Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Archive for January 2011

After dismissals and defections, high school hoops coach calls up full junior varsity

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Not unusual: players being called up from junior varsity to varsity in the middle of the season. Unusual: the whole junior varsity team being called up to varsity in the middle of the season.

It’s happened at East Henderson High in Hendersonville, N.C. Between the players that new coach Clint Loftin dismissed for “lack of heart,” and those that quit the team, East Henderson lost six players between Dec. 15 and New Year’s. So for their first game of the calendar year, Jan. 4, Loftin called up all 10 JV players to join the six varsity players who were left. East Henderson lost to Smoky Mountain High, 76-33, to fall to 2-8.

From BlueRidgeNow.com:

“Believe it or not, I’m not too upset with the loss tonight because there was never a moment in the game that I felt like they stopped playing,” Loftin said. “It was really a JV team playing against a varsity team.”

Since Loftin made the decision to pull up the entire JV squad, the complete team had only practiced together twice before Tuesday’s game. …

“We will come in tomorrow and have an unbelievable practice because of the kind of kids they are,” Loftin said. “I leave practice energetic and excited now.”

Although the many changes right in the middle of the season have caused somewhat of a setback, East Athletic Director John Bryant said the school is standing behind Loftin, but above all, behind its student-athletes.

“It’s been difficult and challenging right now, but we believe in the kids that are here,” Bryant said. “While it’s been a difficult time, there is also a joy in seeing the resilience of the kids and the coach. We’re continuing to believe in them.”

The parents of the departed players planned to complain at the Jan. 10 school board meeting, although it appears the snowstorm moving through the region is keeping the sides apart for now.

So what precipitated all this? Apparently Loftin decided that three players — including Shack Davis, the team’s starting point guard and an all-state football player — suffered from a “lack of heart.” According to BlueRidgeNow.com, following a Dec. 14 loss, Loftin held a team meeting, following which several players said they were considering quitting the team. On Dec. 16, without the three suspended players, East Henderson was blown out. Three more players quit thereafter — which is why Loftin felt the need to get every warm JV body he could.

There are still a lot of details not yet available over exactly went down. But it certainly sounds like a case in which some Coach Hardass decided to run a tight ship in which it was his way or the highway — and right now there’s a traffic jam on the highway. Perhaps Davis and the others (all seniors) were going through the motions, and perhaps there is a method to Loftin’s madness that will pay off next season.

On the other hand, part of being a good coach is dealing with the players you have — not running off everyone except the minions who are only show fealty to you. Does Loftin want players, or automatons? Well, at least the JV kids now won’t have fans itching to get them off the floor so the real game can start.

Written by rkcookjr

January 10, 2011 at 11:38 pm

“Why Chinese mothers are superior” sounds like a lot of sports parents

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Burning up the mommy blogs and parenting sites is a Wall Street Journal piece by Amy Chua called “Why Chinese mothers are superior.” I had to admit they were, at least by the description she gives, because the night before I read the piece my 11-year-old daughter had a sleepover.

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

I think you could sub “baseball” or “volleyball” for “piano” and “violin,” and make whatever substitutions are necessary to turn a Chinese mother into a sports parent — or any parent so obsessive about their child’s success that they are strict beyond belief, lest anything take anyone’s eyes off the prize.

I think you can also find justification given by the intense sport parent in this passage from Chua’s piece:

What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.

On some level, she probably is right. A child usually is not going to play piano for hours a day, or hit the batting cage for hours a day, or do whatever for hours a day that does not involve some level of enjoyment — unless they’ve done it for so long, and they’ve gotten so good at it, that they respond to the praise they’re getting for doing it so well.

Alas, being the “Chinese mother” is a tricky strategy. For every Ichiro Suzuki that seems to respond well and thrive to the parental-obsessive treatment, there is an Andre Agassi who does well but resents his father, or a Todd Marinovich who advances to the highest level and falls apart, or skads of others kids we never hear of who just burn out. And I’m not talking just sports. Unfortunately, as a parent, we never know whether we’ve pushed too hard or not enough until it’s too late to undo the damage — and the guilt you might feel as a result.

Chua details a confrontation she had with her 7-year-old daughter over trouble she had playing a certain piece on a piano, a fight that escalated into screaming fits (by the daughter) and threats of eternal punishment and withholding water until she learned to play the piece (by the mother). At one point, when Chua’s husband (who is not Chinese) tries to step in, she responds:

“Oh no, not this,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Everyone is special in their special own way,” I mimicked sarcastically. “Even losers are special in their own special way. Well don’t worry, you don’t have to lift a finger. I’m willing to put in as long as it takes, and I’m happy to be the one hated. And you can be the one they adore because you make them pancakes and take them to Yankees games.”

I’m amazed he can take them to Yankees games. He must sneak them out.

Anyway, the 7-year-old learns to play the piece, she’s joyful she can, she loves her mother, dumb-ass dad admits she’s right, and all is well.

There are all these new books out there portraying Asian mothers as scheming, callous, overdriven people indifferent to their kids’ true interests. For their part, many Chinese secretly believe that they care more about their children and are willing to sacrifice much more for them than Westerners, who seem perfectly content to let their children turn out badly. I think it’s a misunderstanding on both sides. All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. The Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that.

Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.

Unlike many who have commented on Chua’s piece, the fault I find is not in her individual parenting methods. They’re her kids, and that’s her business. I don’t doubt that she loves her kids and wants the best for them — and I don’t doubt that either from sports parents who also might seem overbearing on first, second, third and fourth looks.

But I do find fault with this either-or at the end of her piece. To me, good parenting combines the best of both the “Western” and “Chinese” scenarios she lays out. You can encourage your kids to pursue their passions while also reminding them that many others are pursuing the same passion, and showing them what they have to do to make their passion into a viable future, thus providing a nuturing environment AND giving them work habits and inner confidence no one can ever take away.

Now, I need to step away to have my kids turn off their video games and go to bed.

Written by rkcookjr

January 9, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Crazy basketball buzzer-beater becomes all-time standard by which this high schooler’s life will be measured

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Myra Fleener: You know, a basketball hero around here is treated like a god, er, uh, how can he ever find out what he can really do? I don’t want this to be the high point of his life. I’ve seen them, the real sad ones. They sit around the rest of their lives talking about the glory days when they were seventeen years old.
Coach Norman Dale: You know, most people would kill… to be treated like a god, just for a few moments.

If I were Austin Groff, I would bore people until the end of my days about the few moments when I became a god by hitting this crazy, ass-backward, buzzer-beating shot during a recent high school holiday basketball tournament in Ohio.

(Hat tip: Off the Bench, nbcsports.com.)

The impossible parental task of taking your life back from youth sports

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For a lot of us in the parenting way, one of our New Year’s resolutions — inspired by a few weeks off from getting kids up in the morning for school — is to “take back” our lives, much like the Tea Party wants to “take back” America. We Tea Party Parents want to hearken back to a simpler time, before schedules, before burning the candle at both ends. Basically, before we had children. Like the Tea Party itself, we Tea Party Parents probably aren’t going to be successful at turning back the clock (or cutting spending, either), but, hey, no sense not trying to talk a good game!

On the site Lifetimemoms.com, run by the Lifetime cable network (during the Christmas season, is the site called Fa-La-La-La-Lifetimemoms.com?), Dawn Sandomeno of Partybluprintsblog takes time off from posts like “Rae’s Ultimate Eggplant Sandwich!” (if yours is better, you’d better put two fucking exclamation points on it) to describe herself as a Lifetime woman in peril, although the culprit is her kids’ sports schedule, rather than a fiendish man who seemed OK at the start but turned out to be danger.

This post stars Joanna Kerns. Or maybe Judith Light.

From Ms. Sandomeno:

What’s crazy is that the problem is also what’s good for my kids: Youth Sports. For me, it’s three boys who play ice hockey, but it could be baseball, soccer, dance, lacrosse, or any other activity these days. Youth sports have gone off the deep end and to what end, I’m not sure. Mind you, I’m not against them, quite the opposite – I love that my boys are physically fit because of sports, have learned team play, and are developing great leadership and time management skills.  However, there are no boundaries anymore.  I was actually at an ice rink for a game on Easter Sunday and missed Thanksgiving with my family so we could play in a tournament in another city.  Each youth sport is now a 9 – 12 month commitment and it’s not just time, it‘s money, lots of money! Practices, lessons, games, clinics, camps, it turns out to be 7 days a week – God rested on Sunday, why can’t I?

So, I will need to be strong and committed to this challenge, the pressure can be strong from organizations and clubs, not to mention my own kids.   I want and need this change to happen. I’m determined to succeed and I truly hope to take some time back by being brave and saying no to the extras. I want to show my children that family time is important.

That’s all well and good, but a Tea Party Parent is going to fail cutting a few extras like, say, education. But you’re not going to reduce your family deficit by cutting a few extras here and there. The only solution is a radical one — eliminate activities altogether.

After all, it’s not like the sports organizations are going to say, “Oh, you want more family time? Please, take all the time you need!” It’s more like, “Oh, you want your kid home? I’ll tell you what: he can leave the team and BE HOME ALL THE FUCKING TIME!” So you have to decide as a parent, what do you want to do?

The rule in my family is that if you, as a child, love the activity — as in, we don’t have to drag your ass there, or tell you to practice — you can do it to your heart’s content. If you only kind of like it, then it’s on the bubble. I’ve got four kids. My wife and I don’t have the time or energy to schlep them around to stuff they only kind of like, whether or not our rationale is wanting to spend more time with them.

So Dawn Sandomeno should ask her kids whether they love playing hockey. If they do, then she IS getting her family time. If not, then she can cut off the sport like a Tea Party candidate wants to cut off spending on everything but the military.

The droning of soccer moms

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I’m not sure what captures the monotony of ultracompetitive youth sports parents better: the script written by Jen Singer at MommaSaid.net, or the droning voices supplied by the text-to-animation service she used to make this video.

Written by rkcookjr

January 5, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Parents told: Go to anti-drug meeting, or your kids don’t play school sports

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Swampscott, Mass., is an affluent community of 15,000 in Boston’s North Shore suburbs. It has had a notable drug problem, with 17 overdose deaths in the last few years among those in their teens and 20s, and numerous others not dead but apparently carrying on the message Swampscott natives Fran Sheehan and Barry Goudreau endorsed on the Boston song “Smokin’.”

Bad influences. Bad!

A new principal, Layne Millington, came to Swampscott High, and he decided, after seeing a “huge number of incidents landing on my desk involving drugs and alcohol,” that it was time to frog-march parents in for a meaning to shake them by their collective lapels and slap them upside their collective heads to make them aware of the problem. He did this with the superintendent’s support. From the Salem News:

Asked about reports that drugs are “all over the high school,” Superintendent Lynne Celli replied simply, “They are.”

But…

Recently, Millington’s approach included a surprise appearance by search dogs at the high school — he was heartened by how little contraband they found.

Ah, hell, let’s just go with the superintendent.

So Millington scheduled a meeting for Jan. 10, then browbeat parents into showing up by telling them their children that they (the kids) could not participate in any after-school activities, including sports, if they (the parents) didn’t show up.

Now, he hopes to form “a partnership with the parents, who are really the kids’ first teachers.” To do that, he sees the need for a meeting that carefully spells out the entire effort and the parents’ role in it.

In the past, Millington said, the announcement of such a meeting would draw only a handful of people. His decision to call a “mandatory meeting” won unanimous approval from the superintendent and the School Committee.

There are a lot of parents upset over this. Actually, the only one who appears to be speaking — or being asked — is Judith Brooks, the mother of a ninth-grader, who appeared in the Salem News and on local Boston television as a “concerned parent.” Because in the news, a parent “speaking out” is always a “concerned parent.” From the Salem News:

“The school has no legal right to compel parents to do anything,” said Judith Brooks, the mother of a ninth-grader [dang it, I mentioned that already]. Acknowledging the concerns of school officials, she expressed the need to be “treated like adults” and added, “We’re not under their thumb.”

As the hippie basketball player in Greensburg, Ind., may well learn, schools get to do all sorts of dastardly things, like make you cut your hair or send your parents to an anti-drug meeting, to let you play sports. So the parents of Swampscott, who either don’t give a shit or feel like it’s not their problem, are stuck.

Except that Millington might not have needed to be so drastic. From a 2009 article in the Swampscott Reporter:

The Swampscott Drug and Alcohol Task Force was pleasantly surprised when the Little Theater at the Middle School filled with parents that night in the first of two sessions planned to educate parents about the real problems in Swampscott.

So maybe they DO give a shit — even if their children’s sports are at stake! Maybe not enough to actually solve Swampscott’s drug problem, but maybe enough that they don’t have to be frog-marched to school on a single night during which they might have a legitimate conflict.

Alas, in his zeal, Layne Millington might have done more harm than good in his relations with the parents at large. Next time, he should propose a webinar. It is an affluent community after all; presumably they have computers.

Written by rkcookjr

January 5, 2011 at 12:48 am

And the team said, long-haired freaky people need not apply

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A family of a 14-year-old is suing the Greensburg (Ind.) schools over its policy requiring short hair for boys playing sports. From The Indianapolis Star:

In a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, Patrick and Melissa Hayden say team rules governing the length of players’ hair violate their son’s right to wear his hair the way he wants and also treat male and female athletes differently because female players don’t have to adhere to the same guidelines.

Their 14-year-old son, identified as A.H. in the lawsuit, was kicked off the team this fall after he refused to cut his hair to comply with team rules, which require players’ hair to be above their eyebrows, collars and ears.

The Haydens said in the lawsuit that they met with the basketball coach and school officials, but no one would change the policy. So they sued. …

But the school district claims the policy didn’t violate the boy’s rights, partly because participating in extracurricular activities is a privilege, not a right.

Courts have split hairs (har!) in the past over these cases, sometimes saying that, yes, if a school wants to require every boy to have a crewcut to play sports, that’s OK, as long as the activity is not part of the instructional day.

You might be asking — hey, isn’t Greensburg already notorious for a case of intolerance? Why, yes, it is — the suicide of gay Greensburg High student Billy Lucas was the impetus for the It Gets Better Project to fight gay teen bullying and suicides.

As for the haircut case, if the middle-school coach is lucky, someday this 14-year-old and some of his friends will adopt a bastardized version of his name as the moniker of their very popular rock band.

Greensburg Junior High basketball coach, gaze upon your future self.

Written by rkcookjr

January 4, 2011 at 12:59 am

Carmel hazing update: A victim, er, perpetrator speaks

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A figure in one of the most notorious cases of school sports hazing in recent memory — and his family — were counseled by their attorneys to stay silent in the face of accusations of possible sexual crimes, intense media coverage and a backlash from some locals. After breaking their silence, the figure and his family proved their attorney provided wise counsel.

Scott Laskowski was one of four Carmel (Ind.) High School basketball players (now all graduated) who faced criminal charges following two separate hazing incidents, one on a team bus on the way back from a game, and one in the team locker room. Laskowski pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge related to the locker room incident, though he was suspended from the team and expelled from classes. Laskowski is the son of former Indiana University basketball player and announcer John Laskowski, making him, by accident of birth, the most prominent of the four accused. (Two others have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in the locker room incident, while other charges have been dropped, and two players — not including Laskowski — are still going through the court system over the bus incident.)

I’ll save you the slog through a six-page story on The Indianapolis Star’s website to get to the meat (on page six):

When the Laskowskis finally decided to speak, they lashed out at the media and the school and the accuser. They said their son is the real victim. The school took one student’s word against their son’s. His accuser — whose family plans a $2.25 million lawsuit against the school district — is in it for the money. And the media excess was motivated by greed.

My response: boo fucking hoo.

I’ll give the Laskowskis that having stalkers (including one person arrested for doing so) posting “a sex offender lives here” signs on their lawn and following them through the streets of Carmel was way over the top, and I don’t blame the family for moving 65 miles south to Bloomington to get away from it.

But, for Christ’s sake, when you have a victim who is reported to have had various objects shoved up his anus, you don’t go around proclaiming yourself or your golden boy as “the real victim.” There is no way to come out of that unscathed.

The story dwells on all the information that wasn’t released because of laws governing school privacy and grand-jury testimony. (It’s nice to see that the Laskowskis and those sympathetic with the victim can agree on one thing — that the school totally mishandled the situation.) But it doesn’t shed a lot of light on what Laskowski did or saw.

His guilty plea came for, as he put it, holding the ankles of a victim attacked in the locker room, and he denies doing anything on the bus. OK, we’ll take him at his word. So what did Laskowski see on the infamous bus ride? Did he see something happen? Are the others guilty? Is the victim making this up? In six pages, either Scott Laskowski wasn’t asked, or the interview was conditioned on the reporter not asking. Or, given the Laskowski family’s self-absorption, at least as it came across in the story, nobody knows or cares.

Written by rkcookjr

January 4, 2011 at 12:25 am

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