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.

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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!





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.





Paying Youth Athletes for Performance

16 01 2010

A colleague forwarded me an e-news from sports-media.org that contained an article titled Cash For Goals in Youth Soccer: Adults Gone Wild. When I give parent education clinics as part of a research-based educational program I helped develop called Parents Learning About Youth Sports (PLAYS), I always include a brief section about paying children for performing.

Why is it brief?

Because the take home message for sport parents is this: NEVER pay your child for scoring goals, winning matches, or accomplishing some performance standard…NEVER. Just don’t do it.

The sports-media.org piece gets at some of reasons why this is not a good practice, but I’d like to elaborate.

Researchers have demonstrated that giving extrinsic rewards (like $$) for an activity that is already inherently fun and enjoyable (like sports), can undermine intrinsic motivation. We want kids to play sports and be physically active because they love it, its fun, they meet friends, learn new skills, enjoy competition and thrive on striving to be the best they can be. If adults offer monetary rewards for scoring goals, the primary focus is on scoring goals and success is defined in terms of scoring goals…not because sport is fun and enjoyable. The classic studies around this phenomena involve collegiate athletes who obtain an athletic scholarship. Many collegiate athletes are good at their sport because they love it, but some play only in hopes of obtaining a full-ride. For some of the very few who actually do obtain an athletic scholarship (and the odds are VERY low according to the NCAA), they often face diminishing intrinsic motivation. They’ve worked so long and hard to get the scholarship, and that is how success was defined, that once they get the scholarship, sport has no meaning and is no longer is enjoyable. I’ve seen this far too often with collegiate athletes in my classes.

When intrinsic motivation doesn’t exist or is undermined by adults, athletes will more likely to experience anxiety, burnout and dropout, and will also experience less enjoyment, satisfaction, well-being and optimal performance, and positive development.

If you want to read on your own about the self-determination theory, and learn about the complexities pertaining to why paying youth athletes is a terrible idea, I encourage you to go here.

What should parents do to foster intrinsic motivation, instead of paying their child-athlete?

Based on the evidence, I suggest a few simple things as a starting point:

  • attend the event and look like you are engaged (i.e., don’t read the paper or talk on your cell phone)
  • cheer only when someone does something good & cheer for everyone’s children, not just your own
  • refrain from yelling instructions or “coaching” from the sidelines
  • offer unconditional care, regardless of the outcome or the performance




Advice for Sport Parents: How to help your athlete make tough decisions

6 01 2010

Recently one of my hockey teammates asked me advice on how to handle a situation with her 14 year old teenage son.  The son is a high level gymnast who has potential for a collegiate scholarship. He must travel out state to attend meets at his level, and often misses out on social events with friends.  One of the biggest meets is occurring next month in his home state, a meet that would give him exposure to college coaches.

The dilemma: he was asked for the first time to attend a Sadie Hawkins dance (where the girl asks the boy). He was elated but it conflicted with the important meet in his own backyard. His absence from the meet, since he is an in-state standout, would raise eyebrows from the coaching community.  His parents feel he should attend the meet but he is so excited to be asked out by a girl for the first time that he really wants to attend the dance.

My advice: Talk with him openly and ask him to identify the pro/cons of attending or not attending the gymnastics meet. Let him come up with both sides, rather than telling him what you (the parents) think. Tell him the decision is his and there is no wrong/right decision, only the one he makes. Tell him that whatever he decides, you will support his decision and love him unconditionally. The skill of making hard decisions, being able to weigh both sides, be comfortable with the decision, and live with the outcome is a life skill. Allowing for and teaching the child-athlete some autonomy in decision making is important for optimal development. If he does indeed attain a college scholarship, the ability to make the “right” decision and deal with conflicts between social engagements, training and competition will inevitably occur, so teaching him decision making skills as an adolescent will serve him well later. I also stressed to the parents that one meet will likely not make or break his scholarship opportunities.

What should he do? What should the parents do? How would you handle this situation?





A Whole Lot of Head-Shaking Sport News

9 12 2009

I’ve purposely stayed out of commenting about Tiger Woods. It’s just low hanging fruit. What is left to say? But I will say the most interesting thing to me is that everyone is shocked that a golfer could behave so badly–especially Tiger Woods.  Sadly, Woods is yet another example of elite male athletes behaving badly and thinking they are above acting in responsible or moral ways. When one constructs his squeaky clean, family man image on a house of cards, it will eventually fall down.

Speaking of men behaving badly….In youth sport, some Canadian hockey dads were arrested in a hotel bar for “disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration” during which one pulled down his pants. They were there for youth hockey tournament in which their sons were playing. And we question if professional athletes should be role models?

On another note, I found NBA commissioner David Stern’s comments about the likelihood of women eventually playing in the NBA within 10 years paternalistic. Many females in the basketball world have long believed women would and can play with men at the highest levels, but when a male validates this fact…then it must be true! Many of the NBA players have also commented, including LeBron James who referred to the WNBA players as “girls”. Given WNBA franchise Sacramento Monarchs will no longer exist, perhaps the NBA will be one of the only viable options of employment for players and coaches.

To round out sport news this week, Danica Patrick will race in the NASCAR series. Evidently this is good for NASCAR as Patrick’s sex appeal (not skill) will likely boost sagging attendance.





Mother-Baby Workout Solution!

30 11 2009

This morning I saw a segment on my local TV affiliate about a program called StrollerStrides, “a total fitness program for new moms that they can do with their babies”. The program seemed like a perfect physical activity solution for mothers with stroller-age children, and also solves many of the barriers to physical activity many women face due to afforadabilty, accessibility and availability.

StrollerStrides workouts are conducted by certified instructors in large indoor public spaces (mostly shopping malls in off hours) which cuts expensive gym memberships. Mothers can work out alongside the strollered child which cuts the need for childcare. It also provides  mothers with a social support system and affords the opportunity to get out of the house to a safe, warm space (this is key during Minnesota winters for those of you who don’t live here!) to get physical activity. The workout combines strength, flexibility and cardio components along with fun songs and activities that engage the children and keep their attention.

It also got me thinking what a better way to start a love of physical activity for infants! Researchers have proven time and again that parents are very important physical activity role models for their children. If parents are active and value and believe that being active is an important part of life, their children are more likely to be active. I also recently came across another resource from the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport & Physical Activity, Mothers in Motion, a program “dedicated to physical activity promoters working with mothers of low socioeconomic status”.

Many women must overcome a host of barriers in order to be physically active, which is why females are less active than their male counterparts at all ages and within all types of physical activity. Assisting women in starting and sustaining physical activity can lead to a host of positive physical and mental health outcomes. You can also read more about Developing Physically Active Girls, a report I helped to co-author and produce in my role as the Associate Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.

Picture from StrollerStrides