Archive for April 2009
The Your Kid’s Not Going Pro emergency alert center reports the following athletic cancellations as a result of H1N1 — oh, forget it, you’re all gonna call it swine flu no matter what authorities say. (NOTE: I am adding to this list and alphabetizing by state rather than creating new posts every team a school or organization cancels sports.)
EDIT: On the Pitch has some great practical resources for handling the swine flu scare. Its advice is targeted toward soccer leagues. But the lessons — including handling communication with parents — are valuable for any kind of league and coach.
MADISON COUNTY, ALABAMA – All children’s activities, including T-ball practices and games, in county parks canceled until May 4.
BRANHAM HIGH SCHOOL, CALIFORNIA — All events canceled through May 6.
INDIO HIGH SCHOOL, CALIFORNIA — All events canceled through May 7.
BATAVIA HIGH SCHOOL, ILLINOIS — All games and practices canceled through May 4, as well as a ban on outside groups using school facilities.
HOMER COMMUNITY CONSOLIDATED DISTRICT 33, ILLINOIS — All afterschool activities in middle and elementary schools, including sports, canceled for May 1.
WABASH SCHOOL DISTRICT, INDIANA — All practices for Thurs., April 30, called off. Games still scheduled, unless rained out.
WOODHAVEN-BROWNSTOWN SCHOOLS, MICHIGAN — All after-school activites, including sports, canceled for Thurs., April 30, and possibly through the weekend.
BEMUS POINT SCHOOL DISTRICT, NEW YORK — All sports canceled through May 3.
FABIUS-POMPEY HIGH SCHOOL, NEW YORK – All events canceled through May 1.
MAPLE GROVE SCHOOLS, NEW YORK — Schools and all sports activities canceled through May 4.
ST. FRANCIS PREP SCHOOL, NEW YORK — All events will go forward as scheduled, unless opponents are too scared of contracting swine flu to show up.
NORTH KINGSTOWN HIGH SCHOOL, RHODE ISLAND — All events canceled through Friday.
MAULDIN HIGH SCHOOL, SOUTH CAROLINA — All activities, including games and practices, canceled on April 30 and May 1.
NEWBERRY COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, SOUTH CAROLINA — Most after-school activities, including sports, canceled through May 4.
MONTGOMERY BELL ACADEMY, TENNESSEE — All after-school activities, including sports, canceled through May 8.
THE CITY OF THE COLONY’S PARK AND RECREATIONS DEPARTMENT, TEXAS — All youth league events at city facilities canceled through May 6.
CITY OF FORT WORTH, TEXAS — All recreation center-hosted activities canceled until at least May 8..
CITY OF HIGHLAND VILLAGE, TEXAS — All organized youth sports league games canceled from May 1-10.
LEWISVILLE ISD, TEXAS — All school district sporting events canceled through May 11.
TEXAS ASSOCIATION OF PRIVATE AND PAROCHIAL SCHOOLS — Region I-5A and 4A South Regional track meets scheduled for May 1 canceled.
UNIVERSITY INTERSCHOLASTIC LEAGUE, TEXAS — All events canceled until May 11.
SALT LAKE CITY CATHOLIC SCHOOLS, UTAH — All sports at Judge Memorial Catholic High School and Our Lady of Lourdes School canceled until May 5.
PARK CITY SCHOOLS, UTAH — Schools and all sports activities closed through May 4.
CLOVER PARK SCHOOL DISTRICT, WASHINGTON — Lakewood High School sports activities canceled for May 1.
Further updates as events warrant. Please send any closing and cancellations to rkcookjr at comcast.net, or through Twitter to @notgoingpro.
WGN’s Tom Skilling, the world’s greatest TV weatherperson, informed us last night that Chicago Midway Airport has had its wettest meteorological spring on record — 11.37 inches since March 1. If you didn’t know meteorological spring started March 1, you probably don’t watch Tommy, and also you probably don’t know what an isobar is. Or you’re my mother-in-law, yelling during the midst of one of Tommy’s 10-minute weather jags, “Get to the forecast!” Anyway, that near-foot of rain is double what Midway normally would have by now.
So what does that have to do with youth sports?
It means we’re not playing them. It means, as a T-ball manager, I’m monitoring radar all day like I’m working in the National Hurricane Center. It means my cell has a button to send a notice to every parent whether we are, or aren’t, parenting. It means Monday I watched my 9-year-old daughter’s softball team get one inning in during a downpour on her opening day before the coaches had to call the game, clearly against their will except that the pitcher couldn’t keep control of even the dry ball the coaches would throw after she slid another one in the dirt.
It means that about mid-May, millions of parents nationwide will be racing from game to game, every day, to make up for the many canceled games. Especially those parents where I live, about eight miles due south of soggy Midway Airport.
Thursday I have a T-ball game to manage (including my 6-year-old) son. My daughter has a game scheduled as well. Tommy’s forecast: 70 and a strong chance of thunderstorms. Sigh.
And it’s not like last meteorological fall was any picnic either. Taken by my then 10-year-old son in the area around the SAC softball fields in Oak Lawn, Ill., where the fall league softball team I managed didn’t play some games thanks to what you see here.
On Monday night, the Florida High School Athletic Association voted 9-6 to chop varsity sports games by 20 percent and JV and freshman games by 40 percent for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years. Varsity football, a big moneymaker, is unaffected. Competitive cheerleading is unaffected as well. Wait, is that a big moneymaker, too? New FHSAA executive director Roger Dearing in March put forth this proposal, saying the only other option was eliminating sports.
As you can imagine, this isn’t going over well with athletic directors.
From the Miami Herald, which notes that a lot of high-powered basketball programs who hosted or traveled to tournaments now can’t do so with a 20-game limit:
”I was a student in this county, and now I’ve been coaching in this county for 20-some years,” said Larry Brown, athletic director at Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines. “I have never seen anything like this, cuts so drastic.”
Added Roger Harriott, AD at Davie’s University School: “It sends the wrong message to the kids, considering they’re the whole reason we have a job.”
In Miami, these games cuts were made five years ago. But the county school district says it still might have to eliminate multiple conference tournaments.
The problem in Florida is this: the state’s property taxes are refigured on an annual basis, and they’re based on the average sale prices for January, the busiest home-selling month in the state. (In my state, Illinois, your property gets reassessed every three years, based on an average price for the previous three years. So my schools are doing OK, because the last assessment caught the last three years of the real estate peak.)
The Florida system was great during the real estate boom times. Now, it’s sending school budgets cratering. Here was my report from January 2009, when I was visiting mortgage-scarred Bradenton.
Individual schools across the country are cutting sports budgets, but I haven’t heard of another state athletic association putting the hammer down on everyone. Will it be the last? I’m going to go out on a limb and say: probably not.
A Florida High School Athletic Association board member at work.
EDIT: Boy, I am behind. New York and Mississippi already have enacted similar cuts statewide, with New York (unlike Mississippi) even cutting football. Oklahoma earlier this decade cut sports schedules to save money, though that was before the current recession. Idaho’s state high school athletic association in April voted down an across-the-board 10 percent event cut, but it might revisit the issue in May, as well as looking at other cost-saving moves.
None other Nicole LaVoi (pronounced La Vwah — like Stephen Colbert would say, it’s French, bitch) responded to my post the other day, “Where the women coaches at?” That was the name of the post, not her response.
LaVoi (left) is associate director of the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, and as such has done a lot of work on answering the grammatically challenged question posed in the previous paragraph. The center recently hosted University of Southern California professor of sociology and gender studies Michael Messner, who has done some work on the subject himself.
You might remember my previous post for its frequent, sardonic use of “soft essentialism,” Messner’s term for women thinking they are making a choice not to coach when it’s really the Man (or, in fact, the old boys running the coaching network) who have unconsciously made that choice for them. I responded that while that might be true in some cases, at least among the moms that I know, their choice not to coach has more to do with either a lack of interest in sports or a desire not to add one more goddamn thing to their schedule after work and chores.
I have come to learn two things since my previous post. One is that “The Soft Essentialism” is a great name for a band, and with that name I am totally gonna open for Radiohead within three years. The other, as Professor LaVoi pointed out, is that while I have my differences with her and Messner, we have more in common than I might have believed.
Thank you for your blog in raising more awareness on this issue and providing additional insights and opinions. In Messner’s book he actually does talk about how many men also feel left out of the “old boy’s network” and face many of the same barriers to coaching that women perceive and face. Neither Messner nor I are making the claim that men are overtly scheming to keep women out of coaching, but there are many subtle ways in which this happens that are much more complex than merely saying “women don’t want to coach”.
I wrote two blogs about the lack of female coaches in youth sport and why it matters and how to help increase the number of female coaches in youth sport. I agree with you that many women are just too busy to even think about coaching and are juggling many roles. I don’t think we disagree…not that much anyway! I also agree that implementing the strategies is much more difficult than writing about it, but if one thinks it is an important issue…it is a starting point!
I would heartily agree with you, professor. Whatever we think the reason, I think we all like the idea of having more women coaching.
I’m not sure I buy Brooke de Lench’s (of Momsteam fame) contention that, and I paraphrase, that women coaches are needed because they tend to bring unicorns and sunshine while, by contrast, male coaches tend to be overcompetitive assholes. However, different people bring different talents, and leagues should make it abundantly clear they want and encourage women among the coaching ranks.
While it seems like there should be a lot more female coaches nearly 40 years into the Title IX era, perhaps this problem will solved by a future generation — the so-called second wave of feminism, if you will. I eagerly await watching my 9-year-old and 3-year-old daughters someday coaching their kids.
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Jefferson County school district is investigating allegations of retaliation against Pleasure Ridge Park High football players who spoke to police after last August’s death of teammate Max Gilpin.
Gilpin was the 15-year-old who died a few days after collapsing in practice after Coach David Jason Stinson forced the team to run “gassers” in a heat index of 94 degrees after he was displeased with their effort. Stinson has pleaded not guilty to reckless homicide charges in a rare case of a coach being held criminally liable for an athlete’s death. His trial is scheduled to begin in August. Stinson, as well as the school district and other coaches, is being sued by Gilpin’s parents in a wrongful death case. Stinson is no longer Pleasure Ridge Park’s football coach.
From the C-J:
Superintendent Sheldon Berman said [April 24] that he has asked Joe Burks, assistant superintendent of high schools, to look into the allegations.
Berman said he has not received any complaints but was asked about the matter during a deposition last week in a lawsuit filed by Max’s parents, Michele Crockett and Jeff Gilpin.
“As soon as I got back (to the office), I instructed my staff to investigate,” he said.
If there is retaliation against students, Berman said it would be “completely inappropriate.”
“It should not even be a topic for discussion,” he said. “No student should be harassed in any way for what they told the police.”
The Courier-Journal has received several calls from PRP parents who said their children were being retaliated against because of the statements they gave police. They asked not to be named.
The story doesn’t mention exactly what kind of retaliation is being meted out, and exactly who is meting it out to exactly whom, by name at least.
There also are conflicting statements about whether fundraising for Stinson’s legal defense is happening on school grounds.
Several other parents who have contacted the newspaper said they are concerned that fundraising is being done during school hours to raise money for Stinson’s defense and that their children are being encouraged to wear T-shirts supporting Stinson.
Lauren Roberts, spokeswoman for the district, said yesterday that neither PRP nor the district has received any complaints from parents about fundraising.
[Principal David] Johnson “has advised me that there are no fundraising activities occurring on school property or during school hours,” Roberts said in an e-mail.
She said that earlier in the school year “there was a youth recreation league that sold T-shirts after school in support of the coach, but Mr. Johnson stopped that.”
Sorry to use the TV news sweeps headline. I don’t mean to scare you that every person who might coach your kid is a felon, especially because of the off chance you’re a reader whose kid I coach. But the cost and limited efficacy of criminal background checks means that it’s very possible someone is going to slip through the cracks.
For example, someone like Marlon Rayford Wade II. The Saraland, Ala., Dixie Youth Baseball League coach was arrested April 16 on a charge of cocaine trafficking after police said they found $24,000 worth of those twinkling, twinkling grains in his Mobile home. That’s Mobile, Ala., not Mobile as in double-wide. That arrest is not so much the shocker. After all, if someone has never been arrested, he or she is not going to show up in a background check.
Except two problems here, as highlighted in the Mobile Register. First, Saraland Dixie Youth Baseball, which is affiliated with the city’s recreation department, does not conduct background checks. And even if it did, Wade probably wouldn’t have shown up even though he’s had a few prior arrests.
By a few, I mean 31 in 19 years.
But they were all for misdemeanors, and none involved any harm to a child. (The Mobile Register story doesn’t note how many convictions Wade had.) In most cases, the background checks done by your child’s league are looking for felonies only, and particularly for felonies that involve children or violence in general. And, according to the Register:
Wade had been certified with the National Youth Sports Coaches Association as recently as 2007, according to the group that touts itself as “America’s leading advocate for positive and safe sports and activities for children.”
You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney. You have a right to coach 8U boys’ soccer if we only find a handful of weed or you can plead down to disorderly conduct.
You might ask, with good reason, how could someone like this slip through? How could any organization in good conscience let someone like Wade slip through, especially in not paying at all for background checks?
Well, there are a couple of reasons.
The cost issue sounds like a cop-out, but the cost of a basic background check (a search of current name and address against a crime database) can run from anywhere from $1 to $10 per check, assuming the local police aren’t doing them for free. Not per name — per check. So if you’re looking at more than one jurisdiction or coach’s address, that counts as an extra check. It doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up. I could see how organizations that have never had any prior criminal troubles with coaches decide to save a few bucks and cross their fingers.
And for your money, in most cases you’re not getting a guarantee that you’re seeing everything, especially because there are police and courts that don’t contribute to the databases the background check agencies use. They also don’t go back more than the coach’s current address. The background checks are good if you’re trying to prevent someone currently on a sex offender list from coaching, but not wholly effective otherwise.
By the way, it’s stunning how many violent and sexual offenders are still trying to get close to your kids through coaching. The Register reports that Mobile city-run sports uses a background check through the local police that weeds out such offenders — and that the department was sending rejection notices to 30 out of 800 applicants for youth football and basketball coaching positions for failing those checks. Does that number seem high to anyone else?
I noted at the beginning of the month a Denver Post that recommended you play private detective to get more information on coaches. The advice was wholly impractical for parents who have other things to do, like work and raise children. But that doesn’t mean you should completely trust a coach, or ignore the little voice inside that says something is wrong.
If you want quick questions to ask to make sure things are OK, here are two you can ask a league that can go a long way toward determining if everything is on the up-and-up:
— Do you do criminal background checks? (Even a minimal one is better than nothing.)
— Are coaches allowed alone with children? (It’s optimum that there’s an assistant so there are two adults at one time, but you want to know that at least the coach is always with a group of kids, not one-on-one)