Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Archive for September 23rd, 2009

Shocking news: school district, parents act civil in debate over coaches' conduct

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In Hickory, Ind., the high school basketball coach has to survive a round of interviews with the local hayseeds.

If David Jason Stinson thinks he’s going to get back into coaching and tell players he’s going to run them until everyone quits, he’s going to face a foe much more powerful than the Jefferson County, Ky., prosecutor  — parents.

Not that parents getting involved in hiring and firing coaches is new, but the latest pattern in complaints — a pattern that’s no surprise to the masses that fill up newspaper comment boards about how we’re turning our children into pussies — is whether a coach is being verbally abusive.

Even more disturbing, it appears parents and school districts are beginning to act like adults, working together to find solutions to the problems. What the hell, man? When did the comity of the State of the Union gallery and the screeching of school board meeting crowds switch places? Is it Opposite Day, and no one told me?

Here’s an example from Barnesville, Minn., where parents are questioning whether the high school coaches are properly Minnesota nice.

From the Forum in Fargo, N.D.:

A group of residents [in Barnesville] is calling on their school district to start soliciting parent feedback on the performance of coaches.

Parents sprung to action this summer after hearing that several Barnesville coaches might have used deprecating language [including profanity] toward students during practice – concerns they say athletes and parents are reluctant to voice for fear of retribution.

District officials have balked at the idea of a parent survey that would count toward coach evaluations. They point out the district has a streamlined system to handle complaints, and they scoff at the idea a coach’s livelihood should depend on input from adults who are generally not around at practice time.

The clash has spawned a well-attended parent meeting to air concerns, an open records request for district e-mails and, more recently, a compromise solution [to have student athletes fill out anonymous surveys created by parents and the district].

And all of this echoes a heated Minnesota debate over parental input about coach performance – to some, an out-of-line bid to micromanage; to others, a way to rein in a growing emphasis on winning in high school athletics.

“This has got to be the No. 1 hottest issue parents have in high school and junior high,” says Mary Cecconi of Parents United, a Minnesota parent advocacy group.

Parents and administrators are working together to create a solution? C’mon, Minnesota! Where’s the screaming! Where’s the outrage? Where are the signs depicting the athletic director as Stalin, Hitler and Castro?

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This is the kind of lameness that Minnesotans called a raucous health reform debate. You call this an angry mob?

Written by rkcookjr

September 23, 2009 at 11:54 pm

Autistic football player's dream comes true

with 2 comments

You would think it’s a cliche, the story of a player with some disability who is put into a youth-level game and is allowed to do something spectacular, thus teaching everyone involved the meaning of sportsmanship.

But every time I see one, it really gets to me. I dare you read the story about Winfred Cooper and stop yourself from welling up.

From the Daily Herald in Arlington Heights, Ill. (hat tip: Hilary Shenfeld, the Suburbanista):

During a junior varsity football game between Elgin and Lake Park high schools, Elgin would sometimes put in a player who lined up far off the line of scrimmage.

Lake Park coach Nana Agyeman noticed this, and during halftime, he talked to Elgin’s head coach, Dave Bierman, about it. He learned the player, Winfred Cooper, has severe autism.

“Well,” Agyeman told Bierman, “if you want to throw him the ball, just let us know.”

Bierman was skeptical, questioning whether Cooper would catch the ball. But he and the coaches decided to give him a shot. After all, Cooper is a beloved member of the team, it’s his senior year and he rarely gets to play.

So the coaches from both teams concocted a play called “Driver Driver,” named after Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver. In the second half of the Sept. 12 contest, with Lake Park leading by a score of 6-0, Cooper was put in the game.

The Driver Driver play was called. The ball was snapped. Cooper ran to an open spot, and a wobbly pass was thrown his way.

The coaches cringed as their eyes followed the ball into the air. Cooper extended his arms … and caught it.

Elgin’s sideline erupted with cheers, and his teammates jumped up and down and screamed as Cooper raced full-sprint down the field. The fans, and even the Lake Park coaches, were cheering, too.

Cooper wove past a few Lake Park defenders, avoided a well-choreographed tackle attempt by Lake Park’s Mike Schenone, and went 67 yards into the end zone to tie the game 6-6.

All of Cooper’s teammates ran into the end zone after him, jumping up and down and slapping his helmet. The coaches choked back tears as they watched Cooper celebrate in the end zone with his teammates, doing his trademark dance, something called “The Winfred Shuffle.” Some players danced along with him.

The story goes on to say that Cooper got the game ball, which he sleeps with. He has watched the play dozens of times. He was the BMOC after the touchdown.

Cooper himself is an amazing story. According to the Herald, he was diagnosed with autism at age 2, but his father pushed eventually to have him in mainstream classes. With the only concession being extra time for tests, Cooper has a 3.6 grand-point average, runs track, works in the lunchroom, leads his football team in prayers and raises money for autism-related causes. He is a member of the National Honor Society. The touchdown was but a great feather in the cap of a wonderful high-school career.

Something like Cooper’s touchdown doesn’t happen without coaches who recognize that sometimes sports is about more than winning and losing, and are willing to do whatever it takes to impart that lesson to their players. From the Herald:

Given all the bad sportsmanship that’s made headlines recently, the coaches saw this as a teaching opportunity for the players. It taught them that winning doesn’t matter if you can provide someone with a moment like that.

“There was a greater victory that morning,” Lake Park head coach Andy Livingston said.

Lake Park did end up winning the game 13-6, and afterward, Livingston couldn’t hold back tears as he talked to his players. He shared the words Bierman said to him after the game: “Thank you. You made that young man’s career.”

“I’ve been doing this a long time, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything cooler than this,” Livingston said. “Vince Lombardi would crack a smile, and probably a tear, at this.”

The lesson goes beyond just the team, judging by this comment on the Herald story.

Hello everyone,

My little Brother is Mike Schenone, the cornerback covering Cooper. When mike told me the story about what happened I personally did not think it was that big of a deal. It sounds allot like his personality. In fact, my family was giving him a hard time for missing the tackle, joking of course. However, after reading this article and seeing your comments from another point of view, I truly realized how blessed I am to be able to say “that is my brother”.

Excuse me, I think I have a little something in my eye.

Written by rkcookjr

September 23, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Passing on your love of sports without yelling "helpful advice" to your children

with 2 comments

3195132578_8f6c9a9414A site called GreatDad, which is better than the site AdequateDad and definitely better than SitsOnHisFatAssAndFartsDad, posits some advice on bonding with your children through sport in a safe environment — your living room, where you can all yell at the dumbshits on the field on screen instead of dad yelling at his kid and calling him a dumbshit on the field live and in person.

The post is called “Bonding with children through football, snacks and jerseys.” It’s got some good advice, although I will break down how it works in my house.

While every new season of the NFL can bring a variety of surprises, like this year’s non retirement of Brett Favre, there is one constant: it’s always a great opportunity for fathers to get close to their kids.

In American society, watching football games is already perceived as a group activity and when fathers introduce their favorite sport to their children, it can also be an effective bonding exercise.

Some good parenting advice to get children involved with football-watching on Sunday afternoons is to give them appropriate jerseys to wear during the game. Better yet, personalized family jerseys may solidify the event as a family gathering.

Here is the appropriate jersey to wear in my house on Sundays: anything but an Indianapolis Colts jersey. That’s because I’m a big Colts fan, and a stupidly superstitious one. If the Colts are playing, no one in my house, especially me, is allowed to wear a Colts jersey the day of the game. That means starting at midnight, so if I, my wife or any of my four children have any Colts gear on Saturday, it must be off by 11:59 p.m. If that does not happen, the Colts are sure to lose. (By the way, I have the same superstition for the Pacers.)

Of course, I have no factual basis for this. If I did, it would not be a superstition. But to paraphrase Crash Davis, if the Colts are winning because my family is not wearing their gear on game day, then they are. I’ll leave it to the 63,000 fans in Lucas Oil Stadium to wear their jerseys, because if you’ve been to a Colts home game with me, you know I’m the only one not wearing one.

Fathers should find time to explain the rules of the game, but not get too specific. Patience will be required on some confusing plays, so be sure to be ready to lower the volume for the explanation. Remember, this is about introducing kids to the game.

Not just lower the volume — pause the game while you explain the intricacies of the Wildcat. I did pause Monday night’s Colts-Dolphins game (which the Colts won, because no one in my house was wearing their licensed apparel) to show my 10-year-old daughter how to tackle, and all the illegal hits.

Getting them outside to play some football in the backyard may be one of the best ways for them to get a handle on the rules. This also gets kids some much-needed exercise.ADNFCR-1662-ID-19371367-ADNFCR

Especially if their 10-year-old sister wants to see what it’s like to spear, trip or horse-collar you.

Written by rkcookjr

September 23, 2009 at 12:26 am

Posted in parenting, Sports

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