Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Posts Tagged ‘girls basketball

New York principal sabotages school sports

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There are plenty of schools around the country at which sports are being cut — regretfully — because of a lack of funds. By contrast, the New York Post on Oct. 24 highlighted a case of a high school principal who is cutting sports out of spite.

OK, maybe that’s not completely fair. Apparently Marilyn Shevell, principal of Martin Van Buren High in Queens, believes that chopping sports will go a long way toward improving the school’s 68.6 percent graduation rate, according to people who talked to the Post (Shevell not being among them.) However — and I am no educator here — I don’t get how giving students less of a reason to get excited about something at their school will actually make them more excited to stick around long enough to graduate.

Here is what is going on, according to the Post:

Last week, Shevell stormed out of a PTA meeting in the Queens school’s auditorium after announcing the girls and boys basketball teams could play no games at home this fall. Last year, she slashed home games to one for the girls and three for the boys.

Shevell also barred classmates and their parents from attending last year’s games to cheer for their “Vee Bees.” And just in case any specta tors showed up, she had the bleachers bolted to the gym wall so they could not be used.

She has also limited practice for all sports teams to three days a week, instead of the six other schools allow. “It seems like she just doesn’t want to sup port sports at all,” said Toni Gooden, a senior on the girls basket ball team, which made the playoffs 13 years in a row before last year.

Parents and students packed last Monday’s PTA meeting, where Shevell ousted a Post reporter.

The New York Daily News in January 2010 wrote a story about how Van Buren was playing all its basketball games on the road because of a broken partition in the gym. In that story, an assistant coach accused Shevell of intentionally refusing to fix the partition as a means of sabotaging sports programs. Even when Van Buren had played at home, only parents of players were allowed to attend because, Shevell had said, of a fight that had broken out in the stands.

However, the New York Post story reported that those explanations weren’t being accepted so easily.

Parents say Shevell has used various “excuses” for the cutbacks — including a broken gym divider, asbestos in the gym ceiling and fights at prior games.

But when questioned by The Post, city Department of Education officials said the wall had been fixed a month ago, there is no asbestos problem, and there have been no melees — or even any home games — this year.

“There will be home games. The bleachers will be unbolted,” DOE spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said in response to Post queries.

I don’t know of this principal, so I can’t speak to Shevell’s motives. I mean, clearly she has a bug up her ass about school sports for some reason. I realize there are a lot of excesses that come with school sports — the jock culture at some places can be oppressive, and often the excitement over The Team seems to overshadow the importance of academics.

However, I know my kids — who are all academic achieves, thank you very much — kick their asses out of bed for school not for the learning part, but for the extras. We all the learning part is important. But it’s the extras that can help students feel like their school is an important place, and not a prison in which they’re chained to a desk to solve quadratic equations all day.

My 13-year-old son, in particular, feels a very deep connection to his junior high school because he’s participating in choir, band, the school musical, setup for afterschool events, recycling club, strategy club, science club, and stuff I’m probably leaving out. He probably would do OK in school without that stuff, but that’s what makes him excited to be a part of the school, and I’m sure makes some of the most unbearable tedium more bearable. Even if he never goes to a basketball game (which he hasn’t).

Even if Martin Van Buren High School is a difficult environment, the principal has pressure on her to raise the graduation rate, I can’t see how cutting out activities that at least some students get excited about is a way to also get them excited about the other stuff.

One other thing: if the New York Department of Education is putting so much of a focus on a bottom-line number — one that can be difficult to control depending on the home lives of the students who feed into that school — and is doing so without giving principals any support or assistance, it’s a wonder more principals haven’t bolted the bleachers to the wall, or done something else nutty in the name of “education.”

Marilyn Sevell is expected to write a letter to the New York Post in response.

Fights in the stands mar high school basketball games: Title IX edition

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Earlier I wrote a story about all the fights that have been happening at high school basketball games, and all the examples I cited were from boys’ matchups. But let it not be said boys games have exclusive domain over fisticuffs and brouhahas. From WSMV television in Nashville:

Principals at Maplewood and Stratford high schools — along with several teachers, coaches and students — face sanctions from the district and TSSAA [Tennessee’s high school athletic authority] for a Saturday night [Feb. 13] melee.

Did I say brouhahas? I meant melees.

At the end of a girls basketball game, a Stratford player made a last-second shot. Maplewood’s coaches claimed the clock was not on and the shot should not have counted.

Maplewood coaches confronted time keepers because they lost the game, said Ralph Thompson, security director of Metro Schools. He said things got out of control, and students and parents got involved and threw punches.

“People started yelling, standing up and coming toward the score keeper and referees,” said student Janelle White. “The girl from Maplewood came up to the score keeper and hit her.”

An estimated 100 people were involved in the fight. Thompson said his office is trying to get to the bottom of reports that several coaches and teachers also threw punches.

Germaine to the point school security expert Kent Trump made (unbeknownst to him) in my previous post on one of the problems regarding fan violence at basketball games, one of the allegations against host Stratford is that it provided inadequate security for the game. As the home school, it was responsible for making those arrangements — normally, four to six security officers, rather than the apparent zero that were there.

Written by rkcookjr

February 17, 2010 at 11:35 pm

My 7-year-old and 4-year-old start their basketball careers…

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…and I hope I didn’t wait too long.

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The competition is so far ahead, maybe my kids shouldn’t bother.

My 7-year-old son, already a regular in baseball and bowling, on Tuesday will begin his first basketball clinic. His 4-year-old sister is doing the same. She was particularly insistent. We asked her if she wanted to do gymnastic or dance (two activities in which she showed some interest), but she replied, over and over, “Bask-ska-ball.” I guess I should’ve known, the day as a 3-year-old she parked at the little kids’ pop-a-shot in the arcade during one of my son’s bowling matches.

So maybe my daughter is coming in at the right age. By age 6, I should have her in travel ball, and by age 10, she should be on the radar of college recruiters, and by age 13, her knees should be shot. Sadly, with my 7-year-old son starting so late, it appears that all he can look forward to in his athletic future is beers at the bowling alley.

Written by rkcookjr

January 24, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Press, press…

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Malcolm Gladwell, the author for whom you can blame 1,000 sales conference references to “The Tipping Point,” strikes again in the New Yorker with another lengthy article delving into the secrets of innovation and success. And this time, he’s completely full of shit.

I’m not a steady Gladwell reader, but all I know is that “How David Beats Goliath” takes eight web pages to say, with dubious evidence, what Sun Tzu said about 2,500 years earlier in 18 words: “So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.”

My particular youth sports beef comes with Gladwell using as evidence how a supposedly unskilled team of 12-year-old girls from Redwood City, Calif., were shaped into an elite basketball fighting force because their coach used a press defense. He wonders why more teams don’t use it, pointing to example’s of Digger Phelps’ undermanned 1971 Fordham team upsetting a UMass squad featuring Julius Erving, and Rick Pitino’s continued success with a press defense even though his talent is supposedly so thin, Antoine Walker is his only notable pro.

Gladwell might know tipping points, but I’m not sure he’s so wise on basketball strategy. The press works if you have a team that relentlessly practices it, and a team playing against you that doesn’t know it’s coming or doesn’t practice for it. I would guess that 100 percent of the teams Redwood City played never played anyone else with a press defense, and didn’t have a college basketball-playing daughter of a former NFL star helping out in practice.

Plus, the effectiveness of the press goes down the higher level you go. Yeah, a press can work great at the 12-year-old level because most kids’ ballhandling skills aren’t good enough to overcome it. But when Pitino tried that in the NBA, he got hammered. Even on the college level, for every Fordham-over-Dr.-J’s UMass upset with the press, there are 100 teams that try it and watch the ball fly past them for easy layups. Apparently Gladwell also missed how slow and methodical Michigan State bounced Pitino’s Louisville team out of this year’s NCAA tournament.

The rec leagues I’ve coached in (junior high/late elementary coed) limit the press to either a certain point of a game (elementary level) or when you’re down (junior high). By doing so, it prevents a game that gets out of hand either way — either a team never able to inbound the ball, or a pressing team getting blown out. Anyway, why don’t I have them defend the whole court instead of the last 24 feet? Because no one is scoring from 50 feet out. I tell my kids to move out the big people, and except for kids we know can shoot from 16 feet out, give player on the outside a lot of space. Then get the rebound and leak out on the fast break — that’s where a commitment to playing the whole floor worked for the teams I’ve had.

Gladwell misses the point when he fawns on the press defense. You coach based on how the strengths of your players match the weaknesses of others — no argument there. But questioning why everyone doesn’t use the press more is way too simplistic a point. So is Gladwell presenting as fact that Pitino uses the press because he ALWAYS has substandard teams. The current starting lineup of Lawrence North High School would disagree.

Any coach who believes their success is completely tied to his or her own system is delusional — and so are the writers who swallow that line. If you don’t have talent on you team, your precious system goes down the crapper. Anyway, you could make an argument on the flipside — the reason so few NBA successes come out of Pitino’s system is because it doesn’t prepare players for what they’ll be doing in pro ball.

By the way, the Redwood City team Gladwell talks about with girls who hadn’t played, or weren’t terribly talented? I bet they weren’t a bunch of kids who had never touched a ball. I don’t care how many practices they had — if the girls didn’t have some speed or coordination already, the press would have failed in a hurry. And as far as development, this coach could be hurting his kids because as they advance and have to play more halfcourt ball, they’ll have no idea what to do.

Gladwell is a good writer, but I think he’s whiffed here. If Dean Oliver presented evidence to show the best ways to attack a defense, I’d listen more, because at least Oliver, the director of quantitative analysis for the Denver Nuggets, puts together statistical models to prove his points. Gladwell’s message is supposedly that teams should concentrate more on attacking their opponents’ weaknesses, but don’t a lot of coaches do that already?

By the way, even if successful, the press can cause you a lot of headache. Just ask Micah Grimes.

Micah Grimes’ first interview? I don’t think so, Phil Taylor

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Tonight I opened up my Sports Illustrated (yeah, I still get print), and on the back page is a column by Phil Taylor headlined: “Public Enemy Number 100.”

It’s a story about Micah Grimes, the Dallas Covenant High girls basketball coach fired in the wake of worldwide scorn over his team’s 100-0 squeaker over Dallas Academy. No surprise, given the way backlash against backlash tends to grow over time, once everyone has calmed down a little bit, it’s a sympathetic piece in which Grimes is said to have weekly meetings with former players and refuses to sue his school for wrongful termination (though he definitely could).

“If I had it to do over, after halftime I would have asked the other coach if he wanted to end the game,” Taylor quotes Grimes as saying. “If he wanted to keep going, I probably would have suggested we shut off the scoreboard.” (As it was, Grimes tells Taylor he had the Covenant timekeeper keep the clock running after building up a 59-0 halftime lead.)

Whether Grimes is the monster many made him out to be, or whether he was a victim of circumstance, I don’t know. Like 99.9 percent of people (including Barry Horn, the Dallas Morning News reporter who first wrote about the 100-0 game), I wasn’t there.

However, I will take issue with one part of Taylor’s column: “Grimes tells you this is the first interview he has given since the Jan. 13 rout.”


Me, myself and I had the first interview with Micah Grimes, Phil Taylor! Perhaps Mr. Grimes fails to remember this scintillating, hard-hitting email interview conducted Jan. 26:

“Mr. Grimes, my name is Bob Cook, and I write a blog called Your Kid’s Not Going Pro. I know this is a difficult time, but I wonder if you don’t mind chatting with me about the Dallas Academy game and its aftermath. Thanks.”

Hi Bob, I’m going to decline an interview for now. I really appreciate your willingness to show my side of the story, but this whole thing is a little bit overwhelming right now, and I would like to let things die down. Thanks again.


Um, OK, it wasn’t quite as detailed an interview as Phil Taylor got. But I asked a question, and got a response, so that counts!

Hope springs infernal

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The Des Moines Register’s Marc Hansen posits a theory, as he spins a yarn about a referee friend who tossed a dad out 30 seconds into a fifth-grade girls’ basketball state tournament game, why the worst-acting parents are at the younger kids’ events:

It’s different at the high school tournaments, and I have a theory. According to Hansen’s Youth Sports Law, the younger the athletes, the louder and wackier the parents.

The high school parents are far, far from perfect, but most are resigned to the reality of the situation. That NBA contract or that full scholarship to Duke is not in the cards for their child.

The whacked-out fifth-grader’s dad, on the other hand, still holds hope and acts as if every whistle will either move the kid closer or further away from the dream, even if it’s just a starting spot on the varsity.

Every call is crucial, even if the player in question is still young enough to leave something under the pillow for the tooth fairy.

To the whacked-out fifth-grader’s dad, much is at stake. High school parents, on the other hand, have learned from experience.

That makes some sense. But I would add that a crazy sports parent in fifth grade is going to stay a crazy one in high school, too. Except that instead of popping off at refs, the savvy crazy sports parent is posting videos, badgering coaches in private, yanking kids from club team to club team, and calling the local newspaper to demand huge photos of their kid to “attract recruiters.”

Also, it’s generally easier in a fifth-grade environment to be heard — fewer fans in the stands, and fewer barriers between yourself and the floor/field/pitch/ice. Also in high school, there is an expected decorum. The only people who get to shout obscenities during the game are other high schoolers. Actually, it may be that the parents are just as loud in high school, but that they’re drowned out by the relatively larger crowd. I’ll let you know if and when my kids start playing high school sports.

Crazy eye of the beholder

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3203388787_13b8b86948It would seem that most crazy-parents stories are pretty standard — parent does something inappropriate at a game, gets tossed out or arrested, and we cry about, as our most recent former president might have put it, what our children is learning.

Except that it’s not always so cut-and-dried.

For example, the arrest of one Christopher Paquette of Attleboro, Mass., for popping off and refusing to leave, when asked, a fifth- and sixth-grade girls’ basketball game. He’s charged with disorderly conduct after allegedly yelling and swearing after refusing to leave the gym where his 10-year-old daughter was playing. The police said he yelled at a ref, who told him to leave, and yet Paquette, a recently laid off dry-wall construction worker and father of six, did not, even when police came to shoo him way.

On the surface, it sounds like another parents gone wild. Certainly, that’s how the local newspaper saw it on its editorial page.

Yet Paquette says he yelled something about the refs, and that he walked away and stood at the entrance to the gym because he didn’t want to leave his 10-year-old daughter behind — and that police overreacted. Some of the comments below this story seem to bear him out, noting that the ref immediately wheeled around and threw him out even though Paquette did not address him directly. Let’s put it this way: the Attleboro police don’t seem to be popular around, oh, Attleboro.

So who’s right?

I wasn’t there, so I’ll say this: if you busted every parent who made a comment about the refereeing, you would empty the stands in a hurry. Is that right for parents to say something? There are limits, but you can’t expect people watching their offspring, their blood, their reason for living, to be comment-free during the game. It would be great if they watched and only thought positive thoughts, but that’s unreasonable to expect. Heck, today at my son’s seventh- and eighth-grade coed rec league game (they needed sixth-graders to fill out the rosters), the opposing coach was getting ooh-aah and googly-eyed about every call. Personally, I would have liked to kick him out of the gym because he was acting like such an overweening jerk, but I’m not sure the court system needs to get involved.

We all want a positive environment at games, or at least an environment that doesn’t seem to have the undercurrent of quick and certain fisticuffs. Paquette or any parent — or coach — doesn’t need to worry about the refs (unless they are allowing rough and dangerous play). But letting off a little steam or even being a jerk is not a crime. I would rather save police involvement for something a little more serious.

Written by rkcookjr

February 15, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Coaches: Just because attacking a crazy parent is legal and satisfying does not make it wise

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A Pennsylvania girls high school basketball coach goes all Ron Artest on a heckling parent but gets acquitted of criminal charges. From the Allentown Morning Call:

A Lehigh County district judge ruled Tuesday that the former girls basketball coach at Salisbury High School was not guilty of disorderly conduct when he went into the stands during a game last month and scuffled with a player’s father for heckling him all game long.

“I know the popular belief is that the worst part of coaching youth sports is dealing with parents,” said District Judge Anthony Rapp. “If there ever was a case where that is true, it’s here.”

Ken Shankweiler, who resigned from the team days after the Dec. 20 incident, had been charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly placing his hands around the neck of John Hrebik, the father of junior guard Caitlin Hrebik, during a game against Wilson Area High School, which Salisbury lost 62-19.

Shankweiler, 52, of Hanover Township, Northampton County, admitted Tuesday that he had been trying to avoid Hrebik’s repeated heckling as his team struggled early in the game against Wilson, but ultimately couldn’t. He said he had previous run-ins with Hrebik, who admitted that he had been told by school officials to tone down his criticism or stop going to games.


“Now Artest Shankweiler has jumped over the scorers’ table, and is trying to get down to the bench! Artest Shankweiler is in the stands! Oh, this is awful!”

Yes, a true jury of Shankweiler’s peers — coaches who have had it with overbearing parents — would have set him free. In this case, it was just a judge. Not that Shankweiler got off scot-free. He resigned as coach on Dec. 22, two days after the incident. He also apologized for his actions.

The judge didn’t exactly give a hearty endorsement of Shankweiler’s Terry O’Reilly impersonation:

While he could not find Shankweiler guilty, Rapp said “morally, I think the whole thing stinks.”

“We are supposed to be the intelligent, responsible adults and we let a basketball game come to this,” he said. “What happened to letting the kids have fun first?”

The judge let the dork parent have it, too:

“If you are going to be attending anymore games, be a spectator, a silent spectator,” he said. “These are not professional athletes.”

Interestingly, Hrebik referees local ballgames and is a basketball tournament organizer. The sports editor of the Allentown Morning Call had to recuse himself from the story because he identified Hrebik as a “good friend.”

No word on whether Wilson Area High School was apologetic about the 43-point scoring margin, or whether the head coach was fired for it.

Update on my own parenting and coaching

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It’s back to bowling season for my 6-year-old. He bowls two games every Saturday. They can be divided neatly into what snacks his four-player team consumes during the session. The first is the popcorn game, and the second is the french fries game. My major responsibility is standing in line at the concession counter for the fries.

Meanwhile, my sixth-grade son is moving up to seventh- and eighth-grade coed ball after completing his fifth- and sixth-grade league. The league needed sixth-graders to come in to fill out spots so there were four eight-member teams. My son is the only sixth-grader on his team, but after one practice, he seems to be doing OK. The competition is strong, include a few girls from a local junior high school team.

The hardest thing for me is that I’m an assistant coach, switching places with my brother-in-law, who was my assistant for the fifth- and sixth-grade league. I’m used to being in charge and yakking whenever I feel like it, so I have to hold back and let my brother-in-law take the lead. He knows what he’s doing; the difficult part is that I have a naturally loud voice (an actor’s voice, not a yelling voice), and I am ready and willing to use it.


Block out, already!

Written by rkcookjr

January 28, 2009 at 10:03 am

Updates on Micah Grimes and Jason Stinson

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Or Micahee Grimes and Jasonee Stinson, to keep up with my Nancy Grace-like obsession.

In descending order:

— Jason Stinson pleaded not guilty to reckless homicide charges at a Louisville court today. He was released without bond. No shock, at least not to me, Stinson’s lawyers say they will explore Max Gilpin’s medical history, though they did not say anything about his parents’ confirmation that he had taken creatine and was taking Adderall. Max Gilpin’s parents, already in a lot of pain, are going to go through even more when they see attorneys and expert witnesses argue that what killed him was not merely running in the heat, but dehydration and other side effects from his medications related to intense exercise. It’s going to get ugly, but then again, it always does.

— I sent an email to Covenant School girls basketball coach, er, ex-coach, Micah Grimes Sunday night to see if he wanted to do an interview about his team’s infamous 100-zero game over the now world-famous Dallas Academy. I got a response from him tonight:

Hi Bob, I’m going to decline an interview for now. I really appreciate your willingness to show my side of the story, but this whole thing is a little bit overwhelming right now, and I would like to let things die down. Thanks again.


No surprise, given he’s generally turned everyone else down for an interview.