Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Posts Tagged ‘athletes

Carmel hazing update — if one player pleads guilty, does he sing?

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The legally convoluted Carmel (Ind.) High School basketball hazing case(s) has its lasted twist and turn — one of the players is apparently ready to plead guilty to charges related to bullying a fellow player in the locker room. Scott Laskowski, 20, son of former Indiana University player and announcer John Laskowki, has a plea hearing scheduled for Nov. 4 in Hamilton County (Ind.) Court, which various legal experts contacted by local Indianapolis media say is where Laskowski and his attorneys would be expected to put forward a plea agreement.

If you want all the down-and-dirty details to one of the more infamous hazing cases of 2010, go to the search bar on the right for “Carmel,” and you should get everything.

But the short version is that Laskowski is one of four now-graduated players facing various misdemeanor charges on what have been called hazing attacks, or bullying attacks, or just plain attacks on team members (or one team member) on a bus back from a game in Terre Haute, 100 miles from the north Indianapolis suburb, and in the Carmel locker room. The case became particularly infamous, at least locally and among the readership that spiked when I posted about it, because school officials at first seemed more than happy to accept the team’s explanation that nothing big really happened — until state child protection reported that the assaults could be considered sexual in nature and resulted in injury to one of the victims.

Four Carmel players — Laskowski, Robert Kitzinger, Brandon Hoge and Oscar Faludon — face misdemeanor charges in Hamilton County for the locker room incident, a decision by the county prosecutor that itself caused a lot of controversy locally because there was a feeling the charges were light compared to the alleged offense. An investigation is still under way by the prosecutor in Hendricks County, in west suburban Indianapolis, where the bus assault was alleged to have taken place.

As I’ve written about before — and put “hazing” into that search bar on the right if you want more details — hazing cases are hard to win, because the defendants tend to circle the wagons, and because there is still a boys-will-be-boys mentality among schools and prosecutors that prevents them from cracking down on athletes, and because there is a fear at schools in well-heeled communities (which is where a lot of these cases seem to take place — such as Carmel) of a hit to their image and to “ruining” the future of “good” kids.

The most interesting part about Laskowski’s apparent interest in a plea deal is that, as experts, including Hamilton County Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp, point out, in cases involving multiple defendants, one part of a plea deal is that the person then testifies against the others. Leerkamp doesn’t acknowledge that this is the case with Laskowski

But it would interesting if self-preservation is starting to take hold. After all, Laskowski is a “good” kid from a prominent family, and even though to some (such as the victim’s lawyer) the misdemeanor charges don’t go far enough, one wonders (OK, that one is me) if the calculation is being made that the longer this case lasts, the more Laskowski’s bright future starts to dim. If Laskowski does testify against his former teammates, at the least it would be a rare case of the wall breaking down when athletes get in trouble for hazing, bullying, or whatever the hell you want to call it.

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Star athletes: Wear purple for the bullied in your school

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It might be a little late to pick out outfits for the next day, but maybe you’ve heard of the effort to have people wear purple on Oct. 20. No, not in solidarity with Brett Favre and his dong, but as a way to speak out against the bullying of LGBT kids, a few of whom, as you might have heard, have been killing themselves as an endgame to the abuse they’ve taken from peers (and probably others). I’ll be wearing my purple underwear, the only purple I have that’s office-worthy, as long as I wear pants over it.

I don’t have the cache of Neil Patrick Harris, nor do I have a video in the first place. I don’t have a solution to bullying, not when the history of humankind is rife with those tearing the shit out a perceived other with ruthless efficiency. (Such as the ruthless efficiency bullies display in picking the most vulnerable victims.) I can tell you, based on what I’ve seen in my own schooling experience and that of my children and others around me (I’ll just leave it at that) that anyone holding out a simple solution — like the radio jagoff I heard locally who talked about self-defense classes as the be-all end-all to ending bullying — is wrong.

However, I can identify one powerful group of influence that could help, if at least not stopping the bullies, making bullying of any kind seem totally uncool. That would be the school jocks.

I don’t mean the track team — I can tell you as a former high school track athlete how little influence we wield. I mean the star quarterback, the top basketball player, the kinds of athletes that are the center of the popular crowd at every school, the kind that set the agenda (intentionally or unintentionally) for manhood, and womanhood’s relationship with it.

A lot of kids at school know bullying isn’t cool, and that the bullied and the bullies are two groups of profoundly unhappy people. But most are afraid to say anything, lest they become a target. However, the star athletes have established their place as school leaders, in that the school isn’t shutting down for a pep rally for the debate team. The jocks don’t have to like the bullied — and the bullies — or invite them to the cool parties, or ask them if they would like to be set up to shag a cheerleader (or the athlete himself).

All I ask is that jocks be — nice. I mean, if you’re the bully, stop. If you see a bully, pull him (or her) aside and make clear that’s not cool. If you see the bullied, ask if they’re OK, and let them know you have their back. If you want to stand up during a pep rally and declare you don’t care who sticks what part in what hole of another person, that’s great, too. The purple on Oct. 20 is being pushed with LGBT bullying victims in mind, but there’s no reason you can’t also stand up for whatever other Other is the target of ridicule.

Of course, I know this is easier said than done. Athletes are notorious for not wanting to make waves. (Michael Jordan: “Republicans buy shoes, too.”) And I’m going to guess that a lot of jocks have parents who would be pissed beyond belief for Johnny Quarterback to be standing up for the weak.

I don’t think having jocks speak up for bullies solves everything. But if anybody can make a bullying culture go away, it’s them.

Thanks to Wall of Paul for reminding me of a great song that talks about “manhood” and sports in school, from a guy whose parents sent him to electroshock therapy to get rid of his homosexual tendencies.

Written by rkcookjr

October 19, 2010 at 10:29 pm

Do youth sports cause drinking and fighting?

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2628274547_b74d91a86aWe already know youth sports causes drinking and fighting in parents. But what about the kids?

If you’re male, they do, and if you’re female, not so much, according to a paper presented Nov. 9 at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting.

The paper was presented by Susan Connor, injury prevention research manager at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland.

Connor, who focused her study on teenagers, says youth sports participation — noted as 60 percent for boys and 48 percent for girls — “has obvious benefits in promoting physical activity.” Unfortunately, one of the major activities is 12-ounce curls.

For males overall and subsets of Black and White males, sports team participation was associated with increased levels of fighting, drinking, and binge drinking. For White females, sports team participation was associated with decreased levels of fighting, depression, smoking, marijuana use, and unhealthy weight loss practices. For Black females, sports team participation was only associated with increased binge drinking. Conclusions: Sports team participation appears to have both protective and risk-enhancing associations, primarily for White high schoolers. Results indicate that healthy lifestyle benefits are not universal and do not apply equally across genders or racial/ethnic groups.

So except for Elizabeth Lambert, sports appears to keep white girls’ behavior on an even plane. As for everyone else, particularly males, well, Connor’s research gives a hint as to why so many athletes show up in the police blotter.

Why is this so? Connor doesn’t say. This is merely a statistical study, with analysis based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2007 Youth Risk Behavioral Survey. (The 2009 survey is scheduled for release in summer 2010.)

However, other studies try to get at that nut. A Women’s Sports Foundation report in 2000 found that most athletes drank no more or less than nonathletes, but that “highly involved” athletes — both male and female — drank to excess. Why would that be the case? The foundation chalks it up to elite athletes’ tendency to be more risk-taking than the general population and authorities’ willingness to overlook the personal foibles of the local stars, thus providing unwitting adult encouragement of a longstanding jock drinking-and-fighting culture.

Written by rkcookjr

November 9, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Criminal athlete sentenced to no sports

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An Ohio judge, channeling your parents, punishes a criminal athlete not by grounding him, er, putting him in jail, but by taking away his favorite toy, er, activity. From Cincinnati.com:

Applause turned to gasps in a Butler County courtroom Thursday as a judge announced an unusual punishment for a Middletown track and football star: Dwayne “Deejay” Hunter is forbidden from playing organized sports during his five-year probation for a felonious assault conviction.

“We’re going to see who Dwayne Hunter the person is, not who Dwayne Hunter the star athlete is,” declared Judge Andrew Nastoff, as he said Hunter still has a six-year prison sentence that would be imposed if he violates any conditions of his probation. …

Then he began outlining all the conditions of probation: no sports, not even intramurals; a $500 fine; 500 hours of community service, which can include his helping youngsters in Special Olympics, pee-wee football or other sports; plus 180 days in the Butler County Jail. With credit for time served, he will be released just before Thanksgiving.

Within 30 days of his release, Deejay Hunter must either obtain full-time employment or enroll in full-time schooling, Nastoff ordered, and also must attend counseling to address “personality and relationship issues” outlined in a mental-health evaluator’s report.

…Hunter, who pleaded guilty as charged in July, could have received up to eight years in prison for shooting a BB gun from a vehicle on a Middletown street in January, striking a 15-year-old boy in the face; one of the BB’s struck the victim’s eyelid.

In terms of giving athletes special treatment, Judge Nastoff, in the scheme of Ohio judges, is a whole lot better than the doofus who in 2006 let two high school football players start their sentence after the season was over after they were convicted of nearly killing somebody in a prank. But I still can’t decide whether Nastoff is brilliant or a pompous ass.

Hunter isn’t just some guy who likes sports. He’s a star football player and sprinter who had scholarship offers coming from big-time programs such as Tennessee.

He also isn’t just some guy who did one bad thing. He was arrested in May on charges of assaulting his ex-girlfriend — the same one he beat up last year, a crime that got him a restraining order (filed by the girl’s family) and a conviction in juvenile court. In June he was arrested for the fifth time IN A YEAR on charges of violating that order when the girl’s family spotted her at his house.

The question is, will Hunter be better off without sports? Hunter, who is 19 and would have otherwise been playing college football if not for his troubles, has essentially been barred from pursuing a sports career. Is that right? After all, you don’t see judges telling young, promising, criminal plumbers that they have to put down the pipe wrench as a punishment. Perhaps there is a way of getting Hunter on the right path while letting him pursue what he loves (sports, not getting arrested).

On the other hand, I wonder if the judge, in the back of his mind, thought people were letting Hunter off the hook for too long because of his athletic prowess, and by taking away sports, figures that’s the only shot Hunter has to focus on his problems and turn his life around.

Will it work? It’s tough to say — Hunter still might end up in jail on the charges relating to the beating and the restraining order violation, a sentence that could make Nastoff’s creative sentencing moot. But Nastoff certainly sent a message: he might be giving special treatment to an athlete in his courtroom, but that special treatment is making sure he’s no longer an athlete, and can never get special treatment again.

Written by rkcookjr

September 18, 2009 at 5:25 pm

On your radio (again)

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If you’re up early in Nashville Saturday — say, 6 a.m. — you can hear me being interviewed by Mickey Hiter on the Athletes Parents Show on 104.5 the Zone, your home of Tennessee Titans football, and where Frank Wycheck annually re-enacts the Music City Miracle for the new crop of interns with a package of Ding Dongs in the break room.

Not to crap on one of the greatest plays in sports history, but on No. 5, how could zero Miami DBs be in the end zone when it was the last, desperation play? Sheesh.

We talked about a lot of issues, so it’ll be a good listen for anyone who wants to hear some deep thoughts on the state of youth sports. Mickey does a lot of elite-level baseball training and coaching, and unlike your kid, his kid did go pro (four years in the independent minor leagues). Plus, Mickey was president of the Nashville Old Timers Baseball Association. How cool is that?

Also, you can listen to hear me call the host “George.” Man, Mickey, I’m so sorry I did that. You caught me after I was emailing back and forth with one of the editors on a youth sports-related piece I’m doing for MSNBC.com, an editor who happens to be named George. I’m like the Looney Tunes abominable snowman: “I will name him George, and I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him…”

By the way, you don’t have to get up early to listen to my golden throat. The show will be archived here.