the encyclopedia of sports parenting

Reviewed by G. Louis Heath, Ph.D., Sociology Department, Ashford University, Clinton, Iowa

9 september 2013       archive

This is my second review of a Dan Doyle book in 2013. Last May ARETE published my reflections on his second novel, AN AFRICAN REBOUND, about a fired basketball coach rebounding his career by recruiting and coaching a Burundi national basketball team as part of a U.S. government-funded peacemaking and reconciliation effort. A most informative, compelling read, it led me to order and read his first novel, ARE YOU WATCHING ADOLPH RUPP?, which I also found a very gratifying read. I was surprised to find such a very talented fiction writer among the ranks of coaches.

He coached Trinity College, Connecticut to a 142-45 overall record and a #13 national ranking during his tenure. He earned his Master's in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, writing his thesis on the merits of an Institute for International Sport which he then founded in 1986. The Institute sponsors, among a wide array of good works, a World Youth Peace Summit, as well as housing an Office of Peace Projects and funding the Scholar-Athlete Hall of Fame at the University of Rhode Island where Doyle holds an honorary doctorate.

So, you might see, Dan Doyle is more intellectually accomplished than most basketball coaches and plenty well equipped to write with Ms. Burch THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SPORTS PARENTING. It is a compendium of information for every variety of athlete and sport. Doyle and Burch (BA, Bates; MAT Duke; resides in Durham, N.C.) write on the benefits and challenges of competition in ways most useful for the parents of young athletes.

Dan opens the book with a letter, "Dear Parents of Special Children," about how his autistic son Danny Doyle III has "made life infinitely richer" for him and his wife Kathy. "He has sent a message of empathy and compassion" to us although he has "never spoken a word." To other parents, he writes, "You will be pleased with the many sports opportunities that wonderful organizations such as Special Olympics present to your child."

Doyle and Burch consider in section I, "Developing A Sports Parenting Philosophy." The winning at any cost mantra widely brayed about the USA is critically examined so parents can build a "values-based sports parenting philosophy." This approach is so different from many of the sports self-help books and pro athlete autobiographies that it is cathartic, refreshing.

Section II addresses "Parent/Coach Issues" with such chapters as "Dealing with the Coach," "Should You Coach Your Child?," "The Best Coaches Teach More Than Sports" and my favorite "Treatment of Officials" that admonishes parents that alpha-gorilla unruly behavior negates them as a positive role model in their child's athletic experience. Wonderfully written is this chapter.

Section III is "Problems And Challenges" that includes the chapters "The Unparalleled Value of Team," "My Child Is Not Getting The Ball," "The Need For Athletes to Express Frustration," "Attending a Sports Camp," and my favorite "Learning the Fundamentals of Lifelong Sports" that advances a brief for the child and parents to focus on athletics as one of the ongoing pillars for a life well lived. This section especially displays Doyle and Burch's fine writing.

Section IV, "Cultivating Leadership Through Sports," includes the chapter "Will Sports Help Your Child Develop Leadership Skills?" which is a counterpoint to earlier chapters emphasizing team. It offers excellent pointers drawn from the best research and experience in Sport Psychology and Sociology of Sport (the latter course I have taught at Ashford University for 26 years; I have also taught Sociology of the Family for several years and can vouchsafe that THE ENCYLOPEDIA OF SPORTS PARENTING is au courant with the latest research and best practices in that discipline).

Section V treats "Medical Issues" focusing on "Medication and the Young Athlete" and "Treatment of Sports Injuries," chapters 23 and 24 respectively.

Section VI, "Divertissement! Sports Poems with a Message," should invite the attention of the poets of the Sport Literature Association. It is comprised of six Dan Doyle sport-themed poems that drive home a message. (You will find 12 more of his poems interpolated into other chapters, like finding SLA nuggets on ball courts and fields). These poems are for parents teaching their kids and themselves the higher values of athletics. To that effect, they strike me as a bit preachy, unlike the more accomplished poems I read in university-published poetry and fiction journals. Yet they are ideal for their purpose because they are honed to reach an audience whose deepest reading may be the newspaper or an occasional magazine. (I hope reading Doyle's two novels and his encyclopedia inspires parents and their kids to a higher mental plane; it might dawn on them that if Dan can be a more complete person so might they.)

Section VII, "Developing Good Sportsmanship" emphasizes "engaging your child in sportsmanship discussions." Section VIII, "The College Recruiting Process," advises parents how to navigate through that challenging process. The details and experiences on offer might alone well be worth the price of the book for parents bemused by the barrage of materials arriving via all forms of media at their home, in their car, and on their person.

Section IX, "Too Much Time On Sports?," provides a sobering profile on the extraordinary time commitment of many college athletes. Section X, "Two Tales For Sports Parents," offers advice to single parents that includes the chapter "A Single Mom, a Son, and a Guardian Angel." The final chapter, "Final Verse" is comprised of a single poem, "Lombardi's Muted Plea," that portrays Vince Lombardi saying:

"Winning isn't everything,
it's the only thing." …
"I wish I had never said
The damn thing.
I intended it to be
About excellence,
Not to trample
Human morality and values."

The Appendix includes a sample NCAA calendar, sample schedules in college sports, a "time profile" of a Division I Men's Basketball Player, and academic end notes.

I recommend THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SPORTS PARENTING highly to parents and their young athletes as well as to coaches, athletic departments, fans, sports scholars, and to libraries everywhere.

Dan Doyle with Deborah Doermann Burch, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SPORTS PARENTING: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO GUIDE YOUR YOUNG ATHLETE (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013), 563 pages.

Copyright © 2013 by G. Louis Heath

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