Politics and youth sports

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One thing’s that usually not discussed among the candidates in
town hall meetings is the youth and amateur sports movement in
America – where it’s going, why have things gotten so out of
control and what are the goals by either administration, if
elected, to streamline and solve the problems that have risen to
the forefront
Joe Biden, John McCain, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin: Four people that will command our attention in the next couple of months. Two of whom will reshape our country’s future for the next four years.

We’ll continuously hear how old McCain is, how elitist Obama is, how a hockey mom can’t possibly lead our country and how Biden should have run for the top office himself.

One thing’s that usually not discussed among the candidates in town hall meetings is the youth and amateur sports movement in America – where it’s going, why have things gotten so out of control and what are the goals by either administration, if elected, to streamline and solve the problems that have risen to the forefront.

Well, if I could plan a town meeting, I’d have some poignant and pertinent questions directed at each candidate. Besides my interrogation, I’d bring in some heavy hitters to pose more inquisitive questions that demand solutions, not just political rhetoric.

For instance, I’d summon Keith Olberman from ESPN and MSNBC. No one is too fond of him, but, he does get to the bottom of every issue.

My next choice would be CNN’s Larry King. Everyone levels with him and his sense for what people want to hear is uncanny. Celebrities and guests on his show always seem to come clean.

Rounding out my dias would be high-powered attorney Gloria Allred. Weird choice, huh? Not actually. She loves to be in the limelight, won’t settle for anything less than the truth and she doesn’t like to lose. Perfect for what I need.

Every town hall meeting needs a moderator, and my pick would be commentator Al Michaels. He’s simply the best what he does, is likable and knows every sport like an encyclopedia.

One of the first questions I’d like answered would be why, as a country, don’t we have a national coach certification process in place for adults who want to instruct kids? We’ve made strides in some sports that require certification, but as a whole we are one of the only countries that still doesn’t process it for every sport.

We have anyone walking out on a field to coach youngsters. That isn’t right. Just because you need a coach to step up and coach a team because no one else would do so, should not be the criteria for any league or organization. This is not in the best interest of the kids.

Following that up would be the issue of steroid use. How are we going to curtail the problem of youth players exposed to the ever increasing distribution of these illegal drugs. “Say ‘no’ to drugs” was a slogan from previous administrations. We need something to heighten the awareness of the negative impact of steroids among youth athletes.

Obesity is on the rise among our youth. What programs would you put into place to attack this problem that’s not getting any better? Statistics show this issue isn’t getting any better. In my day, the President’s Physical Fitness program was prominent. Let’s bring back this focus on exercise.

Why is physical education in public elementary schools is diminishing, and how do you plan to get it back? Schools either have teachers rolling out the balls to kids can play whatever they want or no time to have a true physical education period. It’s time to get a full-time physical education teachers back to the elementary schools. Our children deserve it.

We need to jump-start inner-city youth programs. How are you going to establish this and bring them up to speed with the rest of America? There are too many athletes not getting the chance to participate in sports because of economic hardships. This needs to change. If change is what you’re professing, here’s your chance to prove it.

One of the last hitting questions from our panel should be, can you establish a governing body for all youth athletics? Yes, most youth organizers have their own, but we need someone to oversee them and keep them within the boundaries they set forth. With a national youth governing body we can eliminate a lot of the aforementioned issues.

Unless the next administration provides some direction in youth and amateur sports, levies harsher penalties for any wrongdoing and puts the kids’ best interest at hand, I’m afraid a downward spiraling effect would continue and be a detriment to any progress we’ve made so far.

Rich Taylor is the owner, head instructor and CEO of California Pitching Academy. He is a former pitching coach at Pepperdine University and Chicago White Sox scout. He founded the West Coast Baseball School. He has more than 20 years of youth coaching experience and wrote the book “Molding the Young Pitcher.” His column appears weekly.

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