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I got stripes, stripes around my shoulders…

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…and them parents, them parents, they’re ’bout to drag me dowwwwwwwwwnnnnnn.

Someone who knew a little something about the perils of the striped shirt.

Nate Ulrich, sports columnist for the (Munster, Ind.) Times, learned why the Indiana High School Athletic Association and just about everyone who needs officials have trouble finding them — because you spend a lot of time and pay a lot of money for a gig that offers crap pay and crap from everyone else around you.

He spent two hours at a recruiting fair, four hours studying for his certification exam, two hours taking it, and one hour buying his uniform, activities that took place over the course of more than two months between his appearance at the fair and his hiring for his first games. He spent $227.90, $182.90 of it for the official zebra wear and whistle. The pay for Ulrich’s first assignment, back-to-back sixth-grade AAU girls basketball — $40.

Before his first game, Ulrich’s partner for the games told him two things. One, don’t sell out your partner, no matter how bad the call was, because that person “is your only friend in the gym.” Two, that junior-high parents are “evil. … At that junior high level, weird things happen.”

Ulrich, by his own admission, failed to hear a time-out call from one bench during the first game, and heard about it from that coach and score keeper during the game, and heard about it from the manager of the facility hosting the game, who had heard more from the coach and score keeper. Fun!

The second game was better, except that Ulrich’s ref partner told him he had to be more assertive. “A lot of times you were blowing your whistle like a little girl.”

Of course, you expect in any new job you’re going to screw up or be hesitant. Although Ulrich could have signed on to be a nuclear plant manager and gotten more margin for error from his colleagues.

Ulrich’s conclusion:

During my drive home that night, I contemplated whether I’d ever work another game. I don’t think I will.

I made $40 for two hours of work. I was sweaty and exhausted, so it was definitely a good workout. And I was fortunate to work with an understanding [partner] … .

The bottom line is I just didn’t enjoy it.

I am glad I mustered the guts to try officiating, though. I saw the game from a new perspective, and I attained a newfound level of appreciation and respect for the men and women who have been doing it for years.

If you think can you do a better job … I encourage you to go through the process I did and see for yourself.

No, better yet — I dare you.

Ulrich more than 250 people went to the recruiting fair, so apparently many are daring. In these times, $40 is $40, and six gigs like that will at least pay for the test and the uniform.

Written by rkcookjr

May 3, 2009 at 5:42 pm

Unnecessary roughness

leave a comment » (hat tip: On The Pitch) has a good piece about how to deal with rough play in youth soccer.

268309060_7f3364e85a_m1Let 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.

460718873_3fa4403b28_mIn 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.

Take your crazy sports parenting out of real life…

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…and put it online!

626990667_0742536ecb_m1Yes, crazy sports parents, the technology exists so you can still be as intense as ever, yet not make a scene! Here are five steps to using techonology to your crazy sporting advantage, and make yourself less likely to end up in the police blotter:

1. Don’t say spiteful things about the coach during the game. Instead, form a “I Hate Coach [Blank]” Facebook group!

2. Don’t scream at the refs. Send them angry text messages! “U SUCK LOLOLOLOLOL :(”

3. Don’t fight with parents, coaches, referees or even kids from the other team at the heat of the moment. Instead, send an Evite to fight them later! “You’re invited… to get your punk ass kicked by me in the alley behind the biker bar! Confirmed guests:  My fists of rock.”

4. Do you find yourself generating a constant stream of bitter chatter? Get a Twitter account! “@13YOREF FU and DIAF (updated one minute ago) @RECCOACH Ur a fukkin idiot (updated two minutes ago) …”

5. If you say, “I’m not a crazy parent!” and think you’re superior to those you believe are, start a smart-alecky blog!

Satire — what closes on Saturday night, and what is not recommended in a youth soccer coach

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Like a lot of coaches, I send a hello email to all my players’ parents as a way to introduce myself, talk a little about my background, give a few thoughts on how I approach coaching, and try to be light-hearted and even a little humorous, all to send the signal that I’m a nice, approachable guy who will not drive their kid straight out of the sport and onto a therapist’s couch.

I would recommend all coaches do the same. However, I would recommend none have an email that reads like this (hat tip, On the Pitch, which got it from Barstool Sports, a Boston-based site that has a reader with a girl on the team in question):

Congratulations on being selected for Team 7 (forest green shirts) of the Scituate Soccer Club! My name is Michael and I have been fortunate enough to be selected to coach what I know will be a wonderful group of young ladies. Chris Mac will also be coaching and I expect the ever popular Terry to return to the sidelines. Our first game will be Saturday April 4 at 10:00AM. There will be a half hour of skills followed by a 1 hour game, so total time will be 1.5 hours. All games will be played on the fields in the front of the High School. Each player will be required to wear shin guards and cleats are recommended but not required. A ball will be provided to each player at the first meeting, and each player should bring the ball to games and practices. There is no set practice time allotted for the U8 teams, but I will convene with the coaches to determine the best time and place. If there are cancellations due to rain, all notices will be posted via the Scituate Soccer Club website, no calls will be made (though I will try to send an email). Attached is the Schedule and Code of Conduct. After listening to the head of the referees drone on for about 30 minutes on the dangers of jewelry (time which I will never get back), no player will be allowed to play with pierced ears, hairclips, etc. We used to tape the earings, but that practice is no longer acceptable. Please let me know if your child has any health issues that I need to be aware of. My home phone is XXX XXX XXXX, my cell number is XXX XXX XXXX, and I check my email frequently. According to my wife, my emails get too wordy, so for those of you read too slowly, are easily offended, or are too busy, you can stop here. For the others……

OK, here’s the real deal: Team 7 will be called Green Death. We will only acknowledge “Team 7″ for scheduling and disciplinary purposes. Green Death has had a long and colorful history, and I fully expect every player and parent to be on board with the team. This is not a team, but a family (some say cult), that you belong to forever. We play fair at all times, but we play tough and physical soccer. We have some returning players who know the deal; for the others, I only expect 110% at every game and practice. We do not cater to superstars, but prefer the gritty determination of journeymen who bring their lunch pail to work every week, chase every ball and dig in corners like a Michael Vick pit bull. Unless there is an issue concerning the health of my players or inside info on the opposition, you probably don’t need to talk to me. Coach MacDonald has been designated “good guy” this year.

Some say soccer at this age is about fun and I completely agree. However, I believe winning is fun and losing is for losers. Ergo, we will strive for the “W” in each game. While we may not win every game (excuse me, I just got a little nauseated) I expect us to fight for every loose ball and play every shift as if it were the finals of the World Cup. While I spent a good Saturday morning listening to the legal liability BS, which included a 30 minute dissertation on how we need to baby the kids and especially the refs, I was disgusted. The kids will run, they will fall, get bumps, bruises and even bleed a little. Big deal, it’s good for them (but I do hope the other team is the one bleeding). If the refs can’t handle a little criticism, then they should turn in their whistle. The sooner they figure out how to make a decision and live with the consequences the better. My heckling of the refs is actually helping them develop as people. The political correctness police are not welcome on my sidelines. America’s youth is becoming fat, lazy and non-competitive because competition is viewed as “bad”. I argue that competition is good and is important to the evolution of our species and our survival in what has become an increasingly competitive global economy and dangerous world. Second place trophies are nothing to be proud of as they serve only as a reminder that you missed your goal; their only useful purpose is as an inspiration to do that next set of reps. Do you go to a job interview and not care about winning? Don’t animals eat what they kill (and yes, someone actually kills the meat we eat too – it isn’t grown in plastic wrap)? And speaking of meat, I expect that the ladies be put on a diet of fish, undercooked red meat and lots of veggies. No junk food. Protein shakes are encouraged, and while blood doping and HGH use is frowned upon, there is no testing policy. And at the risk of stating the obvious, blue slushies are for winners.

These are my views and not necessarily the views of the league (but they should be). I recognize that my school of thought may be an ideological shift from conventional norms. But it is imperative that we all fight the good fight, get involved now and resist the urge to become sweat-xedo-wearing yuppies who sit on the sidelines in their LL Bean chairs sipping mocha-latte-half-caf-chinos while discussing reality TV and home decorating with other feeble-minded folks. I want to hear cheering, I want to hear encouragement, I want to get the team pumped up at each and every game and know they are playing for something.

Lastly, we are all cognizant of the soft bigotry that expects women and especially little girls, to be dainty and submissive; I wholeheartedly reject such drivel. My overarching goal is develop ladies who are confident and fearless, who will stand up for their beliefs and challenge the status quo. Girls who will kick ass and take names on the field, off the field and throughout their lives. I want these girls to be winners in the game of life. Who’s with me?

Go Green Death!

Who’s with him? Not the Scituate Soccer Club in Massachusetts, which was unhappy enough with the coach who wrote this note, one Michael Kinahan, that he quit. Did I mention Kinahan’s team was to consist of 6- and 7-year-old girls?

Kinahan told the Boston Herald his letter was supposed to be a “mix of ‘suburban satire’ and a challenge to compete. ‘I stand by my comments. This isn’t two hours of free babysitting,’ Kinahan said.”

1145190861_7f321fb9dcNot a gift from Michael Kinahan.

Apparently Kinahan was not familiar with the words of George S. Kaufman. Or perhaps nobody got as a satire because, according to a league official quoted by the Herald, Kinahan in the past really has heckled the refs. Did I mention they are 12 years old, and that a league official said Kinahan heckled one right out of the league?

In a way, I feel bad for Kinahan. I believe he was trying to be funny, though I also believe that if this letter is any example, he sucks at it. Anyway, it isn’t a good idea to alienate your team and its parents before any of them have met you. There’s plenty of time in the season for that! Unfortunately, thanks to this magic thing called the Internet, a stupid letter goes from being just a stupid letter into the latest cause celebre over whether we take youth sports too seriously.

However, I feel much better for the girls and parents who don’t have to deal with this hopeless douchebag. Apparently not realizing the dad who reads Barstool Sports is the one who shined a light on his sub-Wildean satiric skills, Kinahan included him a copy of his resignation letter, which the site dutifully reproduced. You could say Kinahan hasn’t learned anything, or you could say Kinahan is going to be the subject of a fawning interview on Fox News very, very soon.

Team, After careful consideration, I have decided to resign from all coaching responsibilities related to Team 7 this season.  Unfortunately, it has come to my attention that some parents and the Board of Scituate Soccer failed to see the humor in my pre-season email.  For the avoidance of doubt, the email was largely (albeit not completely) meant in jest and with the goal of giving the parents a chuckle while enduring yet another round of organized youth sports.  It was also meant as a satire of those who take youth sports too seriously for the wrong reasons.  My overarching goal is the well-being of my players, and I do not want any player to feel uncomfortable, nor do I want to see the team disbanded because of a lack of active players.  Therefore, while I’d prefer to go down swinging, it’s really about the kids and it just makes more sense for me to take the year off.

While I respectfully disagree with the Board’s interpretation of my comments, I believe that they should be commended for their immediate actions to address the concerns of the offended parties.  The Board’s action proves that the chain of command is functioning as designed.  Board members volunteer their valuable time and I do not plan to add to their already significant workload.  I also respect those parents who were offended as I am sure they acted in the best interest of their children.  While I may question their sense of humor, I have no right to question their judgment regarding their children.  Perhaps we may even have beer (I’ll buy) and a couple of laughs at the end of all of this.

And while I am sorry some people failed to see the humor, I do not apologize for my actions; I wrote it, I think it’s funny and I do have a distaste for the tediousness of overbearing political correctness.  Furthermore, I was serious about parental involvement as I do believe parents should cheer and encourage players (in a positive fashion obviously) so that the kids feel the excitement that comes from team competition.  And most importantly, I was completely serious that I want to see each young girl develop a positive self image, self-confidence and the will to succeed in any endeavor that she desires.  Lastly, I have added some comments to my initial email (in capitals) to clarify several points that may have been viewed as offensive.


Michael K.

Go Green Death!

greendeathfrontgreendeathbackHow long before Kinahan sues Barstool Sports for trying to make a buck off of his idiocy?

There’s a little crazy parent in all of us

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eg-fa-respect-logodisplayBefore my oldest son’s seventh- and eighth-grade rec league co-ed team took the basketball court today, we were treated to an exciting game by two of the high school league teams. We also were treated to appalling conduct by some of what I assumed were the players’ parents.

The yelling at the referees was incessant, more than I had ever heard at games involving younger kids. So much for Hansen’s Youth Sports Law. The refs kicked one particularly angry father out of the gym, but others took up the slack. The one benefit was my brother-in-law and I being able to point to them to show the lesson how ridiculous you look when you’re constantly worried about the officials.

I’ve written about referee abuse before, about how it’s considered so endemic some state legislatures are passing laws instituting tougher punishment for attacking an official than attacking your next-door neighbor. And today I was going to do it again.

Then I read the first comment on the bottom of a story (actually, the last comment in chronological order) in the Calgary Herald about the local hockey association instituted a zero-tolerance policy on ref abuse after a parent shoved an official.

I’ll reproduce it here, but I want to summarize what I think is its major point. The assumption often is that crazy parents have major-league dreams for their kids, and that’s why they act crazily. That is not necessarily so. What these parents have in common is the natural desire to protect their children — something any good parent has — and the knowledge that the youth sports system has politics that work against those parents who fail to speak up. What they also have in common is their inability to handle these feelings constructively.

The post doesn’t mention why parents would take this out on referees (though at the bottom you’ll see some interesting proposals to make sure these conflicts are nipped in the bud before they ever grow). I think it’s one part a long tradition of yelling at officials at all levels, one part a visceral reaction to competition and one part a visceral reaction to bad things happening against your child added to a base of projecting frustrations onto a rulemaker how some might project their frustrations in real life on a lawyer or politician.3187257432_d8b94461d7_m2

The Calgary Herald post, in its entirely (all typos are sic, and I have separated the post into paragraphs for readability):

“I understand that there is a big challenge in discipline within the operations of Hockey Calgary. What is extremely tired and boring, however, is how Hockey Calgary , the media and ignorant people keep banging the drum that parents who are upset at officiating or coaching or whatever are thinking their kids have a shot at the NHL and this is the parents’ motivation for their actions. Get off it. You are extremely out of touch if you believe that is what parents believe.

“Parents motivation for these actions are not because of NHL aspirations, it is because of an intense sense of competition and desire to protect their child from what the parent perceives is happening to him/her. Now, there are perceptions and realities and whether or not the parent is right or wrong about what is really going on…that is the motivation. To lay this tired and ongoing copout that the problems are because of parents thinking their son/daughter is going to the NHL and this or that coach or manager or ref or association is constraining that dream is overplayed, overhyped and patently wrong and irresponsible.

“Everyone knows a player who did not make a team they should have (read: coaches picks) Many of us have seen a player picked on the bottom end of a team because he lives nearby the coach, is family friends—I have seen it continuously for the past 6 years in minor hockey. I have been lucky as my son has never expeienced this because of his God given abilities. I have seen it EVERY year, though where everyone says and asks why is that kid on a team—he is a coaches pick. I know that bottom of a division team or top of the team below are interchangeable, but nonetheless, the logical pick is rarely the pick, just the player that fits into the right mold of having been with that coach for a while, friend of the coach or whatever.

“Now, I do not believe this is a problem in minor hockey, but it demonstrates that some players do not always get a fair shake and parents want to protect them in any way they can. You would be a liar if you told me that you did not know a player that got passed over or raised an eyebrow when hearing about a certain player on a given team. It is not the NHL dream that gets parents fired up, it is a perception that there kid or team is getting screwed over and some people make poor decisions on how to handle this.

“As crazy as this sounds, it would be more beneficial to the problem to have minor hockey officials at a ton of games at the beginning of the season and not just observe parent, coach behavior, but identify oneself to parents during a game when there are inappropriate actions by parents…nip it at the bud right away and demonstrate to parents and coaches that this will not be tolerated…getting involved after the fact is grandstanding, really. You need to be involved at the game level, not just after the fact.

“You can have all the commercial campaigns you want, but if you only react after something egregious has occurred, it will only be a short term solution. It can be volunteers who choose to work a few games one a weekend or one weekend a month or whatever, but dealing with everything after the fact is nonsense. If one were admonished or gently pulled aside during a game, then the impact on that parent and others attending the game would be extremely meaningful. To argue that is too difficult, and I know it would be very difficult, is choosing to go down the same path every year of incident-punishment, incident-punishment. It is obvious that the campaigns do little. Please stop banging your head against the wall.”