US Youth Soccer screws over 1/3 of its kids

US Youth Soccer is changing. Soon, all youth soccer leagues will use calendar-based teams.

This is a mistake. In most states, the new system gives around a third of its youth new reasons to quit. It also makes determining age levels more confusing.

First, some background. I am in Texas. We use Sept. 1 for the cutoff for kindergarten. Children start kindergarten if they turn six between September 1 and August 31 of the following year. More than half the states use the same or a close date. (source)

The soccer year starts a month earlier: August 1 through July 31. This creates a small “twilight zone” for August birthdays: they get grouped with prior-grade kids. The fix is easy: August kids can “play up” with same-grade friends.

Here’s an example: I coach a U7 soccer team. U7 means the kids turn 7 this soccer year.

One of my boys has an August birthdate. He’s U6 in soccer despite being in the same grade as most U7 boys. Again, the fix is easy: he plays up into U7 to be with his same-grade friends.

The new, calendar-based system expands this “twilight zone”. It is 300% larger now, affecting 1/3 of my team instead of 1/12. It is also less forgiving. Here’s why.

Starting fall 2016, 1/3 of my team becomes U9, and 2/3 will be U8. This will happen to all existing teams with evenly distributed birthdates.

You can’t “play down” in soccer. That means my team’s older 1/3, who will be U9, cannot stay with their same-grade friends in a U8 team.

The younger 2/3, the U8s, could “play up” into U9. That’s unlikely: I doubt they will be ready.

If that’s not enough, you also have the relative age effect. This effect is where kids who would be the youngest on a team–birthdates towards the end of the selection period–are less likely to participate.

This makes sense: at younger ages, a many-month spread can mean a great deal in readiness for sport, both physical and psychological. This is not a new problem.

In a FAQ, US Youth Soccer downplays the relative age effect. They say calendar-based teams weren’t designed to address it. They omit that the change will make it worse.

Why? Remember the third in the “twilight zone”? They have a double whammy! They are the youngest on their teams. In addition from being separated from 2/3 of their friends, they are also hit with the relative age effect!

Calendar-based teams makes things more confusing for parents. The year used in the calendar-based system is the second year of a season. That is, for the 2016-17 season, 2017 is the year used for age eligibility.

At least in Texas, recreational soccer follows the academic year. Fall ’15 and spring ’16 are one soccer year. The current system, with the August 1 cutoff, complements the academic year. Same-grade kids are generally put in the same soccer age division. I can’t imagine anything easier.

Currently, the x in Ux stands for the age your kid turns during the soccer year. In the calendar-based  system, Ux is arbitrary and hard to figure out. Suppose a child has a November birthdate. When he enters soccer in the fall, his age division is based on the age he turns in two Novembers!

Suppose Little Sammy was born in November 2008. When you sign Sammy up for soccer in August 2016, Sammy will be seven years old. However, the age chart shows that Little Sammy will end up in U9 soccer! In other words, when Sammy signs up in August 2016, his age division is based on the age he turns in November 2017!

Why is US Youth Soccer doing this? Two reasons.

First, the “new calendar year system makes soccer easier”. (source) Except it doesn’t!

Second, it “makes it much easier for us to scout for the National Teams and find players ready to compete internationally.” (source) Wait, we’re increasing confusion, creating a new disincentive for a third of youth players, butchering teams, and making life hard for coaches, all for something that is a concern for vanishingly few players?

I’m not clear who’s best interest is in mind here. It’s not the families, the players, the teams, or the coaches!

(A note: US Youth Soccer is also switching to small-sided games. I support that change.)

Where most traffic tickets are written in Dallas

Wondering where most traffic ticket are written in Dallas? The below heatmap is from a dataset that includes Dallas (city) tickets 2004-2012 and Dallas County tickets 2006-2012. (Beginning and end years are partial.)

I am assembling this dataset for my in-progress doctorate. (I am a doctoral candidate.)

Heat map of traffic tickets written in Dallas

A couple of notes to help interpretation:

  • This is for all officer-written traffic tickets: speeding, red light running, paperwork violations, equipment violations, etc.
  • Does not include:
    • Tickets unrelated to traffic, like disturbing the peace or drug possession.
    • Parking tickets.
    • A modest % of tickets that I could not geocode due to no address, bad address data, or limitations of my geocoder.
    • Portions of Dallas outside Dallas County.
    • Tickets written by other jursdictions. I left out Texas Department of Public Safety because they have hardly any activity in Dallas County except for NTTA freeways. Dallas heavily patrols the NTTA-owned Mountain Creek Lake Bridge, however!
    • Tickets sent directly to county courts instead of municipal or JP courts, like DUI.
    • Automated ticketing machines like Dallas’s red light cameras.
  • This may modestly understate Dallas County sheriff and constable tickets because I have about 2 more years of Dallas city tickets in here.

I find it surprising that the most significant traffic enforcement activities are generally not along major roadways, but rather are in areas of town commonly perceived as dangerous.

Two huge peaks are at the Five Points area (Park Ln. east of US 75) and Ferguson/Buckner. Other obvious areas of emphasis:

  • Downtown
  • Maple and Wycliff
  • Just north of Bachman Lake
  • Pleasant Grove
  • Oak Cliff
  • Fair Park
  • North Skillman
  • Red Bird area

It’s as if traffic enforcement is largely being used as a pretext for arrests and searches that might otherwise be difficult to pass constitutional muster. That may be interesting as commentary, but it is not a focus for my research. I’m really focucing on the safety effect of enforcement.

There is an apparent focus on intersections, although it’s possible that this is an artifact of officers writing in the nearest intersection for the ticket’s address.

Is Flying Colors Sports’s Great Amazing Race a scam?

(UPDATE: Flying Colors Sports’s owner Greg Benton posted a response in the comments below.)

Yesterday, my son and I did a family race.

It was called the Great Amazing Race, put on by Flying Color Sports. It’s supposedly a lighter version of the same thing you can see on TV.

It was neither great nor amazing.

It’s presented like a charity:

Here’s a problem: this “charity” has the patina of a loose, for-profit operation:

  • No IRS-recognized charities have names beginning with “flying colors sports” or “active families“. In fact, Flying Colors Sports is an Ohio for-profit LLC that was chartered in 2004. Ohio had no business on record beginning with “active families”. (Search for yourself.)
  • Through Google, I can’t find clear evidence of anything charitable these Active Families 30 or Active Families 60 charities have done, or that they even exist!
  • The event organizer said Akwasi Owusu-Ansah was supposed to attend but couldn’t because he was just traded. Um, no. It was January 15. He had been traded 6 weeks prior, on Dec. 4.
  • Poorly run, disorganized event, especially for something that cost between $30 and $50 per family.
  • No trained medical staff, or if they were there, they were well-hidden.
  • Was run worse than many free Cub or Boy Scout events I’ve been to.
  • Low-quality, sloppy web site with poor poorfreading, like “Norbuck Par” or “I-365” (it’s I-635!). In fact, it’s just thrown together with Godaddy’s free Website Tonight tool (see bottom of most pages).
  • The promised race packet was just a green, generic bifold flyer with no useful event details.
  • Credit card data is transmitted with no security and converted to email, which is inherently insecure.
  • No runner identification whatsoever. It’s all on an honor system basis. I could have easily scammed my way into the event.
  • Instead of “8 fun-filled stations“, there were six, and they were silly: 1. blindfolded guide, 2. sponge relay, 3. mummy wrap with toilet paper, 4. golfing a tennis ball into a hula hoop, 5. “hold the football between your legs while you go around some cones” and 6. a bingo game. Yes, the last station is really a game of chance, where you watch slower people get lucky and pass you up! Sure, these were enjoyable, but not $30-$50 per team enjoyable!
  • Purportedly tax-deductible donations are to be sent to the private residence of Donald and Karen S. Helton at 7858 Red Fox Drive, West Chester OH 45069.
  • The company’s headquarters are at the private residence of Gregory L. and Michelle R. Benton at 8270 Miranda Place, West Chester OH 45069.

So what’s the truth? Is there really any charity behind this?

I don’t know.

It could be that this is all legit, and some charity puts on an overpriced, over-promoted, hokey event run by a marketing firm that communicates poorly.

But it’s also possible that this is only a for-profit enterprise. If that’s true, it would be shameful. They would be getting undeserved free labor, and they would pretty much be pocketing money from families’ charity budgets.

Either way, participants deserve the truth, and they deserve something better than a brief, sloppy event for $30-$50, and taxpayers deserve for a charity to be organized properly, with IRS recognition. Domain name suggests hoax

At, Peter and Alisha Arnold, a Apple Valley, MN couple, asks the public whether they should kill their unborn child.

I think it’s a hoax.

Minneapolis/St. Paul’s Star Tribune reports the baby is at 17 weeks.

Today (Nov. 19) is week 46 of the year 2010. 46 minus 17 means the child was conceived no earlier than week 29 of 2010, which starts with July 18.

Here’s the problem: The domain name was purchased on May 17, 2010. That’s week 20 of 2010. They purchased the domain name more than two months before conception!

That doesn’t make sense. I really hope it’s a hoax; the alternative is sick, that they planned a media circus around conception.

I guess there’s a shot of this being just good timing, or someone else just happened to purchase the domain name and donated it, but either fails Occam’s razor.

What do you think?

“Soliciting Sodomy” offenses in Dallas

For my doctoral research, I asked several cities for their traffic citation data. Some cities gave me all their violations, traffic or otherwise.

Dallas gave me all data. One offense is “6460 -SOLICIT SODOMY”. Um, what? After the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court case that shot down Texas’s sodomy law, why is this enforced?

Was I wrong! Here’s Dallas’s enforcement of that offense:

These are all the sodomy citations in the dataset I have from Dallas. (2009 is an incomplete year–data was requested in mid-2009.)

There’s a chance that “the system” says offense 6460 is “SOLICIT SODOMY”, but in fact it’s a different crime. That wouldn’t surprise me because Dallas courts still use an archaic mainframe system. But who knows?