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HS basketball player throws ref to floor

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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

Take your gun to the ballgame in one of America’s foreclosure capitals

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In Florida, it’s against state law to bring a concealed weapon to a professional sporting events, even though at a Marlins game a string of automatic gunfire wouldn’t hit anybody.

However, the law doesn’t specify that you’re banned from bringing a gun to a youth sporting event, which is a bit more crowded. So the commissioners in Lee County, Fla., had no choice but to overturn such a ban, thus allowing fans to pack heat in the sort of emotional, hair-trigger environment that makes you think, “You know what this crowd needs? Armaments.” Especially in an area that’s a bit stressed out, what with its one-in-95 houses foreclosure rate being among the highest in the country, a place with a court notorious for its “rocket docket” of speeding through such foreclosures in 10 seconds or less, a place with an area, Lehigh Acres, that has become Exhibit A in how the foreclosure crisis has turned once-thriving exurbs into ghost towns.


“What was that call again, ump?”

One Lee County commissioner spoke about lobbying state legislators to change the law so youth sporting events were included in the gun ban. But, its legal hands tied, the commission voted unanimously to lift its own ban, and signs noting the ban are already coming down.

From the Naples (Fla.) News:

“I’m not against anyone’s right to bear arms nor to have a concealed weapons license, I just find it deplorable that it would be allowed at a youth sports event,” Mert Leeman, Florida’s district 9 Little League administrator.

Howard Gold, president of the South Fort Myers Little League, said the organization goes to great pains to ensure safety, such as doing background checks on coaches and safety checks on equipment.

And sometimes Gold has had to come between parents in heated arguments about calls on the field.

“I’m fortunate to say we have not had any serious situations in 10 years, but that possibility also exists,” Gold said.

No other commissioners commented on taking the issue to state legislators.

Deleting the ordinance language that restricted firearms is expected to settle a lawsuit filed by Amanda Buckley on Aug. 13.

The lawsuit was filed by Buckley’s attorney husband, who apparently had gotten tired of hearing his wife complain about the inconvenience of leaving the Glock behind when catching a kid’s ballgame. A hearing is scheduled Nov. 1 on the lawsuit, but it appears likely the case will be done now that permitted conceal-carry owners can take their gun to the ballgame. So in Lee County, Fla., you can pry houses from people’s warm, live hands, but not guns from their cold, dead ones.

Written by rkcookjr

October 26, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Youth baseball coach drowns trying to rescue son, teammates

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By all accounts, Darin McGahey of McDonough, Ga., was the kind of baseball coach you wanted for your child — knowledgeable, patient, easygoing and selfless. Tragically, one last act of selflessness led to his death.

McGahey drowned July 7 off Navarre Beach, Fla., while trying to save his 11-year-old son and three of his other Locust Grove Razorback charges from drowning themselves. His death came on the second day of the July 6-11 USSSA baseball AA-level (rec league, restricted rosters or drafted players) World Series in Pace, Fla.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

On [July 13], members of the [11]-and-under Locust Grove Razorbacks, dressed in uniform, will attend the McDonough man’s funeral in the town where he lived. McGahey was their assistant coach. …

McGahey had jumped in with the boys flailing away in water over their heads. One of them was his son, Noah, 11, one of the team’s best players. The rescue became more difficult the farther the older McGahey went out. …

Two other dads found Darin McGahey, pulled him to the beach barely conscious and frantically administered CPR. Other parents did their best to shield Noah McGahey and half-brother, Austin, 15, who had tagged along on the Florida road trip, from the horror. …

Family members remained in a state of shock, over how something so well intentioned as a baseball trip could turn out so numbing. McGahey left behind his wife of 12 years, Ann Hightower, and three sons, including Dustin McGahey, 17.

“It hasn’t hit them yet,” said Jeff McGahey, 38, the man’s brother.

The children who McGahey tried to save are all right. They found shelter on a  sand bar.

Notre Dame recruit dies in spring break hotel balcony fall

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(NOTE: Update following April 3 afternoon police news conference is at the end of the piece.)

I’ll reserve any judgments about the circumstances surrounding the April 2 death of 17-year-old Matt James, a Notre Dame football recruit from Cincinnati who fell from a hotel balcony in Panama City, Fla., where he was celebrating his final high school spring break. There are already enough Internet yobbos questioning his parents or slamming Catholics or doing something to make it sound like James deserved his demise — which, of course, he didn’t.

However, I will say that whether your high schooler is a big-time football recruit, an average athlete or a member of the show choir, there are places other than Panama City you would rather have him or her go for a parent-free vacation.

James isn’t even the first 2010 Panama City spring breaker to die from a hotel balcony fall. A 19-year-old Georgia college freshman, a former high school football player, died March 25 from a similar fall. An autopsy has been performed, but results aren’t expected until May or June. Local authorities and hotel managers, though, say there’s two endemic problems that result in falls: either heavy alcohol use and/or the pastime of trying to crawl, Spiderman-style, up the outside of the hotel by climbing the balconies. Two other spring breakers have fallen off of balconies and survived.

Speaking of alcohol, in its “Operation Spring Break 2010″ in March, the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverage and Tobacco police reported 1,092 arrests statewide in its crackdown on underage drinking — with 1,004 of those arrests in Panama City and its environs. That area had six times the number of arrests as six other targeted cities combined.

The alcohol police arrest numbers for Panama City were actually down slightly from last year, but police have an explanation for that: more violent crime has them more occupied with things other than underage drinking. Panama City police themselves have reported a 144 percent spike in spring break-related crime from the previous year, and they noted having to deal with more situations such as the near-critical shooting of a 20-year-old Birmingham, Ala. man. That crime is going to be difficult to solve because police report, as they do at many sites at spring break when they arrive, a hostile, uncooperative crowd.

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Some out-of-towners meet the local constabulary.

These are the sorts of problems that caused other Florida cities, such as Fort Lauderdale and Daytona Beach, to take steps to drive out spring break business. However, despite tension from the community and older snowbirds, the authorities of Panama City are hardly ready to drive out what is a major moneymaker.

In a rather bizarre column, Panama City News Herald editor Mike Cazalas, whose paper has special spring break sections in print and online, including bikini contest shots, noted that the problem is not spring break, but alcohol.

Well, yes, Spring Break is about the money. So is summer tourist season, the restaurant business, moped rentals, the military bases and every job held by every person in this county.

There are other factors, of course: quality of life and enjoyment and such. But money is a part of all of it.

What is it really about, though, this hatred of Spring Break? Is it about tourists who come down and use something we perceive to be “ours,” to the point that we can’t get to it for a few weeks out of the year?

If, for some, it is a belief we are “promoting” dangerous activities with no regard for safety, I’d suggest that is naïve.

College-age kids die tragic deaths, they do it year-round, and they don’t have to come to Panama City Beach to find a balcony.

The message I get from that column is, “Hey, college kids! If you’re going to die a stupid, alcohol-soaked death, at least come to Panama City and drop some coin before you go!”

More details are expected to come in Matt James’ death, such as whether alcohol was involved. Regardless, it’s a horrible thing that’s happened. Though I hope James at least the courtesy to frequent some of the Panama City News Herald’s advertisers while he was there.

UPDATE, 3 p.m. CT, April 3: Panama City police, in a Saturday afternoon news conference, said witnesses described the 6-foot-6, 290-pound Matt James as drunk and “belligerent” before his fatal fall from a fifth-floor Days Inn balcony at 6:30 p.m. April 2. From the Cincinnati Enquirer, which covered James when he was a star offensive lineman at St. Xavier High School:

At one point, police said, he went out to the balcony to argue with guests in a neighboring room, leaned over and fell. Police believe there were adult chaperones, although it was unclear where they were when the accident happened.

Police also said his death appeared to be from blunt force trauma, although the official cause, along with toxicology results, may not be released for another six to eight weeks.

There were adult chaperones? Oh boy. That just makes it worse.

Celebrating a basketball brawl isn't helping, coach

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In recent days we’ve had player, students and crowd high school basketball brawls in Utah and South Carolina, the latter threatening the existence of a multi-team tournament because the threat of fights makes it too expensive to insure. You might ask yourself — aren’t there adults around ready to stop this stuff before it starts?

No, usually. I can understand why two players might go at it in the heat of battle, but I don’t understand why that necessitates coaches sending their other players to join in, and “fans” streaming down from the bleachers to get their pops. Specifically, I don’t understand why Chipley (Fla.) assistant basketball coach Phillip Adams raised his fists in victory and chest-bumped one of his players as he left the floor during a brawl between Chipley and archrival Vernon.

The video of the fight is here, and the still of Adams’ chest-bump is here. Both were taken by Florida Freedom Newspapers’ Jay Felsberg.

We don’t know exactly why Adams did what he did, and he wouldn’t answer questions when reporters called his home following the game. But for a nominal grownup, there are only two acceptable responses when a brawl starts. One is to keep your kids on the bench and not add to the problem. The other is, failing that, or having secured your bench, help get authorities in to help break things up if they’ve gotten out of hand. If the kid had hit a game-winning shot, then raising your fists in victory and chest-bumping would have been acceptable for what would be an actual happy occasion.

This is not to say that Adams is the only coach who has ever looked like he was celebrating a brawl, or that he was the only coach in that gym that night who was. Coaches aren’t responsible for security, but at least they can set an example and let a team know that brawling isn’t tolerated. If nothing else, you never know when a Jay Felsberg, or a fan in the stands, is going to record your stupidity.

At least, what coaches can do is follow the example of Salt Lake City West coach Bob Lyman, if you feel duty-bound to defend your player.

His player, Gatete Djuma, elbowed a Highland High player on a rebound, and when the Highland player retaliated a brawl, involving players and fans, broke out. In the video here, you can see Lyman and other coaches not chest-bumping players, but trying to keep them from coming on the floor.

Under Utah’s no-fight rule, Djuma was automatically suspended for two games. Lyman said the recent arrival from Rwanda was acting on instinct and hadn’t learned yet about not retaliating. Feeling like he would be leaving Djuma in the lurch — Lyman suspended himself for a game to sit with him.

Whatever you think of what Lyman said, he is acting like an adult, an actual role model. That deserves fists raised in victory, and a chest-bump.

Written by rkcookjr

January 11, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Top youth sports stories of the year, part II (the final five)

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First, an apology. When I posted stories Nos. 10-6 for the top 10 youth sports stories of the year, I wrote that the next day, I would post No. 5-1. The first post went up Dec. 28. No second post Dec. 29. Or Dec. 30. Or Dec. 31. Or Jan. 1. I should know better than to promise on a schedule.

I presumed that news on the youth sports beat would be slow (it wasn’t), and that somehow having four kids home on winter vacation would be less than hectic (it wasn’t). Also, I was a tad late getting back from my 1o-year-old daughter’s basketball game today. I was accosted by an angry mother, the same one who tried to rush me at the bench once before, who wanted to know, in my role as a coach, if I knew what the fuck I was doing.

Actually, it was a bit entertaining, her screaming and swearing at me on the walk in front of our gym, as other parents and children stopped in their tracks to watch the entertainment (I, not she, got this view because I was facing the parking lot). Early on, the mom’s boyfriend implored her to get into the car (they had someplace they had to be), but then he turned on another guy when he started yelling at the mom to shut up. Fortunately, no riot ensued, although I wasn’t sure for a minute.

Without getting into all the details about her dispute — mainly, it was about how I was treating her son, the team’s best player and admittedly its biggest hothead — I will say that by the time the director of the basketball program rushed out in 5-degree weather to check out what was going on (he was called out by a dad from my team, who thankfully threw in that I was a nice guy), the conversation had turned civil. The mom just wanted to get her piece out, and she was willing to listen when I explained why I did what I did, that the point of this league wasn’t winning today, and that I hoped I was preparing her son for a leadership role on his school team. Or maybe she was freezing cold and couldn’t summon the energy anymore. I had two advantages: my Upper Peninsula of Michigan blood, and a much warmer coat. Maybe Mike Leach could have learned a little something, no?

So now, here I am, safe at home, no one yelling at me (yet), so I’ll take a few minutes to sum up the top five youth sports stories of the year.

5. Girls, girls, girls

Nearly 40 years after the passage of Title IX, requiring schools receiving public money to offer equal opportunities (in sports and elsewhere) to boys and girls, we’re still fighting about what that means. The most notable cases were in Indiana and Florida. The Indiana High School Athletic Association folded quickly, and correctly, when a lawsuit was filed on behalf of a 14-year-old girl who wanted to try out for her high school baseball team, but was told state rules required her to play the “equal” sports of girls’ softball. She didn’t make the team, but of course that wasn’t the point.

By the way, with no litigation involved Emily Montgomery of Vincennes (Ind.) Rivet played left field for the school’s baseball team, which made it to the Class A state final before losing. Montgomery also played in the Class A state finals for girls’ basketball, too. Her brother asked her to join the baseball team for a practical reason — the school has only 92 students and otherwise would have had only 10 members.

Meanwhile, in Florida, things were a little more contentious.

A lawsuit filed by lead attorney Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a former Olympic swimmer, fought the state high school athletic association’s scheduling cuts to all sports except football and cheerleading, in the name of saving money as the state’s property tax collections went south with the housing market (which was no longer coming south). The lawsuit alleged Title IX violations because the cuts were not made equally. Originally, the Florida High School Athletic Association said they were, because, get this, football officially is a coed sport. Hey, just because only three girls out of 36,000 players are on rosters isn’t because chicks aren’t invited! (And you can’t cut cheerleading, because if you have football, you gotta have cheerleaders.)

Dutifully embarrassed, the FHSAA dropped the football-as-coed-sport nonsense and stopped the statewide cuts. Although, speaking of cuts, that brings us to our No. 4 story…

4. The economy’s effect on youth sports

Florida was one of multiple states that looked at cutting sports schedules statewide as a means of saving money. Although few did, a lot of cuts happened at the local level, most famously in Grove City, Ohio, where all extracurricular activities were cut after voters multiple times rejected tax increases (and then came back when they finally approved one). Schools nationwide implemented pay-to-play programs, meaning students were charged a fee when they previously were not in order to play sports.

However, the down economy did not necessarily mean that fewer children were playing. In fact, many cities nationwide were building large youth sports facilities in hopes of attracting tournaments that could fill up local hotels and restaurants, and fill up tax coffers hurting from the closing of the local plant.

3. 100-0

Dallas Morning News reporter Barry Horn happened to look at his newspaper’s girls’ basketball box scores and noticed something unusual: Covenant School 100, Dallas Academy 0. So he did a nice little story about Dallas Academy, a private school geared toward kids with learning disabilities, and one that has had athletic success. About 663,000 first-day page views later, 100-0 was a Rorschach test about sportsmanship. Did Covenant coach Micah Grimes run up the score by playing pressing defense for too long? Or was Dallas Academy responsible for preparing a team well enough so it didn’t get smoked 100-0? (Complicating matters was that Dallas Academy often was portrayed as a team of Special Olympians, when in fact the disabilities ran to the likes of ADHD and dyslexia.)

Blowout scores are endemic to girls’ basketball, where the quality of talent, coaching and commitment vary widely from school to school in comparison to boys’ sports. But all the bad publicity about 100-0, and Grimes’ public statement against his school’s apology for it, led to the coach’s firing in January, two weeks after the game. Meaning, Mike Leach was not the only Texas coach in 2009 to get canned after refusing to apologize.

A post-script: in December, Dallas Academy got its first victory since 2001-02, aided by a new team member who scored 31 of its 34 points in a 34-33 triumph. Another post-script: Dallas Academy also dropped out of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, meaning that Covenant was no longer forced to face it in association play.

2. The trial of David Jason Stinson

Stinson was indicted last January in Louisville, Ky., on reckless homicide charges after one his Pleasure Ridge Park High School football players, 15-year-old Max Gilpin, collapsed and died in an August 2008 practice. Gilpin was ruled to have died from overheating, and Stinson (by then the former Pleasure Ridge Park coach) became what was believed to be the first coach in the nation to face criminal charges for a player’s practice- or game-related death.

Youth and school coaches nationwide watched Stinson’s case closely (and some did more than that, contributing to his legal defense fund) for fear that they could be next if something terrible happened on their watch. After all, the case against Stinson was built mainly on him making his players run “gassers” at the end of a practice in 94-degree heat-index weather, and Stinson’s bluster that he was going to keep his team running until somebody quit, and his allegedly denying players water. Sounds harsh, but it also sounds like what 90 percent of coaches have done at some point.

It turned out that it took the jury only 90 minutes to acquit Stinson, in part because of evidence Gilpin took Adderall and creatine, both of which can cause quicker dehydration. (A civil suit filed by Gilpin’s parents, however, is still in play.) Still, his case, if nothing else, got a lot of coaches and authorities to take heat and dehydration more seriously, including in Kentucky, where the state legislature beefed up rules on access to trainers and handling sports in the heat.

But even despite the tragedy of a teenager’s death, Stinson and Gilpin didn’t turn out to be the top youth sports story of the year, or even the top youth sports-related health issue of the year. That honor goes to…

1. Concussions

No longer is a player who gets a little foggy someone who is “dinged.” From pro leagues on down, concussions — brain injuries — are being taken seriously more than they ever have. Let’s put it this way: had alleged prima donna Adam James been allegedly locked in a room by his head coach, Mike Leach, because he had a bruised sternum, Leach might be coaching Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl, being played as I type this, instead of preparing his lawsuit against the school for firing him.

Washington this year became the first state to require young athletes diagnosed with concussions to get medical clearance before returning to action, and bills regarding concussion safety have been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate. It’s not just football players suffering — one girl speaking out in favor of the Senate bill is a 16-year-old who quit basketball after 11 concussions. Eleven!

Concussions aren’t just a story confined to 2009. It goes to the top spot because they will be a topic of conversation and debate for years to come. Already, there’s discussion of what the future of football will be, or how long it has one, because of the prevalance of concussions.

Also, I can’t leave this topic without acknowledging the hard work of Alan Schwarz of the New York Times, who has covered concussions thoroughly for years, and might just be single-handedly responsible for this whole conversation we’re having about them. There are going to be people who literally will owe their lives to him.

What do we tell the kids about Tiger Woods?

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Tiger Woods’ car accident outside his Windermere, Fla., home is going to unearth some embarrassing details about his personal life, whatever they may be. So what are we supposed to tell the children who look up to him?

The same thing Woods’ buddy, Charles Barkley, told everyone in a controversial 1993 Nike advertisement: that athletes aren’t role models, and it’s not up to them to raise your kids.

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Unlike Woods and the golfer’s good friend, Michael Jordan, from the beginning of his career Barkley smartly positioned himself as a loon. Eventually, an athlete can’t keep up the image of a robotic, perfectly corporate all-things-to-all-people icon.

michael-jordan-and-karla-knafelIsn’t that right, Michael?

Written by rkcookjr

November 29, 2009 at 6:43 pm

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