All posts by Ben Diggan

Crazy Sports Parents and the Problems They Can Create

The culture of sports has progressed in the United States vastly over the last couple of decades. Professional athletes are becoming increasingly more athletic on a yearly basis. This, in turn, has raised the bar creating more pressure on young adults and children to be more athletic. There has been an increase in opportunities for children, some as young as 4 years old, to play a sport. An outcome of this rise in opportunities is the creation of crazy sports parents, like Richard Williams, that push their children to no end. Is this chance to be involved at such a youthful age a potential risk that society should be monitoring?

Some parents don’t consider the risk of injury when signing up their kids for a sport. Playing a sport while so young can also be extremely beneficial. It gives the children a chance to socialize with other kids of the same age. Teamwork is another value one can learn while playing on a sports team. Being on a team forces the players to work together. Whether the child realizes it or not, the value of teamwork they’ve experienced will carry into their adult lives. For most participants, this experience will be positive and for others, it may be negative. Regardless, they will always remember being a part of something bigger than themselves.

Chrystal Keister is a registered nurse at Geisinger Hospital. She is a mother of two girls and has a step-son, the two oldest are heavily involved in sports. Keister and her husband never forced their daughter to play soccer. Because her body was still developing, she had a few injuries that normal children wouldn’t endure. Her worst injury was a stress fracture in her tibia from overuse.

“If they start playing sports so young while they’re still developing, their bones are still pretty weak,” Keister said. “It kind of puts them at risk for stress fractures, bone breaks and tendonitis. That all can lead into adolescence and adulthood.”

Being part of a team or sport shouldn’t be an issue for society. However, there is a small percentage of sports parents who sign their children up for the wrong reasons. Some parents are insane when it comes to their children and sports. Most of the time, this is because the parent played a sport in the past and was very passionate about it.  Not being able to let go of the past, they get too involved and try to make their child the next superstar. This involvement is when the child begins to be at risk of injury.

Children are constantly growing, they can’t handle all the stress that frequently playing a sport can put on the body. For some kids, it worked though. Their parents had them on constant training schedules and in some instances, they were on strict diets. This is what their childhood was; they never had a chance to just be a kid. Richard Williams is a prime example of what a ‘crazy sports parent’ is like. CNN Sports posted the article, “Richard Williams: ‘I was so close to being killed so many times,” 

Williams is the father of Serena and Venus Williams, arguably the best women tennis players in the world. But is being the best worth not having any normal childhood memories? Before his daughters were professional athletes, Williams was constantly putting them through extreme scenarios. At one point, a whole crowd around the tennis court was yelling at them while they were practicing.

“In order to be successful, you must prepare for the unexpected,” Williams said. “I wanted to prepare for that.”

For the Williams family, it seemed to have helped when the daughters were in a tournament in 2001 and had to put up with a terrible crowd. One spectator openly threw racial slurs at Williams. Serena ended up at first place despite the crowd around her.

This obsession with trying to create your child into a professional athlete is a dream that so few achieve. What do all the athletes get when they don’t make it as high in their careers as anticipated? Some walk away from the sport with no injuries, but may realize they missed out on a normal life as a kid. For others, the injuries received over the years caught up. They could potentially experience symptoms that people 20 years older must deal with. Unfortunately, there are a few that have both issues to cope with.

Shayne Riley is 21 and is the oldest of four other brothers. The boys’ father was a great athlete in his prime. Now, though, he is known to be the ‘crazy sports parent’ wherever they go. All four boys are phenomenal athletes that excel in whatever sport they play. What many don’t know is that they were constantly being forced to train and practice. Their father was so controlling with anything sports related that concerned the boys. It got so bad that their mother left due to the strain put on their marriage. She was worried it would be detrimental to their health but he insisted it was fine and for the best.

“He never punished us for doing something wrong on the field,” Riley said. “He just insisted he knew what was best for us and it was his way or the highway.”

It’s parents like Riley’s and Williams that are too involved when it comes to their children and sports. Making a child exert too much activity, over an extended period of time, can result in injury to the child.

“We have to try and take the pressure off younger children,” Keister said. “We need to try and change the culture of sports so that youth can thrive, feel proud and successful in their own way.”

That won’t happen on its’ own, especially in today’s athletic community. Professional athletes won’t stop raising the expectations. Parents need to weigh the pros and cons when signing up their kids for a sport, as well as take into consideration if they are being too demanding. Could you live with yourself if your child sustained an injury that they must live with for the rest of their life?

Riley and his brothers:

Sports Journalism and why you Should Take it.

Someday I hope to work in the field of public relations in the professional sports area. To prepare myself for that I wanted to become a better writer. It’s clear to me that my job will consist of a lot of writing. My advisor suggested I take a new class offered at E-town called sports journalism. I was a little skeptical at first but then realized to become a better writer I would have to take more writing classes. Sports journalism is all writing and revolves around sports so it was a perfect fit for what I was looking for.

Our professor’s name is Dan Connolly and he has many years of experience in journalism and everything that comes with it. This course felt like a long course because there were a lot of assignments but I felt as if none of them were too long. On top of the homework we also had to write and publish a blog on Wetown every Thursday, everyone dreaded it even me. But looking back I’m glad we did the blogs, it forced us to write every week. Mr. Connolly was constantly saying, the best way to become a better writer is to write as often as possible. The blogs are also nice to write in my opinion because they aren’t too long either, only 500 words a week isn’t bad at all.

Another thing I will take with me from this class is the criticism. Mr. Connolly can be very blunt at times but only does so to help us become better writers. Now that we’re at the end of the semester I can honestly say it was a blessing. It’s become a lot easier for me to write with a constant flow and I don’t normally have trouble with writer’s block.

Deadlines are important in the real world. If there is one thing I take with me from this class is that missing a deadline could mean losing my job in the future. This class was very strict on deadlines forcing us to get stuff in on time. It was a struggle at first but eventually, we all became accustomed to it. The first day of class Mr. Connolly told us that he was going to be our boss and we were the journalist working for him and that our classroom was our office. This is something I pondered throughout the course because not a lot of our classes are structured for real-world scenarios. This class was solely structured around what the real world is like and I think we all appreciated that taste of what to expect.

The final thing I liked most about this class was the use of the special guest visitors. It was cool to meet people doing what some of us want to do directly after college. The experiences they shared with us was very insightful and in a way concreted my hopes of wanting to work in sports PR. I advise this class to anyone who wants to become a better writer. If you also want to work anywhere in the field of sports this is a great class to take.

The Farm of Dreams

Long summer days, running around endlessly with friends. Not having a care in the world. This is what a childhood should be like. Some of my best childhood memories were times like this at my great-grandmother’s farm. Every summer, my cousins and I would be dropped off there while our parents had work. The farm is on a quiet little back road that rarely ever sees traffic. It’s nestled on roughly 230 acres and has three large streams running through the woods at the lower end of the property. Being curious young boys, we spent all our time down in the woods.

We did everything a little boy could dream of. It seemed as if a tribe of natives lived down there because of all the forts we built. One of the best things we did was learn how to hunt for snapping turtles. It all began because there was a big turtle in the pond that was killing all the fish. We were tasked to fish him out and relocate him to a creek. When we realized how fun it was we took what we learned and used it at the streams.

Eventually, as time went on, my cousins and I got into bigger and better things. When we were teenagers I got them to buy skates for the winter months. Hockey was a big part of my life and we played a lot at our friend’s rink, but this was different. The farm was a special place for us so we went whenever we wanted to spend time with just the family. We played a little too rough at times but all of us were like brothers so it didn’t matter.

With a large group of young men, you’ll find the testosterone levels are high. This meant competition was everything to us. When it wasn’t winter and we couldn’t be gliding across the pond ice, we played paintball. Paintball was a very serious sport for us at the time. All the forts we built when we were kids were being used again. We designed different paintball zones and used the different forts to draw the boundary lines. Countless hours were well spent shooting at each other trying to leave blistering welts.

As the years went by our time there together seemed to evaporate completely. Sports seemed to be taking over our lives and we never had the time to hang out at the farm anymore. During our junior and senior year of high school, we only went there one time a year for Christmas. Then the unexpected happened that changed us forever.

Towards the end of senior year, our great-grandmother had gotten sick and passed away a month later. It was one of the hardest things to happen to my family. To make things worse not only did we lose the head of our family but we also realized that no one wanted to uptake the farm. This meant we would have to sell it. It took almost six months to clean out all the barns and the house to be able to auction off the house. The auction happened during our first semester at college. Still, we all agreed to meet there for the day of the sale to say our finals goodbyes.

We were all young adults now and it was one of the hardest things we ever did. Just being there and hearing the fat bearded man yell out numbers through the microphone was hard. It was kind like we were selling our childhood memories to the hands raised in the crowd as they agreed bid after bid. Finally, a family from a farm down the road got the bid and bought it for their son. When everyone left we went down the lane through the woods to say our final goodbyes. Our best collection of stories from when we were kids, originated from those woods and streams.

Every year at Christmas we get together at my house and my cousins and I take a ride past the farm. Past the place where we are no longer welcomed. I’m not sure why we do it but it just became something we can’t let go of. When we drive past it feels as if the memories are locked away to some extent in the woods down below. We’re thankful we still all have each other and that’s what matters most. A little part of me wishes that hopefully someday we can buy back that ground. But who knows, every time we talk about it, it ends with a bet on who will win the first paintball or hockey game.

Cops That Ball

Some say that free time at college is just for partying but on days that the weather is generous, giving us endless rays with a slight breeze, we take full advantage of it. I live in a house with five other guys so, the testosterone is always flowing which means competition. It doesn’t matter what it is that we’re competing in as long as one can be a winner and the other, a loser. A lot of arguments and bets get settled while competing against each other. This past year we got tired of having warm sunny days and having nothing to do outside at house so, we bought a full-size basketball hoop. It looks kind of funny whenever we use it because we don’t have anywhere to set it up except the sidewalk and play on the street which has proven to be a bad idea more than once.

We, unfortunately, know all the cops in town since they have all stopped at our house, some have been here multiple times. So of course, it wouldn’t be right if they didn’t stop by to say something the first day we set it up. The only way we could set it up on the sidewalk was if we took up the whole sidewalk. So, we knew it would only be a matter of time before they said something to us when they noticed it or got a call from a pesky neighbor.

We have at least one neighbor that always calls them to complain about us, when we saw him come outside we knew they would be in soon. To try and make things better I pulled out our grill, started it and let it warm up. I threw on some burgers and steaks along with a couple of hot dogs to satisfy everyone. My hopes in grilling the burgers would be that they would show up and I could offer them a burger or two to ease the conversation into a better direction.

Just about a half hour later, Grego and Schlotzhauer showed up and parked right under the hoop. This was a relief for me and my housemates because these were the two cops that loved us because we were always complying when they needed us to shut a party down or whatever the circumstance. So as soon as they hopped out I offered them both a burger and they both gladly accepted and then explained why they were there. They explained that our neighbor called and complained that we were blocking the sidewalk. I told them we were expecting them for that reason, but then they surprised us. Grego said, “Honestly, we don’t care the hoop is there. We would much rather have you kids here playing basketball then going out into the streets causing real trouble. So, pretend that we yelled at you guys and move the hoop. But, you can move it back as soon as we leave and we just won’t come back if anyone calls us about it again.” They then put a couple of quick shots up on the new basket and were on their way.

Some people think cops are just there to get people in trouble but they couldn’t be farther from the truth. The policeman in town here may be different from other cops but they just want us all to be safe and if we’re not causing trouble to other civilians in town, they let us alone. My housemates and I all decided that we need to be sure that any underclassmen moving into our house understands that they need to always agree with the cops and let them do their job. If we can do that then there should be plenty of fun to be had that won’t get them into any sort of trouble. In turn, this leaves the potential for endless days playing hoops on the street where the problems of the house get settled.

Friday Night Lights

For many people, life without the desire to be a part of something such as a sport is normal. They can go through every-day life without so much as even looking at a game. For others, this is just simply impossible. At least for myself and everyone I know in my hometown.

I come from a quaint area in the middle of a bunch of farms so there isn’t much that goes on. Except for the one season of the year that everyone longs for to see the best athletes around go head to head carrying that leather ball up and down the field. When the Friday night lights turn on it’s almost like a beacon, signaling to everyone that it’s that time of the week. Even people who have no interest in going end up being dragged down to support our high school football team. It wasn’t just for that though but instead went deeper, people came and packed the stadium because we were all family. The older gentlemen would lean up on the fence and tell us stories about their golden days during halftime ending with, “You wouldn’t understand, you had to be there.” We would just laugh and nod our heads but it really was incredible how our community came together almost as if it was a religious service. Everyone knew each other and we believed if the stadium was packed, it would be a sure thing that our team would win.

Soccer was my sport in high school (aside from hockey of course) but because my student body was small, I had a lot of best friends that played on the football team. So naturally, I had to go to every game to watch the guys I called brothers, play on the field in their white and blues from start to finish.

The best part about football in my hometown was the party after every game. Andrew Gummo was one of my closest friends and I was basically part of the family, but we all were like that with each other. Gummo’s family always held the after parties and they always threw the best ones in the area. If our team lost, the boys understood they had to leave it on the field and save it for Monday’s practice to fix their mistakes for the next game. This was an actual rule established by our coaches so when everyone got to the Gummo residence, it would be a place to kick back and relax and have a fantastic time.

Unlike many kids in high school, my friends and I didn’t need alcohol to have an enjoyable time. I can’t even remember how many times we would get a call from Mark, who was a state trooper living close by and had a son on the team, telling us it was three in the morning and time to quiet down. The best part was, he wasn’t telling us kids but instead the adults that would dance through the night with music blasting so loud you might have been able to hear it from the stadium two miles down the road.

If I could go back in the past and tell my younger self one thing, it would be to cherish every moment of those Friday nights. I recently came home and drove past the stadium and found myself pulling in and getting out to walk around without realizing what I was doing. The memories created there that I will reminisce for the rest of my life are priceless. Some of my friends in college can’t believe that I had so much fun in high school without drugs or alcohol but I know I wouldn’t go back and change anything. Instead, I just laugh and say, “Well you wouldn’t understand, you had to be there.”