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, 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 many 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.

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, are coached by them and see them at social functions. Compare this to the U.S. where kids barely pay attention to soccer outside their team bubble, even within a club.

I assume, that like much of Europe, in the Netherlands athletics and academics 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 okay 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 looks like or what kind of player they are working to become.

He also 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 interviews

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

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

The beginning level senior team in Sacha’s club is like to the high school team in the US, with a key difference. The European youth (younger than high school age) interact with members of that team often. They watch their games, they may practice on the next pitch and they are coached by them. They know those guys. They are part of the same club.

This gives, as Kephern says, European soccer kids a good idea of where they’re going because they’ve been immersed in it for about decade by the time they are old enough to be considered for the adult team.

A part of the reason there’s such a difference between the U.S. and Europe is that schools have co-opted the sports experience in the U.S. so the soccer system that has emerged in the U.S. is much more fragmented for the youth soccer player than it is in Europe.

In Europe, it’s a short step from pickup soccer to inexpensive clubs where kids can learn and play the sport for decades. While they’re there, they see what “good” looks like from the top adult teams and learn it takes years of practice, patience and play to get there. They may also see a few of their fellow club members make it to the pros.

In the U.S., most kids don’t experience pickup soccer. They start in parks and rec or YMCA program where they learn little more than the difference between a corner kick and goal kick.

If they rise to the top of that bubble (which usually means knowing whether it’s a corner kick or goal kick faster than others on the field), they may join a club that has paid coaches and teams divided by 1-year age groups and skill levels, so games will be competitive to keep kids, and parents, interested.

Sounds good, except, it rarely exposes the kids and parents to what good looks like and what they should want to become. Why work hard to clean up your 1st touch when you and your team are competitive enough?

After a few years in a club, they enter high school and may decide to play there. It’s tough to balance club and high school, so club ranks thin out and there’s no connection to senior or adult teams in the U.S.

Yet, many adults play soccer in the U.S. at indoor soccer complexes and outdoor leagues, but these teams are  disconnected from youth soccer. If, in the rare case a club does have a senior team, it’s not common for the youth and senior to practice anywhere near each other.

Club-based vs. School-based sports

Does this theory hold up in other sports? The U.S. dominates in basketball, American football and baseball, which are largely school-based.

Yes. But, these sports were invented in the U.S. and haven’t caught on in countries with the sports club model. It’s easy for the U.S. to dominate with its school-based sports model because its competing against countries that don’t play these sports in a serious way. So, something is better than nothing.

The Dominican baseball academies are similar to sport clubs and they are doing an excellent job of developing talent, being the 2nd largest supplier of MLB players, behind the U.S.

What does this mean?

If the above is true, then anything that helps youth soccer players experience what ‘good’ looks like on a regular basis can help.

Sacha’s Home Field Advantage may be one way. There are lots of others.

Even the MLS is another way. As it gains popularity kids will want to emulate their favorites more, like they do in other sports.

“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.