Sport Summit Panel

There are some crazy parents in youth sports, and the most popular sporting event in the world is the India-Pakistan cricket match, according to the panel of experts who addressed a packed room at the United States Sports Academy Friday afternoon.

Four of the Academy’s Awards of Sport medallion winners, two Honorary Doctorate recipients and three Trustees shared their opinions and expertise during a 90-minute Sport Summit, titled “A 20/20 Vision of Sport: What Should We Expect to See in the Next 10 Years?” in the Academy’s art gallery.

The summit was carried on podcast by Panhandle Sports, and can be seen on the internet at

The emcee of the Summit, Academy Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Fred Cromartie, introduced the subject of the intensity of sports training for young athletes.

“I used to coach youth hockey in Yonkers, N.Y. and some of the parents are wackos,” said Evan Weiner, a syndicated sports columnist and author who won the Academy’s Ronald Regan Media Award. “I had a 7-year-old kid who was sneezing, coughing, and had a 102 temperature, and his father wanted him to play. I said ‘Why do you want him playing?’ and he said, ‘I want him to get a college scholarship.’”

University of South Alabama head baseball coach Steve Kittrell, who received a Distinguished Service Award from the Academy, said there is also too much sport specialization with young athletes, fewer of whom play two or three sports.

“I like to have guys on my (baseball) team who have played football, it makes them tough,” he said.

University of Alabama Assistant Athletic Director for Football Mike Vollmar, the Academy’s Alumnus of the Year, said too much pressure is being placed on young athletes.

“I grew up the son of a football coach and athletic director, and we were always allowed to play the sports and enjoy the sports,” he said.

Several members of the panel agreed that there needed to be more concern for the safety of athletes and treatment of athletic injuries.

“I spoke at a youth football camp and asked the coaches: ‘How many of you keep the name of a local doctor and the phone number of the local hospital on your clipboard?’” said Academy Honorary Doctor Jack Lengyel, former Marshall University head football coach and United States Naval Academy Athletic Director. “Out of 600 coaches, only two raised their hands. I said ‘Then there are only two coaches here that I would let my son or daughter play for.’”

Along with Lengyel, Guo Jie, president of WorldTeam Sports and major partner in all NBA events in China, received an honorary doctorate from the Academy Friday. He was asked about the future of the NFL in that country, which had at one time scheduled an exhibition game in his country.

“It’s too early for that kind of sport, we play ping pong,” Guo said. He also said there would need to be more television exposure for football in China, like the NBA has now.

Ping pong, or table tennis, is one of the top four sports in worldwide television ratings during the summer Olympics, according to Academy Trustee Jack Kelly, former president of the Goodwill Games. He said it usually trades off with badminton for third and fourth while track and field is number one and basketball is number two.

“And cricket matches between India and Pakistan bring in huge audiences because of their population,” he said.

An issue that will continue in international sports is that of disabled athletes. Cromartie asked Kevin Carroll, an Academy Distinguished Service Award winner who has designed prosthetic limbs for world-class disabled athletes, if there will ever be a time when such athletes will break the world records of able-bodied athletes.

“It will more likely happen in the 400-meters than the 100,” Carroll said. “Because in the 400, endurance is more of a factor.”

All panelists had something to say about the future of sport education. Academy Trustee Susan Blackwood, the Executive Director of the San Antonio Sports Foundation and a former assistant athletic director at the University of Texas, said officiating should be brought back to the physical education curriculum.

“It helps coaches gain an appreciation of what officials have to do,” she said.

Academy Trustee Dr. Gary Cunningham, who succeeded the legendary John Wooden as head basketball coach at UCLA and later served as athletic director at the University of California-Santa Barbara, said technology was a key factor in sport education in the future.

“The Academy should continue to stay on the cutting edge,” he said.