Archive for the ‘Youth sports parenting’ Category
Vince McMahon might weep with joy at the above Alabama high school football fan’s ability to run and swing a chair with pinpoint accuracy. Then again, McMahon might also weep with disbelief at how three older, out-of-shape-looking referees turned around and whomped the guy, unscripted, after he hit one of their own across the back with said chair.
You might have seen this video elsewhere in the last few days — I caught it on Total Pro Sports. The incident happened after the final gun in a high school football game featuring two Alabama small-school powers, undefeated host Hackleburg and Lynn, which suffered its first loss when it fell to Hackleburg 20-14 in its homecoming game.
Hackleburg, located about two hours northwest of Birmingham, near the Mississippi border, is most famous as the hometown of country singer Sonny James, the Southern Gentleman. But it’s going to get a lot more famous for what that Southern Anti-Gentleman did with the chair. You can see at about 1:15 into the video (the action is paused so you can get a good look at the alleged assailant) that a fan tosses a folding chair over the fence surrounding the field. Once the game ends, he sprints through the crowd on the field and whaps a ref, before he gets set upon by the zebras and various fans.
I presume this would have to be a Lynn fan who was upset. But details about who this guy is, and what happened in the aftermath, are sorely lacking. I checked three different writeups of the game, and none mention the chair incident. I haven’t found any follow-up on the story, either, beyond snarky blog posts.
I called the Marion County (Ala.) Sheriff’s Department to see if this person was arrested. The very nice lady who answered the phone said any trouble would have been handled by Hackleburg police, so I would need to call police chief Kenny Hallmark when he’s back in the morning. So that’s what I’ll do. For what it’s worth, the current jail roster in Marion County doesn’t mention anyone brought in from Hackleburg. Given I’m writing this four days after the Oct. 2 incident, I presume someone would have come up with the guy’s bail money by now if he booked a suite in the ol’ Graybar Hotel.
I talked with Hackleburg police chief Kenny Hallmark, who identified the fan in the video as Don Cagle, 22, of Jasper, Ala. He was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and two Class C felonies: assault on a sports official and assault on a police officer. Class C is the least severe felony charge — assault in the third degree. Hallmark said that after the video ended, Cagle kicked an officer and spit in his face three times. Cagle bonded out of Marion County Jail, though no court date has yet been set. Hallmark said Cagle has no criminal record that he knows of. Hallmark said he couldn’t speak to a motive, though he noted Cagle was on the Lynn side of the field and was wearing Lynn colors.
By the way, Alabama is one of the many states that have strengthened their assault penalties when it comes to attacking a sports official, which gives you an idea how often this stuff happens, or at least happened before the laws were place. It’s telling that you can get the same penalty for assaulting a referee as you can a police officer. In Cagle’s case, he could face one to 10 years in jail and a $15,000 fine if gets convicted on one of the felony charges, double if he gets convicted on both.
The guy who attacked the referee could face felony assault charges that would put him in prison for up to 20 years. We know who’ll be weeping if that happens, and it won’t be Vince McMahon.
A guy you never heard of, but who has likely affected the lives of your kids in sports, has died.
On Wednesday, John S. Grantham Sr. died in Fort Wayne, Ind., at age 74 of a Parkinson’s-related illness. Who was he? For 33 years (1971-2004) he was the president of Fort Wayne’s Wildcat Baseball League. He didn’t start the league. But Grantham kept it growing and helped make it a national model for how to run a youth sports league.
The Wildcat league is best known for its motto: “Everybody makes the team.” In a sense, you could argue that the Wildcat Baseball League, and the all attention it generated, including this 1988 Sports Illustrated piece, popularized the idea that youth sports could be an activity, not a competition.
After all, when 80-year-old soybean magnate Dale McMillen founded the league in 1960, it was a time when 80 percent of Fort Wayne’s boys who tried out for baseball got cut from their teams. (When I played Little League in 1981 in North Muskegon, Mich., players still risked getting cut.) The idea of a league where everyone plays was a radical idea. But that’s the kind of league McMillen ran, up until he died in 1971 at age 91. Kids paid for their T-shirts and caps, and the other expenses — including hiring paid coaches — came on McMillen’s dime. The emphasis was on instruction. Instead of razzing a kid for striking out or flubbing a grounder, a coach will take a second and show the child what he did wrong — and what he can do right. The emphasis was on practice, not games.
Not that score is never kept in Wildcat Baseball — it is. There are championship trophies, and everyone doesn’t get one. But the perfect attendance trophies are just as large, and just as coveted.
Grantham started working with Wildcat baseball in 1963, and he succeeded McMillen as league president. He kept up the Wildcat instructional traditions, and kept up the endowment so now, as then, all kids pay for is the T-shirt and cap while the league pays the coaches. Grantham also continued McMillen’s work of getting major-leaguers to come by to visit (Jackie Robinson once showed), and organizing bus trips to take thousands of Fort Wayne kids to Detroit or Chicago for Major League games.
Grantham also, according to fellow Wildcatters quoted in Fort Wayne papers, was instrumental in getting national publicity for the league, including the SI article and an NBC Nightly News piece. Parade Magazine had just left town after reporting a piece on the program right before Grantham’s death. It might be too much to say that the fact many leagues don’t cut kids anymore (at least not for house leagues) or make a big deal stating they’re all about instruction over winning has something directly to do with McMillen, Grantham and Wildcat Baseball. But it probably does, at least because Wildcat Baseball did it before a lot of others and has done it better.
Over the years, about 200,000 Fort Wayne boys (and girls now, too) have gone through the Wildcat program. Some have gone to further success (though no big major-leaguers), but that’s not the point. Often, a family, especially in an urban area, has to choose between a competitive program that’s expensive or no program at all — the latter of which might happen because the money isn’t available to fund a decent youth sports league. Fortunately for the kids of Fort Wayne, the work of McMillen and Grantham means their parents have another, better option.
We’re at an interesting point in youth sports. On the one hand, any program, particularly one affiliated with a school, that draws from a truly downtrodden area, particularly an urban area, is dying on the vine. Meanwhile, as I mentioned in the story, cities across the country are blowing out their budgets to build new youth sports facilities not only for their own local pleasure, but as an economic engine because of all the tournaments it could hold, and the money they bring in from parents who are spending more and more to get their kids into bigger and bigger leagues.
This video on the Abilene News-Reporter site has Jon Smith, director of the Abilene Youth Sports Authority, this week explaining why taxpayers should love to kick in to build a $40 million facility in the central Texas city of 120,000. Last year, the people of Abilene told the youth sports authority to stay out of their wallets. Geez, people, the Authority itself was founded, in its own words, “on Christian principles” — how much more of a sign from God do you need?
Anyway, it’s not surprising that those who have the money to spend, spend it, and those who can’t, don’t. What’s interesting is cases like Elkhart, Ind., where the unemployment rate went from 5 percent to 18 percent in about six months (Elkhart is more reliant on manufacturing jobs, as a percentage of employment, than any metro area in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — something like 40 percent). I understand why the parents want to keep their kids in activities, despite the economy. As they say in the MSBNC.com article, it’s fun, it’s relatively inexpensive (as entertainment and socializing for the adults, too), it gets kids up and moving around, and, hey, it’s not the kids’ fault the RV plants shut down.
However, one thing I began to suspect after I wrote the article, and especially in wondering how long people in Elkhart can keep up youth sports spending (in the most devastated parts of the city, they aren’t), is the importance of youth sports in staying middle class. After all, if you’re in between jobs, you can suck it up, sign up your kids and maintain your social standing. If you’re having to pull your kids out of stuff, that’s not only disappointing to your children, but it’s also a signal to your family and the world that something has fundamentally changed. You’re not a middle-class person who happened to run into a rut. You’re a poor person.
This is amateur sociology on my part. I didn’t ask the people of Elkhart if that’s how they felt. I’m not sure how many have given it that much thought, and I’m not a budding Marxist trying to show how capitalism crushes the workers’ spirits. But as a parent, I know that if I had to start saying no to my kids about signing up for their favorite activities, it would be a profound change in mindset about who we are and where we stand as a family.
By the way, when you talk to the people in Elkhart, you can’t help but root for them. Not to say that people in other areas hard-hit by the recession aren’t worthy of support. But in Elkhart I found people who carried a real and genuinely positive attitude that somehow, things were going to get better, and they were going to make things better the best they could. I hope they succeed.
…and I’m sure it’ll be just as effective as TV Turnoff Week.
From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
…[t]he Minnesota State High School League [approved] a no-contact period for coaches and student-athletes effective July 1-7, 2010. The amendment, which the MSHSL representative assembly passed by a 43-2 vote, calls for an Independence Week of sorts, a small piece of summer reserved for athletes and their families.
“The kids need breaks,” MSHSL executive director Dave Stead said. “They are not collegians connected through a scholarship to play a sport. The good coaches know that, and they’ll make the adjustments.”
Metro-area coaches, while acknowledging a seven-day moratorium is not a big deal — Apple Valley wrestling coach Jim Jackson called it “trivial” — question two principal implications. Girls’ basketball coaches Faith Patterson of Minneapolis North and Ray Finley of Providence Academy wondered what message is being sent when only high school coaches — not AAU basketball coaches — are asked to provide time for kids to be kids.
And Blaine boys’ hockey coach Dave Aus and Spring Lake Park boys’ basketball coach Grant Guzy are concerned that the MSHSL might decide to expand the no-contact period. If that happened, Wayzata football coach Brad Anderson worries that athletes choosing to invest in private instruction might not get a worthwhile return.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association established a similar summer no-contact period in 2007. Associate director Tom Rashid said schools can choose their own seven-day break to be completed by Aug. 1, and about 95 percent do so over the Fourth of July. Adjusting to the new rule, Rashid said, took time.
“We probably had 100 phone calls that first summer, maybe more, from coaches asking, ‘I can’t do this? I can’t do that?’ Rashid said. “The amount of agony in the first year of the program to find 168 hours of no high school sports led me to believe that we absolutely needed something to pull the reins back.”
Bless their bleeding hearts and good intentions, but here are the problems for any high school athletic association mandating a week without sports.
The elite athletes, as noted above, are going to keep playing AAU and club sports, so all this rule does is give athletes and their parents one more reason to find school-affiliated sports lacking in comparison.
As for the comments that athletes investing in instruction might not get a worthwhile return — it sounds crazy that one week mandating no practices or games might make that much of a difference. But I’m sure every hockey and basketball coach (and every other coach in every sport but football) in Minnesota (and the nation) sweats whether the best players are going to keep playing high school sports, knowing college recruiters are paying a lot more attention to the more elite club level.
Meanwhile, the middling high school athletes, trying to keep up, will still end up in private sessions, worthwhile return or not. So it’s not like they’re actually taking a week off — nor are their parents.
I know we’re all trying to figure out ways to de-emphasize sports so kids aren’t getting mentally or physically burned out. But Minnesota’s rule rests on an assumption that kids at the high school level are burning out. That’s not necessarily so. Most surveys talk about 75 percent of youth athletes quitting by age 13. However, one Canadian study, looking at registration data, posits the idea that the decline in youth sports participation into the teenage years not a matter of kids quitting en masse in the tween years– it’s that fewer new players join a sport as the years go on. That makes sense, given the early age so many kids start in sports, and the self-selection either in discovering one’s talent or realizing one is a long way back from the kids who have played for a while.
There are players quoted in the Star-Tribune story saying they feel like the week without sports is ridiculous. After all, if you’re dedicated to some activity at the high school level, you’re probably good at it and passionate about it. Heck, my 6-year-old son, whose T-ball closing ceremony is tonight, is upset he can’t start next year’s league tomorrow.
Minnesota’s move for a week without sports comes from lofty ideals, and I’m sure there are parents who hope that really means they’re on break for a week. However, I doubt it’s going to change the athletic landscape in the state, except to tip a few more of the top athletes away from high school sports.
New York Times’ Motherlode blog brings up a thorny question in the households of sports families — when is a child allowed to quit?
Believe it or not, it’s a question that’s never come up in my house. At least, not in terms of wanting to stomp off in the middle of a season. There’s been dabbling, particularly with my oldest children. My 12-year-old son has retired from soccer, baseball and wrestling, while my 10-year-old (as of tomorrow) daughter no longer needs her soccer gear. Then again, we’ve never pressured our children (as far as we know) into a certain sport because it’s good for them.
With four kids, I’m at the opposite end — talking them out of sports and activities they don’t appear to love with every fiber of my being. Especially hockey. When my oldest son, who has played pickup games and taken hockey classes, said he might be interested in joining a league, I told him it was $1,500 and that he would be playing most every day. So, I ask you, son, do you love hockey, or do you kinda like it? “I kinda like it,” he said. “OK, then, no hockey,” I said. Turns out he much more enjoys putting on his in-line skates, popping some punk and metal on the iPod and zipping around the neighborhood to getting yelled at on the ice.
Back to quitting, I would say I’m hardly out of the mainstream in thinking that I would prefer if my child starts a season with a team, he or she should end it, and then quit. But I can see quitting under certain scenarios:
1. The coach and/or the other players are abusive. Not a little bit of teasing, or a coach who doesn’t worship the ground you walk on. I’m at most every game, anyway, and I coach, too. I know what abusive means.
2. The child clearly does not enjoy the sport. By that I mean you’re halfway through the season and the child prefers picking dandelions to kicking a soccer ball, or playing right field. That it’s a fight to get your child to every practice or game. You’ve already tried the “commit-through-the-season” speech, and it’s just not working. Some kids just don’t like certain activities. If it’s that bad, there’s no lesson your child is going to learn by sticking it out other than you’re unreasonable. Certainly, there will be other activities, sports or not, your child will enjoy, and you can always make finding another one a prerequisite for quitting. No sense making your life hell because your child is so unhappy.
3. Your work schedule changes, and you can’t get your child to practices or games. As a coach, I try to tell parents in this situation that we can make arrangements to have other parents help out. However, usually a child quits because of No. 3 when the indications of No. 2 are already in play.
Of course, some of you parents already know when you should not allow your child to quit under any circumstance. That’s when your child is on a travel team, has been for years, and your child quitting would shut you out from the exclusive, snotty social circle you’ve built with the other travel parents. Sometimes you have to let your children know it’s not always about themselves.
No, not the New York Times’ straight-on story about the Glory for Christ Football League, largely populated by teams of home-schooled children who are not allowed, under state law, to play at their local public schools. (You can read more here about so-called Tim Tebow bills, named for the two-time Heisman-winning Florida quarterback who was home-educated but played on the local high school football team thanks to that state legislature’s 1996, first-of-its-kind law to allow such arrangements.)
What is going to get some in a lather (or in hysterics), I suspect, is the first photo the Times posted on its slide show accompanying the piece. I won’t post it because of copyright, but let’s just say it doesn’t speak well of the people doing the home schooling. Next on Hannity: Why is the New York Times making evangelical Christians look stupid by ignoring all of their correctly spelled signs?
Then again, I can’t judge too harshly, not with so many signs with misspelled words, misplaced apostrophes and general awfulness that makes it seem that while English is not a dead language, its speakers are actively trying to kill it.
Instead of warning me, why don’t you make him get off?