Psychologist Spotlight: Raising Your Game – Guiding Your Girls and Boys Through Sports by Dr. Andrea Corn and Ethan J. Skolnick
Youth sports are fertile ground for exploration, not only because of the 40 million kids who participate each year, but also in light of the alarming number who choose not to stick with it. According to the National Alliance for Youth Sports, 70 percentage of children drop out by age 13, and many for the wrong reason: often, it is adults in that environment have made it difficult for kids to find the fun.
While countless books and articles have been devoted to this topic, few, if any, have taken the approach of Raising Your Game: Over 100 Accomplished Athletes Help You Guide Your Girls and Boys Through Sports, a book that has received endorsements from The National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) and The Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA).
What did we do differently?
We asked the real experts, those who have been experienced sports at every level, for their anecdotes and advice.
Ethan J. Skolnick, a long-time South Florida newspaper sportswriter who now covers the NBA for Turner Sports, utilized his access to a wide range of current and retired professional and Olympic athletes. He interviewed recognizable and respected names of both genders, from a dozen different sports, and from a variety of backgrounds. Those interviewees included LeBron James, Mary Joe Fernandez, Dwyane Wade, Chipper Jones, Shannon Miller, Tom Glavine, Julie Foudy, Bruce Smith, Torii Hunter, Sanya Richards-Ross and Jason Taylor. He asked them to share their own youth sports experiences, as participant – and, in some cases, parent or coach – as well as their advice for creating a more enjoyable and enriching environment.
They spoke freely and passionately about everything from the role of mentors in their lives, to their concerns about the current state of youth sports – from pushy parenting to record-obsessed coaches to overspecialization.
Ethan and I took those interviews and put them into proper context, so that parents could better process them. We integrated the theoretical and clinical principles that I have espoused for two decades as a child, adolescent, and family psychologist, with those principles merely tweaked for the changed times. My life’s goal has been to help parents understand the importance of communication, perspective and balance, when it comes to raising their children.
The book is framed in a youth sports context, because sports can serve as the perfect platform for emotional (handling fear and frustration), mental (concentration, memorization, problem-solving), social (interacting with teammates) and physical (staying active and healthy) growth. But the stories offer universal life lessons about commitment, resilience, adaptability, respecting authority and fair play that transcend the field, court, track or rink.
Very few participants will ever come close to becoming a professional athlete. So that should never be the objective, and many of the problems in youth sports spring from parents’ tendency to live vicariously through their children. Rather, we should be aiming to create a forum for fun, one in which children – through their participation – are moving along a positive path toward becoming productive, responsible and caring adults.
Every parent should strive, above all, to be a trusted connection, or as we call it, a “winning tie.” That’s someone who shows up, shows interest, but also shows restraint – and in doing so, helps to show a child the way.
Dr. Andrea Corn, PsyD
In Private Practice treating children, adolescents, and families for 20 years in South Florida.
Member of the American Psychological Association (APA) since 1990
Member of the Florida Psychological Association, (FPA) since 1996
Member of the Association for Applied Sports Psychology (AASP) since 2000
National Register Credentialed since 1999
Contributor to various local publications including South Florida Parenting, National Alliance of Youth Sports, The Parklander, and Lighthouse Point Magazine.
Ethan J. Skolnick, lead NBA Writer for Turner Sports/Bleacher Report. Mr. Skolnick covers the Miami Heat at home and on the road, and appears regularly on NBA TV. A graduate of The Johns Hopkins University with an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University, Mr. Skolnick has covered virtually every major sporting event and has won several writing awards, including some for a project on sexual abuse in youth sports. He is a co-host on The Ticket (104.3 FM, 790AM), South Florida’s top-rated sports radio station.