likely to set off sport parents: 1) their perceptions of injustice and, 2) their perceptions of incompetence.  This father was was upset because he perceived “the  timekeeping of the game” at the end of overtime was not correct (incompetence), and most likely felt it disadvantaged his son’s team (injustice). Based on what data exists, I would argue this combination of sport parent perceptions along side the fact the game was in overtime and probably emotionally charged, provided a perfect storm for an egregious background anger incident to occur.

Our data shows background anger incidents by sport parents are more likely to occur with travel, not in-house levels of youth sport. However, this example illustrates that no level of youth sport is immune to background anger. Requiring research-based education for sport parents, like Minnesota Parents Learning About Youth Sports (MN PLAYS™) or the MYSA Parents And Coaches Together (PACT™), can help to reduce the liklihood these type of incidents.

To see a video clip of me discussing this issue on Fox News 9, click here.





Found! Pictures of REAL Female Coaches

3 11 2009

DSC_7517In a previous blog I was lamenting about the scarcity of pictures of real female coaches, especially at the youth level. I’m pleased to report I found some! A photographer for the University of Minnesota’s College Education of Human Development Connect Magazine shot some GREAT pictures of females coaches for a story they ran recently on some of our research. To read the story “The Sporting Life: Research Helps Families Adjust to an Increase in Youth Athletics” and see the pictures of two great female coaches in action, on the field, and in coaching attire click here (and scroll down to the link below the picture that states “enlarge picture and launch slide show”).

Most remarkable is that in some of the pictures, Coach Kari Ornes is pictured coaching high school boys! Even though females coaching males at all levels of competition occurs about 2% of the time-you never see it. We need more pictures of this nature to be taken and portrayed in traditional and new media outlets. Both Kari and Julie are part of the We Coach advisory board and two exemplary female coaches!





Happy Sport Parents?

6 10 2009

While most media attention focuses on the negative and angry behaviors of sport parents on youth sport sidelines–not all sport parents are angry and yelling. I have an ongoing research line on the emotional experiences of youth sport parents with some colleagues and students. Last summer we looked at what made sport parents happy; it was a nice change of pace from examining background anger in youth sports.

MCNAIR_Blankenship Poster_2009_Final

Kelli Blankenship, a member of the University of Minnesota Women’s Hockey Team and 2009 McNair Scholar, helped us  analyze the happy parent data. You can see a nice story about her on the U of MN website. We found that child-athlete performances and experiences more frequently made sport parents happy, than did athlete development.  You can see the full results of our poster by clicking on it. We’ll be analyzing the full data set soon, but this will give you a taste of what is to come.





The Case of the Pink Hockey Gloves

22 09 2009

pink glovesA couple years ago a student in my Psychology of Coaching class told me a story of a local youth hockey coach. This coach wanted to make his team of U12 boys “tougher.” To accomplish this goal, he decided to give the least tough skater on his team (in his opinion) a pair of pink gloves to wear for the next practice. He named this honor “the pussy gloves.” A majority of the time, the pink gloves were awarded to the same boy. I wish I were making this up.

There are so many reasons why this motivational tactic is the farthest thing from motivational, aside from the fact it is sexist and homophobic. Unfortunately this type of coaching behavior is not uncommon and often goes unchallenged as the status quo.





One Sport Voice Concluding Summer Thoughts About Sport

7 09 2009

Where did summer go? As a new school year begins tomorrow, I’d like to share a few things I’ve been thinking about over the summer.

1. After giving parent and coach workshops this summer, I’m more convinced that ALL coaches and ALL parents should attend research-based educational workshops that help them create a positive climate for youth athletes. Schools, athletic associations and club teams have to mandate attendance, otherwise the folks who show up are predominately the choir. Anything less than a mandatory attendance policy is not effective in creating the kind of change needed to ensure that sport is done right.

rural-road2. More research is needed on the issues that arise in sport for rural communities. Nearly all of our youth sport research includes suburban or urban communities. Very few researchers have focused on issues particular to rural communities and sport participation. I can only think of the Women’s Sport Foundation report Go Out And Play: Youth Sports in America by Sabo & Veliz (October, 2008) that includes data about rural kids and sports. After giving workshops in a small Minnesota community—with NO stoplights—I learned small rural communities have many of the same issues as their city counterparts, but I think unique issues exist. I talked with parents and coaches, many of whom approached me with stories of sport gone wrong and told me their stories with misty eyes, pain, frustration, and helplessness.

3. While in an antique store this summer I found James Michener’s book Sports in America written in 1976. He details the state of female, youth, collegiate and pro sport in the US (among other topics) just a few years after the passage of Title IX. It was a very interesting read and my take away was–The more things change, the more they stay the same, and some of the issues we think are “new”—such as the professionalization of youth sport—have been problematic for over 30 years.

So as I start the new school year, the focus of my work is ever sharper. Stay tuned for many new blogs that incorporate additional summer musings!





A Coach Who Gets it Right

27 07 2009

WilkIn the media we more often hear horror stories than positive stories regarding coaches. Fortunately many coaches do get it right and positively affect the lives of countless others.

A wonderful example of just such a coach is Steve “Wilk” Wilkinson, Ph.D., former Head Men’s Tennis Coach of Gustavus Adolphus College. Wilk just retired after 39 years of coaching at Gustavus and is the winningest men’s collegiate tennis coach at any level. His teams competed in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) and achieved a record of 334-1 (.997) in his tenure (you can read more about Wilk’s many accomplishments here, here, and here.)

While his record is impressive, it is his legacy of using tennis as a vehicle to holistically develop young people that is to be most admired. Wilk is a true exemplar whose definition of success has nothing to do with winning. To hear him explain his “Three Crowns” philosophy of positive attitude, full effort, and sportsmanship, listen to these short videos (here and here)-it is well worth your time.

His philosophy is a real life example of how a primary focus on things that can be controlled—rather than on winning—can lead to simultaneous positive development and positive experiences and increase the likelihood of optimal performance. If only there were more Wilks in the world of sport and the world in general, it would surely be a better place for everyone.





Family Meals on the Run: Is the mini-van the new dinner table for families involved in youth sports?

19 07 2009

Did you know that researchers of the University of Minnesota have found that sitting down as a family at the dinner table appears to play an important role in promoting healthful eating in kids? Among children ages 11 to 18 who eat meals with their family consume less snack foods, higher amounts of fruits, vegetables, grains and nutrient-dense foods than those who eat separately. Additionally, family meals are related to healthy weight control (and less prevalence of eating disorders for girls. More on the girl-specific findings here), better academic achievement (GPA), and less substance abuse in children.

mini van dinner tableHowever, sitting down at the family dinner table is not a reality for many families involved in youth sports (especially with multiple children!). This week my college tennis teammates got together with our families for a picnic. One of my friends with 3 children in youth sports all under age 10 said, “I don’t even know what sitting down at the table together looks like anymore! This is our dinner table (pointing to her “cooler” that looked much like a giant padded purse).” So it got me thinking—

Do the benefits of family meals ONLY accrue when families sit down together at the dinner table? From some data I’ve been collecting, 15% of youth sport parents report youth sports “never” interfere with family meal time, and 7% report it “frequently” interferes—leaving a majority of parents to claim it “somewhat” interferes. Is the mini-van the new dinner table for families involved in youth sports? I feel a future research project brewing…