ND Expert: Little League scandal epitomizes a corrupt youth sports culture

by Michael O. Garvey

Clark Power Clark Power

The disgrace of U.S. Little League team Jackie Robinson West is a national tragedy, said Clark Power, professor of psychology and education at the University of Notre Dame and director of Notre Dame’s Play Like a Champion Today program.

On Wednesday (Feb. 11), the Chicago-area Little League baseball team was stripped of its 2014 national title due to revelations that team officials had falsified boundaries to add ineligible players to its roster. The news is “just plain sad,” Power said.

According to Power, who directs the world’s only university-based initiative promoting a positive sports culture for all young people, “The children deserve better, the city deserves better, our country deserves better. Jackie Robinson West had become a symbol of how, with the right kind of coaches and gritty youngsters, organized sports could build character and create opportunity in a city riddled with racial tension and violence, but it has now become a symbol of what’s wrong with organized youth sports today. Adults have taken over children’s play, and children are losers.

“Ironically, the Little League celebrated its 75th anniversary last year,” Power said. “Carl Stotz started the Little League after tripping over a lilac bush while he was having a catch with his nephews. He disowned it 20 years later because the commercialization of the World Series had transformed the Little League into a corporate entity. Stotz wanted to give children an opportunity to have fun playing America’s pastime with uniforms and fields modeled on the big leagues. Along the way, the Little League, like too many other youth sport organizations, stopped being about the children. That’s a crying shame. We owe it to our children to give their games back to them."

Power’s scholarship specializes in bullying, cheating, youth sports character education and moral development.

Contact: Clark Power, 574-631-7343, power.1@nd.edu