Should Club Teams Replace High School Sports?

Kalamazoo Gazette 175The Kalamazoo Gazette took a pretty cool tact with their Opinion/Editorial section in the Saturday edition. The issue:

Should high school-sponsored sports be replaced by club teams?

Who better to answer that question that high school students. The Gazette turned to three students for answers: [Read more…]

Book Friday Night Lights Banned in Beaumont

Progress Avenue’s mission is to cover community and charity efforts in sports. I’m convinced that the root of these efforts lies in inspiration and in the strength of our close community of family, friends, colleagues, etc.

One of my favorite movies is “Friday Night Lights.” The main reason is because of the inspirational halftime speech. All sports movies have such scenes, but the clip in “Friday Night Lights” is among the best.

Yesterday, an editorial ran in the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise with the header, “Should the book ‘Friday Night Lights’ be banned from Beaumont schools?” The movie, of course, was based on the book. While the story, including that halftime speech, doesn’t have the same effect in print, I still feel for the book. [Read more…]

A Sign of Real Sportsmanship

One of the best sports stories of the week comes out of Kansas City. As reported by, “a freshman at Benton High School in St. Joseph, Mo., is being treated like a VIP after scoring the only touchdown for his team in a losing game this week.” Matt Ziesel, 15, has Down Syndrome. But coach Dan McCamy told KMBC: “His effort’s there all the time — he’s just like anyone else on the team to us.” With the score 46-0 in favor of Marysville, McCamy came up with “Matt’s Play” (Check out McCamy’s YouTube video). During his interview with KMBC, McCamy explained approaching the opponent, “I did come over to some confused looks. They’re, like, ‘Ten seconds left in the game, 46 to nothing, what is he going to do? Throw in the towel?'” That last ten seconds may be the best ten seconds in high school sports this year. As Matt Ziesel said, “It’s a sign of real sportsmanship and that winning is not the most important thing, or shutouts are not the most important thing” (, 9/18).

J-Mac’s Coach Gets Speaking Gig for Charity Event

It seems as if Jason “J-Mac” McElwain is renewing his fame thanks in large part to an appearance in a Gatorade spot. The YouTube clip of his amazing shooting performace three years ago is again making its rounds through the social networking sphere.

Now, a Rochester outlet is reporting that J-Mac’s high school coach, Jim Johnson, “will tell the story of J-Mac” at the When Dreams Come True Charity Luncheon on March 1. The event will benefit Two Doors Community Resource Center.

This isn’t Johnson’s first gig. The coach “has done numerous speaking engagements both here and around the nation” (MPNNow, 2/20).

What makes J-Mac’s story great is the fact that the kid is autistic. In his first and only high school varsity game of the season three years ago, the kid scored 20 points on an impressive six 3-pointers. See for yourself. Check out the video.

High School Team Sporting Pink Unis Tonight to Raise Awareness for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund

Pink Ribbon

In Pennsylvania, Jared Stout reports the Blairsville High School girls’ basketball team will wear pink uniforms tonight to raise awareness for the Kay Yow Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Cancer Fund.

Blairsville head coach Graig Marx said that he had seen colleges “use the pink uniforms before to help raise money for cancer research and thought this fundraiser would be a good group activity for the team members.”

Marx: “This year, having a new team, I was thinking of different ways throughout the summer of things we could do as a group to come together. I didn’t think that should be good enough for us, just to play basketball.”

More Than Just the Uniform: The team has served beyond its choice of pink attire for tonight’s game. Stout notes that they “have conducted a hoagie sale, with profits going toward the cancer fund and have sold pink ‘Jam the Gym’ t-shirts for tonight’s game at $15 apiece.” The team “purchased 150 shirts and sold about 120 as of Wednesday. All profit earned from t-shirt sales (about $10 apiece) goes directly to cancer research” (Jared Stout, Blairsville Dispatch, 2/6). Read the entire Blairsville Dispatch piece

Positive Coaching Alliance’s Thompson Shares His Take on 100-0 Dallas Prep Game

Positive Coaching Alliance

With all the recent buzz surrounding the Covenant School’s 100-0 drubbing of The Dallas Academy in a girl’s high school basketball game in Dallas, Texas, Positive Coaching Alliance Executive Director Jim Thompson offers his take on the game.

Under the header, “No Winners in Dallas’ 100-0 Basketball Game,” Thompson writes in this month’s Positive Coaching Alliance Connector:

If you want to win, here is a sure-fire, guaranteed way to do so. Schedule your team against a really weak opponent.

In the wake of The Covenant School girls basketball team’s 100-0 “win” over Dallas Academy, many have defended since-fired Covenant Coach Micah Grimes, asking what he could have done differently, because “it just isn’t right to let the other team score.”

My answer — often shared in our Double-Goal Coach workshops, where we train coaches to win and teach life lessons — is that there are many ways to make productive use of a blowout game. It all starts with preparation for a game against an obviously mismatched opponent. When coaches have an upcoming game against a strong opponent, we prepare our players for the challenges facing them. We tend to not do the same when we know we are facing a much weaker team.

But blow-out games provide as many teachable moments as do highly-contested ones. For example:

  • Don’t try to build a comfortable lead and then let up. Start your substitutes even if it means a slower, less-stable advantage. Even if your team falls behind, your stronger players can then enter, challenged to play their best.
  • Start players in unfamiliar positions. Got a big center who doesn’t dribble well? Have her bring the ball up. Let your smallish guards post up.
  • Have your players dribble with their weak hand. Caution them not to show up the opponent-have them dribble weak-handed without a big show.

These are ideas for basketball, but with some creativity and preparation, coaches can apply these to any sport. But let’s look at the bigger picture, which a 100-0 game forces us to do. What exactly is the purpose of sports?

With the attention that winning big brings to coaches in the college and pro ranks it’s easy for youth and high school coaches to forget that they are educators. Many, perhaps most, youth coaches imagine themselves, from time to time, coaching on the big stage.

But as much as youth sports resembles pro sports, they are fundamentally different. One is an entertainment business. The other is about educating kids. Or should be.

Everything that happens on the playing field is grist for the mill of the Double-Goal Coach. Win or lose, come through in the clutch or blow it, coaches who see themselves as character educators can make a life lesson out of it.

Sports soars when worthy opponents compete and it takes their best to win. Mismatches happen, so coaches must prepare their teams to play weak opponents with class, just as they prepare them to play tough opponents with determination.

Otherwise, why not schedule against a kindergarten team and go for 500 points? –Jim Thompson, Founder and Executive Director, Positive Coaching Alliance

To offer your own thoughts on the topic, please visit Thompson’s Responsible Sports Blog (Positive Coaching Alliance).

After 100-0 Victory, Texas High School Gets Case of Winner’s Remorse


In Texas, private Covenant School defeated Dallas Academy 100-0 in a high school girls basketball game on January 13, and the AP reported yesterday that Covenant School now “has a case of blowout remorse.” The Covenant School is now “trying to do the right thing by seeking a forfeit and apologizing for the margin of victory. ” The Covenant School’s Kyle Queal said, “It is shameful and an embarrassment that this happened. … A victory without honor is a great loss.”

Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools Director Edd Burleson: “On a personal note, I told the coach of the losing team how much I admire their girls for continuing to compete against all odds. They showed much more character than the coach that allowed that score to get out of hand. It’s up to the coach to control the outcome.”

Dallas Academy “has eight girls on its varsity team and about 20 girls” in its high school. The girl’s team is “winless over the last four seasons” (AP, 1/22). Read the entire article from the AP

Life’s Lessons: In Dallas, Barry Horn writes today that Dallas Academy Athletic Director Jeremy Civello “told his girls the life lesson they could take from their loss.” Civello: “told them someday they will be on top in a similar situation and they should remember how they felt when some people were cheering for a team to score a hundred points and shut us out. Hopefully, my girls all learned a lesson in sportsmanship that will last them a lifetime” (Barry Horn, Dallas Morning News, 1/23). Read the entire article from the Dallas Morning News

High School Student Wins Young Heroes Award for Suicide Awareness Program

The Jewish Exponent’s Aaron Passman profiled Ellen Brown, who was chosen as one of 60 winners of this year’s Commerce Bank Young Heroes Award, given by the National Liberty Museum. The annual award recognizes those between 8 and 18 who have made a positive contribution to society through charity and activism, as well as excelling both in and out of the classroom.

Passman wrote that “after a teammate’s suicide, Ellen Brown took action to ensure that her friend wouldn’t be forgotten, including creating a support group for other students who were experiencing a sense of loss” at Henderson High School in West Chester, Pa.

Passman added that “creating that grief group was just one part of a transformative experience for Brown. She channeled her despair and that of others into a suicide-awareness program, created and distributed education materials for it, and even co-chaired ‘Alive and Running,’ a 5K run/walk that, thanks to at least 450 participants, raised more than $5,000 for the West Chester Area School District” (Jewish Exponent, 8/28).

Seattle-area High School Students Complete Unique Graduation Project

In Seattle, Leslie Ann Jones reported that Sara Markwith and Rachel Godfred, “both 17-year-old co-captains” of the Mercer Island High School varsity swimming team, “swam all the way around” Mercer Island “aided only by wetsuits and flippers.”

Markwith and Godfred said that students “must complete a ‘culminating project’ of their own creation in order to graduate,” and they “chose to tackle the Island’s circumference.” That circumference is “a distance of 14.6 miles.”

The girls “solicited friends and family and raised about $3,000 for Seattle Children’s Hospital with their athletic feat” (Seattle Times, 8/18).

Michigan Considers Re-Aligning High School Sports Seasons

In Michigan, John Morris reports that the Michigan High School Athletic Association “is considering a new concept of using four partially overlapping sports seasons.”

MHSAA officials are “hearing of problems and concerns arising from the change in holding boys and girls basketball during the same season.” This comes after “a court-ordered switch of several high school sports season which went into effect” during the 2007-08 season.

MHSAA Executive Director Jack Roberts: “The pressure of two basketball programs (girls and boys) in the same season is resulting in too many events for administrators to supervise, for officials to work, for media to cover and for fans to attend. “Revenue to local schools has dropped at a time they cannot afford to have it happen. Students are practicing too early in the morning, too late at night or, if not, there are too few practices to teach athletes and prepare teams well.”

The Proposal: High school sports in Michigan currently run under three seasons. Under the new proposed four season format, the first season would start in August, the second season would begin in November, the third season would start in December, and the fourth season would start in March.

Morris also writes that these changes “could lead to the athletes having to make a choice of which sport in which to participate.”

Roberts added, “It is not the MHSAA’s role to dictate changes, but we will advise and mediate at the local and league levels. The MHSAA’s role is to facilitate statewide discussions of the overall structure of school sports, including starting and ending dates for seasons and limitations in and out of season.”

The Reason: After the court order, Roberts said that “there was an almost nine percent drop in girls golf participation last fall and an almost 11.5 percent drop in boys tennis participation.”

Roberts, on the effect of the court order: “The worry is that all this will lead to schools reducing the levels of teams they sponsor for girls and boys. If so, Michigan will suffer the same double-digit drops in participation that occurred in other states when girls basketball combined with boys in the winter. We cannot wait several years to let this play out. The facts are undeniable. Schools and kids cannot become the losers” (Oscoda Press, 3/5).