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Profile: Academy Alumnus Dr. Gary Grandison

Profile: Academy Alumnus Dr. Gary Grandison
Texas Southern University athletics photo

By Fred Cromartie, Ed.D. |

The United States Sports Academy continues to strive to meet its mission of making contributions to the field of sport by preparing men and women for the profession of sport. The spotlight will shine on the Academy and its alumnus Dr. Gary Grandison.

Texas Southern University Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Kevin Granger announced on July of 2020 that 12-time Southwestern Athletic Conference Coach of the Year Dr. Gary Grandison was promoted to head men’s and women’s golf coach at Texas Southern University.
Grandison was the fourth head coach in the history of the program. The prior season, Coach Grandison served as an assistant under Hank Stewart who is now retired.
“Dr. Grandison brought instant credibility to Texas Southern University golf programs as his overall body of work on the national level and success in the SWAC speaks for itself,” said Granger. With the utmost confidence from the AD Coach Grandison grow the program into one that competed regionally and nationally on a consistent basis.
Prior to his arrival at TSU in the fall of 2019, Grandison served as head coach at Alabama State University and transformed the program into one of the top programs in the region and one of the most dominant programs in the SWAC with a combined total of 13 men’s and women’s SWAC Championships and 12 NCAA Regional appearances. He produced multiple Academic All-Americans and has had a multitude of student-athletes compete professionally. His teams also fared and performed well above the NCAA Academic Performance Rate threshold including several NCAA Public Recognition Awards for perfect APR scores. He’s a Hall of Fame coach with a total of 15 champions credited to his golf coaching career and he made a tremendous impact at each program stop.
Dr. Grandison earned his Master’s in Sports Science (1999) and a Doctor of Education in Sports Management (2003) from The United States Sports Academy.  Dr. Grandison has also served in academia as an assistant professor and an interim chairperson additionally, working with Nike, Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Alabama Sports Festival, and the PGA Tour.

Dr. Cromartie is the Director of Doctoral Studies at the United States Sports Academy.

VR Tennis Anyone?

VR Tennis Anyone?
Courtesy image

By Dr. Mark Janas |

There’s a silver lining in every cloud, even in the cloud of what seems like an endless pandemic.  In the world of sports, one of those silver linings has come in the form of the continuing development of virtual sports technologies.

This author uses the term “virtual sports” to refer to an esports that requires similar skill and/or fitness as the “real sport” equivalent.   For example, the skills required in live golf translate to playing a round on a golf simulator. A fit cyclist or rower is likely to do well in a virtual event on an indoor smart bike or smart rower.  (Hand controller-based video games, such as Fortnite or the popular Madden series of football video games, would not be included in this definition.)

Of course, anyone following virtual sports over the last couple of years has witnessed somewhat of a (r)evolution in this burgeoning subset of sports.    The 2020/21 Tokyo Olympic Games showcased virtual sports in several forms. SIM motorsports events have been broadcasted on national television.  Competitive, on-line bike racing has exploded on platforms like Zwift.com.  Professional athletes in “real sports”  have even been recruited from the virtual sports ranks. The prospective benefits and advantages of virtual sports are numerous:

·      Virtual sports can be launched and maintained at a small fraction of the cost of live sports programs.

·      Virtual sports can be played more safely, in smaller spaces, and in isolation, which may be necessary during periods of lockdown or quarantine. Thus, the sports show and competition can go on! 

·      Virtual sports can be much more accessible, exposing more potential players to the game, particularly those from groups who have been traditionally underserved.

The sport of cycling provides a prime example.  Starting a cycling team at a high school or college can be a daunting task.  A single race-quality bike can cost thousands of dollars upfront and hundreds of dollars annually to maintain.  One bike typically supports only a single rider.  Finding safe places for students to ride can be difficult.   Practice times are limited by daylight and weather.  The travel costs associated with getting to races can add up.  New riders may be intimidated by cycling culture.

A single smart bike (with the capability to send real-time power, speed, and other parameters to a cycling gaming platform) may cost less than half of a race-quality bike.  It requires little to no maintenance and can support multiple riders. Training and racing (against those across the globe) can happen nearly 24 hours per day, without concerns about weather, cars, potholes, or daylight, and the overall liability and risk of injury is much less.  Riding in the privacy of their own homes or workout spaces, those new to the sport don’t have to worry about what to wear or how they look (and are more likely to give it try.)  New riders can gain fitness and learn the nuances of the sport, better preparing them for training and competition on a real bike.   

However, the virtual sports (r)evolution hasn’t been without bumps.  The rapid growth in demand for virtual/indoor sports-related equipment fueled by the pandemic, along with supply chain issues, drove prices higher and made equipment hard to find. Eventually, supply pressures eased, and companies were able to restock their inventories and build their employee rosters to meet the demand.    

But athletes all over the world were anxious to get back outside at the first glimpse of light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.   Some had suggested that “indoor fatigue” had set in, and the growth in demand for indoor exercise and training equipment, as well as related virtual sports gear, dropped as a result.   Some companies were forced to restructure, resulting in layoffs and other tough financial decisions.

But the news isn’t all gloomy. Innovation continues in the world of virtual sports.  Existing virtual sports technology is improving and advancing, and new virtual sports are entering the space.   One of those sports is VR tennis.

What is VR Tennis? 

“VR tennis” for the purposes of this discussion refers to a tennis video game simulation that requires similar timing, stroke technique, and skill as that of real tennis. The earliest example of, or at least an attempt at VR tennis, might be your father’s Wii tennis game that came as part of the Wii Sports pack (first released in 2006.)  

While crude in many respects by today’s standards, the Wii motion controllers worked well.  The player had to get the stroke timing just right.  Perhaps more importantly, one could break a good sweat after just a couple of games.   Nice job Nintendo! This was a solid start.  But there were some key elements missing, and modern technology is now able to fill the gaps. 

Specifically, in addition to incorporating the basic rules, flow, and strategy of tennis, a tennis simulation (to support tennis as a virtual sport) must provide a true, first-person and three-dimensional player point of view (POV.)  Within this POV, ball and stroke physics and timing must be accurate and realistic.  The supporting peripheral devices, such as a tennis racket handle attachment for controllers, must be weighted properly and provide reasonable ball impact feedback to the player.  

Tennis Esports

Much of this is easier said than done from a technology standpoint, but one Austrian company in particular, VR Motion Learning, has made great strides in addressing the technical challenges with Tennis Esports platform (www.tennis-esports.com).

First started in 2019 as a research partnership with Tech. University Austria, the company has built an on-line community of more than 6000 users across 48 countries. Tennis Esports has over 7000 downloads and 1000 monthly users.

The company boasts “world class precision and technology make bridging physical and virtual tennis possible” and claims that its platform “feels like real tennis.”  Additional features and specifications noted in the company’s brochure include:

·       3D printed racquet handle weighted and balanced with controller to feel like a tennis racquet

·       Closest simulation to tennis physics from ball spins, speed to climate variables

·       Real-time full-body motion capture for comparison with pro gamers or VR

·       Hybrid profiles to merge physical and virtual tennis data and customization to one platform 

Initially available only on much more expensive VR headsets and equipment, Tennis Esports now also runs on the Meta Oculus Quest 2 platform, effectively reducing the cost to get into VR tennis by 75% or more.  (The base Quest 2 headset with controllers currently retails for approximately $300.)

The Tennis Esports platform currently offers several modes of play including live match play, tournament mode, as well as a host of training exercises and games to improve specific strokes, ball placement, and positioning.   VR Motion Learning’s future plans and features for the tennis metaverse include:

•       A professional VR tennis tour

•       Technical diagnostics/AI coaching

•       Cardio tennis and VR tennis master classes

•       Customized avatars and playing environment

•       Retail and in-app purchases

•       Spectator-view match streaming

VR Motion Learning has positioned itself to be at the forefront of the development of VR tennis as a virtual sport, which will include showcasing Tennis Esports at the Paris virtual Olympic Games in 2024.  Tennis Esports will offer hybrid events that follow the professional tour events next year as well.   Youth and collegiate VR tennis initiatives are also in the works to support the company’s overall mission to complement tennis and encourage all forms of tennis participation.


With decreasing hardware costs, greater hardware availability/accessibility, and improved tennis simulation platforms, VR tennis is on track to be the next “big thing” in virtual sports.  Much of the effort and movement to advance VR tennis as a sport/sub-sport of its own will likely happen over the next 12 to 24 months as the tennis world increasingly embraces VR tennis as a viable form of training and competition, as well as a way to grow the sport of tennis overall.   

Dr. Mark Janas is an endurance sports competitor, sports enthusiast, and the founder of RevoRace.com, a virtual event and race platform. Janas teaches in the School of Business, Management, & Technology at Saint Augustine’s University (Raleigh, NC) where he also coaches the school’s cycling team and the leads the club and virtual sports programs. Janas received his doctorate in sports management from the United States Sports Academy and currently is a national faculty member.  Janas also sits on the Advisory Board of the National Collegiate Virtual Sports Association (NCVSA.org).

What’s the Solution to the Problem of Position Players Pitching?

What’s the Solution to the Problem of Position Players Pitching?
San Francisco Giants rookie outfielder Luis Gonzalez was called in to pitch during a blowout in the 2022 season. Courtesy image

By Linda Kay Hardie |

It used to be a rare occurrence in baseball, and it was fun to watch. One of the most memorable examples of a position player pitching was the game in San Francisco on May 6, 2019, against the Cincinnati Reds, when Giants third-baseman Pablo Sandoval pitched during a blowout. But part of the charm of that effort was Sandoval also stealing a base and punching a three-run homer for the offense as well.

As a fan, I’m getting tired of the manager sending in position players to screw around as pitchers late in the game in a blowout. Luis Gonzalez does it for the Giants this season without embarrassing the team, as did Sandoval against the Reds. I know there are others on other teams. But as it becomes more and more common, it’s starting to kill the game. At least my enthusiasm for it. As Giants play-by-play announcer Duane Kuiper says, “It’s only fun if they get outs.” And they often don’t.

Oh, there’s lots of merriment if the guy does get outs. Pablo Sandoval did it three years ago and managed to look almost like a real pitcher. He was responsible for a plethora of T-shirts stating “Let Pablo Pitch,” and it was all great fun. But the Panda (as Sandoval was affectionately known to Giants fans) was an anomaly. Now? I’m squirming most of the time.

It’s become all too common. I do understand the need to protect your pitching staff, but it’s gotten ridiculous. During last Tuesday’s game in San Francisco, both teams used position players to pitch at the end of the game. Starting catcher Carson Kelly took the bottom of the eighth for the Arizona, and right fielder Luis Gonzalez pitched the ninth.

If it’s going to be so common, maybe the teams need another man on their pitching staff just for this purpose. This isn’t my idea; it comes from Giants color announcer Mike Krukow, mentioned when the Diamondbacks sent in their catcher in the eighth at Oracle field in a recent game. This was a practice back in Kruk’s pitching days, where there was someone in the bullpen, who had an ERA of around 6, who was there to take up the slack in a blowout game, and finish off the game without wasting arms.

I know. It’s never going to happen in these analytical days, when the numbers are everything. A pitcher with such a large ERA, even if he himself didn’t worry about it, would skew the bullpen’s numbers, and no one would be happy. And with smaller rosters, teams don’t have any room for experimentation.

I don’t have the answer. I guess I can use those late-game substitution innings to go to the bathroom or get another scotch. Or maybe just go to bed early and catch up on my sleep. I don’t see the teams making changes anytime soon.

Linda Kay Hardie is a college instructor and writer living in Reno, Nevada. Her most recent publications include horror, crime, and dark fantasy short stories published in a variety of anthologies, including a story in Peace, Love, and Crime, a beach read from Untreed Reads.

More Options Needed for College Physical Education and Activity Courses

More Options Needed for College Physical Education and Activity Courses
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By Colin G. Pennington, PhD |

Recently, many universities have reduced [or outright removed] required physical education/physical activity course credits from their General Degree Plan Requirements, thus, negatively effecting the enrollment numbers of their Kinesiology Departments and physical activity programs and speculatively decreased the physical activity and physical health level of the student body. Physical activity is a primary focus, essential aspect, and significant contributing factor of a healthy human lifespan; however, it was recently discovered that among the top 25 ranked research institutions in the United States, only nine required physical education in the core curriculum (36%). Furthermore, of the top 25 liberal arts institutes, 17 (68%) included physical education within the core, but the general requirements to ‘earn’ physical education credit in these institutions were appallingly low – i.e., simple attendance, minimal assessment, self-issued ‘effort grade’, etcetera. Nevertheless, the limited incorporation of physical education illuminates an issue of ignorance towards the benefits of physical education and physical activity in higher education. Numerous researchers have indicated that physical activity and physical fitness have a significant relationship to academic achievements; therefore, in Kinesiology, physical activity is considered essential to academic success.

While activity courses are losing required status and being cut accordingly, recent research has illustrated non-Kinesiology students are simultaneously enrolling in optional physical education/physical activity courses at lower rates. For various and complex reasons, the student-body has expressed general disinterest in the activity courses that are provided at their institutions. Change is needed. To institute change, it is essential to recognize the significance physical education, health education, and physical activity have in the college experience. It is also important for those who develop their institution’s physical education/activity course agenda to consider the numerous definitions of ‘health’ possible, and that numerous academic subjects have the potential to positively affect an individual’s health when collaborating with Kinesiology, health, and physical education.

The renovation of a university physical education program to attract the interest of an external population will require strategic collaboration among the multiple sub-disciplines of Kinesiology, public health, athletics, and recreation departments – frankly, theses bodies should be cooperating in harmony together, regardless. A diversification of physical education/physical activity courses could then be made available. A very non-exhaustive list of course ‘themes’ could include: physical fitness, exercise science, dance, recreation, martial arts, aquatics, lifetime activities, adapted activities, stress-reduction activities, holistic health, outdoor pursuits, equipment-free exercise, competitive games [individual, dual, team], global activities, many others.

Finally, holding enrollees to [at least somewhat] rigorous standards of demonstrating cognitive, affective, and psychomotor learning and achievement is necessary to holding the interest and attention of participants – in addition to emphasizing the learning outcomes and course themes as legitimately meaningful, important, and significant. (440 words).

Colin G. Pennington (PhD) is an Assistant Professor of Physical Education Teacher Education at York College in the City University of New York (CUNY) system. Pennington works with prospective physical educators and Health and Human Performance majors and carries out research on physical education teacher effectiveness and other health-related applications of the Kinesiology discipline.

Adopting a Preventative Mindset

Adopting a Preventative Mindset
Courtesy image

By Cheryl McCormick, M.S.S. and Dr. William Stokes |

For military and elite athletes alike, an injury that restricts deployment and or sidelines a game, can be an exceedingly difficult hurdle to overcome. For both the tactical and sport athlete, for many years the traditional purpose has been best performance, completing regimented training and testing regulations to qualify and support peak physical performance. However, what strength and conditioning coaches and healthcare professionals have seen recently, is an upward trend in musculoskeletal injuries that limit military personnel from deployment as well as professional athletes from field time. This article serves the purpose to represent both the sport athlete and the tactical military personnel on the same playing field when it comes to injury and rehabilitation mindset.

According to a 2019 article from Military Medicine, (Dijksma, et al., n.d.) concluded that 15-30% of active duty soldiers were deemed medically undeployable due to musculoskeletal injuries. This loss in tactical readiness accounted for 1.3 million soldiers. The financial trend in medical costs rose from $100 million in the year of 2000, to $548 million within a seven-year window. Advances in training equipment, ergonomic and safety equipment, as well as reduction in time within austere training and performance environments have all helped ease the financial and personnel burden of injuries. However, there is one area of focus more personal that is recently being addressed to help mitigate risk of injuries. This area is a mindset surrounding injury prevention.

Both strength and conditioning coaches and healthcare professionals have begun looking into revenues to educate and address the most recent and effective research within injury prevention among athletes and soldiers, along with those within their chain of command, to support the focus on injury prevention. This mindset supplies an added arsenal to the patient or client to use when training and performing, thus resulting in effective and efficient training outcomes. Everyone trains to be stronger, faster, and to become more agile to outmaneuver the enemy or opponent, however, at what cost are the training results in increasing frequency of injury? With the addition of an injury prevention mindset, that risk decreases and the yield for best performance increases. Reducing the risk of injury via training exercises reduces both burden on the immediate team and the organization at large.

“The process of implementing both an injury preventative and rehabilitative mindset should occur during the teaching phases, working phases, and when injury and rehabilitation occurs. Within this demand, professionals should consider the importance in mindset and the many components that influence the process. This means that all individuals should adopt and employ all other factors that aid in the prevention of injury and the rehabilitation of injury. These areas include focus on sport nutrition, sport and performance specific nutrient timing, traditional rest and recovery phases (which include sleep cycle, progression and regression phases), mental and physical strain that occurs to the body, and much more!”

Barriers to adapting an injury prevention mindset are common in those with limited understanding in training safety, those with limited outcomes from earlier injury, and those with less-than-ideal support from their chain of command or coaching staff in the realm of injury prevention. Thus, this mindset transcends the individual and must optimally be adapted communally by the organization as well. Only then will the solider or athlete feel confident that their training program incorporates a focus on injury prevention, which allows the individual to train more effectively in the areas of weakness rather than result in a sidelining injury.

Given the increasing demands on and off the field of our professional athletes and those within the military working in more austere environments, the strain of losing these important individuals to injury or reoccurring injury related to improper training comes at a high cost. Therefore, it would be important to consider promoting an injury prevention mindset, which would potentially alleviate the issues that were presented in this article.

As stated, this process should employ mindset training that focuses on the well-being of individuals first, competition second, in which the training would occur during the learning phases, the working phases, and when injury and rehabilitation occurs. Additionally, teaching these individuals of the importance of self-care through mindset, can reduce the process of these individuals hiding an injury due to the fear of losing their position, as athletes and military personnel. It is also just as important to keep in mind that when many of these individuals leave their jobs and enter another profession, many of these individuals have mental and physical health complications. Implementing a prevention mindset can assist in the process to reduce these complications among those who have a lifetime of physical impact to the body, by understanding how to properly take care of oneself in their futures.

This mission will use a team effort, requiring collaboration from Coaches, Medical staff, and the organization at large, to perfect incorporation of an injury prevention mindset. Focusing each patient and client during a training exercise to perform as safely and efficiently as possible; to incorporate biomechanical, psychosocial, and energy efficient elements to reduce any inherent risk of injury. If adapted effectively, it would yield a more resilient and effective fighting force.


Dijksma I, Bekkers M, Spek B, Lucas C, Stuiver M. :Epidemiology and Financial Burden of Musculoskeletal Injuries as the Leading Health Problem in the Military. Military Medicine 2020; 185(3-4): 480–86, https://doi.org/10.1093/milmed/usz328

William Stokes is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board-Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist. He graduated in 2016 with his DPT degree and 2017 from the Nxt Gen Institute of Physical Therapy Orthopedic Residency Program. He currently practices at the Greg Ott Center for Physical Therapy in Mooresville, NC. He is a Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator and serves the veteran and active-duty populations following orthopedic surgeries. He currently serves on the NSCA North Carolina State Board of Advisors, and the APTA North Carolina Chapter as an active member. He can be reached at www.gregottphysicaltherapy.com.

Cheryl McCormick, M.S.S. the owner and founder of Gravitational Performance and School of Sports Science, is also a doctoral student at the United States Sports Academy. Her former years as an athlete has guided her interests into education in sports and passion for research as a sports scientist, content developer, educator, and sport science consultant- working in sports medicine, sports nutrition, and sports psychology. Presently, she develops academic curriculum and classes that promote all these disciplines for coaches, athletes, military, and all other sport professionals to learn from. She can be reached at gravitationalperformance@gmail.com and www.gravitationalperformance.org

The World Games 2022 – Celebrating Unsung Sports

The World Games 2022 – Celebrating Unsung Sports
Birmingham, Ala., World Games 2022 mascots Vulcan and Vesta at Protective Stadium in the city. Courtesy photo

By Whitten Gibson |

The International World Games Association (IWGA) was established as a non-governmental and non-profit organization in 1980. Commissioned under Swiss law, the organization is composed of International Sports Federation members who collectively administer a quadrennial and multi-disciplinary sports event known as The World Games. At its core, the International World Games Association aims to accomplish three objectives: expand the popularity of the sports managed by its Member Federations, enhance their distinction through profound sporting achievements, and maintain the traditional values of sport through The World Games (The World Games – The World Games 2022 | Birmingham, USA, 2022).

The World Games is a highly anticipated, international sports event that occurs every four years, specifically in the year succeeding each Summer Olympic Games. The very first World Games event was hosted in Santa Clara, California in 1981. Since then, the World Games has been held in nine different cities across the globe, including London, England; Akita, Japan; and Lahti, Finland. However, as the World Games celebrates its 40th anniversary, the Games are returning to the United States, as they will be hosted in the southeastern city of Birmingham, Alabama. This year marks the 11th edition of the World Games, which were originally scheduled to take place in 2021, but were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The entire event transpires over the course of eleven days and showcases 3,600 of the world’s best athletes competing in 30+ unique sports, which are typically not featured in the Olympic Games (The World Games – The World Games 2022 | Birmingham, USA, 2022). Listed below are several sports that will appear at the upcoming World Games but have not yet seen an Olympic medal competition. These sports also remain uncommon in the United States.

Featured World Games sports:

  1. Korfball
    1. “Korfball is a ball sport similar to basketball and netball. A team consists of eight players: four females and four males. The object of the game is to throw the ball into a bottomless basket mounted on an 11.5-foot pole. Each team has four players in each half (zone) of the court, and they cannot switch zones during game play…Players move the ball up court by passing the ball to one another. Once a ball is caught, a player may not dribble, walk, or run with it, but can pivot with one foot remaining on the ground.” (Sports Program – The World Games 2022 | Birmingham, USA, 2022).
  2. Orienteering
    1. “Orienteering is a sport that combines racing with navigation. It is a timed race in which individual participants use a specially created, highly detailed map to select routes and navigate through diverse and unfamiliar terrain to visit control points in sequence. Courses can range from forests to urban environments.” (Sports Program – The World Games 2022 | Birmingham, USA, 2022).
  3. Boules
    1. “Boules is a sport in which athletes throw or roll heavy balls (boules) as close as possible to a small target ball. The aim of the game is to place one’s boules as near as possible to a target (called the jack). The opponent attempts to place their boules close to this jack or to remove the boules that prevent them doing so. The boules are thrown (palm down) and are metal.” (Sports Program – The World Games 2022 | Birmingham, USA, 2022).

In addition to the previously highlighted sports, the World Games also features a plethora of other events that may sound a little more familiar to viewers in the United States. These include tug of war, lacrosse, racquetball, billiards, waterskiing, and wakeboarding among many more. In fact, the Games will be introducing many new sports to this year’s competition, with a few being Drone Racing (Air Sports), Canoe Marathon, Breaking (DanceSport), and Parkour (Gymnastics). Beginning on July 7, 2022, this year’s World Games will take place in 23 competition venues across the city of Birmingham. Several of the prospective venues include Protective Stadium, Legion Field, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Sloss Furnaces Park. Additionally, the UAB campus will utilize student accommodation to provide a kind of “World Games village” for the competing athletes for the first time (The World Games 2022, Birmingham (USA) | IWGA, 2022). This year’s Games will prove to be an exciting event with extravagant new features and sports competitions for fans to enjoy.

The World Games first premiered in Santa Clara, California, in 1981, and now, just over 40 years later, the Games will return to the United States. Over the years, this particular sports event has become one of the most significant global multi-disciplinary competitions in the world. With the event happening every four years, its objective is to equal and exceed the importance of World Championships for the represented sports and disciplines. Many athletes consider this to be the pinnacle event of their athletic career, with high beliefs that there is no greater achievement than being crowned The World Games Champion (About TWG, 2022). As the Games approach this summer, it is important to celebrate and remember the unsung sports and athletes that will leave their mark on the Southeastern USA.

Whitten Gibson is an Admissions Counselor at the United States Sports Academy. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of South Alabama in December 2020 with a double-major in International Relations and Spanish. His core interests include global affairs, public policy, and human/community development.

The Goal of Youth Sports Is Changing

The Goal of Youth Sports Is Changing
Courtesy photo

By Dr. Raymond Tucker |

Youth sports as we remember provided us with an opportunity to become active by participating in sports and learning the rules of our favorite sport, along with sportsmanship, and the opportunity to make new friends and learn lifelong lessons have changed. Parents and coaches have taken the fun and excitement out of youth sports and transformed it into a multibillion-dollar business with the expansion of club and elite teams, which have surged over the last 20 years.

Reports show that the youth sports industry in the United States has generated more than $15 billion annually. It is estimated that nearly 20% of American families spent more than $12,000 a year on youth sports per child. The primary rationale behind this spending is that these dedicated parents hope their investments will lead to an athletic scholarship at a college or university or participating in the Olympics or even becoming a professional athlete one day. The reality is that only one percent of high school athletes will receive an athletic scholarship and even though parents understand the probabilities they are still hopeful that they can become the one percent.

Coaches have seen overzealous parents who crave the admiration that comes with their son or daughter making the club or elite travel team and they have quit their jobs to start and coach these teams, some parents have even resorted to starting their teams if their son or daughter does not make the team. The top coaches in soccer can earn an annual salary of up to $55,820, and volleyball coaches can make up to $59,807 or more varying on how much the fees are per sport some sports can charge an average of $2,500 to $5,000 per season or year, with registration fees up to $500.00. This does not include the cost of team travel, lodging, gas, and some cases airfare. Some parents have even gone to extraordinary measures by employing specialized technical and sports performance coaches to train their children to enhance their opportunities to make these teams.

Coaches are persuading parents and athletes by attending middle and high school games and tournaments promising the perfect training plan to enhance athletic performance and the promise of an athletic scholarship. Some coaches have used other manipulative tactics such as telling parents that if they want their son or daughter to make the varsity team at the high school, they need to play club sports because all of the kids are doing it and speak negatively about the coaches at the public schools in a way to lure them away.

The false promises made by some of these coaches and organizations have changed the role of the parent and the family relationship to a designated driver and dinner at home as a family has changed to a number one combo at the nearest fast-food restaurant. Participating in club sports has taken over as the new “Caretaker” and it is raising your children.

The truth of the matter is this: if your son or daughter is good enough to be awarded an athletic scholarship, coaches will discover them. The money devoted to club sports could be invested into a college fund or mutual fund at your local bank so you will have finances available to pay for college, and you will not have to depend on an athletic scholarship. The time you spend on the road could be used to develop a robust relationship with your children that would be more valuable than the time spent participating in club sports. Also, club sports are very similar to playing golf for adults only the wealthy can afford to play and network with other individuals of the same status. The only children who can participate in some club sports teams are those children who come from upper middle class families.

Children who live in low socioeconomic areas do not have the financial means to pay for their children to participate in club sports, some parents have resorted to GoFundMe accounts to help their children to particpate on these teams. Finally, the goal of youth sports was to keep children active in low socioeconomic areas by providing them with the opportunity to make friends and learn lifelong lessons to become good citizens in their communities, and somewhere along the way we have forgotten the true purpose of youth sports.

Raymond Tucker, D.S.M., CFSC, CSCS * D, EXOS – XPS, FMS, USATF, USAW is an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Houston Victoria in Victoria, TX. His research interested focus on leadership skills used by coaches and program design and measure of performance used in strength and conditioning.

Delay Specialization in Youth Sport

Delay Specialization in Youth Sport
Photo: medicalnewstoday.com

By Robert Herron and Charles Freeman |

Youth sports in America has experienced a transformation over the last forty years, from glorified sandlot teams to a $20 billion industry. To be clear, youth sport is important for youth health and society at large, when experienced in a developmentally appropriate manner.

However, a move towards emphasizing elite youth sport is a concern. While uniformly defining “elite athletes” in youth sport is difficult, the vast majority of youth athletes will not play professional sports nor  compete at the varsity collegiate level.

Nonetheless, society has shifted to put more pressure on youth-athlete specialization despite evidence that injury risk increases and early youth specialization is uncommon in NCCA DI athletes in team sports. Furthermore, high school athletes report to specialize 2 years earlier than their collegiate or professional counterparts.

Sports specialization is considered to be year-around intensive training with the exclusion of other sports. For youth, early specialization can increase the risk of  overuse injuries. Prominent sport medicine organizations recommend delaying specialization and encourage multisport participation to achieve physical and psychological benefits.

Overuse or repetitive stress injuries are associated with the repetitive loading of the musculoskeletal system without the appropriate time for rest and recovery, which allows for structural repair and adaptation. Many overuse injuries in youth sports are preventable through neuromuscular endurance/training exercises. Those that experience overuse injuries are also more likely to cease participation going forward – after the injury is healed.

While best practices related to when specialization can be utilized in a safer format is unknown, specialization is less risky post puberty. Key issues with pre-mature sports specialization are avoidable injuries, burnout, and lack of emphasis on the overall physical development of youth sports participants. Consider national programs such as the YMCA of America, which offers an introduction to sports where parents can measure the interest a participant may have in various sports. Also, bear in mind there is no current evidence that sports specialization pre-puberty will lead to a youth participant becoming an elite level athlete.

We encourage the readers to review the guidelines from the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) that are presented in the infographic below.

Charles Freeman is the Interim Assistant Director of Athletics and Student Life and Adjunct Faculty member in the Education and Behavioral Sciences Department at Butler County Community College. charles.freeman@bc3.edu

Robert L. Herron is a faculty member at the United States Sports Academy.  Robert is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® with distinction from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CSCS*D®) and a Clinical Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CEP®). rherron@ussa.edu

Academy Alumnus Dr. Matthew Grimaldi Leads Iona College Intramurals

Academy Alumnus Dr. Matthew Grimaldi Leads Iona College Intramurals
Dr. Matthew Grimaldi

By Fred Cromartie, Ed.D. |

The United States Sports Academy strives to meet its mission of making contributions to the field of sport by preparing men and women for the profession of sport. Today, the Academy’s spotlight shines on alumnus Dr. Matthew Grimaldi.

Iona College in 2021 committed to creating a complete intramural sports program in doing so that hired United States Sports Academy Alumnus Dr. Matthew Grimaldi as the school’s first director of club sports, he was charged with developing and leading the program.   

The push to bring club sports to Iona’s campus came in May 2021 when at the time Iona College created the Office of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs and Grimaldi was brought in to oversee and carry out their new initiative. 

Men’s and women’s club soccer started their inaugural seasons that 2021 semester and provided interested students their first taste of an expanded intramural scene. Rugby was previously the only club sport offered at Iona, but now Gaels have more options when it comes to the sports they want to pursue.  

 Currently, as the Club Sport Director for Iona College, in addition to the sports mentioned earlier, they also offer men’s rugby, men’s and women’s basketball, and a co-ed weightlifting team.

Grimaldi has worked in collegiate athletics for his entire career. The United States Sports Academy graduate has a passion and great love for sports as a player, coaching career at first, but he switched to the administrative side of his field while working at Lehigh University.  

The Queens native says that he was drawn in by the professionalism, Catholic education and community at Iona, but that most of all, he was excited for the challenge of building something from the ground up.  

 “To hear: ‘You’re starting a program from scratch on every level,’ that appeals to me” Grimaldi said. “I like to build, I like to grow, especially when students are involved.”  

Grimaldi believed then and still today that students who have a love for certain sports should not have to stop playing them once they get to college. The programs that he created continues to make sports accessible to anyone who wants to engage in them.  

Club sports offer a balance for students who have a desire to play the games they love and who miss the competition, but still need to be able to maintain their GPAs and participate in other social activities, according to Grimaldi.  

Grimaldi made it known how integral the players were to club sports process. He praised the work of players to recruit and petition for teams to get them off the ground running and continuing to this day. 

Grimaldi has also heralded the college itself for the support that they have given to the program. He credited the program’s early success to the administration’s help as well as other more specific staff, such as Anthony Scacia in IT for his help with the esports program.  

“Whether its students, faculty or staff, it’s all about people,” Grimaldi said. “Great leadership and good people helped grow the programs”.

Dr. Fred Cromartie is the Director of Doctoral Studies at the United States Sports Academy.

Celebrate Tactical Athletes this Memorial Day

Celebrate Tactical Athletes this Memorial Day
To read more about Christopher McCormick, please view his website at www.christophermccormick.org

By Cheryl McCormick, M.S.S. |

When it comes to a performance pyramid, soldiers must learn, train, and perform like elite athletes. These tactical athletes must continuously adapt, learn, and exert focus within a winning culture. Furthermore, tactical athletes must have a burning desire to compete within their job and to fight with pride for their country. Soldiers, like athletes, want to win and winning is what makes us proud! 

Often, those with little understanding of how military members train do not recognize the similarities between these two professions. 

Common traits between traditional athletes and tactical athletes: competitiveness, leadership, self-confidence, self-discipline,  and positive mindset. Similarities between athletes and soldiers stem much further than the actual playing field. It is safe to say that like athletes, soldiers must employ empathy, learn various aspects of psychological training that can keep individuals focused under intense pressure to perform, and be physically healthy and fit to perform duties. 

A unique kind of tactical athlete is a Special Operator. Special Operators are the 80% solution to multiple job disciplines. These individuals rarely specialize in one job. These individuals must train in each environment in which they must wear multiple hats to fulfill their profession. Unlike conventional forces, Special Operators deploy a smaller force. Although there are Special Operators in Special Forces, there are also other professionals that assist in other types of work. These professionals, however, are specialized within their jobs. 

It is often believed that a Special Forces person specializes within a specific skill and are the best within that skill. However, enablers are the specialists within a job. Enablers are individuals like intel, explosive ordinates, and medical personnel that are attached to teams. These professionals go through many years of training to become specialized, and then become attached to special forces teams with Special Operators. To clarify more specifically, doctors, psychologists, dog handlers, performance trainers, and others can be in special forces, however their training is much different than those who are the Special Operators. It is important to identify that although these professionals make up Special Forces, the training is different. 

Special forces span throughout all branches of military services. Some of the most known are Navy Seals, Green Berets, Marine Raiders (MARSOC), and Air Force Special Operations. Special Operators are not “specialists” in the traditional sense of having a single specialty. 

Altogether, this presents you with the complexities in which everyone must fulfill during a deployment. It is important to note that the job of a military service member is the deployment, and the workups are the training for the deployments. Like an athlete’s job is to compete, and their camps are for training for their competitions. 

Working within the sport industry for many years as a sports research scientist and focusing heavily upon athletes’ performance in both mental and physical aspects of training, I have had a long-time desire to discuss the similarities between military and sports figures. While being married to a Special Operator for nearly 13 years, out of respect for the nature and security of his former position, I wanted to wait to conduct an interview for others to read. However, being recently detached from the military, provided me with a great opportunity to interview my husband, Christopher McCormick, a Marine Raider, Special Operator with MARSOC, and former Recon Marine who as of recent, was in the Marine Corps for almost 17 years. 

In this interview, Mr. McCormick provides insight among several topics relatable to the sport industry. My goal for my readers is to take away as much insight among topics relating to mental mindset, various stressors, adaptability, training regimens, decompression phases, transitioning outside of the military, and more! To review the full length of this article, please navigate to the website link provided at the bottom of this article, and search for “interviews.” 

Interview: SSgt. Christopher McCormick

What are the top 3 qualifications or experiences you have had in the military?

Like many athletes, I grew up in a rough setting, between two flea markets, a railroad track, and a trailer park, so any experiences outside of that were exciting. The first thing you hear about in the Marine Corps is Marine Scout Sniper. It is what most guys want to do. Because I wanted it so bad, I did it. This school was the most mentally and physically exhausting school that I have ever been to, to this day. The next two were free-fall school and dive school. Your very first jump in free fall, they throw you out of the plane, by yourself. I’d advise you to get training before you do this. My third one would be dive school. Dive school was in Florida. It was a beautiful and awesome experience. During this school (3 months) our final excursion was to perform a 15-mile fin in the intercoastal. And for my last was SERE (survival evasion resistance escape) school. During this course, they dropped me off in Maine during the middle of winter. They gave me a map and a compass with a direction to walk before you get captured. Walking up and down the mountains of Maine was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. The scenery helped me stay mentally focused and sane to finish the training. 

Did you have any idea of how long you would stay in the military?

When I first joined, I had little known of how long I would stay in. Obviously, I had to fulfill my 4-year contract, but it was unclear to me at that time. However, it was within my first year as a Recon Marine, that I began developing relationships and cohesion with my fellow Recon brothers, and eventually got married and decided this job had become my career. It was during that time that I began setting goals for myself, and my first goal was to become a Scout Sniper. 

Did you play sports growing up? If so, did you compete in them the same way you did in the military and why? 

Yes. I played soccer as a youth athlete and wrestled throughout high school. However, I had little time to engage in sports since I had to hold down a job if I wanted any type of spending money. As far as how I competed, I competed harder during my military career than I did in my sports. The reason for this was partly because the military was my job, it was something that challenged me in a different way than any of my youth sports did, possibly because I had little time to truly focus on the sport itself, due to having to fulfill other needs and obligations. Additionally, I was challenging myself like a college athlete, because if I stayed in the same place and did not work hard on my physical and mental strength and capabilities, I could lose my position as a Recon Marine. This is due to a perform on call standard that must be met at any time. Perform on call means that anytime they call on you, you must be able to do it. Imagine it like an NFL player who has no off-season and must compete year-round. They would be prone to a lot more mental and physical injuries. 

Did you ever feel like you were competitive with others (while trying out for jobs or during deployments)?

You are always in competition with your peers. Everyone wants to be the best. This is how you get specific positions or as in sports, get drafted to the best teams. I was one of the highest shooters from the Special Forces course and it landed me into the commando team which is a very aggressive and kinetic combat team. If you are going through an assessment and selection process, the competitiveness is increased because there are only so many slots available. They will only take the best. Therefore, competitiveness is something that most individuals become. 

When did you experience your first mentally challenging task in the military, and how did you push through it?

The first day of boot camp, I sprained my ankle. It was such an intimidating environment due to the drill instructors yelling at me, however I would just push through the pain. Think of it like having blisters on your feet as a runner, instead of walking off the course, you push through the blisters breaking open and causing your gate cycle to change. I had to remain quiet and find a way to get through the day in pain if I had wanted to get through boot camp. I also never wanted to stand out to the drill instructors because I would become a target for them throughout boot camp. 

When you became a Recon Marine, did you endure a lot of mental challenges or did the job become easier over time, so you didn’t recognize the mental stressors of the job?

My job did not get harder until I got into special forces. Let me emphasize, Recon is not part of Special Operations Command, however if Special Forces had a need for a Marine element or team, they would call up Recon. While in Recon, I was young and was being mental and physically built up, by going to jump school and dive school, and deployments. As I continued going through these courses and experiences, I became mentally and physically stronger. However, overtime there was wear and tear, but remember, we had no off-season. 

As a Special Operator (MARSOC), what were some of the most difficult mental and physical challenges that you endured?

As a Recon marine for about 6-7 years, I decided to go into MARSOC (as a special forces operator also known as a critical skills operator). The differences between these two was Recon was shoot, move, communicate. Think of it like a Lineman, where the goal was to know the entire football field and tackle the quarterback. MARSOC however, was like the quarterback, the spokesperson, the face of the team, where if you fail, everyone is quick to point fingers at you. When I got to Special Operations, the battlefield was more complex. It was like going from college to a professional team. For MARSOC, we didn’t just take out the bad guys, we had to also do the village stability platform, more economic and political work. In this, the biggest challenges were when I had to go do combat operations and take out the bad guys and then the next day, I would put on a suit and walk into an Embassy and brief people from Harvard who had MBA’s, while having to calm my nerves from the day’s prior work. Here’s some insight: For a week, you plan an operation, you study your enemy, you must play his game book as you watch him, and then you must build your plan. You get a thumbs up from the commander and you get your team of 4 Americans and 30 Afghan commandos ready to go. At this time, you get your entire team ready to go, jump into a helicopter with your team at 1am. An hour or two later, you land on the enemy’s house, and you get into that gun fight and hope that your plan works. After going through the gun fight, losing some of your team guys, and enduring what most people could not imagine, you go through the final steps and collect your wounded shoulders, fly back to a hospital, covered in blood, and try to save your teammates lives. After this is all done,  you have to speak to high level generals while collecting yourself, you must present yourself as someone calm, and collective. If you do not look stable, mentally, they can question your decision-making abilities. I would say the mental pressures from this type of work do challenge some to the point of no return. And mind you, you must return home, from enduring this throughout a 6–9-month deployment, all while being mentally sane. 

Would you provide insight into how you gained adaptability in your work during trying times (deployments and missions)?

This is hard to just say. I believe that bootcamp was the platform that helped build me up to endure trying times, throughout my military career, regardless of what job I performed. As far as being a Recon Marine and Special my adaptability came from being humble, and watching guys retire. I was always a hard head, I wanted to run faster, jump higher, etc. However, listening to the older guys who had a long-time experience in what I did, those are the guys who truly helped my adaptability process. 

How difficult were your training regimens as a Special Operator (workups)?

Being in Special Operations, you are now part of being in a special sport. You are training to be the best of the best. You don’t stay in a camp and do little, you go to them and receive the best of the training. Being away from your life at home, your family, your children, and spouse, is extremely difficult. We don’t train to standard; we train to time. This means that if you want a sprinter to run 100-meters and hit their goal time, it would be performed during their training process, and then they would be done for the day, until their next training event. However, for individuals like myself in my job as a Special Operator, I would have to continuously hit that goal, rain or shine, sleep or no sleep, financial problems, whatever you had going on in your life, with sometimes little or no off-time. It was like operating on call. So, to answer the question, training was extremely difficult, throughout my entire profession. It appears to be easier at times, however, it gets more intense and aggressive, so I could never really say that I was ever relaxed. 

Would you provide insight on your decompression phases (coming home from a long school for training, finishing out a deployment)?

Another hard one to answer. Unfortunately for my wife and children, I never decompressed. When I would come home, I would jump on my motorcycle and ride as fast as I could to get that thrill. Part of my decompression would be during times from coming back from deployments. SoCom would rent out hotels in a town (around the U.S.) and we would come back and have three nice meals per day, cocktails, psychologists, basically pampering me back to normal health. We would do this for about 3-5 days, to get back to our families, and lifestyle. One of the most challenging aspects to coming home from deployments, would be my decompression phase (3-5 days), and then being home for give or take 1 month, and then turning around to leave again to start training for another. 

What advice would you provide (mental and physical performance) to new candidates that want to pursue a job within MARSOC as a Special Operator?

Take off-time. Take time to make sure you are good, for you. Take time to go to therapy. Take the time to take care of your body and mind. Talk to the psychologists provided to you. Don’t let what you hear about losing your job if you seek psychiatric help. Take care of yourself. My biggest advice is to not look at it as a short-term investment. Look at your job as a long-term investment, therefore, you need to take care of yourself first and make sure you have the mental and physical capabilities to provide for many years. 

After serving almost 17 years in the military, what are some of your most important take-aways from the jobs in which you performed?

The first one, is to have built the relationship with my wife and kids. I always threw the military in front of them instead of focusing it where I should have with them, being my number one support system. My second would have more diverse training. I focused so much on my military training versus focusing on my education and what could have helped me transition out of the military with a stable job. However, I want to say, that only for a short time in your life, can you become a professional athlete or a Special Operator, whereas you can always go back to school, no matter what your age is. I only say I wish I would have received my education in the military to have helped with the transition into another job once getting out.

What is some advice that you would provide people (mental and physical) who are interested in your line of work, psychologists who study and work with guys like yourself in the military, and for people who have little knowledge about the military?

This is a loaded question. First, with psychologists, you need to befriend them. You need to go out on a weekend, grab a drink and really try to teach them about who you are as a person first, second as a Special Operator. If, as a psychologist, you want to analyze one of the guys, you must be one of the guys. Trust is huge. If you don’t have trust with a guy like me, then you will get nowhere with them, especially if the guy doesn’t want to open up. You’re talking to guys who have worked in intelligence for 20 years. You have no idea what that guy has gone through. The human-to-human relationship is the most important key. Empathy is not gained from a schoolbook. It is gained through experience. As for people who are interested in my former line of work, I would tell you that it’s all about the foundation. You can go into this kind of work; you can build a mansion on sand, and it won’t last. You must start this process from a young age. You must practice self-discipline to help you strengthen yourself into this line of work. Sports, helps me develop a foundation and structure that built me up. The competition helped me understand that I could endure the challenges and the pain. When you walk out of your house with that beanie on in freezing temperatures, it’s game on! You must know how to endure that pain and run with it! 

Cheryl McCormick, M.S.S. the owner and founder of Gravitational Performance and School of Sports Science and is also a doctoral student at the United States Sports Academy. Her former years as an athlete has guided her interests into education in sports and passion for research as a sports scientist, content developer, educator, and director of coaching education- working in sports medicine, sports nutrition, and sports psychology. Currently, Cheryl is a board member of the NC State Advisory for the NSCA. She can be reached at gravitationalperformance@gmail.com.