Like many, I was disturbed a decade ago when the major college bowls started trading their names for sizable contributions. What had once been the Cotton, Fiesta and Orange Bowls became the Mobil Cotton Bowl, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and the Sunkist Orange Bowl. I noticed recently that sponsors are even beginning to change affiliations, confusing the issue even more. However, this meant literally millions of dollars to the schools playing in those bowls, so it seemed justifiable. It is similar to the Olympic Rings logo. The only two items I have not yet seen with an official logo are cigarettes and toilet paper. Pay the IOC enough money, and you too can be the official product of the Olympics.
In that same vein, I have had two eye openers this spring from the United States Youth Soccer Association. The first came at the Springfield Youth Club's coaches meeting a month ago. Our 300 coaches learned that Pepsi had selected our youth club for a promotion. We would each receive a giant Pepsi cooler containing lots of freebies, including coupons for 12 free 12-packs of Pepsi-one gross, you might say.
I was proud of some of our coaches. Eight or ten all tried to ask varying versions the same question at the same time: Why soda? What is your sport drink brand? Can the coupons be used for the sport drink? Or just Why? The answers we received were not encouraging to those of us who believe that it is our responsibility to participate in the building of the whole person and not just teach soccer. Apparently, the coupons are not to be used for any product not bearing the Pepsi trade name. "No, they can't be used for All-Sport, because the official sponsor is Pepsi the product, not PepsiCo the company. "
Then just yesterday, I happened to see a soccer ball in the most unusual place, and it caught my eye. I picked up the object, looked it over, and was even more surprised to learn that it was the "Official Snack Food of US Youth Soccer." Were I to eat that Snickers bar, I would have consumed 25 percent of my daily requirement for fat and 12% of my calorie requirement-one candy bar.
In my part of the country, kids don't always have a safe place to go out and play before Mom and Dad get home from work. Instead, they spend hours in front of the television. The lack of exercise and its effect in slowing the body's metabolism is bad enough. When combined with constant snacking every afternoon, the result is boys and girls who are extremely overweight. Some even to the point that they can't exercise much. In my own house league of 9-10 girls, I have seen many who are terribly overweight-so much so that it is an effort even to jog onto the field at the start of the game.
One of the greatest benefits of youth soccer is that it teaches children physical fitness. That is why I tell my parents at the start of every season to bring fruit drinks and complex carbohydrate snacks, not soda and candy. That is why my kids run as a part of every practice. In fact, near the end of almost every practice we run around the field once so that they can remember on game day they still have energy reserves somewhere that can keep them going.
I asked myself, "What is this program coming to, that we sell out to soda pop and candy bars?" I couldn't come up with a good reason. So, I have decided that it is incumbent upon us, as responsible parents and coaches, to take the battle directly to United States Youth Soccer. If you feel the same way, why don't you write or call: US Youth Soccer, 899 Presidential Drive, Suite 117, Richardson, TX 75081, 800-476-2237. Let them know that you, too, would prefer that their sponsorship agreements promote healthy choices.
Sharks/Aztecs Head Coach