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

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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.

Angry football coach launches a moon shot

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Courtesy of Steve Griffith at Wacky Youth Sports Dad comes a piece from the New York Daily News about a high school football game that ended with many involved showing themselves to be asses, which inspired one assistant coach to show them his ass.

A wild melee at a high school football game in Queens ended ugly Saturday when an assistant coach dropped his drawers and mooned the opposing team’s spectators.

The Boys and Girls High School volunteer assistant bared his backside to fans of the home team, Campus Magnet, minutes after a shoving match erupted on the field between coaches and school safety officers.

“His fellow coaches were holding him back and he turned around and pulled down his shorts,” said David Sumter, 40, a Campus Magnet parent. “All I saw was his big [rear end].”

I believe Mr. Sumter said “ass,” although it’s possible he made air brackets when he said rear end.

As if it matters why a coach would drop his drawers on the field, apparently that coach — William Miller, as the Daily News identified him — and the Boys and Girls head coach were tossed out of the game after vociferously, non-nakedly protesting the referees’ calling good a Campus Magnet two-point conversion that put Boys and Girls down 16-6 with a few minutes to play. With all the ruckus, the refs shut the game down. Campus Magnet parents began heckling, and that’s why Miller went over to their section, screamed at the fans and, as the Daily News put it, “revealed his caboose.”

Hey, pull up your shorts! (NSFW, obviously)

Apparently Miller, a volunteer, lost his gig over this, according to the Daily News. I wonder if the school told him not to let the door hit a certain part of his body on the way out.

Hazing allegations shut down Minnesota HS football team, for now

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Hazing allegations involving a sports team — not unusual. Suspending practice while the school tries to get to the bottom of those allegations — that’s unusual.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the varsity football program at Elk River (Minn.) High School, located in an exurb at the end of a commuter rail line connected with Minneapolis, was suspended Aug. 25 while school officials check into hazing allegations made by the parent of an apparent victim.

The school did not reveal the nature of the hazing, and apparently no one has sought medical attention related to it, according to the Elk River district. But the school has hired an attorney to conduct a third-party investigation. The district told the Star Tribune that all 54 players have been interviewed, with 15 of those players more closely tied to the allegations coming back for another round Aug. 26.

From the Star Tribune:

Superintendent Mark Bezek announced his decision to shelve the program “until further notice” in a meeting with about 200 parents and students Wednesday night at the high school.

“I am shocked and dismayed by these allegations,” Bezek told the gathering. “This district does not tolerate hazing or other unlawful activities.”

Bezek added, “This isn’t just kids fooling around. This has some very serious implications.”

One of those implications: that the school will get its ass sued off and/or get its name sullied if it doesn’t address the hazing allegations in a firm and forceful way. Ask Carmel, Ind., High School how much mental and financial pain has come from brushing off hazing allegations involving its boys’ basketball team, allegations that later become criminal cases against the players who allegedly perpetrated the treatment.

Of course, you’d also like to think that the school really was outraged on a moral level. Until I hear otherwise, I won’t take the cynical route outlined in the previous paragraph.

The Star Tribune reports that the players could be back on the practice field as soon as Aug. 27, and that Elk River’s  opening game is still expected to kick off as scheduled on Sept. 2. However, it will be interesting to see what is left of the team at that point. Unless the hazing allegations turn out to be completely baseless, you can consider Elk River’s season sufficiently ruined.

Written by rkcookjr

August 26, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Oregon high school football players make team visit to hospital — for treatment

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When will coaches ever learn? The lesson of the Junction Boys — Bear Bryant’s infamous desert preseason camp for his 1954 Texas A&M Aggies –is that putting your football players through intense practices in extreme heat with no access to water is a great way to decimate your team. Of course, that Bryant’s winless Aggies of 1954 went undefeated the next year must be why so many coaches persist of thinking about the Junction Boys as an effective exercise in team-building and following your coach, like how locking Patty Hearst in a closet was an effective exercise in team-building and following your Dear Leader.

Now there was someone who was coachable.

If first-year McMinnville, Ore., High School football coach Jeff Kearin wanted to follow an example of Bryant’s, he should have just gotten fitted for a houndstooth hat. Instead, Kearin put his charges through an indoor version of the Junction Boys, an indoor “immersion” cap that unified the team — at the local hospital.

From OregonLive.com (as of 10:30 p.m. local time Aug. 22):

Doctors say a unique combination of elements — high heat, dehydration and heavy exercise — is to blame for sending more than a dozen McMinnville High School football players to the hospital this week.

Dr. Craig Winkler, who treated seven of the affected players, said a workout at a preseason camp run by first-year coach Jeff Kearin on Aug. 15 probably triggered the uncommon soft-tissue condition, known as rhabdomyolysis, or its more serious counterpart, “compartment syndrome.” … [Left untreated, it can be fatal.]

Winkler said 14 players were admitted throughout the week, although about 30 players who attended the camp were referred to the hospital to be checked out.

Three players required emergency surgery, one on both arms. …

Players, with bedding in tow, arrived at the “immersion camp” Aug. 15 at the high school and were soon run through a series of push-ups and “chair dips,” which work out the triceps.  … [A parent of a sick player] said players have told him they were not allowed to drink water until they completed the exercises.

Winkler, who doubles as the football team’s physician, also questioned the wisdom of the workouts.

Players told him “they were working out for more than 20 minutes in an enclosed room in 115-degree heat,” Winkler said. “That seems pretty intense to me. From a medical point of view, I would not allow anyone to exercise at temperatures over 100.”

Apparently players were afraid to speak up because they were all too busy trying to impress the new coach, who said the 11 hardest-working players would get to play, according to the OregonLive.com account. Plus, what high school player has ever stood up to a football coach? And lived? Of course, if Kearin deemed players were slacking off, they would have to do the drill again.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a hard workout, or even making players do a drill again if they aren’t working hard enough. But if it’s in the 90s outside, and you’re in an un-air conditioned room, you might want to make a few allowances for safety. This highlights how in almost all cases at the high school level at below, there is no medical professional or anyone else to tell a coach to back off. Maybe there is a trainer who works for the coach. So it’s upon coaches to make the smart decision — one that isn’t always made. (Perhaps it would help if coaches were instructed, or had access, to call a physician or someone who could make a medical judgment on what they could do in extreme conditions.)

Kearin is quoted at OregonLive.com that he realizes his “silence is deafening,” but that the school won’t let him talk. He shouldn’t worry. Kearin will be able to talk all he wants, under his counsel’s watch, in the at least 30 lawsuits (30 being the number of players that had to make a trip to the hospital) that will be coming against the school.

However, Kearin might have one saving grace that could keep him out of criminal court and make him the next Jason Stinson. From OregonLive.com:

But Winkler said he is also waiting for blood tests looking for the presence of creatine, a legal, loosely regulated and widely available bodybuilding supplement present in a number of weight-gain products that has been linked to an increased risk of sports-related injury.

“We’re looking to see if there’s some inciting event or some toxins that led to this massive injury,” Winkler said.

Creatine was a factor in the case against Stinson, a Louisville high school football coach acquitted last year on charges relating to the death of one of his players, who overheated during a practice on a 90-degree day. There was evidence the deceased player had used creatine, a muscle-building supplement that can accelerate dehydration. (The player also had taken ADHD medication, which has a similar effect on dehydration.)

If Kearin stuck his players in a hot, hot room and didn’t let them have water, he was stone wrong. But if any of those players were taking supplements that turned being overheated into a near-fatal illness — well, Kearin is still wrong, but it’s possible he could be off the hook legally. Hey, if Kearin is going to follow Bryant’s path, getting away with running his players into the ground early in his career would lead to a lot of success later.

LATE ADD: In another story, Dr. Winkler says that the affected players — three of whom did have compartment syndrome (out of the 19 players out of the 30 checked that ended up having injuries) — will not be tested for steroids because, according to The Associated Press, it’s believed “it would be unlikely for that many students to have access, and ‘creatine makes way more sense.'”

Are you kidding me? If one player can have a steroid connection, that person would be MORE than happy to sell to multiple players on one team. This is not a comment on whether the players were taking steroids or anything else. Again, even if they were roided to the gills (because they were so roided they developed gills), that coach should not have had them in a hotbox for drills. But the school is fooling itself if it thinks it’s not possible for the whole damn team to be juicing.

Heck, if I were the school, and I could get away with it (but maybe I couldn’t), I would insist on toxicology tests for every chemical known and unknown to man as a way to limit my liability when the lawsuits come. After all, if it turned out that the injured players were using something (again, I have no evidence they did, nor do I mean to say they did — I’m thinking like a desperate-to-save-my-ass superintendent), and the players who did not succumb to the heat were not, I would want that as Exhibit A in my defense.

Written by rkcookjr

August 23, 2010 at 12:37 pm

High school football team solves Ramadan, heatstroke problem in one fell swoop

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The football team at Dearborn (Mich.) Fordson High School reflects the population of its student body, in that both are heavily of the Arabic persuasion.

The challenge for the football team comes when Ramadan, a holy month in Islam whose most prominent feature is the requirement that Muslims refrain from eating and drinking in daylight hours. Dearborn Fordson has learned from past experience that when Ramadan falls during football season, not eating and drinking, intended to bulk up the spiritual strength of the players, tends to sap their physical strength. Plus, players refusing water during hot August practices can be a tad dangerous.

So the Tractors, as they are called, came up with a way to solve the conflict between two religions (Islam and football), prevent heat exhaustion AND give their players a legitimate excuse for breaking curfew. From the Press & Guide Newspapers in Dearborn:

Fordson coach Fouad Zaban said the plan was to work from midnight until about 5 a.m. during the preseason, which this season falls during the period of Ramadan fasting.

“We’ve always had to practice and do some work while most of the kids were fasting and we’ve done what we can to adjust everyone’s schedule,” said Zaban, “but this is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to really do something about it.

“School hasn’t started yet and we don’t have a game for three more weeks, so we can change our schedule around and now we won’t have players running around out there when it’s 90 degrees and they can’t get a drink of water.

“It’s a safety issue, but we think it’s going to be fun, too.”

On top of that, the players will get to spend their fasting time the easiest way possible: sleeping.

Actually, having midnight practices might not be a bad idea for the non-Muslim football population as well, at least as a way to beat the heat. Already this summer, there have been reports out of Atlanta, Kansas City, Rowan County, Ky., of high school football players being taken to hospitals because of heat exhaustion. In the Louisville area — where one Jason Stinson was tried but acquitted after one of his players died during a hot practice — one Christian high school is starting before sunrise.

And its training table isn’t even halal.

Written by rkcookjr

August 11, 2010 at 10:46 pm

Arrested coach pictured poorly in court, on Facebook

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Unfortunately this happens a lot — a young-ish assistant high school coach getting popped on charges related to fooling around (or trying to fool around) with the kids he coaches. However, these stories aren’t usually accompanied by the unflatteringly douchebaggish photo of the alleged perpetrator.

This story should teach any young coach that if you’re going to be stupid, depraved and unprofessional enough to go all Wooderson on high school girls, you should at least make sure your social network pictures don’t make you look like the kind of guy who might be that stupid, depraved and unprofessional.

From the Deseret News in Salt Lake City:

A well-known substitute teacher and sports coach in Moab has been arrested and charged with raping two teenage girls.

Trace Wells, 24, was charged [July 13] in 7th District Court with multiple counts of rape, possession of child pornography, forcible sex abuse and enticing a minor. …

Wells was a former football star at Grand County High School and worked as a substitute teacher at the high school and the local middle school. He also helped coach the high school track team, of which one of his victims was a member, said Grand County Sheriff’s Sgt. Kim Neal.

Wells and his family are fairly prominent in the community, according to officials. His father is the coach of the high school’s football and wrestling teams. His grandmother is a member of the Grand County Council, Neal said. …

The victims were 15 and 16 years old and both girls whom Wells had known for awhile, Neal said. The child porn charges stem from alleged “sexting” (texting of sexual pictures) of at least one of the victims, he said.

And here is the profile picture on Trace Wells’ Facebook and MySpace pages, a shot the Deseret News picked up and used on its site:

I will emphasize that Trace Wells, like anyone arrested, is innocent until proven guilty. But, sheesh, this isn’t helping.

A yanked swimming scholarship, and why it's not wrong for parents to speak up

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The default position whenever parents get heavily involved in an athletic dispute involving their child is, they’re obviously overbearing, overindulgent busybodies who are turning their kids into pussies. (I’m not sure what the default substitute for “pussies” would be if the athlete is a girl.)

However, a lawsuit over a school’s role in a lost swimming scholarship has emerged in the St. Louis area that, if the parents’ allegations are true, makes me think: Yeah, I’d be suing their asses off, too.

[youtubevid id=”1sOeY6ZVG2U”]

And I would hire Al Pacino from “And Justice for All” as my lawyer, for the drama.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Peter and Marzie McCoy of Wildwood, Mo., are suing their local school district after their daughter, a state championship swimmer, briefly lost her scholarship to Colorado State University after it reviewed a recommendation form filled out by a Lafayette High School counselor that was less than flattering. In theory, everybody followed procedure. The problem was, say that parents, that the counselor filling out the form had never met their daughter. From the July 9 Post-Dispatch:

The recommendation form, signed by Lafayette High School counselor Beth Brasel, said that Shannon McCoy was “below average” in five personal traits including initiative, character, integrity and leadership.

The McCoys said that the description of their daughter was “grossly inaccurate” and that Brasel had never met Shannon before the form was filled out.

Rockwood spokeswoman Kim Cranston said it was the district’s understanding that the recommendation form had nothing to do with the rescinding of McCoy’s scholarship, based on their contact with a Colorado State University admissions officer.

A message left Thursday for the admissions officer was not returned. [Brasel was also not available for comment.]

Predictably, many of the comments left by readers paint the parents (and their daughter, with her mere 3.0 grade-point average in an age of grade inflation) as spoiled brats, especially because they’re not dropping the lawsuit even after Colorado State, after the parents’ appealed, gave the scholarship back. At 80 percent of out-of-state tuition, room and board, that scholarship money is no small potatoes. Here is a comment by someone called cardsphan:

Cry me a river Parents. Way to teach your daughter to be a spoiled brat. What parents, teach their kids that if something goes wrong just sue for money to make it better. Did you ever think that maybe your daughter didn’t deserve a scholarship? I had one for athletics out of Marquette HS but i also had a 3.6 GPA. A 3.0 is not hard to get in HS, maybe the girl was to much into swimming and not her grades. IM JUST SAYIN

Given that grammar, I can believe a 3.6 GPA would be related to grade inflation.

As usual when these stories hit the local press, there is a lot we don’t know. We don’t know why that particular counselor filled out the form, and why she filled it out as she did. Did she really know Shannon McCoy? Had she heard stuff from other people? Had the parents and the school clashed in the past? Over what?

Until court papers are filed in response, we won’t know the school’s side of the story. Maybe Peter and Marzie McCoy are big pains in the ass who are doing their daughter a disservice. Or, maybe they do need to advocate for their daughter — and others in a similar situation — against an idiotic and possibly vindictive school bureaucracy.

The point is, we don’t know. And the other point is, until we do, we can’t make snap judgments about the parents — or the school, for that matter. But what I do feel confident saying is that it is NEVER wrong for a parent to speak out and least ask what is going on, or ask why something happened the way it happened.

There is a time and place for parents to advocate for their child, and parents deserve answers to their questions. On the other hand, parents need to approach these issues in as reasonable a manner possible, which admittedly can be difficult when you see your own child getting hurt. I am of a belief that reasonable people can reach reasonable conclusions. And, yes, sometimes that means parents finding out the hard truth that their kid is an asshole.

However, if that’s not the case here, if the school cavalierly and/or maliciously filled out a form in a way that screwed up a huge opportunity for Shannon McCoy — well, I hope the parents get every dime they’re asking for. I would want to, in that situation.

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