After a year of high tension thanks to the twin plagues of presidential politics and the pandemic, BoomerCafé wants to do its part to tone things down, which is why for a few weeks, in addition to fresh stories, we’re going to run some of our “best of” pieces from the past, stories that will remind you that Yes, Virginia, there was some tranquility before the tension.
That’s why we are republishing this story from a year ago. It’s by the late Bob Bigelow, once named one of the “100 Most Influential Sports Educators” by the Institute for International Sport at the University of Rhode Island. Sadly, Bob passed away suddenly last August, but his inspiration in youth sports lives on.
What does an NBA player do when he realizes his dream job of playing basketball for a living won’t last forever?
For Bob Bigelow — a baby boomer who still lives in his home town of Winchester, Massachusetts — he channels his passion for sports into a second career, inspiring young people to participate in youth sports programs while urging parents and coaches to chill out on the sidelines.
Bob was an NBA first round draft choice and played for the Kansas City Kings, Boston Celtics, and San Diego Clippers. Before that he played at the University of Pennsylvania for Hall of Fame Coach Chuck Daly. But for the last 25 years, Bigelow has put on more than 2,500 talks and clinics worldwide where he presents new approaches to refocus sports programs on the needs of young athletes.
[Download chapter 1 of Bob’s book on PDF – Click here.]
The big problem he encounters, an issue that can derail the enthusiasm of youth from sports activities, is overzealous pressure from parents and coaches who tend to over-coach young athletes. Bigelow says, “Just let the kids play and have fun.”
“We adults are still not providing the fun environment, or the potential for true nurtured learning and emotional growth, that should define the core mission of sports for children and adolescents.”
In his second book, Youth Sports: Still Failing Our Kids – How to Really Fix It, Bob demonstrates how improved structures for play can actually increase the development of children’s skills, benefits that can last a lifetime. He shows a new model for youth programs to boost what kids learn in today’s youth sports environment. The whole idea, he says, is to improve youth sports while offering fun and enjoyment.
“The more I have thought about this over the years, the more I believe that organizing younger kids into fixed teams and leagues, and putting them on stage every week for all to see, is just not a good idea.
“I believe that the evolution of youth sports contains an unintended consequence. Adults thought that they would make sports better for the kids, but instead they have made it worse. But we can fix it.”
Bigelow regularly enjoys the benefits of a busy schedule of sports clinics and lectures by playing at basketball tournaments around the world for former pro players, like himself, and occasionally competes on the courts with former colleagues and friends.