Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Education

How early should we introduce soul-crushing competition to our children?

with 2 comments

I don’t often pass on stories sent by an author who says nice things about me, but that’s because I don’t often get stories sent by an author who says nice things about me. So with that mind, I direct you to Neil Swidey of the Boston Globe, who wrote a Sunday magazine piece about kids and competition called “What Happened to Losing?”

It’s much better than you standard rant against the wussification of sports through no-score leagues because it’s not a rant, and Swidey points out:

If you’ve come seeking affirmation for the facile argument about the so-called “wussification of American kids today,” you’ll probably want to stop reading now.

The issue is hardly black and white. It’s true that our kids, in some ways, are more coddled and have it much easier than previous generations. But it’s also true that, in other ways, we adults have saddled our kids with way more pressure to compete than we ever faced, imposing on them at young ages daunting expectations for their academic and athletic “careers.”

Swidey, though his own personal experience as a father and coach, and through interviews and research, writes about the difficult line adults try to walk with children: how to encourage children in as non-pressurized environment as possible without hurting their feelings or discouraging them by too much emphasis on competition, especially at early age.

Does everything have to be a competition?

If you ask the Father of No-Score Leagues how you do that — and Swidey did — he would tell you there is no line. You either have competition, or you don’t. That inadvertent father of that bastard child of youth sports is Alfie Kohn, whose 1986 book No Contest: The Case Against Competition, outlines how competition is bad for everyone, children and adults included. Kids might love Kohn’s other works, such as ones in which he argues homework and grades are bad for learning.

Kohn tells Swidey that he doesn’t endorse no-score leagues, either, but not because he thinks it makes your child a pussy:

“I began my work on competition from the liberal position that there’s too much competition and it’s too intense, but if we could just manage it and scale it back, we’d be fine,” Kohn tells me. “But I came to the conclusion that it’s not the quantity, it’s the very nature of competition itself that is bad. So the liberals who say, ‘Go ahead and play tennis, but don’t try to make the other person lose’ — that’s garbage. That’s self-delusional. If you’re not trying to make the other person lose, it’s not tennis.”

Kohn and his ilk argue that any games should concentrate on activities that foster and encourage group success, like seeing how many times you can bump a volleyball in the air.

Yeah, sounds dull, right? Plus, I’m not sure the experts account for other members of the group tearing a new asshole in the one schlub incapable of keeping a volleyball in the air. Heck, Kohn’s own kids don’t even buy it completely.

But as the father of a 14-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son, Kohn regretfully concedes that even he never started a cooperative game group in his own Belmont neighborhood. And though his children have independently chosen not to play youth sports, his son has shown an interest in chess — “He’s pretty vicious,” Kohn says — which, of course, is an activity built on zero-sum, warlike themes of competition. (Fortunately, Kohn says, his son has recently moved on from chess to the guitar.)

So how do you blunt the bad parts about competition? Another expert posited these conditions to Swidey: (1) that participation is voluntary; (2) the teams are set up so that everyone has a reasonable chance of winning; (3) the importance of winning is relatively minor, so that 10 minutes after the game, you barely remember who won and who lost; (4) the rules are clear and fair; and (5) relative progress can be monitored.

Actually, those five rules have generally been followed in my youth sports experience. I’ve seen these rules violated by both kids and adults. No. 2 is the one I’ve seen most violated as a child — there’s always some jerks who wants to try to game the teams his way (and, yes, some of them grow up to run the draft for your local Little League). No. 3, of course, is the big problem with adults.

And this gets me back to no-score leagues. I’ve long declared that the reason, as a coach, that I love no-score leagues is not because not keeping score takes pressure off the kids. Not keeping score takes the steam out of the adults, which then takes some of the pressure off the kids. (Children of gung-ho athletic parents who dream of future pro success are still going to put pressure on their kids no matter what.)

Unlike Swidey and others in his article, I don’t think that children are ill-served by no-score leagues because they suddenly can’t handle it when score is finally being kept. Kids learn all about competition in so many ways outside of youth sports, their ability to deal with it, or inability to deal it, is fostered long before they look at a scoreboard. Just watch two 2-year-olds fight over a toy car.

Swidey also gets into everybody-gets-a-trophy leagues as well, and unlike no-score leagues, I can’t say I’m a fan of those. Not because it has ill effects such as causing killing sprees. I dislike them because all those trophies clutter up my house.

Written by rkcookjr

August 25, 2010 at 10:49 am

A yanked swimming scholarship, and why it's not wrong for parents to speak up

with 3 comments

The default position whenever parents get heavily involved in an athletic dispute involving their child is, they’re obviously overbearing, overindulgent busybodies who are turning their kids into pussies. (I’m not sure what the default substitute for “pussies” would be if the athlete is a girl.)

However, a lawsuit over a school’s role in a lost swimming scholarship has emerged in the St. Louis area that, if the parents’ allegations are true, makes me think: Yeah, I’d be suing their asses off, too.

[youtubevid id="1sOeY6ZVG2U"]

And I would hire Al Pacino from “And Justice for All” as my lawyer, for the drama.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Peter and Marzie McCoy of Wildwood, Mo., are suing their local school district after their daughter, a state championship swimmer, briefly lost her scholarship to Colorado State University after it reviewed a recommendation form filled out by a Lafayette High School counselor that was less than flattering. In theory, everybody followed procedure. The problem was, say that parents, that the counselor filling out the form had never met their daughter. From the July 9 Post-Dispatch:

The recommendation form, signed by Lafayette High School counselor Beth Brasel, said that Shannon McCoy was “below average” in five personal traits including initiative, character, integrity and leadership.

The McCoys said that the description of their daughter was “grossly inaccurate” and that Brasel had never met Shannon before the form was filled out.

Rockwood spokeswoman Kim Cranston said it was the district’s understanding that the recommendation form had nothing to do with the rescinding of McCoy’s scholarship, based on their contact with a Colorado State University admissions officer.

A message left Thursday for the admissions officer was not returned. [Brasel was also not available for comment.]

Predictably, many of the comments left by readers paint the parents (and their daughter, with her mere 3.0 grade-point average in an age of grade inflation) as spoiled brats, especially because they’re not dropping the lawsuit even after Colorado State, after the parents’ appealed, gave the scholarship back. At 80 percent of out-of-state tuition, room and board, that scholarship money is no small potatoes. Here is a comment by someone called cardsphan:

Cry me a river Parents. Way to teach your daughter to be a spoiled brat. What parents, teach their kids that if something goes wrong just sue for money to make it better. Did you ever think that maybe your daughter didn’t deserve a scholarship? I had one for athletics out of Marquette HS but i also had a 3.6 GPA. A 3.0 is not hard to get in HS, maybe the girl was to much into swimming and not her grades. IM JUST SAYIN

Given that grammar, I can believe a 3.6 GPA would be related to grade inflation.

As usual when these stories hit the local press, there is a lot we don’t know. We don’t know why that particular counselor filled out the form, and why she filled it out as she did. Did she really know Shannon McCoy? Had she heard stuff from other people? Had the parents and the school clashed in the past? Over what?

Until court papers are filed in response, we won’t know the school’s side of the story. Maybe Peter and Marzie McCoy are big pains in the ass who are doing their daughter a disservice. Or, maybe they do need to advocate for their daughter — and others in a similar situation — against an idiotic and possibly vindictive school bureaucracy.

The point is, we don’t know. And the other point is, until we do, we can’t make snap judgments about the parents — or the school, for that matter. But what I do feel confident saying is that it is NEVER wrong for a parent to speak out and least ask what is going on, or ask why something happened the way it happened.

There is a time and place for parents to advocate for their child, and parents deserve answers to their questions. On the other hand, parents need to approach these issues in as reasonable a manner possible, which admittedly can be difficult when you see your own child getting hurt. I am of a belief that reasonable people can reach reasonable conclusions. And, yes, sometimes that means parents finding out the hard truth that their kid is an asshole.

However, if that’s not the case here, if the school cavalierly and/or maliciously filled out a form in a way that screwed up a huge opportunity for Shannon McCoy — well, I hope the parents get every dime they’re asking for. I would want to, in that situation.

Arizona won't kill school sports — and itself

with 2 comments

With 14 of 15 counties reporting — including its largest, Maricopa — Arizona appears to have passed Proposition 100 by a 64-36 margin. Prop 100, passed first by the state’s legislature, raises Arizona’s state sales tax from 5.6 percent to 6.6 percent through 2013, providing an extra $1 billion to schools, health care and public safety, and preventing an immediate $900 million cut — $450 million of it to education — in the state budget.

For purposes of this blog, passage means that Arizona schools will not be eliminating or greatly reducing their sports programs.

As you might recall, in my Prop 100 preview, I talked a lot about how Arizona was making itself the capital of Scared Old White People, what with all the anti-immigrant legislation and the threat of voting down Prop 100 despite knowing the trigger would be pulled on some draconian cuts. With Prop 100′s passage, perhaps Arizona does need to build its Scared Old White People Capitol building yet.

However — and I say this as someone who has broken the tape on 40 — a quote like this one from the Arizona Republic makes me wonder if health reform legislation missed the boat by not really having death panels.

But for Tempe residents Al and Joan Laninga, both retired and registered Republicans, the proponents’ campaign was not necessarily persuasive – at least not in the way it was intended.

Joan, 71, a retired private school teacher, said the amount of the tax was insignificant and she had initially considered supporting the tax hike, but the campaign changed her mind.

“First it was all about having enough police and fire,” she said. “When they changed their focus to education, I figured the whole thing was a scare tactic.”

Written by rkcookjr

May 19, 2010 at 12:02 am

How SB1070 may ruin Arizona school sports

with 2 comments

For all the talk about the local NBA team’s “Los Suns” statement and possible sports boycotts of Arizona over its new law demanding police play brownshirt with brown people, the Arizona Republic looks at a more salient, everyday sports issue regarding the bill: how is it going to affect high school sports?

That seems like a fairly minor concern, but the story brings home the point that in many areas of Arizona, they’re not worried about fans boycotting games. They’re worried about athletes leaving town and, in effect, boycotting games.

From the Republic:

It’s impossible to accurately measure the influence SB 1070 will have on high school sports in Arizona. But coaches and administrators in school districts that are heavily Hispanic fear a reduction in enrollment this fall as families leave the state, leading to fewer kids playing sports.

“We think it will probably have a chilling effect,” said Craig Pletenik, spokesman for the Phoenix Union High School District, whose enrollment is 78 percent Hispanic. “This law doesn’t just affect those who may not be documented; it impacts a lot of immigrant families with American-born kids.”

Katherine Bareiss, director of community relations for Mesa Public Schools, is concerned that individual schools within districts could take a bigger enrollment hit, thus creating a competitive disadvantage in some sports. Mesa High, for example, is 49.5 percent Hispanic while Mesa Mountain View is only 14.2 percent.

Bareiss says that she knows that illegal immigrants are part of the scholastic and athletic makeup of her school district, but that it doesn’t ask, and it doesn’t want to know. Legally, nobody has to tell.

Under a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Plyler v. Doe, children of illegal immigrants (or children who are illegal themselves) are protected from discrimination in public schools. The 5-4 decision ruled against a Texas state law that would deny funding education to children of illegal immigrants, and denied the Tyler (Texas) school district’s attempt to collect a $1,000 per-child fee from illegals. The Supreme Court ruled that the state had no compelling interest for discrimination, particularly against children, who presumably had no say in where they lived, and their immigrant status. (The Republic story cites ths case.) Except to hear more about Plyler v. Doe as legal battles over the new Arizona law take shape.

However, schools’ concerns are not just about whether there will be enough athletes for a team once SB1070 is in full effect. They also wonder what will happen to the athletes that remain. Again, from the Republic:

What if, Pletenik said, a bus driver carrying a team to a sporting event makes an illegal left-hand turn and is stopped by a policeman, who, after peering inside, asks players to show proof of citizenship?

I’ll take it one step further. What if the bus driver is asked to show papers? What if the people who maintain the field are asked to show papers? What if the people who clean the gym are asked to show papers?

I don’t want to turn this into the same flip tone that inspired the Naperville (Ill.) Sun to run this headline the day of a large immigration rally in downtown Chicago: “The Day the Lawns Weren’t Mowed.” But what Arizona athletic programs will discover — heck, what all of Arizona will discover, is just how integrated illegal immigrants are into the fabric of life.

You could look at the scenarios drawn up by the educators in the Republic article and say, hey, they’re illegal, right? So what’s the problem? And, technically, yes, they’re illegal, so, yes, they are violating the law. However, the dranconian Arizona law — on top of the state’s lousy economy and little hope of another construction boom anytime soon — could drive out not only illegal Latinos, but legal ones as well.

So that’s why you might see some emptier fields at Arizona high schools very soon. And a lot of white people griping about why the gym isn’t as clean as it used to be.

Written by rkcookjr

May 7, 2010 at 1:04 am

'Crybaby award' winner's life takes even sadder turn

with 2 comments

You might not remember the name Terrence Philo Jr., but you might remember his story.

At his Pleasantville (N.J.) Middle School basketball team’s end-of-season banquet, Terrence’s coach invited him to come to the end-of-season banquet for a special moment. Then, in front of 25 teammates and parents, the coach gave Terrence an award: the “Crybaby Award,” complete with a trophy depicting a baby, and a nameplate misspelled “Terrance.”

The coach claimed it was supposed to be some sort of honor for Terrence’s play and vocal participation, but Terrence wasn’t in on the joke. The 13-year-old was so embarrassed, he refused to come back to school that Monday, and his father said Terrence didn’t even want to go outside. The bad-joke award got national attention, and the coach who issued it, 24-year-old James Guillen, was fired, though he kept his job as a special education teacher.

[youtubevid id="2DQFooOv370"]

That was 2004.

Six years later, Terrence Philo Jr. is back in the news again. It would be nice to say that the traumatizing incident strengthened the honor student’s resolve to treat others well and put himself in a position to help others.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that.

From the Press of Atlantic City:

A Pleasantville teen who made national headlines six years ago for being awarded a “crybaby award” by his middle school basketball coach is accused of leading police on a chase – and now faces assault, gun and drug charges.

Police say an officer was injured while trying to arrest Terrence Philo Jr., 19.

Police told the newspaper that a Pleasantville officer saw someone, later identified as Philo, attempt to rob someone with a gun. The officer chased Philo as he sped away in a car, and the officer crashed his car into the back of Philo’s vehicle after Philo hit a parked car. He ran away, but another officer and a police dog tracked Philo down in a closet at a nearby home, where he was arrested. Police said they found a loaded .357 Magnum and crack cocaine in his car.

Without knowing what’s been going on with Philo over the last six years, it would be a real stretch to say that the “Crybaby Award” turned him from honor student into alleged criminal. Just like how you can’t say for sure that Michael Costin Jr. grew up to abuse drugs, alcohol, and his 23-years-his-senior girlfriend because his father was killed by another hockey dad in a notorious 2000 case.

However, it’s safe to say that, in each case: it didn’t help.

The words from a family therapist, spoken to USA Today in 2004, about the “Crybaby Award” incident sound haunting now:

“It’s an awful thing to have done to a teenager, just totally uncalled for,” said Michael Popkin, a family therapist and author based in Atlanta. “One of the harshest things you can do to a kid is to publicly humiliate them. It’s bad enough putting him down one on one, away from the team. To set him up like that and then cut his knees out in public is a huge blow.” …

Whether the boy suffers permanent harm from the humiliation depends on how strong he is emotionally and how much his friends, family and teammates support him, Popkin said.

By the way, Guillen is still teaching special education in Pleasantville. The Press did not appear to contact him (and I haven’t either). But one wonders what he thought when he heard of “Terrance” Philo Jr.’s arrest.

Hazing in sports has a news explosion

with 2 comments

Lest one thinks Carmel, Ind., is the only place where youth sports-related hazing occurs, based on my breathless coverage of its boys’ basketball team’s situation, I bring you updates from just the past few days regarding other cases. Although Carmel is back in the news, too.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — According to KOAT-TV, a plea agreement is on hold regarding a 2008 hazing case in which six now-former Robertson (N.M.) Las Vegas High football players were accused of sodomizing teammates with a broomstick during football camp. A judge is examining the guilty plea of Steven Garcia, one of those players. On March 30 he pleaded guilty to rape and other charges, but in such a way that he can maintain his innocence even while being technically found guilty, and that he can be treated as a juvenile. Some parents shouted “no deal,” but a special prosecutor said others want it so they can put the incident behind them.

BREWER, Maine – A former Brewer High softball coach who sued the school over her firing has dropped her case March 31. According to the Bangor Daily News, Kelly Jo Cookson claimed she was fired in 2006 because she is a lesbian. However, the school said the firing was because of hazing. For example, according to the Daily News, the school said Cookson “had allowed student athletes to walk barefoot through sheep manure during a team picnic … .” Cookson dropped the case after the school refused to settle on the eve of a trial after two courts had supported the school’s contention that she condoned and supervised hazing.

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Basha High School announced on March 31 that it had hired a new football coach, Bernie Busken, who had led Mesa Mountain View to an 82-9 record and three Class 5A state championships in seven seasons.  However, that was from 1995-2001. Busken had been in exile, coaching small college football, since spring 2002, when he resigned, as Maxpreps.com put it, “amid allegations of verbally abusing players, allowing hazing rituals and excessive athlete-on-athlete contact after being warned to desist by the school district.” At the time, Busken was defiant, blaming his departure on a parental and media witch hunt. Now, he’s more contrite, those this statement to Maxpreps.com sounds more like the classic sorry-you-were-offended apology:  “I have never done anything where I meant to hurt someone physically, mentally or anything else. I just tried to prepare them for their one shot to do well. All I can do now is apologize. If I was kidding around and I crossed a line; for those things I was wrong and I am sorry.”

COOPERSVILLE, Mich. — An Ottawa County, Mich., judge, considering a FOIA request by the Grand Rapids Press, on March 31 forced the Coopersville schools to reveal how much was paid to two victims of 2007 junior varsity baseball hazing that resulted in four team members being expelled from school and receiving juvenile sentences for gross indecency. The two victims had sued the district, claiming it looked the other way while coaches encouraged or ignored hazing. One student received $95,000, and another received $55,000. The school did not have to admit guilt. Not only that, the school was pretty pissed off the settlements were made public. The superintendent told the Press that, fuck you very much, you’re now peeling the hazing scab off itty-bitty Coopersville. “They have been through a lot. They don’t need any more trouble from their neighbors or the community,” O’Neill said. It appears he meant the perpetrators as well as the victims.

GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — Trinity High School baseball coach Nick Fratalonie resigned April 1 after the school confirmed a hazing incident the previous month involving his team. The school would not confirm exactly what happened and to whom, except that it was “not sexual in nature” and that team members received “disciplinary consequences.” Fratalonie told the Cleveland Plain Dealer he didn’t resign because of hazing. It was for “personal and family reasons.”

And last, but certainly not least:

CARMEL, Ind. – One of the two freshman boys basketball players allegedly assaulted by three senior teammates on a bus ride back from a game in Terre Haute has hired a lawyer. Robert Turner said the bus incident was not the first time his client, no longer a student at Carmel High, had been victimized, and there were other incidents with other victims. “In a school context of so-called hazing, bullying, as this has been characterized, this was much more than that,” he said to WRTV-TV in Indianapolis on March 31. “It’s the worst case I’ve seen … ever.” A prosecutor is considering whether to file charges against the players for the bus incident, which had police investigating possible battery and criminal deviate conduct, a sex crime. Turner said the victim’s family hasn’t decided whether to sue. Uh-huh.

[youtubevid id="4hzkOwdHYDE"]

Inspired by his Hoosier forebear Booth Tarkington, Robert Turner is getting ready to go all Penrod and Sam on Carmel High.

Written by rkcookjr

April 3, 2010 at 12:30 am

Malaysia requires its nerdy schoolkids to sign up for sports

leave a comment »

While in the United States, budget cuts force the reduction or elimination of school sports (more on that later), Malaysia is going the opposite way. It’s going to require students to pick a sport and play it, no matter how big a nerdlinger the kid is.

Actually, reducing nerdlingerness appears to be the motivating factor behind the policy.

[youtubevid id="Hw6zrInbtQE"]

From The Star, a Malaysian English-language newspaper:

Sports activities will be made compulsory in 10,000 schools nationwide starting next year and each student will be required to select a game of his or her choice.

Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said this meant that sports would have a separate syllabus and would no longer be part of the co-curriculum activity as is the current practice.

“Schools will be provided with more sports teachers while allocations will be increased to improve the infrastructure as part of efforts to bring glory back to sports,” he told reporters after closing the Pahang Umno convention here yesterday.

He said a committee has been set up to look into the revamp besides looking into ways to credit those who were active in sports.

“By giving additional marks to them, it would help to encourage them to excel both in sports as well as academically,” he added.

Stating that sports were good for mental as well as physical health besides inculcating leadership qualities, Muhyiddin noted that parents nowadays stressed too much on academic achievement.

In comments recorded by another English-language newspaper, the New Straits Times, the deputy prime minister describes a world that sounds like bizarro United States:

“Right now, sports events are held only for several months, usually in the first two or three months of the school year. There are times when parents themselves are unaware that the school sports has been held,” he said.

It’s safe to say that not knowing when school sports are held is not a problem for American parents.

Written by rkcookjr

February 21, 2010 at 9:55 pm

College scholarships: harder to win than the lottery

with 10 comments

In advance of Feb. 3′s National Signing Day, college football’s orgasm to the child porn that is the recruiting watch, the Houston Chronicle’s Jenny Dial asked a question. Just what are your kid’s chances of getting a scholarship, anyway?

If you didn’t read her story (or see it on Youth Sports Parents — hat tip your way), then in the afterglow of signing day, with the sweet throb of the fax machine still faintly pulsating, you’ll get an instant cold shower from her answer: almost nil.

You would think it’s generally understood that the odds are long. But Dial’s excellent piece makes you wonder if, as a means of future earnings potential, parents should buy lottery tickets instead of paying big bucks for travel teams and private lessons. The chance of success is about the same, and so is the usual justification — you can’t win if you don’t play.

How do we know the odds are so long? Dial took numbers from the National Federation of State High School Associations on school sports participation, then took numbers from the NCAA on the number of scholarships awarded to Division I athletes, and did the math. The numbers might not be 100 percent accurate: they don’t count kids who play at elite club levels only (increasingly common), and they don’t count kids who might have gotten scholarships to NCAA Division II or NAIA institutions. But those figures would probably not move the needle much one way or the other.

So, without further adieu, the percentage of high school athletes in the class of 2008 (the latest figures available) who got Division I athletic scholarships nationwide, in alphabetical order by sport:

Baseball: 0.6

Boys basketball: 0.7

Girls basketball: 0.9

Boys cross country/track and field: 0.5

Girls cross country/track and field: 0.9

Football: 1.4

Boys golf: 0.6

Girls golf: 1.6

Boys soccer: 0.4

Girls soccer: 1

Softball: 0.7

Boys swimming and diving: 0.8

Girls swimming and diving: 1.2

Boys tennis: 0.6

Girls tennis: 1.1

Volleyball: 0.8

Boys wrestling: 0.3

Man, I think you get better odds from the lottery ticket.

[youtubevid id="tN5V8cQ2DAk"]

Your odds are 1 in 300 for this lottery.

Dial also talked to parents to see what they spent on sports. Golf parents spent the most: about $11,000 per year. A lot of sports fell in the $2,000-$5,000 range. Football parents spent the least, about $300 a year for offseason expenses. Football is relatively cheap because, unlike every other high school sport, you’re also not duty-bound to join a travel or elite team in addition to your school team in order to get college recruiters’ attention. However, you can rack up expenses paying for all-star camps and Nike-sponsored combines that require you to jet around nationwide to get the attention of your top football schools.

And for what? Not only are the chances of a scholarship tiny, but Dial’s survey included partial scholarships. Every athlete is not getting a four-year free ride. In most sports (mainly, outside of football and basketball), just about everyone is getting only half, or one-quarter, or less covered in tuition expenses — if they’re getting a scholarship at all to play.

This is not to say that you should immediately dump your kid’s golf clubs in the nearest water hazard. If you and your child love the youth sports lifestyle, and you’ve got the money to spend, then have fun. But if you’ve got a hard-on for a college scholarship, chances are that on National Signing Day, you’re going to be limp with disappointment.

In which I throw my 10-year-old daughter to the youth sports-industrial complex

with 6 comments

As I believe I’ve mentioned multiple times, my 10-year-old daughter is a three-time All-Star (as in, every year she’s played) in softball, though so far she has eschewed (to my delight) travel ball. The intensity of the parents and the cliquishness of the girls scared me, as well as the $900 price tag (not including actual travel). Plus, I’m not sure I can be involved, particularly as a coach, because I don’t have a goatee.

Despite my hesitance about getting too deep into the youth sports-industrial complex (go figure, with what I named this site), I couldn’t help but get excited when I found out one of the local travel softball teams was sponsoring two clinics at Dwyane Wade High, my local school. And, those clinics featured college coaches. Plus it was only $30 for two Sundays, and I didn’t have to grow a goatee for my daughter to join.

Anybody remotely sentient understands that clinics and camps serve a purpose higher (or lower) than teaching your child. Here is what all the participants involved in my daughter’s camp get out of it:

Oak Lawn Ice, the sponsoring organization. It spreads its names to the girls and their families, so when it comes to time to shell out the travel team bucks, they will think of the Ice first. Also, the Ice makes more contacts with the high school coach and, more importantly, the college coaches that are coming by and might want to recruit some Ice players, thus getting more families willing to shell out for the team.

– Julie Folliard, the Dwyane Wade High softball coach. Though it’s a public school, it has to recruit against at least three nearby all-girls’ Catholic high schools and one coed Catholic high school, all of which are sizable and have their own strong athletic traditions. By hosting the clinic on the T-Mobile D-Wade Court, she makes contact with a slew of potential high school players, strengthens her contacts with a local club team, and strengthens her contacts with college coaches who might someday want her players, thus giving Folliard a feather in her visor when she’s coming back to young kids to get them to her school, thus building a tradition so smart-asses like me say she coaches at Richards High, not Dwyane Wade High. Also, I’ve heard her complain (in a coaches’ clinic I attended when I coached my daughter’s team) about the lack of fundamentals of a lot of players, so Folliard gets some hope that maybe a few players coming up will know what they’re doing.

– The college coaches. Specifically, Illinois-Chicago assistant Amanda Scott, DePaul assistant Liz Jagielski, and Northwestern head coach Kate Drohan, the attending coaches. They get a very early line on talent, and they get to give that talent a very early line on them. They strengthen their contacts with a high school coach. They strengthen their contacts with a travel organization. They get to plant the seeds of knowledge early, before they have to get players to unlearn what they did wrong at earlier levels.

[youtubevid id="nN8cOpyOqIE"]

Amanda Scott’s pitching drills were pretty much what you see in this clip. Except that my daughter tells me she also taught them how to throw a changeup.

– The girls themselves. They get to showcase themselves to a prominent local travel organization, and put themselves on the radar of at least one high school coach, and if they show inordinate talent, some college coaches.

However, for my daughter, I figure the advantages are more prosaic. By getting cheap access to quality high school and college coaches, she can learn more in two Sundays than she’s learned in three years under volunteer moms and dads. No offense to them, especially because for two years that limited-knowledge parent was me.

Whatever the undercurrent of semi-professionalism running throughout the camp, as long as my daughter can learn how to control her pitches, field consistently, and figure out the new lefthanded-batting stance she today decided to adopt while at the clinic, I don’t care what everybody else in the youth sports food chain gets out of it.

Brandon Jennings, and why your child might be better off without college

with one comment

Around this time last year, the consensus was that California hotshot point guard Brandon Jennings made a disastrous decision by electing to play professional basketball in Italy instead of following through on a college commitment to the University of Arizona. This Washington Times story from Dec. 4, 2008, was typical:

When last season’s consensus No. 1 prep player, Brandon Jennings, headed to Italy instead of college, becoming the first high school player to choose that path since the NBA instituted its minimum-age requirement after the 2005 draft, some observers dubbed Jennings the pioneer of a new era.

“I think we’re going to have a revolution,” said former shoe executive Sonny Vaccaro, who advised Jennings during his decision-making process. “And Brandon Jennings, a kid from Compton [Calif.], is going to start it.”

A month into Jennings’ European experiment, the reverberations of said “revolution” have given way to deafening silence.

The 6-foot-1, 170-pound guard has all but vanished from basketball’s collective conscious. Jennings is the fourth member of Lottomatica Roma’s backcourt rotation. Buried in the depth chart behind guards like former All-Big East performer Allan Ray (Villanova) and former Ivy League player of the year Ibrahim Jaaber (Penn), Jennings exited the team’s first eight games averaging 4.9 points and 3.0 assists in 17.3 minutes.

Jennings is being well-compensated for his spot duty. Contracts with the Rome-based club and UnderArmour are reportedly earning him in excess of $3 million this season. But the long-term wisdom of his career choice remains questionable. Instead of enjoying a high-profile role at Arizona, where he would have served as the Wildcats’ primary perimeter complement to versatile forward Chase Budinger, he’s struggling to earn minutes for a 4-4 squad in the Italian League. As a result, his draft stock is falling.

“He began the season in the top 10 on everybody’s board, but his slow start has everyone re-evaluating,” an NBA scout said at the Old Spice Classic.

It didn’t look good either, when Jennings rushed into the NBA Draft inexplicably late, well after Milwaukee drafted him 10th overall, the fourth overall point guard taken.

Of course, you don’t need a college degree in foreshadowing to know what happens next.

[youtubevid id="SlZhgwHdXTc"]

Jennings takes an early lead for NBA Rookie of the Year, what with performances like the one against Golden State (which took Stephen Curry ahead of him) Nov. 14, scoring 55 points, the most by a rookie since Earl Monroe’s 56 in 1967. Suddenly, analysts are wondering whether more hotshot players are going to jump to Europe for a year in their intense pro league instead of the relatively sedate college life, and Jeremy Tyler’s struggles with a team in Israel are less an indictment of him than necessary growing pains for his future NBA career.

So, you might ask, what does all this mean when I plainly state in the title of the blog that Your Kid’s Not Going Pro?

Well, like in basketball, there are a lot of people going to college who have no business going to college, who are going only because they’re told it’s the only way to a lucrative career, who are better served finding their own way in the world before determining whether college is right for them.

College is a wonderful place. I spent some time there myself. But given how expensive college has gotten (in part because of the message that everybody’s gotta go), if your child is looking at a career path that doesn’t necessitate college, or at least if he or she wants to get a little taste of the real world before going to college, what’s wrong with that? Or do you want massive student loans to pay for an unmotivated or unready college student?

In Jennings’ case, it appears spending a year’s apprenticeship, not being treated like the golden god of basketball, did far more for his game and maturity than a single season at Arizona ever could.

True, most people who eschew college are going to end up the opposite of Jennings on the income scale. I’m not saying you shouldn’t push your kids into strongly considering college. But it seems like, as parents, we also need to figure out the wisest course for our kids, wherever that might take them.

Written by rkcookjr

November 15, 2009 at 10:48 pm

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.