What's the Score?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
I wrote and performed this for the 2013-2014 forensics season. This is a speech and is intended to be memorized and orated. I won 1A Kansas state forensics with this speech in 2014. I hope I can get some good feedback. Thanks for reading.

Submitted: May 19, 2014

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Submitted: May 19, 2014

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What’s the Score? Oration 2014
“Hey, Stupid, Skinny, Fatty, Klutz”
“You’re an embarrassment to our team.”
“I could have gone faster if I was crawling.”
“How could you let that guy beat you?”
 21.5 million. The number of youth ages 6-17 years old playing competitive sports in the United States. 60%. That's how many boys are on competitive teams by age 6. 47%, the number of girls on competitive teams by age 6. 61% of boys all grades say sports are a big part of who they are. 
  When we hear statistics like these, it's no surprise that athletics have a vast impact on our society, particularly amongst youth. Sports literally have the power to shape youth into the adults they become. And with that strong influence, comes responsibility. It's the responsibility of the youth to work diligently and the responsibility of coaches to provide positive guidance. It seems like a no brainer, right? So why is it such a struggle in the youth sports culture to witness positive coaching? 
Today, I invite you to settle in as we check the score on today’s coaching. We’ll identify two major problems I believe are responsible for the negative coaching style we see today. Champion the benefits of positive coaching. And lastly, outline three simple steps we can take to activate a positive cultural change. 
First, let’s define the word “coach”. To Don Shula, the most successful coach in NFL history and author of the bestseller Everybody's A Coach, “a coach is anyone involved in the direction and training of a team or individual.” That includes mentors, pastors, teachers, friends, a big brother, a parent, and you and me. We are all coaches in some capacity as we mold or influence others. Today I will be speaking primarily about sport coaches but we need to keep in mind the same principles apply in many of our life experiences whether we’re discussing an important decision with a friend, disciplining a child, or perhaps even coaching forensics.
Now we’ve all witnessed parents or coaches negatively yelling at officials, at each other, or at youth whether on TV or at the local ball diamond, haven’t we? According to Michigan State University, September, 2013, 45% of youth athletes stated they had been called names or insulted by coaches.  And the negativity certainly isn’t limited to words. It’s become a cultural norm to win at all costs. And get this-according to the same Michigan State poll 90% of youth athletes said they would rather play on a losing team for a positive coach, than play on a winning team for a negative one. So if we stop and look at the score using negative coaching - it’s 0 to 0.  Everyone loses. 
“Coaches can be enormously influential in the lives of youth" states New York Times writer David Bornstein, January 2013. "If you ask a random group of adults to recall something of significance from a classroom, many will draw a blank. But ask about a sports memory from childhood and you’re likely to hear about a game winning hit, or a dropped pass, that, decades later, can still elicit emotion. The meaning that coaches or parents help young people derive from such moments can shape their lives." But today’s coaches often struggle to provide solid, applicable, age-appropriate guidance to their players. Why is this? According to Bornstein, "part of the problem is that of the 2.5 million American adults who serve as coaches for youth sports, less than 10 percent receive any formal training."  As a part-time gymnastics coach myself, I work with girls ages 5 to 10. My only training consisted of emulating my former coach. And believe me, I was extremely lucky to have a positive coach who taught me not only how to “spot” the girls on tricks, but how to encourage them to do their best. Many athletes and coaches are never exposed to encouragement and solid positive training.
A bigger issue is that youth sports have alarmingly begun to imitate the serious competitive nature of professional sports. I believe the second problem is that pressure to win has created a negative coaching culture. And it’s obvious that the negative mindset of “win at all costs” has increased injuries in young athletes.” In just eight years,” according to the National Football League, July 2013, “concussions in youth under the age of nineteen have tripled.”  While youth and professional sports appear to be similar, adults often forget that they are fundamentally different. Youth sports are supposed to be about fundamentals and skill building. 
Okay, so we’ve identified two major problems; the lack of training for coaches and a negative coaching mindset caused by the pressure to win. Is there hope for change? Is there a workable solution?  Yes and Yes. I strongly believe what’s needed is a culture shift. “Because any type of negativity” according the The Women’s Sports Foundation, November 2013, “has debilitating consequences both for its victims and for the society as a whole”. To accomplish this shift, first, we must we must do a better job of training our coaches.  And that’s what The Positive Coaching Alliance is all about. PCA is vigorously working to promote the idea that youth sports is about by giving young athletes a positive, character building experience. They have held live seminars, hosted camps, and offered online courses, training 450,000 adults who reach over 4 million youth. 
The second component to accomplishing a culture shift is to dial down the competitive “win at all costs” mindset.  Hall of Fame Coach Dean Smith said “If you make every game a life and death win thing, you’re going to have problems. You’ll be dead a lot.” Now – this is where the rubber meets the road - how can we make the shift from negative to positive? To answer this question I turned to Coach Gels. Now he’s actually an internal medicine doctor, a dad, and an amateur coach-but after his 40 years of coaching AAU, little league, pee wee, high school girls and boys sports he shares his coaching wisdom on his weekly website Coach’s Clipboard.net. His first tip is to develop a coaching philosophy-youth deserve our best and to give our best we need to sort out our goals and beliefs-it’s important to ask ourselves questions like “What do I want? What do I want from the players? What do they need to learn at their age? Why is this skill important?” If teaching your players respect is part of your philosophy-ask yourself how am I going to do that? This is the time to remind ourselves “Coaching is teaching; Teaching not only fundamentals, but life skills. If you want to teach respect-show your players respect. The perfect time to put your mission in perspective is before the bases are loaded.
The second tip from Coach Gels is to be prepared.  Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” Simple things like being on time is a lifelong habit to be taught and practiced; and being organized when you arrive is essentil.. A disorganized  coach imparts a sub-standard approach to the entire program. Being prepared also means surrounding yourself with like-minded people who  share your goals and respect your philosophy.
And the third tip is to be positive.  “Whatever your coaching style have a passion for the sport and working with youth.” suggests Coach Gels.  An enthusiastic, upbeat coach’s attitude will spill over to the players and into the stands. Make the every player on the squad feel as important as the next. I know we could go into preparing the team, fostering a work ethic, setting goals, communicating, teaching a winning effort and on and on. But the top three tips Gels stresses are: Develop a philosophy, be prepared, and be positive. And the scoreboard will show it’s a win/win situation!
Working together to improve youth sports is an enormous undertaking. Today I invite you to encourage positive coaching in our competition soaked culture. Let’s  inspire coaches to utilize positive training sources. Their job is too important not to train them well. Let’s take our eyes off the scoreboard and insist upon positive coaching techniques that will enhance the coaching and learning experience. The students we coach today, will go on to coach tomorrow. After all, positive coaching as the power not only to build better athletes, but better people.


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