Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Archive for November 19th, 2009

Do coaches yell more than they used to? DO THEY??????

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Recently University of Kansas officials began looking into allegations from players and their parents that football coach Mark Mangino… well, the Kansas City Star didn’t say exactly what, but it’s widely believed that it has something to do with his temper, which is on display in this oft-seen YouTube clip of Mangino going ballistic (in a possibly NSFW way) on one of his players who drew a taunting penalty after running an interception back for a touchdown.

[youtubevid id=”zmAYpAzNB34″]

Rated “R” for language and threat of violence. No nudity.

So Star reporters Dave Helling and Diane Stafford, riffing off of Mangino, proceed to write a story called, “Aggressive coaching is a growing problem, but how much is too much?” I know reporters don’t write the headlines. But the story promises exactly what the head says — a look at the growing problem of semi-abusive coaches.

Except that there is zero evidence in their story that there is a “growing” number of semi-abusive coaches.

One problem I have with stories like the one in the Star, and with the coverage of youth sports in general, is that it’s always either-or. Either coaches are violent hooligans destroying the fragile psyches of young children, or they’re don’t-keep-score weenies pussifying America.

Of course, both kinds of coaches are out there. I’ve seen no scientific evidence determining what percentage of coaches are hard-asses vs. bleeding hearts, but I do know that since I was a kid, leagues are far more upfront, at least on paper, about making teaching children and getting them to enjoy a sport a greater goal than winning. That’s why I have a hard time buying sentences like these from Helling and Stafford, who, to be fair, are only regurgitating what they’ve been told:

Yet the problem of overly aggressive youth coaching is growing in America. Indeed, three out of four young players quit organized sports before the age of 13, according to one survey, blaming overly aggressive coaching more than any other reason.

“The win-at-all-costs mentality that’s filtered down from professional sports has colored youth sports,” said Jim Thompson, founder of a California-based organization called the Positive Coaching Alliance, which counsels coaches at the high school level and below. “Youth coaches are imagining in their heads that they’re an NBA coach or an NFL coach.”

A survey by the Citizenship Through Sports Alliance gave youth coaching a C- grade in 2005, calling the lack of focus on effort, skill development, positive reinforcement and fun “unacceptable.”

“Youth sports has lost its child-centered focus, meaning less emphasis on the child’s experience and more emphasis on adult-centered motives, such as winning,” the group concluded.

The Positive Coaching Alliance and Citizenship Through Sports Alliance do some wonderful work, but if they believe youth sports has “lost” its child-centered focus, they’re not looking at the same world I see. If anything has changed, it’s not that coaches yell more. It’s that youth sports has grown more professionalized as a result of parents willing to pay big bucks to get their kids, the centers of their lives, everything they could possibly want and need for that elusive college scholarship or pro career.

The story of the reaction to Mangino and others allegedly like him is not that coaches yell more. It’s that a coach who motivates through fear and yelling stands out much more than he or she used to — a point Helling and Stafford make later on, thus contradicting the thesis of their story:

Complaints about overly aggressive coaches aren’t limited to big-time college programs. Raytown South basketball coach Bud Lathrop lost his job after more than 40 seasons [in 2003] after stories surfaced that players were paddled for missing free throws.

At the time, some of Lathrop’s fans defended his approach, which they said was considered perfectly acceptable 30 or 40 years ago. …

Every management guru in America preaches that collaboration is the best way to get good work out of the “team.” Even the military, the bastion of top-down, do-as-I-say leadership, has tried to tone down the archetypal drill-sergeant abuse.

Yet society generally casts a more permissive eye on successful coaches who behave badly. Bob Knight and Woody Hayes were legendary for outbursts, physical and verbal, although it eventually got both in hot water.

Yeah, about that hot water. Hayes, Ohio State’s legendary football coach, was fired in 1978 after punching an opponent who was forced onto his sideline after returning an interception.

[youtubevid id=”HmoIjMr1BZs”]

Woody Hayes, losing his shit.

Knight, the legendary Indiana basketball coach, was fired in 2000 after he violated a zero-tolerance policy put on him after numerous controversial incidents regarding his behavior.

So let me ask this. If aggressive coaching is so much more of a problem, why are aggressive coaches being tossed out? Why are youth sports leagues emphasizing to their coaches the importance of teaching over winning? Which is it, Kansas City Star — are coaches being allowed to run wild, or are they being told to hold their temper? You’ve got a serious mixed message when you’re trying to send a firm one about the prevalence of abusive coaches.

Of course, as I mentioned before, it’s not an either-or situation. A lot of youth coaches, whether they yell or not, are focused on winning. Often, the parents whose kids are on that coach’s team emphasize it as well. Indeed, a recent study by a University of Washington professor found that children whose coaches emphasized mastery of skill rather than winning had less “sports anxiety” and were more likely to stay with a sport.

I think where reporters like those at the Star get the mistaken impression that coaches are yelling more is because there is so much emphasis from organizations like the Positive Coaching Alliance to make sure ALL coaches are creating a positive environment. By the way, that’s not as simple as praising everyone. In the coed fifth- and sixth-grade team I coach, sometimes you have to give ’em a carrot, and sometimes you have to be more forceful about what you want. Some kids respond to the carrot, and some kids need the stick. What I try to do is make sure they know I’m doing what I’m doing because I care for them and want them to get better. I don’t use a paddle.

Does winning matter? To me, no. But I know from my experience that if kids never win, or don’t win much, that’s as discouraging as an environment that is only about winning.

The big problem with youth coaching, and where organization like Positive Coaching Alliance prove valuable, is that because coaches are drawn from the ranks of parent volunteers, you have people who don’t know how to coach. So, they draw on who their old coaches were — yellers, like back in the day.

The next time someone writes a story about yelling coaches, I’d like to see either a study showing that indeed more coaches are abusive, or something that reflects the reality of youth sports today — where some coaches yell, and some don’t, where some kids are in professionalized programs, and some aren’t. Just because Mark Mangino yells doesn’t mean most coaches do, or that just because he yells he represents a growing trend.

The story really is that if a coach does cross the line toward abuse, parents, players and others in the outside world are much more likely to call the coach on it.

Written by rkcookjr

November 19, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Larry King's 10-year-old son gets radio sports gig

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Will he wear suspenders and say, “Tulsa, Oklahoma, Hello!” in a squeaky voice?

From TMZ:

Getting a job in radio is child’s play to Larry King’s 10-year-old son — because the kid just landed a phat TV job hosting a sports show on FOX SportsNet.

Larry tells TMZ Chance King recently penned a deal to host an upcoming TV show called “Kid Pitch” — which revolves around youngsters shooting the breeze about all things baseball … plus interviews with Major League Baseball players.

The show is set to start filming in February of next year — and due to Chance’s school schedule, we’re told he’ll have to hightail it to the set after his school day wraps.

We’re also told Larry’s 9-year-old son Cannon will make occasional appearances on the program — which will be directed by “Best Damn Sports Show Period” alum Tom Arnold.

Luke Russert is calling NBC executives to find out why he had to wait until after puberty to get hired. Parents, your kid is apparently not going pro as a broadcaster, either, unless you find a way to procreate with Bob Costas.

That said, I hope “Kid Pitch” makes the move to television. There hasn’t been a good kids-and-baseball show since “The Baseball Bunch” went off the air in the 1980s. All Chance King needs is the Famous Chicken as a sidekick and a guest appearance by Tom Seaver, and it’s ratings gold!

[youtubevid id=”MZS4uaUUIjw”]

Written by rkcookjr

November 19, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Former youth coach spotlighted by America's Most Wanted

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hamiltonJohn_lgIf you do a Google News search with the words coach and arrested, you’re pretty sure to find at least two to five youth coaches a week under suspicion of something. (Or you can let do the work for you.) But it takes a real go-getter to graduate from algorithmic grab to America’s Most Wanted. Congratulations, John Hamilton!

According to the web site for the long-running Fox television program, an international manhunt for Hamilton, 38, of Centreville, Va., is under way, focusing on Germany and Denmark, the latter of which was a home country of one of his his victims. Some background from America’s Most Wanted:

For 20 years, coach John Hamilton was a fixture in the Fort Hunt Area of Northern Virginia.

He was known not only as a baseball coach, but also as an umpire and someone parents could count on when a child needed a ride home. Hundreds of parents and kids knew him and supported his family’s silk screening business.

But his warm personality and engaging smile, belied a horrifying double life.

In early 2009, a 24-year-old man approached police and reported that he had been assaulted during a four-month period in 1997 when he was just 12 years old.

The man said that he had seen Hamilton at a local convenience store with a young boy, and the sight convinced him to come forward. Since then, nine others have come forward.

Hamilton was arrested in May 2009 and charged with aggravated sexual battery and three counts of taking indecent liberties with a child by a person in a supervisory relationship.

A grand jury indicted him, and a judge set bond, which was revoked when he contacted one of his alleged victims.  He was let out on bond a second time and the judge didn’t ask for his passport.

Hamilton was to enter a guilty plea on October 7, 2009, that would have kept him in prison for decades.  He failed to appear in court.

Police in Virginia say the “getting lost” was facilitated with the help of his mother, who not only posted cash bonds for him but expedited her passport request so she could travel too.

Cops say that the mother and son went to Frankfurt, Germany in September 2009; she returned, he did not.

The Fort Hunt Youth Association said Hamilton stopped umpiring and coaching there in 2002. In its statement regarding Hamilton’s arrest, it noted that every coach goes through a background check. Unfortunately, if a person doesn’t have a criminal record, a background check, no matter how extensive, can’t tell you whether a coach is likely to be a predator. (I’ve found no indication Hamilton had any police record before his arrest.) All a parent or league official can do is set parameters for what is appropriate coach-player conduct, and keep their eyes open for anything that seems a little off.

Hamilton might not have been coaching, but he was still involved with kids. Police said at the time of his arrest, Hamilton had a male 16-year-old foreign exchange student living with him.

Written by rkcookjr

November 19, 2009 at 12:26 am