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Bird Brown: Looking back and learning from a decade of fun

The 2010’s were quite the decade.

For me personally, it’s been a roller coaster of a ride over the last 10 years. At the beginning of the decade I was still playing indoor soccer on a weekly basis. Now, I’m recovering from my third joint replacement in the last six years, a long way from being able to play the game that has consumed my life.

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Personally, we have graduated all three of our sons from high school, two from University of Maryland, and both with respectable professions. My wife and I celebrated our 25th and 30th wedding anniversaries, rare feats in themselves.

Professionally I completely overhauled myself since the last decade change. Besides writing 500 columns in the 2010s, I came in to 2010 kind of lost after suffering the loss of a business and a loss of direction after a very successful insurance career. A few years of entrepreneurship and we were back at square one trying to rebuild our lives.

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A fateful call from an athletic booster friend convinced me to take on the vacant girls’ soccer coaching job at my alma mater and the rest is history. I landed a job as a business education teacher on a conditional contract and have enjoyed my time in the classroom, with the various class executive boards I’ve been involved with, and as a coach on the field as the most rewarding job I’ve ever held.

Almost 10 years later I have earned my teaching certificate, a Master of Science in Collegiate Athletic Administration and am enrolled in a cohort at McDaniel for Equity and Excellence in Education.

Not a lot has changed on the youth sports front, only maybe being more aware of things we knew little about before or facing the same problems only more intensely that we have been dealing with for years.

The first column I wrote in the last decade was on concussions. I was a club soccer coach and men’s league player that suffered my first concussion when an opponent drilled a ball off of my face which brought me to the realities of concussions in sports. We knew little about concussions then and were only beginning to gather statistics across recreation and youth sports, but have made tremendous strides in the awareness and treatment of concussions at every level.

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At the county level we first made it mandatory, and now voluntary, to take concussion baseline tests so that doctors would have a point of comparison if an athlete was suspected of having a head injury. Even though the tests are no longer mandatory, many athletes still take advantage of the opportunity to be tested.

As coaches, we are educated every year and every season if we are multiple sport coaches on the assessment and treatment of concussions. Parents are more aware of the potential side effects. Even officials in every sport will stop the game regardless of the situation to treat a head injury.

The number of concussions hasn’t reduced but our awareness of and treatment of them has allowed our athletes a better recovery process.

Midway through the decade I wrote a column on my 10-year anniversary with the Carroll County Times. Believe it or not, I actually included a paragraph or two on the lack of turf fields that we had in our county and placed the blame on prior anti-growth politicians and the lack of a genuine tax base.

Well, here we are heading in to the “Roaring 20s” without a blade of public plastic grass to be found. Gerstell and McDaniel still are the only turf field locations in the county but they are generally for private use. I keep hearing rumors of a public use turf field facility coming in the near future and possibly another privately owned, publicly available opening at Four Seasons, but in the meantime we continue to lose potential revenue for our businesses and send our athletes into neighboring counties to play on the all-purpose fields in which all of those neighboring counties have invested.

In looking back over my hundreds of columns over that time, probably the thing that may have changed the most in the recreation sports world over the last 10 years is the intensity of the involvement of the parents in their children’s sports experience. Kids were opting out of sports as they entered their teenage years, but now many children are even foregoing the experience altogether to avoid the conflict.

Top quality referees are quitting at alarming rates at every level of sports. Well educated and experienced coaches have hung up their whistles.

And in many cases, actually most cases, it has to do with parent behavior that is taking the fun and enjoyment out of youth sports.

As we head in to the next decade, my wish is that we can all keep in perspective the importance of the lessons that can be learned through healthy involvement in youth sports for our children. Let the players play, the coaches coach, and the officials officiate. Be the one that makes the difference.

American academic and lecturer John M. Richardson, Jr. wrote, “When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.”

Which one will you be?

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