Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Albany

Too competitive to coach?

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There are certain personalities that aren’t made for youth sports coaching, though that doesn’t stop them from coaching anyway. Jennifer Gish, a parenting columnist for the Times-Union in Albany, N.Y., thinks she is one of those personalities.

She wrote a series of columns about a baseball team of 7- to 9-year-olds the Times-Union co-sponsored, and by her own description she played an over-the-top competitive team owner. But then as the team’s season drew to a close, Gish — a mother of toddler twins yet to reach the age of getting yelled at by other people’s parents for their sports abilities — came to an unnerving conclusion. Maybe her columnist persona wasn’t an act. From her Times-Union blog:

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An early rough of “The Jennifer Gish Story.”

So, I’ve already barred myself from coaching Andrew and Matilda in any future athletic pursuits. And maybe dance class. And maybe I won’t help them get ready for the school spelling bee, either.

Looking over at the t-ball fields one day, I thought maybe I’d be OK at that level, but I’m not so sure. I have issues, people.

I’ve always been competitive, and I’ve learned that it’s very difficult to turn that off, even when it comes to kids. I had a tension headache all day the day of my Little League team’s playoff game, and felt queasy through every inning. Meanwhile, the kids, who are 7- to 9-years-old after all, kept busy debating whose dad was oldest.

I don’t think I’m at the level of keying some umpire’s car over a bad call. And I probably wouldn’t be the parent who gets tossed out of a game, but I don’t like what was going on in my head. And I’d hate to project that to the kids.

So this mom’s benched. For life.

I’d like to first congratulate Jennifer Gish on her self-awareness. Better to discover this flaw now, then when she’s actually coaching a team and becomes single-handedly responsible for her kids’ future therapy sessions, as well as the future therapy sessions of every other kid on the team, as well as the future therapy sessions of every parent, opposing coach, league official and umpire who ever crosses her path.

However, she has passed the first step on the 12-step program to becoming a good youth coach. (Sometimes the admitting you have a problem is not about competitiveness — it may be about a lack of competitiveness, a lack of knowledge of the sport in question, or a lack of motivation to coach for any reason beyond grooming kids for their future molestation by you.)

I left a comment on Gish’s blog, which as of this writing is not up because it is in the dreaded limbo of “awaiting moderation.” But I make these points:

1. If you’re that bad, maybe you shouldn’t even go to your kids’ games.

2. However, this competitiveness is common. As a coach, I feel like parents of younger kids (except, perhaps, those who have older kids and have been through this before) run in only two directions: over-the-top competitive, or over-the-top believing that fun at sports means no coaching, no scores, no nothing.

3. That there is time to modulate whatever extreme you have as a parent of young children. I recommended to Gish that she go to kids’ games in which she has no rooting interest. Once she sees all the parents and coaches acting like loons, that should take the edge off her competitiveness a bit.

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Written by rkcookjr

June 27, 2010 at 11:15 pm

High school football coach punted for resume padding

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Pity James Allen, the high school sports reporter for the Times Union in Albany, N.Y. He, unlike the Albany school board, fact-checked the resume of Robbin Williams, hired as fourth head coach in four years for the moribund football program at Albany High (3-33 in the last four seasons, 19 straight losses dating back to Oct. 19, 2007). Turns out Williams, a prison guard and former high school assistant, not only padded his resume, but is also a horrible, horrible liar.

A copy of Williams’ resume, obtained by the Times Union, states he has an extensive pro football background, including participation in six NFL training camps, and says he was a member of the [Arena Football League’s] Albany Firebirds in 1993 and 1994.

To attend an NFL training camp, a player must sign a contract with the team. Officials from three of the NFL teams listed on Williams’ resume — the Washington Redskins, New York Giants and New England Patriots — confirmed … no one named Robbin Williams ever participated in any games or had been invited to a training or free-agent camp.

When questioned … Williams stated he had tryouts with six NFL teams lasting one to two days. He said he never signed with a team or attended a training camp. He said he couldn’t specifically remember what he wrote on his resume.

Williams also told the Times Union he was a member of the 1988 Washington Redskins as a replacement player. Replacement players were used in the NFL for three weeks during the 1987 season while the regular players were on strike. Williams never appeared in any game and could not give a specific amount of time he was with the team.

Williams also said … that he “played with the Albany Firebirds during their first season in 1992.” The Albany Firebirds were a member of the Arena Football League and played at the Knickerbocker Arena, now the Times Union Center, from 1990 through 2000.

A story that appeared in the May 21, 1991, edition of the Times Union regarding area players trying to make it with the Firebirds included Williams, who signed a few days earlier, but who was cut before Albany’s June 1 opener. …

When asked … about his time with the Firebirds, Williams said he never appeared in a game for the franchise.

He was then asked if he was a practice player with the team, he said, “You could say I was a practice player.” Williams said he was with the Firebirds for “about one month.”

On his resume, however, Williams states being a Firebirds’ team member in 1993 and 1994.

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Robbin Williams also hedged on whether he made numerous, hammy talk show appearances.

And does Allen get thanked for bringing Williams’ resume fudges to public attention? Of course not.

Allen, lamenting in the April 26 Times Union, a few days after the school board withdrew its offer to Williams:

People who didn’t know me weren’t very flattering in their assessment of my work on this story. I was told I had ulterior motives — that I was out to get Albany High. I even was called a racist more than once because I’m white and Robbin Williams is black.

In other words, a number of the people who read his saga wondered why I pursued this story, or assumed the answer.

The real answer is the story chased me, not the other way around, once Williams started talking and facts started getting fractured. I simply wouldn’t be doing my job unless I looked into something I knew was wrong.

Albany High has made the Washington Post’s list of top high schools in the nation. But the school board must stay out of the way of that business. Because if the way it handled this easily-checked-out football hire is any indication, it’s no wonder the team is in such lousy shape. Then again, if the grief Allen got is indicative of the people who voted in that school board, no wonder it had its collective head up its ass.

Written by rkcookjr

April 27, 2010 at 10:02 am

My coach, the asshole

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An item from Joyce Bassett’s excellent youth sports blog at the Albany Times-Union. I’ll leave out the stuff about Micah Grimes to focus on this:

Erin writes in to my blog with this special report from a CYO tournament:

My 12 year old son played a local Wynantskill/Troy CYO (Christian Youth Organization) in basketball. He was called several foul names, and was told a nasty remark about me. (Mom) This was reported and the boy laughed it off and received a special trophy. What are we teaching our children?

Maybe the question is not “What are we teaching our children?” but “Who is teaching our children?”

In high schools, we often have no choice. But in youth sports, we can help oversee the coaching, assist in managing the team or just pay close attention at practice. Coaches need to be evaluated, even if they are volunteering their time.

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Agreed. However, there is a way to go about this that does not fire up the coach-parent tension that seems to exist from the first whistle.

If you’re a coach, you should send a note to all the parents that explains who you are and your philosophy of coaching. For example, in my note I tell parents every team I have coached, at every age level. I de-emphasize won-loss record in favor of talking about what sort of practices I run, and how I try to even out playing time. If I mention won-loss record, I emphasize that any success has been a result of the players and I working hard together. Hey, there are parents who want to know your bottom-line result, if only so they have assurance you some idea of what you’re doing.

I also mention that playing time is not always equal — if I feel a player is becoming a discipline problem (not paying attention in practice, not being a good teammate, complaining about the referees), I will bench that player for a time until he or she gets his or her head straight. Basically, I try to anticipate as many questions as I can and answer them.

If you’re a parent, and you don’t get one of these notes, feel free to make an appointment with the coach to talk about his or her background. It’s better to do this during a time when you both are relaxed and able to talk — getting in a coach’s face before or after practice or a game is pretty much the worst time because of all the activity. If you want the coach to talk freely, make sure to ask the questions in as friendly as manner as possible, and don’t focus only on your own child. “How much playing time can be expected” — good. “Are you the kind of douchebag who will make my kid rot on the bench” — bad. If the coach doesn’t want to have this conversation, that’s a bad sign.

Hopefully, you, as a parent, and your child’s coach will have regular communication through the season, whether it’s a chat after practice or emails updating all the parents on the team’s progress. They can help defuse some tense situations. For example, I talked to a parent of one of my fifth- and sixth-grade hoopsters to tell him I benched his son for a time because he was out on the floor complaining about the refs instead of playing his game. It turned out not only did the dad understand, but he also informed me his son had had problems during baseball with complaining about the umps. Working together, we got his son to stop worrying about the calls and play ball.

As Joyce Bassett wrote, you as a parent have a choice. If you don’t like the coach or the philosophy of the program, you have the right to take your kid out. My first experience with Little League baseball was short because my dad yanked my brother and I off our team after a few practices because it was clear the coach was a jerk. We rejoined the next year with a different team and a nicer, better coach. (Ahem, we won our league championship, and that other coach finished last. Not that winning and losing matter, of course.)

In fall softball, I had a parent take his daughters off my team (8- to 10-year-olds) because he didn’t think it was the right fit. The league was supposed to be a fairly casual workout just to keep skills sharp for the main season, the spring, with no practices and weekend games. This parent believed I should have had the girls out practicing every day. I told him that wasn’t what the league was designed for, and that I thought his girls would still benefit with two games a weekend rather than zero. But he was adamant his girls would be better off signing up for private coaching sessions. So I said, hey, they’re your kids, and you need to do what you think is best. I have no hard feelings.

As for the mom in Wyantskill/Troy, I have no idea what her past interactions with the coach were. I’m going to guess they were contentious, or that the coach must be a tool of the highest order, or both, because I’ve never met a coach, even a first-rank asshole, who made a point of ripping somebody’s mom in front of everybody. Unfortunately, everyone is going to run into a bad coach, just like your child is going to run into a bad teacher. At least with a coach, if you have a conversation in the preseason, you’ll have the chance to do something about it.