Archive for the ‘bad seeds’ Category
You know what happens when you enlist kids from the baseball team you coach to help you with a burglary? Punny newspaper ledes, that’s what. From the Everett (Wash.) Herald:
ARLINGTON — An Arlington Little League coach is accused of showing some of his players how to steal more than second base.
Investigators allege that George Spady Jr. was with his son, a nephew and another player from his baseball team when he broke into a vacant shop and took overhead lights and bolts. The boys were encouraged to assist with the break-in, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Edirin Okoloko wrote in court documents.
Spady, 31, was charged Monday with second-degree burglary, a felony.
Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies were called to one of the players’ homes after the boy told his stepfather that his coach had taken him along to break into a shop in Arlington, Okoloko wrote.
The stepfather was angry that an adult would use the boys to commit a crime, and, even worse, “that the adult was his son’s baseball coach,” Okoloko wrote.
I can see the lede now if a coach ever takes his team to a hooker: “A local baseball coach showed his kids ways to get to third base besides hitting a triple.”
You might remember in 2000 how Michael Costin Sr. died after being beaten by fellow hockey dad Thomas Junta, upset that someone elbowed his son in a practice Coston supervised at a rink in Reading, Mass. It remains one of the most notorious cases of sports parents run amok. Junta is still in jail on his involuntary manslaughter conviction, his parole denied for a second time, in 2008.
Also in jail: one of attack’s witnesses, Michael Costin Jr.
…after the case was over and the attention faded away, Michael Costin Jr.’s life spiraled into drug and alcohol abuse and violence, court records show.
[Monday], Costin, now 20, was sent to Middleton Jail for 18 months, after pleading guilty to beating up his 43-year-old girlfriend and stealing her car two days before Christmas.
Prosecutor Michelle DeCourcey said Salem police were called to a Leach Street apartment on the afternoon of Dec. 23 by Costin’s girlfriend, who said he had grabbed her by the throat, punched her in the face and told her, “You’re going to die tonight.”
The above photo is Michael Costin Jr. testifying during Junta’s 2002 trial. The Gloucester Times went into more detail about how he frequently has ended up in court again, but as a defendent.
Costin has already served time for assaulting the same woman and has racked up a multipage record in the past three years.
Judge Richard Mori [who has heard other cases involving Costin] said Costin has received a lot of support, including requests for leniency from police officers familiar with his family history.
Costin’s lawyer, James Craig, urged the judge to give his client another shot at probation, suggesting a brief jail term and then strict supervision by a probation officer. He even noted that the victim in the case has offered to take Costin back in when he is released, though he added that Costin no longer wants to be involved with the woman.
But the judge said Costin has failed to take part in programs offered by the probation department in some of his prior cases to help him deal with some of his issues, including a serious substance abuse problem and mental health problems that may stem from the death of his father.
“I’m really sorry about the thing with your father, but you’ve got to grow up,” Mori told him. “It’s got to stop. You just can’t do this anymore.”
At Junta’s trial, Costin Jr. told the court: “I saw Thomas Junta beating my dad into the ground. For the rest of that day and for the next day, my heart was in my throat. Please teach Thomas Junta a lesson: Let the world know that a person can’t do what Thomas Junta did to my dad, to my family and to me … we all want Thomas Junta to go to prison for as long as your honor can put him there.”
So is Michael Costin Jr. in this downward spiral because of his witnessing the beating death of his father?
I’ll leave that to the mental health professionals. But I will make one guess: it didn’t help. Neither did not having his father as he entered his teenage years. (I don’t know whether Michael was the son who reportedly climbed into the casket with his father during his wake.)
I’ll make another guess — the roots of the younger Costin’s criminal behavior are deep. His father, an unemployed handyman, had numerous convictions, including weapons possession and assaulting a police officer. The younger Costin’s grandfather fatally stabbed his uncle when he was 17 and was convicted of manslaughter. Costin, an unemployed handyman, had a record of convictions on charges including weapons possession and assaulting a police officer.
The grandfather also told NBC’s “Today” in 2000 that his son, Michael’s dad, had a drinking problem that ran in the family.
Michael Costin Jr., for whatever reason, is fulfilling a family tradition — no happy endings.
The headline says: “Charges filed in Little League brouhaha.” The story appears to be another case of a parent gone wild in a toxic youth sports environment. Me, I see many, many small, bad decisions that escalated to a large, unfortunate case that is going to stain the life of a mother who mistakenly thought she was doing the right thing by sticking up for her child.
The case involves Jodi Scheffler, 41, of Kirkland, Wash., seen at right wearing a very unfortunate hat for her Facebook profile given the circumstances: she’s charged with assaulting a 12-year-old after a Little League game. Here is the story as told by KOMO-TV in Seattle.
The reports say … Scheffler … left her side of the field and got into an altercation with boys from the visiting team. Name-calling escalated and then Scheffler allegedly grabbed the boy’s face.
Scheffler told Kirkland police that the 12-year-old visiting player was calling her son a loser and taunting him during the game.
Charging papers say she told the boy and his brother to stop talking to her son. They told her to shut up and called her a “dumb blond.” The report says she then called them “white trash,” then allegedly grabbed the boy’s face.
Now the mother of the 12-year-old boy, Michelle McLaughlin, is furious and speaking out.
“He’s scared,” McLaughlin says. “He asks me every day we play a game, ‘Is she gonna be there? Is she gonna hit me?'”
But Scheffler told police that McLaughlin’s husband chest-butted her.
“According to witnesses, the only thing my husband did was yelling at her from 30 feet away to get away from my kids – and charged up to her, asking her politely to go away, ‘Back up, get away from my kids,'” says McLaughlin. “But as far as the chest-butting – that’s a lie.”
No charges have been filed against McLaughlin’s husband. She says she’s the one who decided to file charges against Scheffler.
“Maybe she’ll learn to keep her anger to herself,” McLaughlin says.
The Little League president calls this an unfortunate incident. Longtime coaches, meanwhile, say they haven’t seen anything like it.
Some parents feel the whole thing is being blown out of proportion. But Scheffler faces a year in jail if she’s convicted.
I wasn’t there, but I think, from my informed-enough-to-be-dangerous knowledge of sports parent-child interactions, what mistakes might have been made along the way to turn this game into a brouhaha. Or maybe it’s more like a row. Or a set-to. Maybe a melee.
The first one was made by Scheffler, of course. I know it stinks to watch little brats trash your baby. The parents should have taught their children to be respectful, and the coaches should have tried to stop the trash-talking (maybe they did — the story doesn’t say). Even after she confronted the boys, that’s pretty ballsy of 12-year-olds to call a grown woman a “dumb blond.”
But no adult should never, never, never, never, never, never, ever, ever, ever, ever, confront someone else’s kid before, during or after a game. As a parent, you can (calmly) talk to your own coach. You can talk to the league vice president or president. But there’s no point in jumping on someone else’s kid, or even the opposing coach, in the heat of the moment. If you’re that upset, better to just pack you stuff and go home. The 24-hour rule applies. Otherwise, you risk making an ass out of yourself, embarrassing your child, and risking assault charges.
The second one was made by Michelle McLaughlin. Let’s assume her husband did not chest-bump anyone, though it would be a first for me to see a charged up/ask politely combination. Like Scheffler, it sounds like in this report that McLaughlin could wear a drama queen hat herself. As stupid as it was for Scheffler to do what she did, all McLaughlin needed to do was take her kids and go home. She seems ready to have Scheffler charged just out of spite — “maybe she’ll learn to keep her anger to herself.” Takes one to know one.
I highly doubt Scheffler will face a year in jail. I wouldn’t be shocked if the charges are dropped for something so relatively petty. However the legal case turns out, nobody — not Scheffler, not McLaughlin, not the kids in question — acquitted themselves well. But I’m not going to add my overreaction to the overreaction at hand. The league should ban Scheffler from games, and let players and coaches know they will be ejected from games and/or suspended if taunting continues.
In fact, the league itself should take a closer look at the conduct during its games. I would guess that Jodi Scheffler isn’t the first Little League mom to have the urge to attack when no one was doing anything to protect their kids.
Exhibit A in the Modern Age of Crazy Sports Parenting is usually the oddball relationship between Marv Marinovich and his son, Todd. As the story famously goes, when the ex-Oakland Raider and personal trainer found out he was going to have a baby boy, he started in the womb the training and feeding of young Todd, using the Eastern Bloc training methods he studied. After his birth July 4, 1969 (while your humble blogger was still in the womb, not being fed a diet of carob), everything in Todd’s life was trained to make him what was later called “robo-QB.”
Just as famously, Todd made his way to USC and a first-round pick of the Raiders, but flamed out quickly because of drug addiction and other personal problems, cementing Marv as a unanimous choice for one of the worst sports parents of all-time. (Further cementing Marv’s status is that with his second wife he had another son, Mikhail, whom he tried to develop, with a few variations, into a robo-linebacker. Mikhail is a reserve at Syracuse, where he’s made his fame opening a hookah bar and getting arrested. Oh, and Mikhail is an aspiring model, too.)
The assumption is that Todd’s downfall was some sort of passive-aggressive rebellion against his father trying to make him into a quarterback machine, a less destructive (at least to Marv) way than say, the monster killing Dr. Frankenstein, to show his displeasure with his creator.
After reading Mike Sager’s piece in the latest Esquire on Todd Marinovich, I’m rethinking a few of my own assumptions — although his story still stands as the unintended consequences of crazy sports parenthood, or crazy parenthood in general. It’s a reminder as a parent that whatever ambitions you have for your child, however you try to steer them, no matter how overbearing and focused you are, and no matter if you indeed are doing what is best for your child, that child is a human being who can — and perhaps should — veer off your course at any moment.
Actually, I wish this story were more about Marv, because Todd himself is just another boring junkie. He was clean as the story was reported, but the story notes a February relapse into addiction, while Todd handles with much more maturity than he had in the past — he calls his parole officer to report his violation.
What has me rethinking some of my assumptions is that for all of Marv’s effort in making sure Todd ate and trained right, he appeared to make no attempt to shield his son from the party-hearty lifestyle a star athlete can get away with.
From the story, picking up after Marinovich, as a freshman, opens the season as the varsity’s starting quarterback:
After the final gun, Todd stood with his parents. His new teammates drifted over and surrounded him. “When I was growing up, the term my mom used was ‘terrifyingly shy,’ ” Todd says. “That’s why I always loved being on a team. It was the only way I could make friends. It was really amazing to have these guys, these upperclassmen, come over. And they’re like, ‘Hey, Todd, let’s go! Come out with us after the game. It’s party time!’ “
Todd looked at Marv. The old man didn’t hesitate. “He just gave me the nod, you know, like, ‘Go ahead, you earned it.’
“We went directly to a kegger and started pounding down beers,” Todd recalls.
For what it’s worth, the story notes that it was Todd’s goal to start as a freshman. Was he just under Marv’s thrall? Maybe, maybe not. But you can’t always assume with a perceived crazy sports parents that the kid is being dragged along for the ride.
Later in high school, Marinovich’s parents divorced — and the leash loosened.
Then the January 1988 issue of California magazine hit the stands with Todd’s picture on the cover. The headline: ROBO QB: THE MAKING OF A PERFECT ATHLETE. A media onslaught ensued. They called Todd the bionic quarterback, a test-tube athlete, the boy in the bubble. All over the world, people were talking about Todd’s amazing story. In truth, he was leading a double life.
“I really looked forward to giving it all I had at the game on Friday night and then continuing through the weekend with the partying. It opened up a new social scene for me — liquid courage. I wasn’t scared of people anymore,” Todd says.
At Mater Dei, Todd had also begun smoking marijuana. By the time his junior year rolled around, he says, “I was a full-on loady.” His parents had divorced just before his transfer, and he was sharing a one-bedroom apartment with Marv near Capistrano. “Probably the best part of my childhood was me and Marv’s relationship my junior and senior years,” Todd says. “After the divorce, he really loosened up. It was a bachelor pad. We were both dating.”
For all his personal troubles, one thing Todd does nowhere in the article is blame Marv. Below a photo of the two men, Todd looking more like bald Ron Howard than the flowing red-haired god of his youth, Sager concludes the piece:
From the driver’s seat, sensing his good mood, I ask: “How much effect do you think that Marv and sports and all contributed to you turning to drugs?” I’d been saving this line of questioning since our first interview, six months earlier. “If you look at your life, it’s interesting. It appears that to get out of playing, you sort of partied away your eligibility. It’s like you’re too old to play now, so you don’t have to do drugs anymore. Has the burden been lifted?”
Todd looks out the windshield down the road. The truck bounces. Thirty full seconds pass.
“I don’t know how to answer that,” Todd says at last. “I really have very few answers.”
“That’s kind of what it seems like. A little.”
“I think, more than anything, it’s genetic. I got that gene from the Fertigs — my uncle, the Chief. They were huge drinkers. And then the environment plays a part in it, for sure.”
He lights another Marlboro Red, sucks down the first sweet hit. He rides in silence the rest of the way home.
Despite having a fiancee with a baby on the way, and how he handled his February relapse, and the faraway end to his athletic career, Todd appears to have a hard time breaking his addictions. After the Esquire piece was written, Todd was arrested for missing a Drug Court hearing and will sit in jail at least through May 4, when he has a hearing on his case. There is a good chance Marinovich will spend his 40th birthday in prison.
Many will blame youth sports for the, as George Carlin put it in his later, crankier, much unfunnier years (in a line stolen by many crankier, much more unfunny hacks), the “wussification” of America. You know, kids not learning there are winners and losers, and not learning everybody doesn’t get a trophy, and demanding as grownups they be treated like 5-year-old soccer players. Maybe they’re right. Or maybe they sound like Mr. MacAfee in “Bye Bye Birdie,” bitching about kids.
But the “wussification” of youth sports as a reason behind killing sprees? That hypothesis, offered by Athens State (Ala.) University psychology professor Mark Durm in an interview with the Athens News-Courier, is a new one on me.
Killing sprees are on his mind, and the local News-Courier’s, because Athens is 20 miles from Priceville. That’s where on Tuesday a man, on the eve of his divorce hearing, killed his estranged wife and three other family members, burned down their house, and then killed himself. In the last month there have been at least eight mass killings — three of them in Alabama.
Mark Durm, an Athens State University instructor, said because of early childhood training, when adults don’t get what they want they react with “knee-jerk hostility.”
While Durm said there are “undoubtedly many other variables” when someone goes on a killing rampage, early conditioning plays a big part in how people deal with frustration.
Here is the excerpt from Durm’s interview with the News-Courier that had me rubbing my eyeballs in disbelief:
Durm said he has given a lot of thought to mass killings, especially since the slaying of 15 people at an immigration office last week by someone who had lost his job.
“I think we also no longer teach children how to handle emotions, but it is deeper in some ways,” he said. “We are a society where no one can lose. Sometimes in youth sports leagues they don’t keep score so no one loses. When they get to be adults and lose the person they love, they don’t know how to tolerate it.
“You need to learn how to lose before you can win.”
Really? The implications are staggering — millions of children, their psyches no longer soothed because everybody no longer gets a trophy, going on mass killing sprees when things don’t go their way. I had a hard time believing Durm was serious. I thought he might have been misquoted.
A little research on Durm finds that he is the antithesis to a no-score league, a tough grader who has studied extensively the history of handing out A’s and B’s, and F’s. (He’s also a debunker of paranormal activity and Alabama’s religiosity.) You also can find his email address — so I contacted him to ask about what he was quoted as saying in the News-Courier.
Here is a slightly edited back-and-forth we had today (mostly edited to take out the rambling introduction to myself I wrote for Durm, and his inquiry about whether I had gotten one of his notes because he was having computer problems):
Your Kid’s Not Going Pro: Is this [opinion] conjecture on your part, or is this something you’ve researched? What is the connection between that sort of treatment in youth sports (or otherwise as children) and what’s happening now? Is there any research you can point to on this subject? … If there’s any bias I have on the subject of no-score leagues, it’s that in my experience I feel like they’ve been used to guarantee the parents will shut up. The kids usually know the score.
Mark Durm: Bob..its mainly conjecture on my part…..to my knowledge there is very little, if any, research on “no losing” sports. Several years ago we were sold a lot of hogwash about hurting a child’s self esteem…………but one can never get up if one has never fallen down.
YKNGP: My follow-up would be then, how does one make the connection, even through conjecture, from “no losing” sports to mass killings, even as a small factor in why we appear to be seeing more of them? For example, in cases like the shooter in Binghamton, the evidence presented thus far appears to be of a man who had fallen down repeatedly, not one who went off after the first time things went wrong.
Durm: Specifically the man in binghamton had an Asian mindset [Editor’s note: the shooter was from Vietnam]……..to my knowledge he had just “lost face”. The connection in our culture, in my opinion, is if I do not get my way you pay.
YKNGP: One more question. Given the cultural norms you talk about it, why don’t we see more of
these deadly outbursts? After all, we lose face or don’t get our way frequently.
Durm: Because “spurned” people extract different level of payments……………..those with the least control(and many variables come into play here) extract the payment of your life.
So while it’s a stretch to say he thinks no-score leagues turn children into mass killers, he’s definitely saying, it doesn’t help to not turn them into killers.
The conversation ended because I had no more immediate questions. Why didn’t I ask about the Asian thing, which seems, um, a bit of a broad brush? My purpose was to find out Durm’s opinion on youth sports’ connection to the violence we see, not his thoughts and impressions of Asian cultures. You can fill in your own blanks on that one. I just wanted to confirm Durm meant what he told the newspaper.
I will say that I think Durm is guilty of what many are guilty of, both on the subject of youth sports and mass murder — gross oversimplification. No-score leagues, as part of a self-esteem curriculum, might accentuate some already-spoiled kids’ diva tendencies — but as of yet there’s no empirical evidence (even by Durm’s own admission) they turn children into adults incapable of handling setbacks, much less ones who will act out violently when they don’t get their way.
And it’s hardly Durm who pins some sort of easy, overarching cause to mass shootings. Of course, there’s the old standby, easy access to guns. These days, there’s always economic oppression.
I don’t know more than anybody else why we’re seeing so many mass killings. It might be one of these things. It might be all of these things, and more. But I have a hard time believing no-score leagues will turn an otherwise stable child into a future spree killer. Or a future wuss.
Let me first say that the issue of dirty and abusive play does not start with the referee or the players, it begins with coaching. The tolerance level of the coach has a direct bearing on the ethics of players. The best coaches will reprimand their own players for foul play. I have seen good coaches pull their own players even before the referee takes action. …
Do not “dive” when you have not been fouled in an attempt to attract sympathy from the official [Editor’s note: apparently this message isn’t taking on the international level]. Nothing irritates fans, players and referees as much as this. If you are caught diving, not only may you receive a yellow card, but you may never be taken seriously by the referee. You must also avoid retaliation and returning any verbal comments. This will give the defender the idea that they are getting to your psyche which will reinforce and escalate their behavior.
On dead ball situations, have your captain ask the ref to check into the pattern of recurring fouls. If the issue continues, have the coach visit with the official at halftime. If this is unsuccessful, have the fouled player go down with injury to create an opportunity to speak with the referee and once again reinforce the violent play [Editor’s note: didn’t you just say no diving? Maybe you can say something at the next dead ball?]. Your captain and coach must do their jobs here. It is their duty to the team.
If a referee ever loses control of the match and play gets out of hand, remember that your goal is to live to play another day. Nothing is worth a broken leg or a broken nose in a bench clearing brawl. As a coach (or parent), simply indicate to the referee that in the interest of safety, it is best that you calmly remove your players from the field of play and accept whatever consequences come with this. Stay in a group after the game. Do NOT have players and parents walk alone to their cars.
Great advice — for any sport.
Why does rough play start with coaches? Because they set the ground rules. They are the ones who draw the line between good, aggressive play and outright thuggery, mainly because they are the ones who (should) know the difference.
For example, I teach my basketball players that on a fast break, there’s nothing wrong with committing a foul if you’re behind the player but you’re going for the ball first. However, it IS wrong to push a player from behind, or wrap your arms around him or her, or try to pull him or her down without making a play on the ball.
In most cases, players don’t realize that what they’re doing might hurt someone. In my 7th- and 8th-grade basketball league, the only time I talked to the refs about foul calls was one very tall, strong girl who had a tendency to swing her elbows after she got a rebound. In one case, she elbowed one of my players in the throat. (Ouch.) I don’t think she meant to hurt anyone — she was just trying to clear space. I asked if the ref could call that more tightly because it was clear her coach was not advising her to stop swinging her elbows, and I was afraid more kids might get hurt. Unfortunately, the ref relayed to me that they called fouls looser because this was a rec league, and they didn’t want to slow the game down. Fortunately, no one else got hurt.
Here’s a case of a coach stepping in. One coach asked me to help him to take one of his sixth-graders (a kid I coached the previous year, which is why he talked to me) out of the 5th- and 6th-grade league we coached in and limit the kid to the 7th- and 8th-grade league. He was too strong and aggressive (in a good way) for the kids his age, and we wanted him to be able to play hard without worrying about hurting somebody. (Though later one of the refs, to me before a 7th- and 8th-grade game, related he thought that kid was a “thug.” That was the same ref who wouldn’t call the elbows on the other girl. Anyway, his assessment was seriously harsh, given this kid was aggressive in a good way, and as nice a kid as I’ve ever coached. Hence, unfortunate examples A and B of not counting on refs to sort things out.)
By the way, my interest in this post was not necessitated by my own son’s injury. He sprained his right foot on a clean, common basketball play — rolling off someone’s show when he landed after jumping. Sometimes play gets rough when kids are putting out a full effort, and that just goes with the territory. The important thing for coaches and parents is not to blow up in the heat of the moment.
Rather than argue with a coach or official, give yourself 24 hours, then talk to whomever runs the league about what happened, if there’s anything that person can do to control rough play. More often that not, someone will then contact the officials or coach to recommend putting a lid on certain activities, or at least send the message that they won’t be tolerated in case, say, the coach is an asshole and is going to argue instead of listen. Also, the coach needs to be ready to explain to his or her players and their parents the difference between aggressive play and rough play.
After all, as Zenfooty says, the goal is to live and play another day.
Over at the Positive Coaching Alliance, the sworn enemy of the Negative Coaching Alliance, there is an interesting conversation going on inspired by this question:
My 7th-grade son has played very competitive soccer and basketball for years, always supporting his teammates. Recently, his coaches in both sports challenged all the players to improve on specific skills, but some players are not trying very hard. As a parent, how can I help my son demand vocally (even angrily, if necessary) that his teammates strive for their potential and do so without alienating himself?
– Phil Carragher, Glencoe, IL
Well, Phil, it’s interesting that you bring this up. My brother-in-law and I are coaching a basketball team of seventh- and eighth-graders (and my son, a sixth-grader), and as coaches we’re wrestling with the same problem. As a team, we have a problem with every kid going all-out every practice and every game. In fact, after winning our first game, we’ve lost every one since as a direct result of a lack of team hustle. As coaches we take responsibility as well because we are charged with putting our team in the best position to win, and better yet creating an environment in which everyone is relaxed and having fun so they can feel comfortable going all-out and unafraid to make mistakes. Unfortunately, when you’re losing, that goal becomes harder to reach.
Phil, let me ask you this first: is your son unequivocally recognized by his teammates as the best player? Or at least a major contributor to the team’s success? Otherwise, there’s no hope. In my experience, other players will take praise and criticism more seriously from the best player than they will someone who is not.
Also, what are the personalities on the team? I encouraged our best player, who does hustle all-out, to feel free to praise and criticize on the court, to position players, and to otherwise lead by example. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be working, though such a strategy has worked for me as a coach before. Particularly at the junior-high level (and I don’t have to tell you this, having a son in junior high), kids at that age are far more likely to blow off you and peers.
A kid who is not predisposed to hustling, who does not see it his duty to play well for his teammates’ sake, and who does not see the connection in how being lazy in practice means poor results in games — you’re just going to have a hard time getting through. No matter what your son says, a player like that isn’t going to respond. In fact, that player will probably go into a shell.
And to back it up even further, Phil, it’s not your job as a parent to get your son to help him to demand vocally (and even angrily) that his teammates step it up. I don’t know your son’s personality, but some kids are just not comfortable with doing that. You can’t make your kid into something he’s not.
I understand your frustration, and your son’s, at being stuck on a team where it appears everyone is not interested in trying their best. I know it’s driving me crazy with my team right now, and I’m having to take a good, hard look at how I’m coaching to make sure I don’t make a tough situation worse. I recommend, Phil, that you and your son suck it up, that he focus on improving his game and being the best teammate he can be (no matter what everyone else does — perhaps the more he shows he trusts them, the more they might respond, maybe), and that you and he realize that soon enough he will be on another team that might not have the problems this one has.
Oh, and Phil, don’t complain to the coach about it, either, if you were thinking of that. The coach knows. Trust me on this one.