Rick Wolff

Speech Topics

For many sports parents these days, there’s a pressing question: What is the right time for an athlete to focus on just one sport? When they are just starting out at age 5 or 6? Or is it better to wait until my youngster is in high school?

There’s tremendous debate about this singular issue, and Wolff presents all the facets that sports parents should be considering. You might be surprised by the latest research in this area.

Travel teams, also known as club or elite teams, are a relatively recent phenomenon, but in their short tenure, they have truly re-drawn the sports parenting landscape. There was a time not long ago that making one’s local high school varsity team was the top achievement for a youngster in their community. But bit by bit, travel teams are supplanting varsity programs as more and more parents are eager for their athlete to accelerate their growth by playing against better competition at an earlier age.

Yet travel teams bring along their own unique and special issues: What if my child isn’t getting enough playing time? What do I do if the coach is a “yeller and screamer”? And how do I even know if the all-important tryouts are being handled in a fair and even-handed way?

A generation ago, athletic coaches ruled with an iron fist. Their word was the law. And supporting the coach’s position were the parents in the community. Parents may not have been happy with the coach’s decisions, but they always backed the coach up. But times have changed.

And the headlines speak for themselves. These days, all over America, there have been thousands of cases of angry and outraged parents who have physically or verbally assaulted coaches or ref’s because they feel that their athlete has been treated unfairly or wrongly.

Obviously attacking a coach is not the solution. But what can a parent do if he or she feels strongly that the coach is not treating their child well?


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Rick Wolff is a nationally-recognized expert in the field of sports psychology and sports parenting. Often quoted by the media about the issues that face today’s athletes, Wolff has written and lectured widely on the psychological pressures that accompany America’s passion for sports.

From 1995 to 2005, Wolff wrote hundreds of widely-acclaimed prescriptive columns on sports parenting that ran in Sports Illustrated. In addition, Wolff’s by-line has also appeared in such well-known publications as The New York Times, Harvard Magazine, the Harvard Business Review, GQ, Hemispheres, Sesame Street Magazine, Child, Scholastic, Family Life, USA TODAY, Psychology Today, Readers Digest, and many others.

Wolff has authored or co-authored 18 books, including four in the sports parenting field. One of his most recent efforts is the highly-acclaimed, Parenting Young Athletes the Ripken Way (Gotham, 2006), which he co-authored with Cal Ripken, Jr.  Wolff also penned The Sports Parenting Edge (Running Press, 2003), Coaching Kids for Dummies (IDG, 2000) and Good Sports: The Concerned Parents Guide to Competitive Sports (Dell, 1992).

Wolff’s most recent general sports book is Harvard Boys: A Father’s and Son’s Adventures Playing Minor League Baseball (Skyhorse, 2007), which he co-authored with his son John, who graduated from Harvard and who played professional baseball in the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets’ organizations.

For the past 15 years, Wolff has hosted a weekly sports parenting program,”The Sports Edge,” on WFAN Radio in New York City. He’s been a featured expert on Oprah, ESPN, CNN, ABC’s “NightLine”, ABC’s “20/20”, The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Fox & Friends, Fox Business, CNBC, PBS, A&E, MSNBC, Court TV, Lifetime, SportsChannel, the Madison Square Garden Network, and dozens of other media outlets. He’s also won an Emmy Award for his on-air work on SportsChannel.  In 1997, Wolff co-hosted an original videotape program, Youth Sports, with Steve Young, the Hall of Fame quarterback from the San Francisco 49ers.

Wolff, a former professional baseball player in the Detroit Tigers’ organization, also served as the roving sports psychology coach in the Cleveland Indians organization from 1990-94. He’s worked with numerous top professional and collegiate athletes, including players from the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball. He also served as the head baseball coach at Mercy College (Dobbs Ferry, NY) from 1978-1985, when the Flyers were nationally-ranked in Division II (NCAA). He was inducted into the Mercy College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008.

Wolff graduated magna cum laude in psychology from Harvard University. He received his master’s degree with high honors in psychology at Long Island University. He’s a longtime member of the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sports Psychology as well as the American Baseball Coaches Association.

Wolff and his wife, Trish, have three grown children — John, Alyssa, and Samantha who all played a variety of sports. Wolff and his wife reside in Armonk, NY.

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