Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

And the team said, long-haired freaky people need not apply

with 2 comments

A family of a 14-year-old is suing the Greensburg (Ind.) schools over its policy requiring short hair for boys playing sports. From The Indianapolis Star:

In a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, Patrick and Melissa Hayden say team rules governing the length of players’ hair violate their son’s right to wear his hair the way he wants and also treat male and female athletes differently because female players don’t have to adhere to the same guidelines.

Their 14-year-old son, identified as A.H. in the lawsuit, was kicked off the team this fall after he refused to cut his hair to comply with team rules, which require players’ hair to be above their eyebrows, collars and ears.

The Haydens said in the lawsuit that they met with the basketball coach and school officials, but no one would change the policy. So they sued. …

But the school district claims the policy didn’t violate the boy’s rights, partly because participating in extracurricular activities is a privilege, not a right.

Courts have split hairs (har!) in the past over these cases, sometimes saying that, yes, if a school wants to require every boy to have a crewcut to play sports, that’s OK, as long as the activity is not part of the instructional day.

You might be asking — hey, isn’t Greensburg already notorious for a case of intolerance? Why, yes, it is — the suicide of gay Greensburg High student Billy Lucas was the impetus for the It Gets Better Project to fight gay teen bullying and suicides.

As for the haircut case, if the middle-school coach is lucky, someday this 14-year-old and some of his friends will adopt a bastardized version of his name as the moniker of their very popular rock band.

Greensburg Junior High basketball coach, gaze upon your future self.

Written by rkcookjr

January 4, 2011 at 12:59 am

Carmel hazing update: A victim, er, perpetrator speaks

leave a comment »

A figure in one of the most notorious cases of school sports hazing in recent memory — and his family — were counseled by their attorneys to stay silent in the face of accusations of possible sexual crimes, intense media coverage and a backlash from some locals. After breaking their silence, the figure and his family proved their attorney provided wise counsel.

Scott Laskowski was one of four Carmel (Ind.) High School basketball players (now all graduated) who faced criminal charges following two separate hazing incidents, one on a team bus on the way back from a game, and one in the team locker room. Laskowski pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge related to the locker room incident, though he was suspended from the team and expelled from classes. Laskowski is the son of former Indiana University basketball player and announcer John Laskowski, making him, by accident of birth, the most prominent of the four accused. (Two others have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in the locker room incident, while other charges have been dropped, and two players — not including Laskowski — are still going through the court system over the bus incident.)

I’ll save you the slog through a six-page story on The Indianapolis Star’s website to get to the meat (on page six):

When the Laskowskis finally decided to speak, they lashed out at the media and the school and the accuser. They said their son is the real victim. The school took one student’s word against their son’s. His accuser — whose family plans a $2.25 million lawsuit against the school district — is in it for the money. And the media excess was motivated by greed.

My response: boo fucking hoo.

I’ll give the Laskowskis that having stalkers (including one person arrested for doing so) posting “a sex offender lives here” signs on their lawn and following them through the streets of Carmel was way over the top, and I don’t blame the family for moving 65 miles south to Bloomington to get away from it.

But, for Christ’s sake, when you have a victim who is reported to have had various objects shoved up his anus, you don’t go around proclaiming yourself or your golden boy as “the real victim.” There is no way to come out of that unscathed.

The story dwells on all the information that wasn’t released because of laws governing school privacy and grand-jury testimony. (It’s nice to see that the Laskowskis and those sympathetic with the victim can agree on one thing — that the school totally mishandled the situation.) But it doesn’t shed a lot of light on what Laskowski did or saw.

His guilty plea came for, as he put it, holding the ankles of a victim attacked in the locker room, and he denies doing anything on the bus. OK, we’ll take him at his word. So what did Laskowski see on the infamous bus ride? Did he see something happen? Are the others guilty? Is the victim making this up? In six pages, either Scott Laskowski wasn’t asked, or the interview was conditioned on the reporter not asking. Or, given the Laskowski family’s self-absorption, at least as it came across in the story, nobody knows or cares.

Written by rkcookjr

January 4, 2011 at 12:25 am

HS basketball player throws ref to floor

leave a comment »

Hat tip to The Big Lead for this video of a DeSoto County (Fla.) High School basketball player, upon being tossed from the game by a referee, returns the favor by, literally, tossing the ref. (Incident is at 1:25.)

I could go on about how this is the natural progression of referees constantly being berated and threatened by parents, coaches and fans during games at all levels, but that would be too easy, wouldn’t it? Even if it is correct.

Unfortunately for the young man in the video (I can’t find his name anywhere, and the DeSoto athletic director told The Big Lead he wouldn’t reveal it because he wasn’t sure whether the player was 17 or 18), he could face severe consequences for losing his temper, assuming charges are filed. I’m no lawyer, but in this case it would appear that the best course would be battery, defined under Florida law as touching or striking another person, without use of a weapon.

In its 2010 legislative session, Florida bumped up battery of a sports official from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. Ordinarily, anyone committing battery has to have a prior conviction on the charge in order for to reach felony status. But if the act is done against a sports official during the course of a contest, the felony battery charge can apply, even if the alleged batterer has no prior convictions, and that means a stay of up to 5 years in a state prison. The lesson being, if you’re going to beat the ref, do so a day later, when a misdemeanor charge would apply.

No no no, the lesson is, keep your temper in check — in the stands, and on the court. Then nobody gets hurt, and nobody goes to court. For all the silly reasons to go to jail, popping off at a referee seems like one of the silliest.

UPDATE: A police report was filed at the behest of the referee, Jim Hamm, 51, of Punta Gorda, Fla. The player was identified as Mason Holland, 18, the captain of the DeSoto County team.

According to a police interview obtained by The Smoking Gun, a “remorseful” Holland said he was upset because he thought the referees were allowing the other team (Port Charlotte) to rough him up, yet calling fouls on his team. Hamm is quoted is saying that though he wanted to file a report, he “did not want to see Mason get arrested and/or go to jail.” That decision may be out of Hamm’s hands.

Written by rkcookjr

December 14, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Why youth sports isn’t reducing child obesity

leave a comment »

I’m part of Generation X, which is followed by Generation Y, which is, naturally, followed by Generation Z, of which my 8-year-old son is spokesman. Apparently, though, a better term for young people — heck, most Americans of any age — these days is Generation Fatass. And youth sports apparently isn’t doing much of anything to make our children less corpulent, less adipose, less… .(Hold on, let me find my thesaurus.) Not that it should be expected to, when there are much bigger, pardon the pun, reasons for obesity than youth sports could ever handle.


Baby, you put the “roll” in “b-roll.”

You might have caught news earlier in the week about a study in the journal Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine that explained why youth sports wasn’t doing anything to help matters. A sample of coverage, from McClatchy Newspapers:

Parents who sign their kids up for youth sports leagues need to know: That’s not enough to ensure youngsters get the physical activity necessary for good health.

A study released [Dec. 6] indicates youth sports practices often don’t provide the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity. And since most youth sports involve only one or two practices each week, kids need to be active on those other days, too.

“Some parents sign their child up for a youth sports program and then check off that box,” said Russ Pate of the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health. “The typical youth sports program is not going to meet the physical activity requirements.” …

In some cases, the teams’ practices were limited to an hour or less on the field. But even longer practices often didn’t meet the activity requirements. The study found players were moderately or vigorously active 46.1 percent of the practice time.

Various coverage has remarked on how parents expecting organized youth sports to make their children less oleaginous (found that thesaurus) should THINK AGAIN, BABY! But parents don’t sign their kids up for organized sports so their children can stay fit, not when a two-hour softball games of mostly standing around is following by a team snack of chips and juice-ish. They do it so they can get college scholarships!

Actually, the study and a companion piece note that organized sports are, say, better than THOSE GODDAMN VIDEO GAMES YOU PLAY ALL DAY (another reason parents sign their kids up for sports). But the study authors recommend, at a minimum, more vigorous practices.

That will work as well at combating obesity as reducing taxes on the rich will in turning around the American economy. Fat cats getting fat paychecks actually have a lot more to do with our fat selves having fat children than anything youth sports can or can’t do. Not to get all political, but I’m going to get all political.

Numerous studies have found direct links between income inequality and obesity rates, as in the higher the former, the larger the latter. This is true in any country in the world. Numerous studies also have found that higher poverty rates (which are often concomitant with income inequality) also mean higher obesity rates. That rank communist Ben Bernanke says that income inequality is worse in the United States now that it’s ever been, and that’s a very bad thing:

The gap between rich and poor in this country has never been greater than now. In fact, we have the biggest income disparity gap of any industrialized country in the world. The highest income 20 percent of Americans received almost half (49.6%) of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4 percent received by those below the poverty line. At the top, the richest five percent of Americans — those who earn more than $180,000 — had their annual incomes increase last year, census data show. However, families at the $50,000 median level saw their incomes drop. Although the changes in each direction are small annually, cumulatively they add up to greater disparity over time and that is what has happened.

Don’t feel like you’re the only villain, America. Other countries are letting their poor children languish, too.

Youth sports cannot make up for a culture in which the top earners get a lot, and everybody else gets crumbs. Unfortunately, in America, exercise and free time (and decent, nutritious food) are luxuries. Even if you’re working a lot, and especially if you’re not making much for it, opportunities to move are few, for you and your children. With schools cutting back over the years on physical education and sports, opportunities for children to have free or inexpensive organized play and sports activity are dwindling, making a bad situation worse by making sports and organized play even more inaccessible to those without means.

Sure, there are people who’ve made lousy choices, and we can all be more conscious of what our children eat, and their opportunities for play, which doesn’t have to be organized all the time.  But there has to be a societal commitment to giving children opportunities in sports that don’t involve travel teams and thousands of dollars most families don’t have to spare, and the first opportunity is to have an economy that doesn’t have a few winners, and a lot of people on the margins.

You can make youth sports practices two hours of hardcore exercise, but until we as a nation aren’t willing to feed our children to the porcine (still have that thesaurus handy) appetites of the wealthiest Americans, that’s just wasted work, as far as solving the problem of childhood obesity is concerned.

Princesses and pageants: How I spent my non-youth sports vacation

leave a comment »

It happens to many independent blogs — the sudden lull. In my case, my break was enforced by a busier real-job schedule, a busier kid schedule, and preparations for (and the actual taking of) a driving family vacation to Florida. If you have any children, much less the four I cart around, you’ll know that preparing for a family vacation is as intricate and difficult as Napoleon planning an attack of Russia, with similar horrible consequences if such preparation is not sufficient.

We did not go to Florida because one or all of our children had some event or tournament. Radical in some circles, we took an actual vacation just because we wanted to go somewhere. The closest any of my kids, so far, have gotten to travel sports is my 11-year-old daughter playing softball in the southwest Chicago suburbs over the summer. She didn’t care for it, so next July is free! So, all youth event shackles off, we could go to Orlando, Fla., with tourist stops in Atlanta on the way south and Birmingham, Ala., back north, for 10 days, staying in a rented house (which you can get much cheaper than a hotel these days, thanks to the lousy Florida economy) instead of having wondrous pre-winter weekends in Fort Wayne or Rockford crammed into a Ramada, waiting for the next game to start. I mean, those are lovely towns and all; I used to live in Fort Wayne, and my mother was born in Rockford. But I don’t think it’s 80 degrees in November there. (Not yet. Give global warming time.)

Now, I make the point about not having an event in Orlando because so many families who go there do — a tournament, mom or dad’s convention (we did that once with my oldest when he was a baby), a dying grandmother you need to butter up to ensure a prominent place in the will. And when we went to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, we saw it was thick with girls competing in something called “Miss American Coed.”

How do I know this was going on? These girls, in town for the first day of a six-day extravaganza of going back to 1954, which I presume they were doing because of the retrograde use of “coed,” wore their tiaras and sashes the whole day, including when the tiniest contestants fell asleep in their umbrella strollers. I would have taken pictures to show you, except that a 40-year-old man taking candid shots of preteen girls he does not know tends to be looked upon as a bit of creep.

I learned a long time ago not to feel smug about sports as an activity and obsession compared with other pursuits, because the difference between parents and kids who go over the top about sports, and parents and kids who go over the top about pageants, is minimal. Plus, in both you get perverts attracted to the flower of budding childhood for all the wrong reasons.

As a matter of fact, I thought of intense travel sports parents when I saw the budding Miss American Coeds at Disney, because the girls looked like a lot of the girls my 11-year-old played travel softball with and against — as in, they looked like they weren’t enjoying themselves very much.

I’m coming to this conclusion from casual glances, because, again, a 40-year-old man staring too long at preteen girls he does not know tends to be looked upon as a bit of a creep. But I’m thinking of one preteen in particular when we were in line for lunch. My 11-year-old daughter, dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, was feeling free, grabbing the bars that marked the lines and swinging away like a monkey-in-training. Meanwhile, Miss American Coed in line was stuck wearing her pageant outfit, all without the little-girl pleasure of hanging out at Disney’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and pretending to be a Disney princess. The contestant, alone with her parents, looked at my daughter with what I detected was a bit of envy, that maybe she could be an 11-year-old, too, and swing on the lunch counter bars.

Like the stereotype of the sports parents who push hard to make up for their own childhood failures, every pageant family I saw had this makeup: attractive daughter, unattractive parents. Perhaps the parents were into this because, blessed with the luck of having a daughter not as hideous as they were, they wanted to take advantage. Or maybe the parents were attractive at one time, maybe even had pageant lives themselves, until THE GODDAMN KIDS DID THIS TO ME.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this. All I know is, everywhere we saw these girls, and everywhere they looked like they were celebrating Opposite Day at the Happiest Place on Earth. Sure, a lot of little girls were dressed as princesses, and didn’t look terribly comfortable being Cinderella in 80-degree weather in a crowded amusement park. But those Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutiquers did it because, presumably, they wanted to, and they could change if they wanted to. Not because they had to promote some stupid-ass contest and pose in front of grownup judges that, to me anyway, seem a little creepy for staring too long at 11-year-old girls they don’t know.

My wife and I have always told our children that we would be more than happen to support them in any activity or endeavor as long as they really wanted to do it. So if my daughters wanted to do pageants, we probably would say, OK. I’m sure that some of the Miss American Coeds I saw really, really wanted to be pageant queens, at least at some point in their lives.

Fortunately, because the thought of pageants makes me gag, my girls have not chosen this route. (Though they do choose activities I don’t always understand, which will be part two of my vacation diaries.) Anyway, I think my 5-year-old daughter has already shown me the meaning of being a true princess.

A true princess is not someone wearing a sash in a pageant. A true princess is one who, when confronted with a 45-minute line to see the Disney princesses she presumably came there to visit, declared the line too long and demanded to go somewhere more fun. That’s right — a real princess doesn’t spend 45 minutes in line waiting to see ANYBODY!

Written by rkcookjr

December 6, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Carmel basketball hazing victim: “I don’t smile as much as I used to”

leave a comment »

The attorney for the one of the targets of hazing last season by teammates of his Carmel (Ind.) High School basketball team — three former members of which are facing misdemeanor criminal charges, not counting the other one who has already pleaded guilty, as a result of hazing incidents — put his client out there, sort of, on Nov. 12 for a news conference.

I say sort of because the rules of the road laid down by attorney Robert Turner included no identifying the victim, no identifying his parents, and no pictures. Still, this is the first time the public has heard from any of the victims of one of the more notorious and talked-about cases of youth sports hazing in recent memory. However, Fox59 News in Indianapolis said the victim holding the news conference was the subject of the Indiana Department of Children and Family Services sexual assault report that blew the lid off the case.

Here are some quotes from the victim, as relayed by The Indianapolis Star:

How has your life changed? “I don’t smile as much as I used to. I don’t laugh and joke as much as I used to.”

Did you embellish your story to authorities? “I’m sure I would not make something like this up. I would not be in the situation I am here if I were making this up. I am very very serious about this.” (Fox59 also has him saying, “Why would I make something like this up?”)

Any advice to other victims for getting authorities to listen? “You just have to keep saying it and saying it.”

Also, the Star quoted the victim’s mother: “You’re supposed to feel safe to go to your leaders, your coaches and your teachers, and know something is going to be done. … They (students) are watching everything that is going on, and saying, ‘what’s the point.’ Look at what we’ve been through and still nothing’s happened.”

In particular, she’s talking about the plea deal for Scott Laskowski, who the previous week had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal recklessness. Laskowski, the son of former Indiana University player and longtime IU basketball announcer John Laskowski, was sentenced to slightly less than a year of probation and 40 hours of community service. He also was ordered to stay away from the victim.

Despite the Department of Children and Family Services report saying that the victim was anally penetrated with foreign objects, no felony or sexual assault charges have yet been made against Laskowski and the three others who have been indicted in north suburban Indianapolis’ Hamilton County on misdemeanor charges: Robert Kitzinger, Brandon Hoge and Oscar Faludon, all of whom, like Laskowski, graduated in spring 2010.

The charges are related to incidents in Carmel’s locker room. Fox59 reported on Nov. 5 that it’s expected the other players will follow Laskowski’s lead and take plea deals, which would certainly eliminate any chance Laskowski would have to testify in their cases. (Also, the judge handling their case on Oct. 27 was arrested for drunken driving while on vacation in North Carolina.)

I say there are no felony or sexual assault charges “yet” because the prosecutor in west suburban Hendricks County is still investigating a hazing incident on the back of a team bus heading back from a January game in Terre Haute. Laskowski, Kitzinger and Hoge were suspended from the team for that incident (Faludon was suspended for the locker-room incident). There’s no word on when those charges might come.

Not surprisingly, the victim’s family — and its lawyer, who is the former public safety director for the Indianapolis police — feel like everyone involved has not investigated or dealt with the hazing case sufficiently. Turner has threatened lawsuits, and said during the Nov. 12 news conference that he will file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney to investigate the Hamilton County prosecutor, the players’ attorneys and others he said have manipulated witnesses. So far, these only have been threats.

In fact, Turner has had a lot of public bluster that hasn’t gone much of anywhere. But whatever Turner’s tactics, what will not change is that the victim will feel the effects of what happened forever, no matter what a court says. It’s cases like this that explain why, say, the Needham (Mass.) High School administration took a zero-tolerance stance toward supposedly far more innocent hazing with its girls soccer team. Hazing is a power trip, and a school trusts its students not to go too far with it at its own, and its students’, peril.

High school coach suspended for whipping players

leave a comment »

And when I say whipping players, I don’t follow it with the phrase “into shape.” Marlon Dorsey, head coach of Murrah High School’s boys’ basketball team in Jackson, Miss., on Nov. 11 was suspended (for at least a month) after cellphone video surfaced of him whipping a player on the behind with a weightlifting belt. He has been accused of whipping other players as well. As a result, parents are suing the Jackson Public Schools district — which has outlawed corporal punishment since 1991.

The incriminating video.

Dorsey has admitted to whipping students, but he said in a letter that it was for their own good. A portion of the letter, as published in the Jackson Clarion Ledger:

“I took it upon myself to save these young men from the destruction of self and what society has accepted and become silent to the issues our students are facing on a daily basis,” the letter states. “I am deeply remorseful of my actions to help our students.”

The letter, addressed to parents and others, said the punishment was issued for a variety of reasons, including disrespecting teachers, stealing cell phones, leaving campus without permission, being late for class and not following the dress code.

That same article further stated that Dorsey had support from some parents for, well, whipping them into academic and athletic shape, by any means necessary.

Dorsey is a first-year coach, but he’s hardly the first coach in recent years to get in hot water over corporal punishment. Numerous Chicago schools a few years back were found to have coaches paddling or beating players, despite a ban on corporal punishment instituted in 1994. An investigation in Dallas found at least one case of corporal punishment by one of its football coaches, despite a ban there, as well.

I’ve never hit my kids, and I don’t imagine I ever will. Not because they’re such perfect angels (well, they are, of course), but because I don’t see how spanking is an effective form of punishment, although others don’t share my view that corporal punishment is effective the same way sending someone to the gulag is effective — the victim fears you, but they don’t necessarily love or respect you. A writer at the Dallas Observer reacted with repugnance to a case of a football player who was hit 21 times in the backside, but to him the problem was the degree of punishment, not the actual whacking.

But we wonder how our kids got so out of control? Where’s the respect for teachers? For authority? Where have all the hard-nosed disciplinarians like Bobby Knight and Vince Lombardi and Woody Hayes gone?

Easy. We’ve degenerated into a wussified country weakened by Downy-soft consequences, only to inexplicably react with aghast at the resulting hard times.

I don’t remember all the numerous groundings I incurred as a kid. But I vividly the recall the two times I got paddled.

By the way, to answer his question, Bob Knight and Woody Hayes were forced out of Indiana and Ohio State, respectively, after failing to control their tempers. Lombardi gets an unfair rap. While he was tough on his players, he never raised a hand to them. Meanwhile, Knight had his own controversies thanks his wielding a whip.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.