Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts set a good example for kids in the way he handled his benching in the 2018 national championship game. Getty Images
There was triumph and tragedy. Sportsmanship and a lack thereof. Star players remembering their roots and a renewed push to keep kids safe.
That grab bag of topics made for an eclectic 2018 when it came to content that connected with our community.
We took a look back at the most heavily trafficked stories of 2018 in the SportsEngine Community, aka "The Home of Youth Sports," and found that youth sports coaches, administrators, parents and athletes are a diverse and curious bunch. There's no single topic or theme that stood out among our most-read stories, other than that they were informative, well-written and touched on hot-button youth sports topics.
Here's our best of 2018:
Sportsmanship is a big concept. And a hard one to relate to kids.
SportsEngine's Sean Jensen, who has two kids of his own, penned this piece after watching the 2018 national college football championship game and being struck by the class and character displayed by benched Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts.
"As a father, I am constantly looking for examples, illustrations and quotes to reinforce traits my wife and I want to instill in our children," Jensen wrote.
He then added this famous line from novelist James Lane Allen: “Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.”
Jensen then went on to write how Hurts "taught a master's class" on character.
Trackwrestling, powered by SportsEngine, contributed this in-depth article by Andy Hamilton on the brain trauma suffered by wrestler Richard Perry in a freak accident during a training session.
Hamilton, one of the nation's premiere wrestling writers, tapped into his relationship with Perry (forged a year earlier during a Denver-bound flight when the pair were seated next to each other) to tell the Perry's story.
It centered not only on the training accident that threatened Perry's life but the wrestler's rugged upbringing and no-quit attitude that allowed him to become one of the nation's best in his weight class.
Hamilton finished the story with this quote from Mark Fong, one of Perry's former coaches, on the wrestler's injury: “He’s always overcome the odds. His whole life he’s overcome the odds. What makes this any different? They say one thing. They say he’s not going to do certain things. He’s going to overcome. That’s what he does."
Blandino, the NFL's former Senior Vice President of Officiating, wrote: "Even more alarming is the fact that Iowa’s high school association saw 910 officials choose not to renew their registration for the 2017-18 school year."
Blandino, the current rules analyst on Fox Sports, offered potential solutions to problem, including creating partnerships with schools and youth sports organizations to make sportsmanship a priority and providing mentorship opportunities for young officials.
Author Sean Jensen summed up NFL wide receiver Torrey Smith's rise to pro football prominence when he wrote, "Torrey Smith’s story is the stuff of Disney: Born to his 16-year-old mother Monica, nearly three months early, just 5 pounds, 6 ounces; hospitalized for 10 weeks because of a lung problem; not connected to his biological father and burdened with helping to raise his younger siblings at the age of 7."
Jensen not only told Smith's story in the week leading up to Super Bowl LII (Smith was then playing for the Philadelphia Eagles), but Jensen recounted the tale of Smith sharing the Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots with former high school coach Steve Swope, including Swope's opportunity to cuddle with the Lombardi Trophy, “All my friends hassled me. ‘It’s the flu season, you don’t know where that trophy has been!’ ” Swope said. “But I didn’t want to take my lips off of it.”
Story after story of abuse scandals shook the sports world in 2018. In response to those horrific tales, the Safe Sport Act, which expands existing mandated youth abuse reporting laws and requires abuse awareness training for youth sports organizations, was born.
We sat down with Josh Opiola, SportsEngine's Director of Risk Management, for a Q and A on the SafeSport Act and what it means to administrators, coaches, parents and athletes involved in youth sports.
The takeaway from our conversation with Opiola? "Ask lots of questions like, What does this means for us? How do I get this implemented? What does it mean to implement this? Is it going to be very complicated? Those are the things you are certainly going to have questions about."
Opiola answers many of those questions in the article that surprised and encouraged us with its popularity.
SportsEngine content partner Ruth Nicholson of GO! helps parents tread what can sometimes be a treacherous path by offering suggestions on how to communicate with prospective coaches.
"Identify a good time to talk to you about your questions. Make your questions short and concise. Do more listening than talking," she writes.
SportsEngine was created to help people simplify their sports life. Now, we're making it easier than ever for parents and athletes to find the right sport and the right organization for them.