Archive for the ‘crimes against sport’ Category
A Minnesota soccer coach, on his blog, says he was clear from last fall on: if his 12-and-under girls’ soccer somehow pulled off the miracle of looking like it would beat an affiliated, elite 13-and-under team in tournament competition, he would, in his words, “probably find a way for the 13s to go through over our team.”
And, by god, that’s exactly what happened. And now Mark Abboud, a former pro player, is out of a job as technical director of the elite Minnesota Thunder Academy program and is busy working as the latest youth sports morality play.
The academy, which runs recreational and elite programs, tossed out Abboud, fined him $600 (to be paid to charity) and only kept him on as a 12s coach for the rest of the season by the grace of the girls, for an incident May 17.
Abboud slowly and painfully recounts the day in his season blog, giving both the reader and Abboud himself the imagery of seeing a car wreck before it happens, yet not being able to avoid it.
Abboud’s team of 12s, as he recounts, was basically in a state cup tournament for the experience. In past years, Abboud had seen a predecessor team to the Thunder, a team he coached, lose to a younger squad, then get smacked in the state tournament. He didn’t feel it was valuable to younger girls to get clobbered, nor did he believe it was best for the program for that to happen. No one objected when he put that idea forth — after all, what are the odds?
So game day comes when Abboud’s team faces the Thunder’s elite 13-year-olds, and he tells his girls to go out and play hard. He even switches up his offensive and defensive set to improve his girls’ chances. In a tribute to Abboud’s skills, it works — too well. “My thoughts were a-whirl,” Abboud wrote May 18. “The 13s are a better team overall than we were. They would do our club proud at Regionals if they got past either the White team or EP (game was to be played after ours). It would be better for the club and for MN to have them represent the state at the Midwest Region Championships. We were here for the experience. I was silently cheering for the 13s to score a goal.”
The game is tied at 1 at the end of regulation. And at the end of two overtimes. Time for penalty kicks.
And Abboud makes good on his vow. He instructs his girls to kick slowly to the 13s goalie. Apparently the 12s didn’t get the message, because they reportedly were sobbing at the news. (I understand — I worked at a magazine where we were told by the publisher no matter how well we did, the focus always would be on making the sister magazine we spun out thrive, with us left to die. I found a new job not too long after that inspiring pep talk.)
Abboud, in his own words, immediately regretted his presumably well-reasoned, well-thought out decision.
What did I just do? I took the decision out of the girls’ hands and dictated a controllable ending to a match against the spirit of competition and of the game itself. Albeit I still stand behind the rationale used in this case, I’m thinking again it was not the right way to deal with the situation. It would have been helpful to have a club coach or director around to bounce this idea off of prior to acting it out.
The look of disappointment and betrayal that some of them held in their eyes was crushing to me. I was so frustrated with the whole thing that I accidentally said “Some of you are going to be poutty and b-i-t-c-h-y to me because of this, but I hope you understand my thought process.” I’ve never used that language with a youth team before, though I’m sure they’ve heard far worse. The b-word broke the ice, eliciting chuckles from almost every girl, but I still regretted the slip. And regret was already building about other things.
Though many other MTA coaches and directors were supportive later that afternoon to my face, we’ll see what the next days bring. I thought it was the right decision to make at the time (and for the entire last year), I take full responsibility for any repercussions, and through this writing that is always insightful and constructive to me, I’m starting to regret the choice.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune did a story on Abboud’s Sophie’s Choice that didn’t shy away from what Abboud did, but was pretty sympathetic, though the 132 reader comments (as of this writing) are, uh, not.
I’ll say this first: Abboud must be pretty well-liked for his 12s to accept him after being shafted, so much so that they begged the Thunder to let him stay on as coach. But not to pile on to Abboud’s self-flagellation, that was a dumb decision. Especially dumb because he had so much time to think about it. He decided last fall this would happen? Did he run this by his board of directors? Maybe the parents or others didn’t object, because they probably didn’t think anything of it — until it became reality.
It’s funny that while the usual complaints about youth sports is coach’s win-at-all-costs attitude, Abboud gets slammed for losing on purpose. But the idea is to try. If the 13s can’t beat the 12s, that’s their problem. You can’t decide they would do better later, that they’re having an off day, so you have to game the results for them. Abboud was trying to help, but like my wife says when I throw her delicates in the dryer, you’re not helping.
I know, from reading his blog, that Abboud knows all that. However, I would lose my license as a sports pundit if I didn’t same something. (And Coach Abboud, feel free to contact me if you wish to speak further about this.)
By the way, the Thunder isn’t the only one handing out punishment over this. Inside Minnesota Soccer reported June 1 that the Minnesota Youth Soccer Youth Association not only banned Abboud from coaching in state cup competition through 2010, but they handed the same sanction to the 13s coach, Andy Kassa, as well. (Apparently there was evidence Abboud tipped off Kassa to what he was doing.) The 13s also were booted out of state competition — so much for getting the better team ahead.
Abboud wrote in his blog — not updated since May 21 — that he figured some punishment would be coming down. After all, it doesn’t matter if you’re shaving points because you’re in cahoots with gamblers or shaving points because you think you’re helping your club — even in no-score leagues, people don’t take kindly to coaches who tell their players to stop trying.
Millsap, Texas, population 350, was looking at possibly having to shake $20 out of every man, woman and child to pay for the $7,000 theft of equipment from Millsap Youth Athletics. That is, until a talk radio station two counties to the east, in Dallas, took up their cause, what with their good heart and so much time on the air being freed up since Terrell Owens left town.
Um, that’s Millsap, not Milsap.
The folks at ESPN 103.3 raised $3,000 on the air through bids on a sports ticket package until an anonymous listener called in, off the air, to pledge $5,000.
From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
[Millsap Youth Athletics secretary Rita] Switzer was profoundly grateful.
“Whoever this anonymous donor is, I love you, I love you, I love you,” she said.
Switzer said smaller donations have come from residents across North Texas, both pledged on the telephone and sent through the mail.
Switzer said the community’s response to the theft is teaching the children about the good in people and how positive things can come out of bad.
“Before every meeting we have, the first thing we do is we pray. We pray for God to watch over the kids and for him to allow us to be the best we can be,” she said. “I feel this is an answer to those prayers.”
I was just crying the whole time I was listening. They talked that story up like we were big-leaguers.”
Millsap isn’t the only youth sports organization to get a helping hand in a crisis wrought by theft. The Blue Island (Ill.) Little League has shaken a lot of helping hands after it lost $3,000 in food and equipment in a concession stand burglary. One man gave the whole kaboodle. The Chicago White Sox kicked in $500 and free tickets for the players. Other parents and other leagues kicked in some money, as well.
It’s nice to know that in a crisis, you can find friends in unexpected places. Especially if you can get the word out. Seriously leagues — if you suffer a sudden loss, let the world know so someone can help.
WGN’s Tom Skilling, the world’s greatest TV weatherperson, informed us last night that Chicago Midway Airport has had its wettest meteorological spring on record — 11.37 inches since March 1. If you didn’t know meteorological spring started March 1, you probably don’t watch Tommy, and also you probably don’t know what an isobar is. Or you’re my mother-in-law, yelling during the midst of one of Tommy’s 10-minute weather jags, “Get to the forecast!” Anyway, that near-foot of rain is double what Midway normally would have by now.
So what does that have to do with youth sports?
It means we’re not playing them. It means, as a T-ball manager, I’m monitoring radar all day like I’m working in the National Hurricane Center. It means my cell has a button to send a notice to every parent whether we are, or aren’t, parenting. It means Monday I watched my 9-year-old daughter’s softball team get one inning in during a downpour on her opening day before the coaches had to call the game, clearly against their will except that the pitcher couldn’t keep control of even the dry ball the coaches would throw after she slid another one in the dirt.
It means that about mid-May, millions of parents nationwide will be racing from game to game, every day, to make up for the many canceled games. Especially those parents where I live, about eight miles due south of soggy Midway Airport.
Thursday I have a T-ball game to manage (including my 6-year-old) son. My daughter has a game scheduled as well. Tommy’s forecast: 70 and a strong chance of thunderstorms. Sigh.
And it’s not like last meteorological fall was any picnic either. Taken by my then 10-year-old son in the area around the SAC softball fields in Oak Lawn, Ill., where the fall league softball team I managed didn’t play some games thanks to what you see here.
Contrary to public belief, or the feeling you might get reading this blog, not every coach is a nutjob or is under siege from parents. Hugo Bustamante was one of the good ones. Unfortunately, outside his immediate circle, no one knew that until tragedy struck.
Bustamante, 46, and a co-worker died Thursday when they were shot to death by a fellow co-worker at the Long Beach Memorial Hospital pharmacy in California. The attacker then shot and killed himself. Police don’t know his motive, and they think they might never know.
Bustamante was married with a young daughter and son. According to this story from the Orange County Register, Bustamente helped out with his daughter’s softball team but spent most of his coaching time with soccer. He was, to say the least, not a yeller. From the Register:
When he was volunteered to help coach his daughter’s AYSO soccer team, the Cypress Cyclones, the former college soccer player smiled and helped coach them to compete in a Southern California championship game.
At the start of the season, Bustamante’s gentle demeanor had some parents wondering whether he could push the kids hard enough, but he made believers of them, team mom Melissa Tan-Torres said.
“He had that soft, gentle voice, but he could get the kids to do what he wanted,” Tan-Torres said.
“He was exactly everything right about youth sports. He never pushed them,” said Glenn Morikawa, whose daughter played on the Cyclones.
Being right about youth sports also gained Bustamante a measure of fame in the Los Angeles area.
When Bustamante’s U-10-year-old girls qualified for the state finals by default because the team that beat them could not afford the trip, the Cyclones tried to raise the money for their opponents so they could play in the championship game instead of going themselves.
The team only ended up raising $300, but one of the fundraising e-mails was sent to KIIS-FM D.J. Ryan Seacrest, who paid for a charter bus and hotel rooms for the Huntington Park team and gave the kids spending money for the trip, Tan-Torres said.
On the way back, the girls from the Huntington Park and Cypress teams got to be special guests of the Los Angeles Sol and go out on the field at halftime of one of their games.
The team was to be honored at Saturday’s Los Angeles Dodgers game, but decided to cancel after Bustamante’s death.
RIP, coach. And let’s remember there are more of him out there than you’d think.
Uncomfortably racist evidence of backroom Chinese chicanery.
News has trickled out of China that in the southern province of Guangdong, about 3,000 out of 15,000 athletes participating in its annual youth games lied about their ages. Unlike the allegations surrounding Chinese gymnasts in during the Beijing Olympics, sports officials found the athletes in Guangdong to be too old for their competition, not too young.
How did these cheatin’ cheaters get caught? They underwent an X-ray bone analysis. By making a radiograph of the left hand and wrist, you can estimate a child’s age based on bone density. The actual medical reason for such a procedure is to check for cases of atypical bone development, either a child growing too slowly or too quickly for his or her age.
According to local authorities, bone analysis showed athletes as much as seven years older than the age group in which they competed. The strength events had the most fakers. About 2,000 athletes are too old for the games and can’t compete next year, while another 1,000 will have to repeat in what is now determined to be their own age group.
I can’t read the original Chinese report, so I can’t tell if anybody who had a bone age disparate from their stated age was busted, or if there was a minimum separation. Particularly before puberty, it’s fairly common for bone age to be a year ahead or behind a child’s actual age. Even being two to four years behind the curve is not uncommon. This overseas adoption site says that because of early malnourishment, it’s common for Chinese adoptees to be underdevelopment, which is why using bone and teeth analysis to determine age isn’t recommended until at least two years after the child’s placement.
So the possibility exists that the provincial officials of Guangdong are being a tad overzealous.
Then again, they have reason to be. The Chinese Basketball Association has been hit with age-shaving. (Former CBA player Yi Jianlin of the New Jersey Nets is widely assumed to be at least two years older than his stated age of 21.) Also, there is a great incentive to cheat because a great performance at the provincial level means being picked to be a part of your province’s team for the National Games, and perhaps being on your way to getting lavish support to train for international competition. I’m sure provincial officials don’t think 20 percent of athletes with bone age older than their stated age was within the norm — especially because it would be more likely to be the opposite, if that adoption site is to be believed.
Lest we in the United States get too smug over all the age cheating going in China, I’ll mention two words: Danny Almonte.
Maybe you’ve never attacked a hockey ref or inspired a coach to come into the stands after you. But you might be a crazy sports parent and not even know it.
Good job today, son! Just for that, we’ll let you sleep inside tonight!
I am defining “crazy sports parent” as someone who is a little bit too into what his or her child is doing athletically, and is at risk for popping off at a moment’s notice, thus earning worldwide Internet ridicule. I recommend to you sports parents that you take this quiz to see if you might have a problem. This is not a complete run of all the possible disturbing behavior that lies beneath, but this should give you a good start at identifying whether you have a problem. Or whether it’s one of those OTHER parents. Can’t be you. Not at all.
1. How many T-shirts do you own that match your child’s travel team uniform?
B. One to three.
C. I have a walk-in closet devoted to them.
2. How many picture buttons of your children are on your jacket?
B. One for each child.
C. Just my jacket? Not counting the ones in my cubicle, on the bulletin board in the kitchen and pasted to my dashboard? And you don’t mean just for my oldest, right?
3. When your child seems to be losing interest in a sport, you:
A. Support the child’s decision to leave it, and see what else there might be of interest.
B. Have a talk to get the child to give the sport another chance, just to be sure it’s not a temporary feeling
C. Force your child to stay in, what with the cold sweats you’re getting over the possibility of your social life falling apart.
4. You get pumped when:
A. Your child shows enjoyment and improvement.
B. Your child appears to be playing better than others.
C. It’s the Fort Wayne Lees Inn & Suites this weekend!
5. You’re not sure you like your child’s coach. You:
A. Stay quiet. Unless the coach is doing actual harm, no sense getting involved.
B. Make arrangements to talk to the coach, calmly, about your concerns.
C. Start a gossip campaign to get him fired.
6. You don’t like the referee’s calls. You:
A. Stay quiet. It’s just a kid’s game, after all.
B. Grumble to yourself, and remind yourself it’s a kid’s game, after all.
C. Start a gossip campaign to get him fired.
7. Your interaction with other sports parents is:
A. Limited. A hello or occassional remark suffices.
B. Friendly. You chat a little during games.
C. You size up who is “in” and who is “out,” and make sure you set the parameters of all interaction. You start a gossip campaign to get any threats knocked to the “out” column.
8. You have a child who excels at a sport. Your other children are:
A. Special in their unique way, and equally lovable.
B. Not as likely to take care of you financially in your old age.
C. Joining the same sport as that sibling in a desperate bid for your attention.
9. A doctor says your child has an injury that carries a risk of permanent damage should he or she continue playing. You react by:
A. Telling your child, with great understanding for the disappointment that might be involved, that it’s time to stop playing.
B. Getting a second opinion, just to be sure.
C. Dismissing the doctor as a sports-hating quack who probably got wedgies in junior high. Then you give him a wedgie.
10. In taking this quiz, you feel:
A. Like you have a healthy relationship with your child and sports.
B. Smug satisfaction.
C. “Are you trying to imply something? Because I’ll make sure the other parents NEVER talk to you AGAIN!”
Motorcyclists are in a bit of a froth upon discovering that a child toy safety law passed last year by Congress applies to kid-size (ages 12 and under) motorcycles and ATVs. Was the government’s problem that maybe kids shouldn’t ride motorcycles or ATVs in the first place? Nope. The problem was the lead content of the bikes. From Cycle News, with the understated headline, “Stop The Insanity: Updated/The Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act of 2008 Could Be Devastating To All”:
Youth off-highway vehicles are children’s toys, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) reasons. Which means they fall under the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) and, according to section 101(a) of that enacted legislation, all youth products containing lead must have less than 600 parts per million (ppm) by weight. And the CPSC has interpreted the law to apply to various components of youth OHVs – including the engine, brakes, suspension, battery and other mechanical parts. Even though the lead levels in these parts are small, they are still above the minimum threshold.
And therein lies the problem. Effectively, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 has banned the sale of kid’s motorcycles and ATVs – and it all went into effect … February 10. And the ban also includes parts, thereby affecting motorcyclists like Hawkins and the entire motorcycle industry.
The AMA and every other association, manufacturer, race promoter and aftermarket manufacturer with a vested interest in this is calling now for motorcyclists to help – a call for action, so to speak, to try and put a stop to the insanity of the CPSIA.
“The unavailability of youth OHVs will devastate family OHV recreation and cripple amateur competition, creating a domino effect across all aspects of motorized recreation,” said AMA Vice President for Government Relations Ed Moreland in an AMA press release. “All motorcyclists, whether they recreate off-road or not, need to come to the defense of our youngest riders and help ensure the future availability of youth OHVs.”
Get the lead out, kid! No, really, get the lead out.
Cycle News implores readers to funnel their complaints through Congressman Tom Self of Missouri, whose kids raise motorcycles. Which is all well and good, except Self isn’t a Congressman — he’s a state representative. Still, he’s doing what he can, having outraged cycle fans sign an online petition, and sending a letter to the CPSC.
But what the movement really needs is some great bumper stickers, like the classic “Helmet Laws Suck.” So how about:
— Lead laws suck!
— If kid motorcycles are outlawed, only outlaw kids will have motorcycles.
— If you take my kid’s bike away, you’ll meet my two friends: Harley and Davidson.
And, of course, the above headline.