The answer, my friend, is in the feedback loop

I sometimes forget about my ToE (Theory of Everything): All problems can be traced back to a problem in the feedbacks.

I find this provides a useful lens to look at a lot of problems.

Walter Williams provides a good example in his column this week, Educational Sabotage. It turns out, if you don’t discipline (feedback loop) students for their bad behavior, you get more bad behavior. That shouldn’t be shocking. But, for some, it is. Sadly, the kids who want to get an education suffer the most because of this unwillingness to provide good feedback.

John Stossel provides another good example in his column, Free Market Care. He correctly points out that:

Someone else paying changes our behavior. We don’t shop around. We don’t ask, “Do I really need that test?” “Is there a place where it’s cheaper?”

Cost is a feedback that you and I use to determine if something is ‘worth it’.

When I changed from my previous ‘subscription’ health plan (what most people call insurance) to an HSA+insurance plan, about 10 years ago, I went from paying a flat monthly fee with small co-pays when I visited a doctor to paying for the first few thousand dollars of my medical expenses out of my HSA before the lower monthly fee insurance kicked in.

Shortly after that switch, I took my son to the ER because he wasn’t able to keep anything down. The docs suggested an X-ray to rule out an obstruction.

I asked what the chances were that it was an obstruction (less than 5%) and how much the X-ray would cost ( I was thinking $500, but they said less than $200, depending on insurance).

I decided to get have the X-ray. He was clear. I was pleasantly surprised when the bill was $74. As I was writing the check, I  thought, had this been a year earlier when I was still on the subscription plan where the X-ray would not have cost me anything extra, I would not have asked questions to evaluate whether it was worth it.

The total amount of what I saved each month in my HSA plus the cost of the insurance was the same as the what I used to pay for my subscription plan. In this case, about 75% went to my HSA and 25% went to insurance.

So, in this case, the feedback loop was improved by simply putting a portion of my medical expenses in my control.


A missing ingredient in US youth soccer

Here are two interesting podcasts from John Pranjic at

  1. An interview with a former Dutch soccer player, Sacha, who is currently serving as a scout for the Mexican national team.
  2. An interview with an American coach, Kephern Fuller, who is building pathways for American soccer players in Europe, especially the Netherlands (or Holland).

I found the following tidbits interesting.

Growing up soccer in Holland (vs US)

Sacha describes what it’s like growing up as a soccer player in the Netherlands. It’s a stark contrast to the U.S.

It starts with neighborhood pickup games at the park where the older players bring you in to even out sides. That’s common for basketball, football and baseball in the U.S., but not soccer, which is mostly an adult-led activity for youngsters.

Then, you join a local, inexpensive club. He said every neighborhood has a club.

It’s cheap at about $250 per year for a 10-month season compared with $1,000-$3,000 per year for a youth soccer club in the U.S.

There, clubs have a club house, fields and junior and adult teams. Most clubs in the U.S. do not have a clubhouse, fields or adult teams.

At 15, he coached a younger team in the club. Compare this to the U.S., where coaches are either parent volunteers or former college/semi-pro players trying to make a living.

This inspired him to start a non-profit organization, Home Field Advantage, to teach high school soccer players how to lead and coach a soccer program for elementary students.

In the Netherlands, the youth teams in their clubs play on Saturdays and the adult teams play on Sundays. The youth players often attend the adult games. They know the adults because they practice near them and are coached by them.

I assume, that like much of Europe, in the Netherlands athletics and school isn’t wedded like in the U.S., so the club is the primary source of athletics.

This is the website for his club: Quick. With a little help from Google Translate, I’m able to deduce that they have youth, adult, veteran and masters teams. Sacha said they have 1,500 members and it costs about $250 per year to be a member.

Differences between European and American youth soccer players

In podcast #2, Pranjic asked Kephern about differences he sees between American and European players.

He said a key difference is the players knowing where they’re going. American kids don’t  have a good sense of this. They are content to say they’re the best on the team and their team has had some success, but they don’t have a sense beyond that of what good soccer looks like or what kind of player they are working to become.

He said, European kids have a much clearer picture of what they want to become. This shows up in the effort they put in on and off the field and how seriously they take and compete within a drills during training.

Connecting the dots between the two podcasts

I think that both American and European youth soccer players strive to achieve within their bubbles.

But that bubble in Europe, created by the club, includes more exposure to higher levels of play for younger youth soccer players than in the U.S.

I’m guessing the lower senior team in Sacha’s club is equivalent to a high school in the US, with the differences being as Sacha describes — European youth are coached by members of that team and they watch their games. They want to work toward being as good as they are someday.

That may be a reason European soccer kids know where they’re going because at the top of their bubble is senior teams.

In the U.S., clubs and school sports fragments this experience. Eight-year-old’s in the U.S. aren’t coached by 15-year-old’s who play for the high school team and they aren’t interested in watching the high school games to be like them someday, because they don’t know them.

In the U.S., the players’ bubble is their individual team, or maybe the club’s top team at their age level, not a senior team.

So, high achievers are content with being ‘best on their team’ and not having a good role model to demonstrate what a complete player looks like.

Alex Morgan’s story is a good example. She was the star of her rec team team for years, but didn’t make the cut at her first competitive team tryout at age 13, because she hadn’t learned proper technique on basics, like passing.

She found a coach that worked with her technique (and she worked hard to develop it).

She did not see what good looks like until then.


“What are you going to replace it with?”


Democrats won the first round of repeal-and-replace Obamacare by asking that question. Most Republicans took the bait and believed they needed to actually replace the abysmal failure, instead of just asking a simple question back: “Why do we need to replace an abysmal failure of a law? We should only need to strike it from the record.”

“29-or-so members” of the House Freedom Caucus, as the Wall Street Journal opines, did not fall for it. They wanted a repeal-only bill, with specifics of what would replace it to come.




Good point

Props to the Today show for, at least, interviewing the editor of Breitbart News and giving him some exposure.

Of course, in the introduction they do their best to marginalize and discredit Breitbart, with the slanted reporting that has caused mainstream media to lose its credibility with folks whose brainwashing hasn’t taken:

Critics call the site white nationalist, xenophobic and homophobic.”

Notice how they throw the taint of these awful accusations on the site, without actually making the claims themselves — just referring to generic ‘critics’. So, they can get off the hook if anyone holds them accountable. We didn’t say that, we just reported that critics have made these claims. 

Of course, good reporting would entail analyzing those critics’ claims to see if there was any basis for those claims and let viewers decide for themselves. But, we aren’t dealing with good reporting.

Anyway, now to the good point.

During the interview with the Breitbart’s editor, they brought up Trump’s tweet about Obama wiretapping him and how there’s no evidence. Breitbart’s editor pointed out that the claims that there was Russian interference in the elections, made by the Obama administration, also has not been substantiated by evidence, but the media doesn’t seem as concerned about the evidence in that case vs. Trump’s claims. Hmmm…

Drop out rate isn’t a convincing reason

Sites/movements like Changing The Game Project and I Love to Watch You Play have good messages for parents and coaches involved in youth sports.

They started their movements because of the toxic atmosphere they experienced at youth games.

But, there’s a claim that both of these projects that I don’t buy. In this Changing the Game article,  founder John O. Sullivan provides a good example of it:

As I have stated here many times, 70% of children are dropping out of organized sports by the age of 13. Whenever I mention this sad statistic, people come out of the wood work saying that it’s only the kids who aren’t good enough to play that quit. They say it’s an age where school, jobs and other interests take precedence. These things are true and contribute to a part of the dropout rate, but they are not the entire picture.

Why is a 70% drop out rate by age 13 a “sad statistic?” Is that any different than times when youth sports wasn’t as toxic? My guess is no.


At some point, people have to get on with their lives and age 13 is probably about the time they realize they have better ways to spend their time.

By all means, make youth sports less toxic. But, the reason shouldn’t be to reduce the drop out rate.

A good enough reason is that it’s youth sports.



Republican ‘Repeal & Replace’

Lots of folks seem to have plenty to disagree with. One thing we should remember. At least the Republicans shared the plan with the public before passing it.

I don’t believe we had the same luxury with Obamacare itself.