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Take your gun to the ballgame in one of America’s foreclosure capitals

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In Florida, it’s against state law to bring a concealed weapon to a professional sporting events, even though at a Marlins game a string of automatic gunfire wouldn’t hit anybody.

However, the law doesn’t specify that you’re banned from bringing a gun to a youth sporting event, which is a bit more crowded. So the commissioners in Lee County, Fla., had no choice but to overturn such a ban, thus allowing fans to pack heat in the sort of emotional, hair-trigger environment that makes you think, “You know what this crowd needs? Armaments.” Especially in an area that’s a bit stressed out, what with its one-in-95 houses foreclosure rate being among the highest in the country, a place with a court notorious for its “rocket docket” of speeding through such foreclosures in 10 seconds or less, a place with an area, Lehigh Acres, that has become Exhibit A in how the foreclosure crisis has turned once-thriving exurbs into ghost towns.


“What was that call again, ump?”

One Lee County commissioner spoke about lobbying state legislators to change the law so youth sporting events were included in the gun ban. But, its legal hands tied, the commission voted unanimously to lift its own ban, and signs noting the ban are already coming down.

From the Naples (Fla.) News:

“I’m not against anyone’s right to bear arms nor to have a concealed weapons license, I just find it deplorable that it would be allowed at a youth sports event,” Mert Leeman, Florida’s district 9 Little League administrator.

Howard Gold, president of the South Fort Myers Little League, said the organization goes to great pains to ensure safety, such as doing background checks on coaches and safety checks on equipment.

And sometimes Gold has had to come between parents in heated arguments about calls on the field.

“I’m fortunate to say we have not had any serious situations in 10 years, but that possibility also exists,” Gold said.

No other commissioners commented on taking the issue to state legislators.

Deleting the ordinance language that restricted firearms is expected to settle a lawsuit filed by Amanda Buckley on Aug. 13.

The lawsuit was filed by Buckley’s attorney husband, who apparently had gotten tired of hearing his wife complain about the inconvenience of leaving the Glock behind when catching a kid’s ballgame. A hearing is scheduled Nov. 1 on the lawsuit, but it appears likely the case will be done now that permitted conceal-carry owners can take their gun to the ballgame. So in Lee County, Fla., you can pry houses from people’s warm, live hands, but not guns from their cold, dead ones.

Written by rkcookjr

October 26, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Suzy Kolber, I wanna kiss you for making this video

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…Though Joe Namath says he doesn’t care about the youth sports parents’ strug-a-lin’.

Kolber and ESPN Radio morning jock/sports parent Mike Golic are co-hosting a freshly produced video, put out by the Connecticut Association of Athletic Directors, meant for coaches to use during parents’ meetings. It’s meant to show parents how not to be such fucking assholes.

The presence of the two ESPN personalities lends an air of authority and professionalism to a video that otherwise looks like it should have an intro from Troy McClure. But I’m stunned that Golic, the suddenly ubiquitous pitchman, didn’t break out some ad copy, or at least explain how he can get away with endorsing high-fat food and a workout plan at the same time.

Written by rkcookjr

October 25, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Lawsuit claims softball coach was Bernie Madoff wanna-be

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Experts on Ponzi schemes will tell you that the victims are often preyed upon by a trusted person in their inner circle, such as a church member, a neighbor, or someone with whom they share an ethnic tie. However, until now, I had never heard of that trusted person being your daughter’s high school softball coach.

Even for Ponzi scheme victims, these softball parents, if a recent lawsuit is to be believed, set new standards for being what Bugs Bunny would call gulli-bulls. If Louisville, Colo., Monarch High coach Richard Dale Mott had an $11 billion fortune and a mansion stocked with expensive cars, why the hell would he be coaching girls’ high school softball? For the investment contacts? To give back to the community? (Boy, if he said that last one, that REALLY should have been a tip-off.)

Technically, what Mott is accused of doing is loan fraud, because he allegedly didn’t even get far enough to “invest” proceeds anymore. But the dynamics are the same.

From the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colo.:

Randy Davenport, who was president of the Monarch Fastpitch Softball Club and whose daughter plays on the team, sued Richard Dale Mott after he said he was unable to recover $80,000 he loaned Mott to fund a supposed gypsum mining operation in Wyoming.

Davenport alleged in his suit that Mott, who resigned as coach from the Louisville high school in December, had promised him a $50,000 interest payment on the loan and had guaranteed the loan with a promissory note.

Mott also got loans from “numerous members of the Monarch High School parent community” that he never repaid, the suit states.

Davenport claimed that Mott, who was hired by the Boulder Valley School District in the summer of 2008, made off with $185,000 total from four or five investors, including himself.

“It’s an expensive lesson and one that I will be paying for,” Davenport said Thursday. “I want to see that guy suffer some kind of consequences for what he’s done.”

According to the Daily Camera story, Davenport said Mott told the parents he had set aside $25 million for each of his children. In reality, Mott lived in a rented house and was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and had settled numerous breach-of-contract cases in the past. (The newspaper called various Richard Motts, but it could not find the one in question.)

We can agree that Richard Mott, if he did what Davenport said he did, is a bad person. So is Bernard Madoff. So is Allen Stanford. And so is Nicholas Cosmo, who at least plowed some of the $375 million he apparently swindled out of suckers in his Ponzi scheme back into youth sports.

But jumpin’ Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick, how greedy and/or dense do you have to be to hand $80,000 over to your daughter’s softball coach to invest in some bullshit you don’t understand, even if the coach is Charles Fuckin’ Schwab? Did the Monarch parents ever, oh, stop by his mansion to check it out? Do a Google search on Mott? Check the Forbes 500 to see if Mott’s name was in it? (At $11 billion, it would have been.) Get statements on the potential investment and run them by a financial adviser? Ask themselves why their daughters’ softball team was coached by a billionaire who needed to hustle parents for money? Find out what gypsum was?

Ponzi scheme experts will tell you that the scammers know what they’re doing, that their delivery is smooth, and that peer pressure can take over good judgment, especially if your friends are getting statements back about how fabulously their investments are doing. As the old saying goes: If it sounds too good to be true, it is. And, if your daughter’s softball coach approaches you with a hot investment, ask why, if the coach is so smart, he or she still can’t figure out how to teach players how to field a ground ball cleanly.

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And if that isn’t enough to help you avoid investment scams, perhaps this video will help. Ahem, her face is up there.

Your kid's cellphone: a youth sports parent's best friend

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You might have seen over the weekend that the New York Times put up a blurb about the growth of cell phone use by six-to-11-year-olds, a group that back in my day (insert old man voice) would still have been playing with pretend land lines. However, I see nothing disturbing at all in kids having cell phones, not with my 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter having had them for about two years. I’m also guessing a lot of parents who are shuttling kids to multiple events, sports or otherwise, feel the same way.

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“Oh-hoh! I’ll send Goofy to pick you up at the field, Billy!”

The Times, quoting a study released Jan. 4 by Mediamarket Research and Intelligence, said that in 2005 11.9 percent of six- to 11-year-olds had their own mobile phone. In 2009, that number was up to 20 percent. The most dramatic increase, according to the market research company, was 10- and 11-year-olds, whose phone ownership was up 80.5 percent.

These numbers might be disturbing if you believe cell phones cause brain tumors, or if you imagine your 6-year-old now having the power to send naked pictures of himself all over the virtual world. And, yeah, when I put it that way, even I’m starting to freak out a little bit. Let me check my kid’s phones, and I’ll be right back. …

(OK, nothing untoward there. Whew.)

Or maybe you think merely that a post-toddler or preteen is too young to have a phone.

The New York Times item on this survey, being a blurb, left out a key part of the 5,000-child survey: why they use their phone.

The overwhelmingly No. 1 reason why kids use their phones is to call their parents. Now, as a child — and I was a good kid (really, I was) — my worst nightmare was that my parents could have some sort of tracking device on me that would always reveal to them where I was at any given moment. But my experience with my own children is that both sides like the security of being able to get in touch, anytime. Certainly, a cell phone would have been helpful so I could go from one park to another without having to make a detour home first so I could ask my parents if I could go.

The survey said 88.1% of the kiddie cellphone wielders use the device to call their parents. This is where the phone as youth sports parent’s best friend comes in. There comes a time, when the number of kids you have and the schedules they keep outflank you ability to be everywhere at once, that the phone is a necessity for making sure that your child isn’t left stranded after practice or a game — or that you can talk to your child and the parents of whomever has offered to bring him or her home, preferably via a postgame ice-cream shop stop.

My 12-year-old’s phone certainly comes in handy for his frequent, hours-long in-line skating jaunts, so I can call him home, or he can call me in case there is a problem. I feel safer with him having the phone, though my concern for his safety does not extend to making him wear a helmet and pads.

Over the summer, when we were visiting my family in Carmel, Ind., my son bladed over to the nearby Monon Trail (a conversion from a rail line upon which a parent threatened to send up Hickory basketball coach Norman Dale after hidestrapping his ass to a pine rail), which runs south to downtown Indianapolis. I was running the trail myself, so I saw him as we entered at about 146th Street, and I saw him again as I ran south from the trail’s end at 161st Street in Westfield, with him heading north. His phone in hand, I let him keep going after I was done running.

About 90 minutes later, not having heard from my son, I figured I’d better call him to see if he was OK. “Yeah, I’m fine, Dad,” he said. “Where are you?” “I’m not exactly sure.” “What was the last street sign you saw?” “I think it was… 96th Street.” (96th Street is the border between Carmel and Indianapolis.) “96th Street? Where the heck are you going?” “I wanted to go all the way downtown and back.” “Uh, no.”

Hey, my 12-year-old son may be old enough to have a cell phone, but I wasn’t going to let him traverse by himself to downtown Indianapolis and back. I might let him skate with no pads and no helmet — and an iPod going full-blast — but I have my limits. (I did let him skate back, though.)

By the way, second in the survey was calling friends (68.1 percent) and emergency purposes (55.7 percent). Mediamarket says much of the rise in cell phone use has to do with more kid-friendly phone offerings.

Left totally unsupervised, with no cell phone pads and cell phone helmet, can mobile technology welcome your 6- to 11-year-old to a world of sexting, cyberbullying, tumor-iffic, airtime-charge-sucking ne’er-do-wells? Perhaps. When we got our kids phones, my wife and I gave long lectures about what they were to be used for — and not. We haven’t gotten our 7-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter their own phones yet, but they’re not moving about independently enough to need them.

Anyway, I think the results of the Mediamark survey show that children — and parents — want that electronic tether to make sure they’re never out of reach; what was once my nightmare, now a child’s and parent’s dream.

Written by rkcookjr

March 9, 2010 at 4:42 pm

An app that satisfies the demand for real-time T-ball action

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Have you ever driven by a Little League baseball field and thought, “Where’s the GOT-damn scoreboard? How am I supposed to know what’s going on in this game?”

Well, now your worries are over, thanks to the Gamechanger!

It’s, well, a game changer for how we follow youth sports. No longer do you have to ask some other parent, “What inning are we in? Is this ever going to be over?” Now, thanks to this smartphone app, you can look and say, “Fucking shit. It’s only the third inning. I’m never getting out of here.”

Developed by former Cleveland Indians single-A minor-league pitcher Ted Sullivan, the Gamechanger allows a scorekeeper at the game to update statistics, which are then accessible by mobile phone to anyone who logs into the Gamechanger network. It’s the perfect gift for guilt-ridden parents who aren’t able to make it to their kid’s game because they’re working late and/or banging the secretary.

“As a busy father, I have always wished that I could follow my sons’ games even when I couldn’t be there,” said Steve Hansen, the CEO of Weplay, a celebrity-endorsed youth sports portal, in a Jan. 27 statement announcing Gamechanger’s availability to any league that uses Weplay services.  “With GameChanger, Weplay now is on the field on an iPhone, broadcasting and sharing youth sports memories with the people who care most.” (For the record, I would never mean to imply that Steve Hanson has ever banged his secretary. I don’t even know if he has a secretary.)

The Weplay deal is a coup for the Gamechanger — a game changer, if you will — because otherwise Sullivan was looking at, league by league, trying to sell $2 per month subscriptions to parents whose leagues might or might not be feeding data to the application.

Now, even George Clooney in “Up in the Air” can know that little Johnny is 2-for-4 with an error in his 9-year-old Little League game. Grandma in Spokane can see how little Sasha in Fort Wayne is playing. Then she can call her parents and ask them why Sasha sucks so hard.

2498619968_ce16a78dd51Scoreboard update!

To me, as a coach, the best thing about the Gamechanger is that parents stop asking me what inning it is, or what the score is. (I’m annoyed because usually I don’t know without looking at the scorebook.) Better yet, the dad that would call my 10-year-old daughter’s softball manager during games to get details on score, inning and how his hotshot travel-team daughter was doing could look at the app and find out, leaving the poor manager alone with his thoughts and the incessant cheers of a 10-year-old girls’ softball team.

There are many other constituencies for tracking games with the Gamechanger. Such as:

– Ice cream truck drivers, so they know when to show up to a game and park and play their grating song OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER until you HAVE to buy FUCKING SPONGEBOB ICE CREAM BARS just to GET THEM TO GO AWAY, GODDAMNIT.

– Coaches who think they’re running a friggin’ major-league team and want to use it for “scouting.”

— Parents pounding shots at the bar, wanting a sure signal on what time they should start sobering up to pick up their kid.

— Commissioners and owners of youth-league fantasy baseball team.

— Gamblers.

– Pervs.

When youth sports die, they can take a school and city down with them

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I think we can all agree that organized youth sports are not 100 percent essential to the school or growing-up experience, in that plenty of people grew up to be productive, non-prison-occupying citizens without them. However, a major change in how a school or locality treats youth sports can be a symbol of that school or locality’s falling into the abyss.

Much has been written about the impact of the South-Western City School Board in Columbus, Ohio, dropping all extracurricular activities after voters failed to pass a tax levy, and how that has further drained the energy of the district. In May I went to Elkhart, Ind., to write about youth sports in America’s poster child for sudden employment, and I found the dividing line between whether someone thought themselves as out-of-work middle class or poor depended a lot on whether they could still scrape together a few nickels for youth sports. After all, if they didn’t have the money to spend anymore on something they believed benefited their children, they didn’t have money for the basics, either.

But today’s city and school on the edge of the economic abyss is Elk Grove, Calif., where the school system is looking at cutting out all freshman and junior varsity sports, and even some varsity programs, across nine high schools, thus filling about $1 million of a projected $42 million budget hole, and resulting in one-third of the athletic budget gone. The next meeting to discuss sports is scheduled for Oct. 19, with a decision expected in November. Unlike in some other districts that have cut sports but brought them back, Elk Grove doesn’t seem keen on having local boosters raise money to “buy back” teams on the chopping block.

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Elk Grove, a former dairy town, in 2006 was declared by the U.S. Census the fastest growing city in America, peaking at 136,000 residents. Average values that year were riding their highest, $458,000.

Now they’re at $227,000 — about a 50 percent drop in three years. Elk Grove was the first new megasuburb to realize its fast growth was a mirage, built on loans its residents couldn’t afford, particularly once they started losing their jobs. Instead of a suburban paradise, Elk Grove is watching presumed inner-city crime problems move in as squatters and renters take over what were once pristine McMansions.

While that is certainly more than enough to shake Elk Grove’s images among its own citizens, the final nail in their soon-to-be-repossessed coffin is the slicing of sports. Like in Elkhart, it’s the difference between down on your luck and down for the count. In Elk Grove, the varsity sports most likely to be cut are the likes of water polo, recently added sports that spoke to the town’s growth and affluence, and whose demise speaks to Elk Grove’s decline.

Not to say that the community is taking this change of status lightly. John Tuttle, the volunteer water polo coach at Elk Grove’s Franklin High, told the Elk Grove Citizen the only towel that should be thrown in is one that a player of his used.

“Putting sport aside, I find this unacceptable and disturbing,” he said. “Teaching our kids about responsibility, accountability, and the fact that you have to work for what you want should be a high priority – and we are staring right at a real life situation that could easily accomplish this. Tossing it aside as too difficult and potentially inequitable suits leaders we can’t afford to be in charge in these tough economic times. “

Unfortunately for Tuttle and others like him, tossing things aside is the rule when your city suddenly becomes a basket case. Maybe some of the citizens of Elk Grove will respond by starting private programs to make up for the athletic loss. But with no sign of an economic turnaround, Elk Grove is going to be hard-pressed to keep any symbol of its former glory — especially sports.

The greatest youth sports commercial ever, damn it

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Don’t you hate when you see a really good ad that you know is trying to manipulate you, and you’re powerless to resist? One that makes you hate yourself, the company, the advertising agency and anyone who’s in the room seeing you weep? Well, the folks at the Florida-based supermarket chain Publix — well, probably its ad agency — have come up with such a spot.

It’s called “First Game,” and it’s designed to tie in with Publix’s sponsorship of youth soccer. Judging by the YouTube posting date, the ad has been around for nearly a year, but I just caught it the other day thanks to a post by Fatpickled.

Yes, the gender roles seems retrograde, with Mom handling all the groceries. Yes, it is a grocery chain handling the ad, so the family has bought enough postgame food to feed every soccer team from Pensacola to Plantation. Yes, the light piano music is incredibly manipulative.

But damn if the ad agency (I’m still looking to see which one it was) didn’t capture the essence of a child’s first organized game. The nervous parents, the kid who may or may not be adept or paying attention, the dad who isn’t sure what to think when it’s clear his kid isn’t getting the game right away, the parent who’s not sure how the child is going to react when the game is over, the relief when it appears the kid has had a good time. It’s a lot of emotion squeezed into one minute and a shitload of grocery shots, but the ad does it right.

Prepare to be moved, and to hate yourself for being moved.

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Written by rkcookjr

October 6, 2009 at 12:09 am

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