Antifragile children and super champions

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, November/December 2016.

Inside the former middle school turned community center in East Babylon on Long Island, aspiring basketball players train under the tutelage of Jerry Powell in a sweltering gym built decades ago. Stuffed into this small rectangular space, 30-40 players go through drills for 90 minutes at a time as parents line the sideline in folding metal chairs.  […]

Athletic Development Trumps Elite Selection

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, July/August 2016.

As Abby Wambach retired after her record-setting career with the U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team, she criticized Jurgen Klinsmann for his strategy of recruiting dual-national citizens living and developing outside the United States. Whereas many viewed Wambach’s comments as xenophobic, and somewhat disingenuous as she never appeared to have a problem with her teammate Sydney Leroux who was raised in Canada, the comments struck me as less about xenophobia and more about the long-term development of soccer in the United States.  […]

Participation, development, and gold medals

I wrote about this article once already, but I continue to see members of the USOC retweet and praise the article. The article essentially argued that the U.S. is failing in the Olympics, on a per capita basis, because of a lack of sports science and top-down control. Now, it would make sense that sports scientists and administrators within the USOC would retweet and support this argument, as it lends more credibility to their position, which may increase funding for their salaries and projects.

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Marketing and skill development in youth basketball

The most common marketing tactic in youth basketball is to point to a talented player and attribute his or her skill and success to the one thing that the coach/trainer/entrepreneur is marketing. It works. People prefer simple explanations to the true complexity of talent/skill development, and ascribing one’s success to a single factor creates a simple, easy-to-digest explanation. […]

What’s wrong with being elite?

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, March/April 2013.

During my first season as a college basketball coach, I worked with a player named Matt. The head coach nearly cut Matt on the first day of fall workouts, but he was roommates with his #1 recruit, and he looked like a basketball player when he walked in the gym, so he survived. However, he started the season as the 4th-string point guard, and the head coach wanted to redshirt him, as he could not envision him playing. […]

Elite Athletes Build Broad-Based Foundations

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, September 2012.

While in Paris, I marveled at the subway system. In the United States, as cities on the west coast attempt to develop subway systems, local governments are caught in a network dilemma: A network improves as more people join the network, but local governments cannot justify the expense to expand without more users. In Paris, subway lines crisscross the city: There was no place that was not easily accessible through the subway and a short walk. This is a mature network; as more people use a particular line, more trains are added, and the line improves in quality and speed. In Los Angeles, the problem with the subway is that the lines do not crisscross the city: Plenty of locations are completely inaccessible by the subway. Due to the inaccessibility, fewer people use the subway; however, to build the additional lines, there has to be a demand: It’s a catch-22.  […]

Athletic genius: An argument for the intelligence of athletic gifts

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, May/June 2012.

As a child, my parents emphasized the importance of academics, like most responsible parents. They encouraged my sports participation, but if I had to sacrifice one for the other, it was clear that athletics would be sacrificed for academics. Throughout high school, I was reminded by every adult in my sphere of influence that I was not going to be a professional athlete. The implication was that my G.P.A. was far more important than recreational pursuits. This is a fairly common story, and many of the young children that I coach have been indoctrinated with this belief. We have this idea that G.P.A. equals intelligence and a good future, while playing games is trivial. Athletes rarely are considered intellectual geniuses.  […]