Tag Archives: youth sports

Tommy Greenwald: Youth Sports’ “Ultimate Goal”

If anyone can write about youth sports, it’s Tommy Greenwald.

The Westport native captained Staples High School’s 1978 state championship soccer team. His son Joe followed in his footsteps, as a Wrecker soccer captain. Another son, Jack, captained the lacrosse squad and played football. A third son, Charlie, also played youth sports.

Plus, Greenwald is a writer.

Tommy Greenwald

He’s authored several young readers’ series: the “Charlie Joe Jackson” books (named for his kids), Crimebiters (think dogs), and sports stories aimed at 10-12-year-olds like “Game Changer” and “Dinged” (football) and “Rivals” (basketball).

Some of those books took on serious subjects, like injuries.

Now, with “The Ultimate Goal” — the first in a series called “The Good Sports League,” and published officially tomorrow — Greenwald aims at younger (7- to 10-year-old) readers.

He does it with a theme that should not be necessary for kids that age, but sadly is: Sports should be fun.

The quick synopsis: Ben loves soccer. He’s got a great team, with cool pre-game chants and halftime jokes. He and his friends invent dances after they score.

Ben is so good, he’s recruited away from his rec team by a more prestigious travel club. His new team plays well, but they take soccer super-seriously. No chants, no juice-box breaks, no dancing!

They win a lot. But, Ben wonders: Is that all that matters?

Sound familiar?

“This is very personal,” Greenwald says.

“Growing up, my team was a canary in a coal mine. We were one of the first to travel.” (Full disclosure: I coached that team for a couple of years, right after college.)

But, Greenwald adds, “I never remember pressure like kids feel today. They’re thinking about college from Day 1. A game turns into a job. There are premier teams, academy teams, showcase tournaments, identification camps …

“The ‘next prize’ is always in mind. And it starts at younger and younger ages.

“I just had a blast. That was enough.”

Greenwald saw the beginning stages with his own kids (now all out of college).

Now, he says, “the only way to have a carefree attitude is to play at the lowest level.”

“The Ultimate Goal” — a great title, working on several levels — is the first in a series of books about the joy of playing.

This fall, Greenwald will publish one about a softball player who loves to sing and dance. She’s just 10 years old, but already her coach is pressuring her to concentrate on her sport. And wouldn’t you know it: Opening night of the school play and the championship game are the same night! What will she do?

Tommy Greenwald had a happy time as a kid, playing sports.

He hears stories all the time, most recently from a friend’s son who felt pressure to give up lacrosse to concentrate on football.

“People used to look up to 3-sport athletes,” he says. (His wife Cathy Utz’s brother was a 3-sport captain at Staples.) “Then it happened in high school. Now the demand to focus on only one thing happens at a comically young age.”

The lack of fun and pressure to specialize are not the only youth sports issues Greenwald addresses. The third book in his “Good Sports League” series will appear next spring.

It’s about a young baseball player, whose father attacks umpires.

“Sadly, there’s an endless trove of story ideas,” Greenwald notes.

Is there a solution?

“I don’t know,” the author and self-described “lapsed athlete” says.

“It starts with awareness. I fully admit, I was a parent who lost perspective. I got wound up. I was upset if my kid’s team lost.

“Now I’m embarrassed. That was ridiculous. Why was I so wrapped up in what my kid’s team did?

“It’s almost like an addiction, or a cult. That was me?”

However, he adds, “I don’t envy parents. In a town full of A-listers, if your kid has talent, you feel like you owe it to him or her to maximize it — even if they don’t want to do it, or do it on your timetable.”

His job, he concludes, “is not to tell readers (or their parents) what to think. It’s just to encourage them to think, have conversations, ask questions.”

Game on! Play ball!

(For more information, and to order “The Good Sports League: The Ultimate Goal,” click here.)

(“06880” sparks conversations on all aspects of Westport life. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)


Unsung Heroes #213

Lauren MacNeill writes:

The other weekend, as I spent many hours watching my son play sports, I thought about all the hours that the coaches put in for practices and games.

The parents who volunteer to coach their kids’ teams time and time again are really unsung heroes.

After a rough loss at flag football, throwing both a touchdown and then an interception, my son left the field in tears. His Coach  — Todd Freemon —  noticed, and took the time to come over and have a nice one-on0one chat.

He told him all the things you’d want your kid to be told, including not to take it all on himself. Then he made him laugh about his teammate who left his flags in the port-a-potty during the game.

Todd Freemon, coaching 5th-6th grade flag football.

I know a lot of these dads (and moms) work hard during the week. Then they get out there to manage a group of sometimes unruly kids, not to mention the joys and challenges of coaching your own kid (which my husband knows well).

The coaches do it so that the games can be played and kids can have fun, but more importantly so that they can learn many life lessons about how to win, how to lose, how to be a good teammate and how to keep trying.

Thank you to Todd, and all the parents who take one for the team, and manage our kids with enthusiasm and grace.

Thanks, Lauren. If you’re a youth sports coach — or have been one — you are this week’s Unsung Hero. If you’re not: Hopefully you’ve supported your kid’s coaches in the past!

Roundup: Michael J. Fox, Big Bucks, Downtown Dollars, More

Two days after the high school sports governing body pushed the start of interscholastic winter sports back to January 19, Governor Lamont did the same for youth teams.

His order — effective Monday — ends club team practices, games and tournaments, indoors and outdoors, for the next 2 months. Several COVID outbreaks have been traced back to youth sports.

Youth basketball has been played in Westport since the early 1900s. This was an early YMCA team. It — and all other kids’ sports — have been canceled through January 19.

The other night, Ian O’Malley’s Ring app notified him there was a visitor at his Greens Farms-area door.

The Westport realtor and New York radio personality was not expecting anyone.

“He was a lot bigger than he looks” (below), Ian reports:

He was not the only buck hanging around. James Chantler Brown has seen this handsome animal several times in the past few days, off Whitney Street:

Speaking of big bucks: The Westport Downtown Merchants Association has just launched “Downtown Dollars.”

The goal of the digital gift card is to encourage local shopping. Purchasers can write a personal message on the card, and send it to family, friends and colleagues by email, text, even physically (!).  

Click here to purchase; then scroll down for a list of participating merchants.

David Krasne has created a Google spreadsheet that tracks daily coronavirus updates in Connecticut. Each tab reflects a different town in southern Fairfield County.

David also tracks the rolling 7-day and 14-day average new case rates, per 100,000 population. Click here to see Westport; click other tabs at the bottom of the page.

Two years ago, Westporter Andrew Goldman launched an independent podcast, “The Originals.”

In April — with his interview with “The Nanny” Fran Drescher — it became the Los Angeles Times‘ only official podcast. Since then he’s chatted with Danny DeVito, Joan Collins, Barry Sonnenfeld and many others.

Goldman’s most recent guest is Michael J. Fox.

The episode is “different and more personal than any I’ve done,” he says. Goldman begins by talking about his “almost inconceivable privilege” — but admits he is still not particularly happy.

Fox, of course, has many more reasons to despair. His Parkinson’s is increasing; a recent accident took away his ability to walk, and send him into depression.

Yet the actor found a way to rekindle his optimism. His message is inspiring — and particularly meaningful at this unlike-any-other-holiday time.

Click here to listen.


Michael J. Fox’s book was released this week.

Gabriel Marous is a Westporter teenager, Pierrepont School student and Saugatuck Rowing Club racer.

He’s also seen the effects the coronavirus has had on area residents. So, with 2 friends, he formed the North Stamford Youth Action Group.

Their first initiative — a drive-through food pantry — helped them feed 33 families. A second one is set for this Sunday (November 22). With the holidays coming, the need is even greater.

To help, email digital gift cards from a local grocery story to contact.NSYAG@gmail.com. You can also search for Cash App under the name “NSYAG.” To volunteer, use the email address above or call 203-744-9796.

Gabriel Marous

Fourteen Staples High School seniors have been named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. They are among more than 1.5 million students who took the PSAT exam. Congratulations to:

Back row (from left): Alexander Toglia, Simon Rubin, Sebastian Montoulieu, Rishabh Mandayam. Front: Charoltte Zhang, Mira Mahendru, Gary Lu, Lucas Lieberman, Frederick Linn.

(From left): Elana Atlas, Reed Caney, Mohit Gupta, Hannah Even. Missing: Max Montoya.

And finally … 35 years ago today, Microsoft unleashed Windows 1.0 on the world.

Whose Game Is It, Anyway?

In 2000 a father in Reading, Massachusetts beat another father to death, after an argument over rough play at their 9-year-old sons’ hockey practice.

That could never happen in Westport — after all, we don’t have a hockey rink — but it forms the centerpiece of Dr. Richard Ginsburg’s work.

A sports psychologist and faculty member at Harvard Medical School, he’s spent his career studying youth sports — the good, the bad and the very, very ugly.

This Thursday, October 20 (7 p.m., Bedford Middle School), he’ll lead a “community conversation” and Q-and-A about youth sports.  It’s called “Whose Game Is It, Anyway?

The answer, Ginsburg says, is clear:  the kids’.

Dr. Richard Ginsburg

But — in Westport and communities like ours across the nation — parents are intimately involved in youth sports.  They want to do the right thing for their children — even if they don’t always know how.

Ginsburg is not some beer-swilling couch potato jock wannabe.

A soccer and lacrosse player, and diver, at the Gilman School in Baltimore who later played sports at Kenyon College, he says that sports “formed a big part of my identity.”

He coached at Williston Northampton, then got involved in the psychological aspect of athletics.  His dissertation explored the therapeutic benefits of coach/player relationships.

After the fatal Massachusetts hockey fight, he co-wrote a book to help parents navigate their children’s sports experiences.

Ginsburg is a nationally known speaker on youth sports issues.  He knows the challenges of communities like Westport, because he sees similar situations across the country.

“Sports is such an integral part of a child’s life,” he says.  “There are so many benefits.”

But there are plenty of risks too:  overuse injuries.  Burnout.  Stress.  Over-scheduling.  Exhausted parents.  Debates about specialization.

“I started organized soccer when I was 9,” Ginsburg — who graduated from college in 1989 — says.  “In this day and age, that’s seen as too late.”

Ginsburg has “a lot of problems with that.”  But, he acknowledges, “it’s where our culture is going.”

In towns like Westport, families struggle with these and other issues.  Parents wonder:  How can I help my child succeed in sports?  Do we put all our eggs in one basket?  Am I helping or hurting my kid’s development?

“So few children become Division I athletes,” Ginsburg says.  “But so many parents think their kid has that chance.”

In his talk Ginsburg will try to dispel certain myths, around subjects like healthy development and college acceptance.

“I’m not trying to make parents into scapegoats,” he says.  “There are lots of cultural factors at work.  I just want to strike a balance between being a youth sports parent, and letting kids develop on their own.”

Ginsburg adds:  “There is no clear answer about what’s best.  Every kid and every family is different.”

He will, however, provide tips on how parents can speak to children about youth sports; how parents can help youngsters perform well, and what to think about as they get oldder.

“It’s a complicated culture,” he says.  “There’s a lot of different messages out there.  And they move fast.”

(Parents, coaches and all adults involved in youth sports are invited to the free presentation.  Registration is requested; click here.  For more information, email ssmith@westporty.org or call 203-226-8981.)


First came boxing.  Then the NFL and NHL.  Most recently, college football.

Now fears about concussions have reached down to the youth sports level.

Soon, local coaches and parents can separate fact from fiction.

On Saturday, January 16, Westport PAL and the Sports Legacy Institute will sponsor a coaches’ certification program.  The event is open to PAL coaches, those in other organizations, and interested parents.

Training will be conducted by Chris Nowinski.  A WWE Hardcore champion forced to retire after several concussions, he is known as a dynamic speaker.

I suppose that’s better than calling his style “hard-hitting.”

(The concussion program is set for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 16, at Saugatuck Elementary School.  Organizations interested in sending coaches should contact Carmen Roda:  203-640-8085.  Parents do not need to register in advance, and there is no charge.  For further information, email aterber@optonline.net.)