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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad influences. Bad!

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

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

But…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by rkcookjr

January 5, 2011 at 12:48 am

Princesses and pageants: How I spent my non-youth sports vacation

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It happens to many independent blogs — the sudden lull. In my case, my break was enforced by a busier real-job schedule, a busier kid schedule, and preparations for (and the actual taking of) a driving family vacation to Florida. If you have any children, much less the four I cart around, you’ll know that preparing for a family vacation is as intricate and difficult as Napoleon planning an attack of Russia, with similar horrible consequences if such preparation is not sufficient.

We did not go to Florida because one or all of our children had some event or tournament. Radical in some circles, we took an actual vacation just because we wanted to go somewhere. The closest any of my kids, so far, have gotten to travel sports is my 11-year-old daughter playing softball in the southwest Chicago suburbs over the summer. She didn’t care for it, so next July is free! So, all youth event shackles off, we could go to Orlando, Fla., with tourist stops in Atlanta on the way south and Birmingham, Ala., back north, for 10 days, staying in a rented house (which you can get much cheaper than a hotel these days, thanks to the lousy Florida economy) instead of having wondrous pre-winter weekends in Fort Wayne or Rockford crammed into a Ramada, waiting for the next game to start. I mean, those are lovely towns and all; I used to live in Fort Wayne, and my mother was born in Rockford. But I don’t think it’s 80 degrees in November there. (Not yet. Give global warming time.)

Now, I make the point about not having an event in Orlando because so many families who go there do — a tournament, mom or dad’s convention (we did that once with my oldest when he was a baby), a dying grandmother you need to butter up to ensure a prominent place in the will. And when we went to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, we saw it was thick with girls competing in something called “Miss American Coed.”

How do I know this was going on? These girls, in town for the first day of a six-day extravaganza of going back to 1954, which I presume they were doing because of the retrograde use of “coed,” wore their tiaras and sashes the whole day, including when the tiniest contestants fell asleep in their umbrella strollers. I would have taken pictures to show you, except that a 40-year-old man taking candid shots of preteen girls he does not know tends to be looked upon as a bit of creep.

I learned a long time ago not to feel smug about sports as an activity and obsession compared with other pursuits, because the difference between parents and kids who go over the top about sports, and parents and kids who go over the top about pageants, is minimal. Plus, in both you get perverts attracted to the flower of budding childhood for all the wrong reasons.

As a matter of fact, I thought of intense travel sports parents when I saw the budding Miss American Coeds at Disney, because the girls looked like a lot of the girls my 11-year-old played travel softball with and against — as in, they looked like they weren’t enjoying themselves very much.

I’m coming to this conclusion from casual glances, because, again, a 40-year-old man staring too long at preteen girls he does not know tends to be looked upon as a bit of a creep. But I’m thinking of one preteen in particular when we were in line for lunch. My 11-year-old daughter, dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, was feeling free, grabbing the bars that marked the lines and swinging away like a monkey-in-training. Meanwhile, Miss American Coed in line was stuck wearing her pageant outfit, all without the little-girl pleasure of hanging out at Disney’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and pretending to be a Disney princess. The contestant, alone with her parents, looked at my daughter with what I detected was a bit of envy, that maybe she could be an 11-year-old, too, and swing on the lunch counter bars.

Like the stereotype of the sports parents who push hard to make up for their own childhood failures, every pageant family I saw had this makeup: attractive daughter, unattractive parents. Perhaps the parents were into this because, blessed with the luck of having a daughter not as hideous as they were, they wanted to take advantage. Or maybe the parents were attractive at one time, maybe even had pageant lives themselves, until THE GODDAMN KIDS DID THIS TO ME.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this. All I know is, everywhere we saw these girls, and everywhere they looked like they were celebrating Opposite Day at the Happiest Place on Earth. Sure, a lot of little girls were dressed as princesses, and didn’t look terribly comfortable being Cinderella in 80-degree weather in a crowded amusement park. But those Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutiquers did it because, presumably, they wanted to, and they could change if they wanted to. Not because they had to promote some stupid-ass contest and pose in front of grownup judges that, to me anyway, seem a little creepy for staring too long at 11-year-old girls they don’t know.

My wife and I have always told our children that we would be more than happen to support them in any activity or endeavor as long as they really wanted to do it. So if my daughters wanted to do pageants, we probably would say, OK. I’m sure that some of the Miss American Coeds I saw really, really wanted to be pageant queens, at least at some point in their lives.

Fortunately, because the thought of pageants makes me gag, my girls have not chosen this route. (Though they do choose activities I don’t always understand, which will be part two of my vacation diaries.) Anyway, I think my 5-year-old daughter has already shown me the meaning of being a true princess.

A true princess is not someone wearing a sash in a pageant. A true princess is one who, when confronted with a 45-minute line to see the Disney princesses she presumably came there to visit, declared the line too long and demanded to go somewhere more fun. That’s right — a real princess doesn’t spend 45 minutes in line waiting to see ANYBODY!

Written by rkcookjr

December 6, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Israel president’s peace process: Youth sports teams with Jewish and Arab kids together

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Israel President Shimon Peres and his counterpart with the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, in separate visits to Brazil came away impressed that Jews and Arabs in that country seemed to be able to interact without checkpoints and rocks. When the president of Brazil’s Olympic Committee visited Israel recently to chat with Peres about the 2016 Rio de Janiero games, Peres’ memories of harmony got him to thinking that maybe sports would be a great way to build some Brazil-style peace in his country.

From the Jerusalem Post:

Peres proposed that Brazil host joint Israeli/Palestinian youth teams at various of the year, because sport is a great equalizer. He did not suggest a joint Olympic team, although he was pleased that Jews and Arabs are serving together on Brazil’s Olympic Committee. The Peres Peace Center which has demonstrated that sport is a means of breaking down psychological and political barriers, has sponsored such teams of youngsters in games in Israel and abroad. The President’s proposal may gain support as there are both Jews and Arabs on the Brazil Olympic Committee.

Actually, I’m not sure that Peres has to take a joint Israeli-Palestinian team all the way to Brazil to ease relations between the two sides. If joint leagues start in Israel and Palestine, there might be tension at first, but soon enough both sides will stop fighting each other as they unite around their shared interest — doing something about that fucking coach.

Written by rkcookjr

November 12, 2010 at 2:23 am

Driscoll Middle School coaches: You’re assholes

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Maybe in their spare time, Corpus Christi (Texas) Driscoll Middle School football coaches Art Rodriguez and John Delosantos shelter the homeless, wash invalids and allow people to cut in front of them on the highway with nary a middle finger to be thrown. But for this oft-seen play, I hereby declare that for practicing it and calling it, Art Rodriguez and John Delosantos, for youth sports purposes, are assholes.

I know that raining on the publicity parade that has come to these coaches and their team makes me sound like I have a sphincter tight enough to crap diamonds, but so be it. Trickery in the spirit of the rules is one thing. But Driscoll’s “Penalty Play” is an abomination and only serves to teach kids that winning by any means necessary is the most important thing. What’s worse is that Rodriguez and Delosantos are becoming atta-boy national celebrities for their not-quite-dirty play.

Rodriguez told the New York Daily News, not normally on the Corpus Christi youth football beat: “This has been one of the highlights [of my 31-year] career.” How sad for you.

Driscoll’s “Penalty Play” works like this: after a penalty, the quarterback tells his center he’s marking off five more yards. The center hands him the ball (not snapping it, but also not moving any other part of his body, or else it’s a false start). The quarterback marches along, and one he walks past the defense, he sprints to the end zone. It turns out that was Driscoll’s only score in a 6-6 game.

My objection is this.

It’s one thing to have a trick play that is something resembling football. Youth football coach and expert Dave Cisar might have retrograde views toward girls and his sport, but there’s nothing wrong his retrograde embrace of the modern trickery of the ancient single-wing offense. He’s teaching football, and his players are developing football skills — as are the players trying to stop his team.

But what Driscoll pulled isn’t football. It’s crap. Technically, it all was legal, and I hope, given their lack of reaction, that the refs were clued in on the play beforehand. (I thought the ref standing in front of the coaches might have turned around to tell them not to tell their kid to march off the penalty.) The play was grown men taking advantage of kids who are still developing a football IQ. It was the football equivalent of the coaches sending their players out to sucker kids out of their Halloween candy.

So if that makes me a sourpuss, a sourpuss I am. I’m sure, off the field, they’re good people. But on the field, they sure look like assholes.

Written by rkcookjr

November 8, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Is it a good idea for coaches to rip parents publicly?

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Carly Curtis resigned this week as head girls’ volleyball coach at Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) High. On her way out the door, she made it abundantly clear to the local newspaper who was responsible for her depature: those goddamn fucking parents. (That’s my paraphrase.)

Some of you might be saying, hallelujah, I’m glad a selfless public servant is telling those parents what-for. But I’m not sure Curtis made the wisest decision. Certainly, if she ever wants to coach again at the high school level, her comments to the Coeur d’Alene Press are going to be thrown back in her face. But I also wonder if — in an age in which the youth sports world is hyperaware of pushy parents — it’s a little easy to blame them for your own troubles.

Curtis had two things happen in recent seasons that tend to cause tension — her team started losing, and her daughter was playing on the team. I don’t know that one had to do with the other (and her daughter has made all-league). But whatever was going on, Curtis defaulted to parents being unreasonable.

From the Coeur d’Alene Press:

“I’m tired of dealing with disgruntled/jealous parents and players that are taking their frustrations out on me and my daughter,” Curtis said. “And I am trying to look for a more peaceful atmosphere for me and my daughter.” …

“I think a lot of people couldn’t handle that I was coaching my daughter,” Curtis said.

The Vikings finished 9-18 this season, after going 2-22 in 2009.

“It was a frustrating season,” Curtis said. “And in the end, I didn’t feel the support was there for me to stay. I didn’t feel there was a lot of support from the administration.”

Curtis said her daughter may transfer, but will wait until the end of the semester to decide what she wants to do.

Oh, I forget to mention that — she ripped the administration publicly, too. The same administration she plans to continue to work for as a physical education and health teacher at Coeur d’Alene High.

It’s always interesting to read the comments that are posted under any story about a youth sports situation, because even though you get some anonymous sniping, it’s the best place to get some of the story behind the story. If the comments are to be believed, there were issues for years with Curtis’ style and temperament, and recent losing brought the complaints more to the fore.

By the way, Curtis is not leaving volleyball. She will continue to coach a club team she co-founded. One wonders whether the issue was the parents, or that Curtis, a serious volleyball coach, would rather have a team with players and parents who are as intense about the sports as she is. And that place is not the school team.

Still, one wonders if a club team parent has a complaint, if Curtis is going to spout off about it elsewhere. Is it a good idea for coaches to rip parents publicly? I always say, the answer is no.

Written by rkcookjr

November 5, 2010 at 10:10 pm

How to be an experienced youth sports parent

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Just so you know where the real writing talent lies in my household, you can check out this Chicago Parent article, written by one Jacqui Podzius Cook (wife of the proprietor of this here blog), titled “The challenges of being an older mom.”

I bring this up not as a way to note my wife’s birthday Nov. 1, which for 27 days will make me the baby adult of the household, but for the cogent points it makes about the realities of how parents freak out less, to everyone’s benefit most of the time, as they have more kids, and how you as the experienced parent can end up looking (and feeling) disengaged as a result.

I was thinking of this story at my 7-year-old son’s final soccer game of the fall. There were parents who, clearly on their first kid in sports, were cheering and coaching and waving and yelling. And then there were parents who, clearly not on their first kid in sports, were reading the newspaper, talking with each other or working toward being the mayor of Oak View Center on Foursquare. (I’m actively running for that post in the closest thing I have to a political career. I’m trying to figure out how I get Foursquare to run negative ads.)

From my wife:

The ritual of Kindergarten Parent Night: A room full of fresh-faced moms and dads, peppering the teacher with questions about snacks and flash cards as they carefully inspect every square inch of the room where their precious baby will begin his or her formal education.

But if you look a little closer at any given group of kindergarten parents, you are guaranteed to find at least one mom hovering near the back, half-listening to the presentation while she furiously composes a grocery list, texts her teenage daughter and tries to conceal the gray hair and laugh lines that tell the world she’s a decade or so removed from the majority of parents in the room.

Whether you call this last one your “caboose baby,” “bonus baby” or-as several of my friends refer to their third or fourth (or fifth) child-your “oops baby,” you’ve probably learned in the past few months that this school experience is just a little different. I certainly have as my final baby, Emily, gets settled into her kindergarten class, while my other kids are making their way through second, sixth and eighth grade.

Emily’s Friday folder? It usually gets emptied Sunday night instead of 3:30 Friday afternoon. School pictures? Let’s see what I can find the night before in that hand-me-down bag at the back of the closet. This began even before kindergarten when I had to program an Outlook calendar reminder for preschool show-and-tell.

This isn’t to say I value Emily’s school experience any less than the other kids’, but the cold, hard truth is being a parent of four kids at 41 is a whole lot different from having one in kindergarten and one in preschool at 33.

Jacqui’s article (I normally use last names on second reference, but I while I might call my wife many things, I don’t call her “Cook.” “Hey, Cook, how about a romantic dinner this weekend?”) talks about how more experienced parents can take steps to find ways in their busy lives to get more engaged with their younger child’s classroom experiences, with valuable techniques that do not include freeing up time by selling your older children into sharecropping.

As for sports, I would say that a more experienced parent did not feel compelled to be involved in every aspect of the athletics lives of his or her younger children. Your children might thank you for it. For me, the difference between my older son and daughter and my younger son and daughter is my own expectations.

With my younger kids, I’m not going into sports parenting with the expectation that this is the first step to a lucrative pro career and/or nervous because my baby is in someone else’s hands, the common reactions of the first-time sports parent. I’m sure enough of myself as a parent that whether my child is a jock or picking daisies, it is no reflection on my parenting skills.

I am concentrating on coaching my younger kids’ teams, because the others in any activity have passed my levels of knowledge and dedication, and also because I feel more at ease with the situation. I don’t have to think to myself to make sure I don’t do anything that seems like I am unfairly favoring my kids over others. I just coach everybody, and if parents think I am unfairly favoring my kids over others, then fuck ’em.

That epithet brings up a reason for the experienced parent NOT to coach his or her youngest children. That would be the too-knowing, been-there-done-that attitude you can bring, having been there, and done that. When I coached my 7-year-old son’s baseball team last spring, I might have handled conflicts with parents better if I wasn’t such a know-it-all douchebag about youth sports, and this baseball league in particular. For example, I might not have said, with such swagger, to a mom who threatened to file a complaint with the league on me that, well, good luck, considering I’ve coached in this league for five years, and I know how desperate it is to find managers.

As Cook’s article (I guess if I’m going to treat my kids like any other athlete when I coach them, I guess should treat my wife like any other writer when I cite her — right, honey?) notes, it is a boon to the youngest child’s education for the experienced parent to get involved in whatever way possible, even if he or she is busy with older siblings.

For sports parents, that’s a game-time decision. It might be beneficial for youngest children to have their experienced parent coach their team. But the experienced parent’s experience might be better used letting the kids be in the hands of someone else while he or she reads the newspaper, talks to other parents, or does oppo research on the mayor of the field on Foursquare (your reign of terror will end soon, I swear, Staci C.!)

Written by rkcookjr

October 31, 2010 at 9:32 pm