Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Archive for February 26th, 2010

California softball star's suicide stuns her community

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Whenever I see stories of high-achieving people inexplicably killing themselves, I think of two people: Richard Cory, and Kathy Ormsby.

From the Orange County Register:

Nadia Brianne Matthews [known as "Bri"] had a glowing future.

The sophomore star softball pitcher at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana had verbally committed to play for the University of Arizona, and had a sense of confidence, grace and warmth that went beyond her 16 years, friends say.

Her suicide Thursday at her Anaheim home has shocked and devastated relatives, friends and teachers and coaches who saw in her amazing talent and promise – a nice girl who could put a smile on anyone’s face. …

The coroner Friday afternoon ruled the manner of death suicide, “by ligature hanging.” …

[Nadia] Martinez said her daughter had a 4.0 GPA and had dreams of becoming a neonatologist.

One of the most awful things about suicide is it often comes with no warning. Bri’s family will probably never be able to answer the question, why?

The reason I think of Richard Cory is because he is the title character of Edwin Arlington Robinson’s 1897 poem about a beautiful, tragic figure. I remember reading this poem in grade school, and it hit me pretty hard and has always stuck with me, maybe it’s because it’s the first work that opened my eyes to the idea that you never quite knew what was going on inside the heads and hearts of those who seemed to be well. The last line, which comes out of nowhere, symbolizes the shock anyone feels when a loved one commits suicide — even for me, when I had a friend kill himself at 15, a friend who gave ample warning (what I considered ample — others did not ) of what he was going to do.

The poem, in its entirety:

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

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You might recall Simon & Garfunkel’s rewrite of Richard Cory.

The reason I think of Kathy Ormsby because I was in attendance at the 1986 NCAA track and field championships in Indianapolis — the event where the North Carolina State 10,000-meter runner split from the track mid-race to jump off a bridge over the nearby White River in an attempt to kill herself.

Instead, she was left paralyzed from just above the waist down. A lot of coverage at the time focused on how Ormsby, a high school valedictorian and premed student, was extremely driven and put a ton of pressure on herself to succeed, with the implication that might somehow have been behind her suicide attempt. From the New York Times, circa 1986:

Mitch Shoffner, the head of the social studies department at the high school, taught her world history and coached her in volleyball in the 10th grade.

”I know that she’s always driven herself very, very hard,” he said. ”She’s not the type of person who can accept second best for herself. If there’s any pressure, Kathy was putting it on herself. She’s always been very much of a perfectionist.”

Later, Ormsby did cite fear of failing her coaches and parents as to why she tried to kill herself.

”One time, I got on the volleyball team for not practicing hard enough, and she broke down and cried. Most of the girls just got mad. She was very, very serious about everything she did.”

Later, Ormsby indeed did cite fear of failing her coaches and parents as to why she tried to kill herself, and in later interviews said she had a panic attack and never intended to kill herself. (Ormsby is now an occupational therapist in Wilmington, N.C. — I believe her photo is the top one on the blog post here.)

Do Richard Cory or Kathy Ormsby give any indication as to why Bri Matthews, who seemingly had the world at her feet, decided she could no longer live? No. But they’re all unfortunate examples that suicide, and whatever is behind it, can affect seemingly the most successful among us.

Carmel hazing case blows up on Senior Day

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Tonight (Feb. 26) was supposed to be a celebration for the Carmel (Ind.) High School basketball team, the seniors in particular, what with it being the final regular-season home game, and designated Senior Day. One problem: four out of the five seniors aren’t there because they are suspended as police investigate whether they committed any sexually related crimes related to hazing.

I’ve been updating the situation at my old high school on my original post, but events are moving so quickly, I figured I’d better start another one so the Feb. 25 post didn’t grow to 10,000 words. Only a few hours before Senior Day activities were set to tip off, the Carmel Police Department, with the local TV news stations breathing down its neck, released its second police report related to misdeeds that might involve athletes.

That report is investigating possible criminal deviate conduct, sexual battery with threat of force and criminal confinement related to a Jan. 8 attack in a Carmel locker room. What exactly is alleged isn’t known — the report is heavily redacted. But it has to be pretty serious to have police thinking about three felonies, the first two of which, individually, would put you in the state’s sex offender registry.

Police filed report on the alleged attack Feb. 22 while interviewing an alleged victim of three senior basketball players. They were suspended from school for a Jan. 22 “bullying” (what the school is calling it) incident on a 100-mile bus ride back from a game in Terre Haute. In among the few areas of the police report that weren’t Dick Cheneyed, the officer noted that he was informed by a victim of the bus incident (a victim who had to go to the hospital for his injuries) there were “ongoing issues that were occurring in the locker rooms at Carmel High School.” The Jan. 8 incident is the only one, as of yet, that police are investigating beyond the bus incident, which also is looking into whether felonies occurred, including sex crimes. The players, already acknowledged by the school as being suspended, are Robert Kitzinger, Brandon Hoge and Scott Laskowski, the latter the son of former Indiana University player and current television announcer John Laskowski.

In what may or may not related, a fourth senior basketball player, Oscar Faludon, was suspended from school for allegedly attacking another student in the boys’ locker room. Police have not said whether there is a link, or not, between that case and the newest police report.

It is extremely unfortunate for the one senior, Alex Payne, who has so far kept his head above the fray, that his special night has been ruined. (Me not living in Carmel anymore, I’m still trying to find out whether Senior Day was canceled or otherwise scaled back.) But it hasn’t been ruined just by teammates who apparently were on a serious power trip… heck, I don’t know WHAT their problem was.

Senior Day also has been ruined by all the adults involved, or better yet not involved.

The coaches who didn’t pay attention to what was going on behind them on the bus.

The coaches who let seniors onto the freshman bus against policy in the first place.

The head basketball coach, who in his own statements has made clear he’s much more concerned about how this affects his won-loss record than the children involved.

The coaches who failed to monitor what was happening in their own locker rooms.

The administrators who tried to bury their heads in the sand about this and had an investigation forced upon them. Listen to the principal in the clip below, and prepare to be appalled:

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The police who, allegedly in the name of children’s privacy, perhaps illegally refused to release documents until the Indiana’s state public access watchdog was sicced on them.

An adult culture that made the school bus victim(s) so fearful, the kids themselves were afraid to step up and say anything — this conduct came to light only because a parent overheard it while at the school, and because the hospital had to inform the Department of Child Services about the circumstances and nature of the school bus victim’s injuries.

One bit of kudos I have to give is to much-maligned local television news. Indianapolis’ four major TV news operations have been all over this case, and it’s notable that the reports police have released are emailed straight to them — and not to any print media. Ouch. In fact, local TV news has broken every bit of significant information on the story.

POSTGAME FOLLOW-UP: Carmel beat Brebeuf Jesuit Prep, for those keeping score. However, Indiana blogger Kent Sterling reports that lone senior standing Alex Payne got a nice round of applause when he was introduced with the starting lineup — and that Brebeuf’s rooting section didn’t, as the kids say, go there on Carmel’s problems. The only incident, such as it were, was when the crowd spotted one television reporter who has been particularly aggressive on the hazing stories:

The only borderline moment was when Fox-59’s Kim King walked into the gym.  [Your Kid's Not Going Pro editor's note: this being Indiana, a 4,000-seat facility is called a "gym."] I didn’t see her until she was in front of the scorer’s table.  You have to love this woman, unless you’re a Carmel student as you’ll read in a minute.  She is aggressively pursuing a story that is not going to lead to a pretty end for the high school in whose gym she is walking, but she doesn’t slip in the back door.  Nope, Kim walks right down to the floor during halftime and crosses in front of the scorer’s table and then the Carmel bench.  She stands in the corner with a person I’m guessing is her producer, and the crowd became a little quiet and started pointing.  Then there was a bit of huddling, followed by the chant “Go home, Kim!  Go home, Kim!”  Some of the parents laughed, which I thought was absurd because it was neither clever nor funny.  If Carmel is a school filled with as many smart kids as they claim, they should have come up with something witty.

Local YMCA bans spectators from youth basketball playoffs

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You can’t watch your kids play at the YYYYYY, M, C, A!

Like high schools that have banned fans because of suspected gang activity or threat of violence in the crowd, the Tri-Community YMCA in Southbridge, Mass., has closed its Feb. 27 fifth-grade-and-up basketball championships to all but players, coaches and officials because of some other unruly mob — the players’ parents.

From the Worcester Telegram & Gazette:

An e-mail sent out to the parents cites “unsportsmanlike behavior from some parents” during the last couple of weeks.

The e-mail says a few people have become “belligerent” in the stands, even after being spoken to, and have been “setting a bad example for children.”

“All must know that this is inappropriate behavior that will not be tolerated.”

YMCA Director Edward Keefe and YMCA Recreation Director Susan Casine agree it was a very tough decision to make.

“There was a lot of discussion. We didn’t make the decision lightly,” Mr. Keefe said. “This is the last game. This is the last week. We want the kids to have fun, have a positive experience and close out the season on a positive high.

“We don’t want to affect the parents who go to every game and behave themselves and cheer on their kids,” Ms. Casine said. “But we need to make sure that unsportsmanlike behavior from parents doesn’t get out of hand.”

In the comments section — always the most fun read in these stories — one self-identified parent sounds a little, well, belligerent over the decision. From a martyr going by the handle “Innocent yet punished:”

I am a parents with several children who have been participating in the program for several years. I heard about my punishment on the news last night. Interesting that no one bothered to email, write or call. My children have not caused problems and neither have my husband and I. Now we are all being punished to send a message to the poorly behaved parents. What message is being sent to my family? You have to pay for the sins of others. Bring your children up right and teach them to do what’s right and then teach them that behaving has no benefit because they will be punished for something they didn’t do. Do you think I want my children alone in the gym with the same children that swear like their parents and have no problem causing problems? Do you think I want my children left alone without me to witness the adults in charge not having enough courage to eject misbehaving parents and children? I don’t think so. Let me ask the question again of the adults in charge, what message are you sending to my family? Those same misbehaing parents and children will be back next season, how many of the well behaved parents and children will be back? I don’t want my children and I to receive more punishment next season for something we don’t do.

Hey, Jesus had to pay for the sins of others, too, Innocent yet punished, and you didn’t hear him complaining. (OK, maybe a little.)

Other commenters suggested that the Y have the local police or extra security to take care of belligerent parents, which sounds reasonable, except when you ask yourself, the YMCA needs cops to handle a fifth-grade basketball game? In the Star & Telegram article, the Y officials pointed out that they, and the referees, have tried to eject unruly adults or get them to moderate their behavior, but with no success. Apparently they subscribe to the common American fan credo that if you pay your money ($52, or $35 if you’re a Y member), you get to do or say anything you damn well please.

The martyred parent does bring up a good point, though, about whether the “good” parents will bring their kids back for next season if they face the probability of not watching their children play and other people’s children swear. This is why the Y and other leagues are always in such a quandary about what to do about problem adults, because no matter how they do it, they upset their revenue base.

Written by rkcookjr

February 26, 2010 at 10:11 am

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