I recently attended two LSA theme semester events on November 14th. One was by the acclaimed Taylor Branch, and the other was by Tarkington Newman. Both talked about the effect of an outside source on an athlete. Tarkington Newman’s outside source was the Youth Sports Leader, while Taylor Branch’s outside source was the NCAA. Although both spoke about different topics, it was clear that athletes can be negatively and positively influenced by many outside sources.
Taylor Branch is an author and a speaker. He has written, and co-written many books, but his most-recent famous piece was the cover story that he did for the October 2011 issue of The Atlantic. This piece was called “The Shame of College Sports”. It talked about the NCAA and their chokehold on student athletes in universities everywhere. Mr. Branch is an advocate for the rights of student athletes, and makes this known as he has testified against the NCAA. He doesn’t necessarily believe in paying the athletes, but he does believe that they should have more rights given to them for the amount of work and revenue they create for the university. His talk was focused around exploitation of athletes compared to the exploitation of normal, non-collegiate athletes. In the workforce it is considered exploitation for an employee to not be paid for their work and success. In college sports it is considered exploitation for a student athlete to be paid, or receive any kind of gift because of their success and hard work. Branch talked about how the NCAA completely flipped the idea of exploitation upside down in order to make their idea of amateurism seem more acceptable, and to allow them to receive more revenue and profits. Branch also talked about the scandals at Penn State and UNC. He discussed how the rights of current players were being disregarded because they were receiving punishments for the actions of their coach because of crimes he committed during years that they were not even on the team. At UNC, the Athletic department created classes for student athletes that didn’t even meet, but awarded them the credits necessary to remain eligible and to graduate. These classes allowed the student athletes to plagiarize their papers, and still receive high grades. UNC tailored these classes to the student athletes so they could focus on their sport, but the effects this had on their education was detrimental. The strongest argument that Branch made during his talk was how because universities are having their student athletes focus predominately on sports rather than school their lives will be negatively influenced after college. Many student athletes do not become professional athletes, and because so much time was spent on their sport they are not properly equipped for a sustainable career after college.
Tarkington Newman’s talk was about the role of the youth sport leader, and the effect it can have on youth development as well as youth socialization. Majority of his talk was about what a youth sports leader is, and what makes a good youth sports leader. At the end of his talk he described the programs he is implementing at Ohio State University, which gives underprivileged kids the opportunity to learn how to play sports, and gives them a positive atmosphere to be in during their summer. Youth sports leaders are the frontline workers of sports. They are the facilitators of change. Because they play such a critical role in kids’ life they need to be effective leaders and staff. Unbelievably, Mr. Newman shared that out of the 800,000 high school coaches, only 8% of them receive educational certification. He discussed his six step model he developed called the “wave model”. The first step is to assess the athlete’s history, also seen as the risk and protective factor. The next step is to attend the the sport context, and then determine the skills needed and match those skills with coaching strategies. The fourth step is coaching and facilitating the experience. The fifth step, which Mr. Newman emphasized to be the most important, but most forgotten step is to debrief the experience. The final step is to evaluate the process. The goal of the youth sports leader is to facilitate positive youth development, therefore they do anything they can to help kids transition to the next stage of life. Mr. Newman talks about the success of coaches who develop a strong team culture, and have a concrete coaching philosophy. By fulfilling this role correctly they create a stable atmosphere for the kids, and this can help develop life skills such as discipline, team work, respect, courage, and a good work ethic. Youth sports leaders play a crucial role, especially to those who need a role model to look up to. By having a youth sports leader who follows Mr. Newman’s Wave Model it is almost guaranteed that they will coach with the right intent, and truly care for their players and their positive development.
Taylor Branch and Tarkington Newman both spoke about athletes and the effects of outside sources. Branch’s talk was more focused on protecting the rights of student athletes, while Newman’s talk was focused on developing a model for youth sports leaders to follow in order to have a more positive effect on their athletes. Both emphasized the importance of improving the lives of athletes whether they were an under privilege five year old, or one of the most decorated collegiate athletes.