Monday, September 24, 2012

Merkle Game Revisted: September 23rd Each Year


We reached another anniversary of the famous Merkle Game yesterday--September 23rd. This day is the anniversary of the game that started it all. Sporting Chance Press author Mike Cameron wrote the book on Fred Merkle. Literally. We call it Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle.

On September 23, 1908, 19-year old Fred Merkle was the youngest player on the New York Giants. He was slotted into the lineup at first base to replace a wounded veteran against the mighty Chicago Cubs of Tinker, Evers and Chance fame. The pressure was on when Merkle came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied 1—1. With two outs and Moose McCormick on first, the youngster rifled a single to right field easily advancing the slow-footed Moose McCormick to third. Shortstop slugger Al Bridwell, up next, whacked a low liner that knocked the second base umpire down on its way to shallow center field. As McCormick crossed the plate with the “winning run,” Merkle turned from the base path and raced towards the clubhouse.

Modern fans know that even if a team scores on such a play, the all base runners need to advance to the next base and tag it to avoid a force-out. The score is nullified on the force out.

Unfortunately for Fred Merkle, in 1908 this rule had not been enforced, especially when the winning hit traveled to the outfield. September 23 however, was different. Merkle was called out, the game was ruled a tie, a protest ensued and at the end of the season a rubber match was played for the Pennant because the mighty Cubs and feisty Giants had identical records for the season. The Cubs won the rubber match, the Pennant and the World Series.

Merkle was unfairly Christened "Bonehead" from coast-to-coast.

Each year, the Merkle game is discussed in TV and radio booths, in newspapers and in other printed and electronic venues. Media contacts looking for a Merkle expert can write us here at Sporting Chance Press (lmj.norris@gmail.com) to set up interview time with Cameron who is happy to help explain the context of the game and what happened to Merkle during and after his playing career.

One of Merkle's greatest fans is David Stalker of Watertown, Wisconsin. Watertown is the birth place of Fred Merkle. David is a sports historian who has been instrumental in honoring many of baseball's greatest players from the Deadball Era. Here is the Facebook page that shows the monuments that David has put up. Here's a wonderful short piece on Fred Merkle written by David.

You can get the inside scoop any time by simply ordering your own copy of Public
Bonehead, Private Hero at Sporting Chance Press.

Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press

Friday, September 21, 2012

When the Sharks Come Sniffing

My last few posts have examined sports metaphors that have application to business and education. This one does as well.

Professional sports teams benefit by athletic development and training in college play and in the case of baseball, the minor leagues. In similar fashion, big business gets plenty of help in product and service development through small business. Although big business does not have much "skin" in the small business development engine, they certainly benefit from it. Businesses that may not be very good at organic growth and spend little on new product research and development, can still compete with new products and services through acquisitions. In our legal system and economy, they are able to pick and choose from hundreds if not thousands of small company opportunities.

To illustrate this point, say there is a company that offers textbooks and needs to develop new services to teachers that will attract adoptions and cement long term relationships with it customers. Often, textbook ancillary development can be more expensive than textbook creation itself. The textbook publisher acquires a company that has developed software that allows for easy creation and sharing of custom media-rich test bank questions. This new software may be the latest and greatest of many generations of such software developed over years. The company that is acquired fought its battles in the trenches with a few dozen other companies--most of which have gone out of business. The large publishing company buys the small company for an amount that equals four times its annual revenues. By making this kind of acquisition, the large company avoids a decade of new product in-house research and development work that may have cost the company ten times what they paid for the successful company they acquired. Besides, the small company already fought its competitive battles and has developed a winning product that is in demand. The large company represents a huge segment of the market and the remaining independent test bank providers are essentially driven out of business within a few years.

The down side of this kind of product development for the economy is that hundreds if not thousands of small business employees receive little reward for their part in the process just when the products in their marketplace are at their most valuable. They were not on the winning team although they may have contributed greatly to the competitive process that led to the state of the art creation on the part of their competitors. In the end, they lost their jobs, and the entrepreneurs who developed the products, lost their capital. Developing new product offerings by acquisitions allows companies to avoid traditional research and development expenses.

An athlete can be like that small company that has a terrific product of service to offer a team. Athletes of course now have agents who help them understand their potential value to a team and negotiate accordingly. A small business should be aware that there are professionals who can help them understand their value to a large company just like there are agents who represent athletes. The small business value to the acquiring company may be much greater than the small business assumes.

In business valuation, at the most basic level there is what is called a rule of thumb valuation. A retail business for example may be valued at 3 times annual revenue by a business broker. A hot dog stand may be valued the same way using a different multiplier--say 2.5 or 3.5 times revenue just for illustration. Rule of thumb valuations are fairly simple and are generally used in traditional small business sales. Businesses may use different and much more complex methods that require a complete business valuation report based on special standards and performed by a business valuation expert who is likely conversant in both accounting and finance. A business valuation collects an exhaustive amount of data and also makes a series of adjustments that allow values across a long period of time to be compared. For the small business that becomes a target of a large enterprise, a good business valuation can also look at something that might increase the sale price--the value of the business to the potential buyer. They may look at the projected value of the enterprise to the buyer.

Revenues from the small test bank ancillary company mentioned above, may have been limited to a small customer base. But if one of the largest publishing companies in the world was going to offer the product to its customer base, the value to the large company is likely to be many times over the calculation using the multiplier. When the sharks come sniffing by the small business pool, it may be time to call in the reserves--the trained certified business valuation expert. Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is a treasure of sports lessons for all ages. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy. To Order.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Large Corporations Buy the Best of Small Business: Not Quite Like Farm Teams in Sports

Successful professional sports teams often benefit from the development of players at amateur levels. Professional football players hone their skills in college and most everyone wins. College players often receive an education through scholarship and the college itself often benefits from the "gate" and media rights to the games. In some sports like baseball, professional teams have established "minor league affiliates" that continue to develop players who are not quite ready for "prime time."

Large corporation of most every type have their "minor leagues" as well in small business, but they don't have much skin in the game. Despite what is often presented in the media and political circles, small business isn't called small business for nothing. In good times, sources indicated that about 2/3rds of all business fail within 10 years. Entrepreneurs often use up their own capital in these exercises and despite the fact that employment gains may be present, employment loss is almost assured when working for a small business.

During our recent recession, small business failures rates are thought to have increased in some areas by 50%. Logic suggests that such failures may be about as under reported as unemployment statistics. People have a tendency to drop under the radar of unemployment statistics after they have searched for so long. Some small businesses may be kept alive under poor economic conditions for any number of reasons that have little to do with potential success.

The constant turn of small businesses is a boon for big businesses especially in technology. Large companies can make up for creative lapses that can drag down organic growth, by buying creative new products and services through acquisitions. Many large companies can invest much less in internal research and development processes because they sift through the work of hundreds or even thousands of small companies and purchase what they need. The failure rate of small business that develop new technologies is appalling, but the continued incubation of new products by small companies insures the success of large non-innovative companies who grow by acquisition. Big slow "Sumo-sized" businesses can grow today as long as they are able to buy the creativity of others and leverage their size to throw opponents off balance. One has to wonder, what would happen to employment figures if large companies were taxed on such poaching efforts so heavily that they were forced to develop their own products and services.

Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is a treasure of sports lessons for all ages. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy. To Order.

Good Habits Make Good Students, Athletes, and Organizations

Most people know that good activities that might be difficult at first to practice become engrained in us after a certain amount of repetition as habit. Once an activity becomes a habit, it seems easier to perform and difficult to end. Sporting Chance Press author, J.D.Thorne, (The 10 Commandments of Baseball) likes to advise, "practice the difficult and make those good things which are difficult a habit." Thorne uses the example of a baseball first baseman who gets plenty of practice catching balls on bad hops. Chances are, that first baseman is going be very good in game conditions when his infield teammates have to throw under all kinds of situations.

Pursuits Outside of Sports

In pursuits outside of sports, the same dynamic is found, but good habits must be accompanied by good judgement. For example, in business, the MBA tool set was touted as the answer to all business problems for decades. But in time, business school practices were maligned in large part because of overuse. The problem comes from how the tool is used, not the tool itself.

Business schools preached the use of profit and loss reports for all individual company offerings. Yet, regardless of how disciplined an organization, those reports must be read within the context of the business conditions at the time. A product introduced during an economic slump, a product that was delayed due to a leadership change, a product whose costs doubled due to a temporary parts shortage--these products must not be judged like other products produced under ideal business conditions. Creating the P & L is the good habit, but using the figures indiscriminately is folly.

Yet, a bigger mistake is made if managers decide to forgo the P & L, because "they are just not accurate in today's business climate." This is a sloppy habit of neglect.

In MBA-speak, the term "activity standards" is so simple yet groundbreaking for a business operation. Activity standards are those things that need to be done in business when triggered by a certain event or decision. For example, when a new product is introduced, a press release is issued; a planned advertising campaign is launched; and the new product is put up on the company's web-based catalog. If an organization creates activity standards, but lets them lapse or does not adequately support them, the organization gets into sloppy habits and its business will suffer. A business that does not review and enforce its activities standards over a period of time will be troubled.

For kids, activity standards are just as important. Following each school day, a child needs to spend a period of time set aside for homework. Each new morning signals the need for kids to make their beds. A responsibility may be given to a child to take care of a larger project each week on Saturday. The challenge for parents is working within so much school schedule shuffling that inevitably goes on in schools today. Again, good judgement is required to determine how and when the activity standards can be applied.

It's difficult to establish habits when schedules are so often in flux. It's difficult to establish good habits when a student might need to be at school one day at 6 a.m. for band practice and then must stay that evening for soccer. Difficult as good habits may be to establish in a modern home, if they are not established, kids will suffer. Good habits lead to accomplishment and reinforce responsibilities, which in turn build self esteem.


Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press
Image of farm boy doing early-morning chores, Library of Congress.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is a treasure of sports lessons for all ages. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy. To Order.

Technology Can Encroach on Education: Use Technology Sensibly

I have written a number of posts stating that athletics can be used to improve achievement in academics. I believe that many athletic principles can be viewed as life principles--and coaches, parents and teachers need to point this out to their kids. It's an age old idea--see if you can instruct and motivate kids to perform in school with the same effort and passion that is relatively common in sports. I like to mention that our book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball offers some great principles that can be used in academics and other areas for improving achievement. Unfortunately, we are swimming against a technology steam in many ways.

I find more and more that countless commercial and media messages advocate technology to fix most every problem in our world today (there's an app for that). I am not against technology, I am just against the idea of humans being led by it in their every activity. Our world is beginning to look more and more like the setting for a tragic science fiction story.

If you are breathing and blinking today with real lungs and eyeballs, you know there is a lot of money behind technology. If you are not living in a virtual world using a phone that is smarter than you, texting people the minute you wake, and maintaining constant contact with your peeps even if it's to just say you ate wheat toast and yogurt for breakfast--well you are just not tuned in. If you dare speak against such practices, well, you are just one of those hopeless people who can't deal with life in the real world. Similar messages are being sent to teachers these days with respect to life in the classroom.

If you follow education news, you know many people are constantly advocating new technology to improve academic achievement. There is huge money in education despite what anyone says about budget constraints. Technology pundits advocate that schools buy software to test Johnny to find out if he can read or not-- and then buy more software that can teach him to read. Lately there is also an effort to develop software to determine if Johnny's teacher can teach. You can see where this is headed in part. "Get a test score printout, fire the lowest quartile of teachers."

Teachers unions of course are not buying it, but all I can say is keep your eye on the money. Prepare yourself for studies to show that technology solves one problem after another. At some point, education technology studies may make the drug developers blush in comparison with their brazen claims. Perhaps at some point the tech companies may face the same barrage of personal injury suits faced by the drug companies.
"Your honor, my client was injured by Professor Bucky's Beanstalk Learning Program that failed to improve his understanding of adjectives, which has subsequently cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings."


I have a friend who is a math tutor and I believe after a session or two with a new student she can tell what the student needs to work on. She does not need an expensive software application that might require that she double her rates and align herself with one of those tutor franchise operations. She does not need a personality analysis or advanced programs on curriculum -- she sits right next to her students and gets to know them well. She knows the curriculum in the district and her students have their own textbooks that she is familiar with. It doesn't get much more personal than that. I make this point not to disparage tutor companies, but to suggest that tutoring does not have to be something only millionaires can afford. If technology makes education advances, but makes those advances unaffordable, it simply should not be used. Do we want an education system that looks like our health care system? Something that looks good in theory, but bankrupts the country.

Reading of course is a big deal in technology products as well as endless amounts of special programs and attention is provided at schools. A few of my own kids have benefited greatly from reading specialists. But when I talked about reading to a friend who has four decades of experience in teaching and administration, she cautions that many teachers today are not being trained properly in how to teach reading. The best reading practices and skills of regular elementary teachers are being lost in some programs as reading is becoming a specialty and one that is danger of being driven with technology and not teachers. The more education students have to spend on learning new technology, the less time they have to learn the most important teaching fundamentals. For every action there is an equal and ....

I hope it all gets sorted out soon. One thing I know is that if we see that teachers coming up in the ranks are the caring decent hard-working people that have traditionally populated the profession, they will find a way to teach our kids if left to their own initiatives. On the other hand, if we put our kids future in the care of corporations who by the very nature of their structure, are focused on increasing revenues and market share, pushing profit margins and beating competition, we are in trouble. Corporations are not going to change their stripes because they are working in education--that's just not how it works. We cannot expect them to be anything except what they are.

Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Technology in the Classroom: Professor Swift's New Method to Increase Test Scores

I have written a number of posts in which I have espoused the idea that athletics can be used to improve achievement in academics. I posited that many athletic principles can be viewed as life principles. Often I point out that our book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball offers some great principles that can be used in other areas for improving achievement. I find more and more that others advocate technology to fix most every problem in our world today.

If you follow education development, you know many people are constantly advocating new technology to improve academic achievement. Essentially, they advocate schools buy software to test Johnny to find out if he can read or not-- and then buy more software that can teach him to read. Lately they also advocate software to determine if Johnny's teacher can teach.

There are many stories on recent education technology developments. Here are a few items that I spotted:

1. States are collecting test data, but not very good at using it.
2. Software that can predict behavior—predictive analytics—can help schools see what lies ahead for students by looking at how they have done in past.
3. More frequent testing is needed so that more frequent intervention can be used at more frequent intervals.
4. Studies are looking at a value-added model for teacher valuation. The model first predicts student's future achievement based on past performance and then measures any upside in the actual future performance under a specific teacher.

After reading articles on these developments, my head started to spin--were any of these initiatives worthwhile? When I can't figure things out, I sometimes call an educational guru that I know, Professor Johnny Swift of Dublin. I wanted to share my recent line of inquiry with Swift here:

SCP Larry: Professor, studies are showing that in some places much education data is being collected on student performance, but not used. What are your thoughts?

Professor Swift: Data will always run free and have its own way. Collecting data is like collecting field mice in your house and then letting them go free in the back yard. They only get back into the house and poop all over it. You have to kill the data or stop wasting your time collecting it.

SCP Larry: Professor, much is being written about predictive analytics--looking at what's gone on with students to determine future outcomes. What are your thoughts?

Professor Swift: Well, I used to think that understanding how a student did in the previous grade was helpful. But then there were many researchers saying that a teacher was better off having no preconceived notions. They said that students performed to levels of teacher expectation so keep the teacher ignorant of any past experience. I am glad to hear it's going back to the old way, know your enemy before the term starts and plan accordingly.

SCP Larry: Professor, how about the idea of frequenting testing that can lead to more frequent intervention? What are your thoughts?

Professor Swift: I always gave my students a lot of tests and found frequent punishment was better than just giving them a whack every once in a while. But I don't like the idea of computers to help me--they just screw up too often and it's always bad when you whack the wrong kid. If you don't want to correct all those papers, have the student up at the chalkboard and if they screw up you can see it real time and punish accordingly.

SCP Larry: Professor, what are your thoughts on the value-added model for teacher valuation. This model predicts student's future achievement based on past performance and then measures any upside in the future performance of the same student under a specific teacher.

Professor Swift: Ah yes, we did this long ago in our fresh air room classes.

SCP Larry: How did that work professor?

Professor Swift: Well, we used to take poor students who did not respond to our various methods and toss them all in one classroom. Then we'd open the windows wide. The idea was that if we couldn't teach them anything, they'd still get plenty of fresh air to breathe. Every once in a blue moon, we would take a student from the fresh air room and toss them into a classroom with an actual teacher. Against all odds, if that student improved, we would increase the teacher's salary by a dollar.

SCP Larry: A dollar an hour?

Professor Swift: No, a dollar a year. We weren't made of money in those days you know.

SCP Larry: Professor, you were famous for your proposal on how to reduce the number of poor children back in Ireland. Any big ideas for us here in the states on education?

Professor Swift:Yes, I have one idea that is guaranteed to increase test scores for many years. Throw the lowest 10% of the students out the door each year. Chase them away from the school building and make sure they don't come back. You'll see your average test scores jump right through the ceiling.

SCP Larry: Can technology help in this effort?

Professor Swift: Yes, use a shredder to destroy their student IDs on the way out.

Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is a treasure of sports lessons for all ages. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy. To Order.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Life Lessons from Father Joe Freedy

In Patrick McCaskey's book Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout, Father Joe Freedy is the first athlete featured in the book and his image appears on our cover. For Sporting Chance Press Talk, we have been writing recently about life lessons learned in sports and Father Joe's story is worth repeating here.

Joe Freedy was a typical young man in many ways, yet he was exceptionally gifted in athletics. Coming from a strong Catholic family, he was expected to go to church and practice his faith--although young Joe Freedy was going through the motions. Like many of us, he was attracted to those things young people find exciting--the admiration of our peers, parties and the thrill of being a big shot. But once on scholarship at the University of Buffalo, he was "hitting" just 1 for 3. Although he was an excellent high school athlete, he was so far down the depth chart, he had about as much chance of playing in a game as the team mascot. He was not the admiration of his peers nor was he a big shot. So party he did.

After his red-shirt freshman year, a series of mishaps to every quarterback ahead of him on the depth chart reminds one of Old Testament stories of Divine Intervention in battle. Joe Freedy was thrust upon his team as the top quarterback. When the rubber met the road, young Freedy worked extremely hard and was up to the task. He excelled. At the same time, a young woman came into Joe's life and also helped him find his way. A third positive influence was his dad and one of his dad's books that helped him make sense of a faith he had taken for granted.

In the next few years in school, Freedy would develop a sense of priorities that included faith, hope and love over fun, self gratification and recklessness. For Freedy, sports had pointed in one direction at one time in his life and then pointed in another. His path led him to a life of service. The discipline required of Freedy to develop into a true Division One quarterback in the face of many challenges and mistakes comes in handy today in his new job--Vocation Director for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. Freedy still holds records at the University of Buffalo and the track record of vocation growth at the Diocese of Pittsburgh looks bright as well.
Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Patrick McCaskey's Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout and other fine sports books. Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout is a personal chronicle of Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey that looks back at decades of spiritual enrichment and life lessons from athletes, coaches, religious and everyday people. McCaskey recalls the stories of those who strived to make the cut on and off the field—plus people who left comfortable lives to serve the under-served in extraordinary ways. Order online.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

One Important Life Lesson from Sports

I began a recent writing campaign to once again suggest to my school contacts that sports offers many lessons that can be applied to life. I wanted to key on one sports lesson that I think is especially timely today. As I've mentioned in several recent posts, sports as a metaphor for life hit me squarely between the eyes when I started working on our first book: The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) by J.D. Thorne.

One of the baseball commandments from our book is:
9. Do not find too much fault in the umpires. You cannot expect them to be as perfect as you.

The problem in blaming the umpire is in part that you might be making an excuse for losing or poor play. But perhaps more important than that, it can become a habit and a bad one at that. Some sports psychologists point out that athletes with higher skill levels generally look at internal explanations for sports outcomes (The Psychology of Coaching Team Sports: A Self-Help Guide, Larry M. Leith). Others may look at external explanations. When athletes look internally after a loss they can focus on things they can do to improve. When they focus on the external, they often blame other players or conditions and are thus not so likely to seek to improve their own performances. In other words, better athletes take wins and losses personally even in team sports. Better players make fewer excuses.

What a great life lesson is conveyed in this commandment. No matter what we are doing, whether learning a new skill, developing a new business, or seeking a better job, if we find ourselves pointing at external reasons for not succeeding in our efforts, we are doing nothing to improve the outcome through our own adjustments and efforts. In fact, we are probably just wasting our time. The person we can most change is the one who stares back at us in the mirror every day.

Kids, of course, need a lot of positive encouragement and they need to know they can succeed. But we don't help them when we teach them to make excuses--the way many of us adults do ourselves! For kids, success requires learning how to succeed. And kids learn how to succeed when they do things themselves, when they take the necessary steps for success--set goals, study, learn new skills, practice and work hard to achieve.

Yes, one important lesson from sports that everyone should learn at a very early age is that we are most likely to improve "our game" when we start with ourselves and look internally rather than seek someone else or some other conditions to explain our performance. People who succeed at sports and life focus on improving themselves.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is a treasure of sports lessons for all ages. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy. To Order.

Image at top of post is from the George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Teaching Kids Values Through Sports

I began a recent writing campaign to once again suggest to my school contacts that sports offers many lessons that can be applied to life. Sports as a metaphor for life hit me squarely between the eyes when I started working on our first book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) by J.D. Thorne.
It seems to me that almost everything that's important for us to pass down to our kids cannot be accomplished strictly by lectures or what I would call a frontal assault on kids brains. From our ideas on character to our desire to see our kids learn the benefits of hard work, from our faith to our valuing a good sense of humor, most everything we deem important cannot be passed on to another generation by simply touting it.
You hear a lot about learning through the use of games today in school--like this is something new because much of it will be done on computers. Good teachers have known from the earliest days of education that you have to work some fun, some culture, some real life experiences into those lesson plans. In the new testament, Jesus told parables to get His lessons across. The Old Testament is full of songs, stories and poetry for the same reason. Even the most profound and valid ideas the world has known need interesting stories or experiences to get them across.
Rather than conflict with studies and other pursuits, we believe sports can help motivate kids and be used to teach principles that will be helpful in all walks of life. Sports lessons can be life lessons. But it's going to take some effort. From the PE instructor to the coach, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to connect the dots for kids. For example, if kids are not taught the connection between teamwork on the field and teamwork off the field, they may miss it altogether. If players are taught to look out for their teammate in the game, but someone is not there to enforce the same principle to help kids look out for others who are being bullied, a great opportunity is missed. If an student learns not to deride a fellow player who makes a mistake, that same student ought to be told that the same principle holds true in the classroom.
At Sporting Chance Press we are doing our bit to help connect these lessons through our books, but a coach, a teacher, an aide, and a parent can make a greater contribution. Competition is a key ingredient in sports and it is one of those things that will be with us until the end of time in life as well. Most people in sports and physical education believe that without competition, sports lose much of their attraction and power with kids. But schools need to build in other goals for their sports and PE programs--and be serious about those goals. A ten minute pep talk on fighting bullying is going to help...a little. But the values we want our kids to embrace need to be emphasized and acknowledged by those who run the programs repeatedly, just like drills that are used for skill building. But the one thing we all should never forget is that in sports lessons can be fun and engaging. In soccer for example, there are drills that show how three players who are working as a team can pass the ball back and forth to frustrate a two-man defense. A coach might simply ask the kids at the end of a practice if they can see how this kind of teamwork may help in other areas of life to get kids thinking about the power of helping each other out. It can be that simple, but repetition is key. Values must be built into all programs and never let go.
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy. Image at top of post is from Library of Congress: School kids in Maine.