Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Posts Tagged ‘Head coach

Youth baseball team trip put at risk by coach's arrest, checkbook's seizure

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I’ll get the happy ending out of the way. The Taylor, Pa., 15- to 18-year-old American Legion baseball team will make it to a tournament in South Carolina after all, despite the arrest of its coach, thanks to a $1,000 donation July 13 from employees at Semian Real Estate Group.

The community at large has raised another $1,000, but maybe the Semian employees felt a little bit worse about the possibility the team couldn’t travel. After all, it apparently was their co-worker who put the trip at risk.

Phil Godlewski, 27, was head coach of the team until getting arrested July 9 on charges relating to his alleged sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl. Maybe this with the first time police got involved, but Godlewski’s job as a high school baseball coach ended when the victim’s mother (apparently of the same girl at the center of the criminal investigation) complained to school officials about alleged inappropriate contact with her daughter.

According to police, the relationship started when Godlewski helped the victim cope with the death of a boyfriend. “All right, the boyfriend died! Now I can make my move!”

(As an aside, in so many of these coach-player relationships, the player and the coach have gotten closer because the coach is helping the player through a difficult time, anything from a death or a divorce to a hangnail or a mosquito bite. If your child is seeking the counsel of a coach for deep conversation and coping, immediately remove that child from the team. Trust me.)

So after Godlewski’s arrest, he was suspended from coaching the Legion team, under that organization’s rules.

One problem: the $2,000 for the team’s South Carolina trip was in Godlewski’s personal bank account — not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that, though for many reasons it’s probably better the money is kept in a separate, team account. (As another aside, Godlewski was in hot water with Legion authorities over having scheduled an out-of-state trip to a non-Legion tournament while his team was scheduled to play Legion games, which under league rules would have forced Taylor to forfeit those games.)

However, no one from the Legion team can get to the money (one of the many reasons it’s good not to have it in someone’s personal account). Police seized two cars, as evidence, in which Godlewski and the girl were alleged to have sexual contact. The cars contained bats, balls, equipment — and Godlewski’s checkbook.

Hence, why the team had to scramble to raise $2,000.

Fortunately, the people of Taylor, Pa., have come through, in particular Godlewski’s co-workers. They just need to make sure the checkbook for the account doesn’t end up in the wrong, well-worn back seat.


Written by rkcookjr

July 14, 2010 at 12:50 am

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.

Written by rkcookjr

June 27, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Assistant soccer coach pulls gun on complaining parent

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If you’re ever coached youth sports and dealt with what you felt were unreasonable parent complaints, you might have thought, “Wouldn’t it great if I could pull out a big-ass gun and tell those whiny parents to shut up?”

“Now, ask me again about your son’s playing time.”

Like most questions that begin, “Wouldn’t it be great if…,” the answer is, “No.”

Just ask Fruitport Soccer Club assistant coach James Sherrill, arrested after a game May 15. From WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, Mich.:

Police said several parents confronted James Sherill on the field after witnessing the coach yelling and swearing at the boys, ages 8-10, that were playing the game.

After the initial confrontation was broken up, it continued after another parent approached Sherill as he was leaving.

That is when police said Sherill pulled a concealed 9mm handgun from its holster. “He said, ‘If you don’t back off I’m gonna shoot you,'” said Fruitport Public Safety Department Chief Paul Smutz.

Police said Sherill then drove himself to the police department to report what happened. He was then arrested for felonious assault.

Hey, at least when he pulled out the gun, Sherrill didn’t swear.

It’s possible Sherrill — who the soccer organization said was not a “rostered coach” (no indication whether he is a parent of a player, or a buddy of the head coach helping out for the day) — could face less punishment than you’d think. He had the gun registered, and it’s unclear whether Michigan’s law banning guns from sports arenas and stadiums applies to parks where youth games are played. Of course, there is the matter of pointing the gun at someone, which is probably not legal anywhere in Michigan, unless the parent confronting him was a deer, and it was in-season.

Another note on this story that might interesting only me, as a person who spent part of his childhood in the Muskegon, Mich., area, where Fruitport is located: Do kids from other towns still call it Fartport?

Written by rkcookjr

May 17, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Natalie Randolph isn't alone as a female H.S. football coach

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The reason you see journalists hedge on saying someone is the only one of something is because the moment you do that, it’s guaranteed you’ll get someone telling you you’re wrong.

So after the Washington Post (and I) noted that Natalie Randolph, just hired as football coach at DC’s Coolidge High, was believed to be the nation’s only female high school football coach, it suddenly popped up that, hey, she’s not the only one!

The example brought up was Debbie Vance, the head football coach at Lehman High (named after a former governor who was the son of a founder of the now-infamous Lehman Brothers) in The Bronx for the last two seasons. Her first year, the team went 1-8. In her second season, 2009, the team improved to 4-6.

It is slightly more common to have women coaching boys’ basketball times. But a 2008 analysis by the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport found that only 2 percent of boys’ teams in that state — mostly swimming and tennis — had female coaches. I suspect the numbers aren’t any higher anywhere else in the country. The bigger issue, perhaps, is a decline in female head coaches in general at the high school level. The Tucker Center said only 17 percent of high school teams in Minnesota were coached by women, and only 38 percent of girls’ teams had a female head coach. Women’s representation is declining, the Tucker Center analysis showed.

As I mentioned in my previous post on Natalie Randolph, a lot of women I know opt out of coaching at the youth level because they feel like they don’t have time, given their many responsibilities in work, life and child-raising. At least in my experience at the youngest of youth levels, I haven’t seen the level of outright gender bias that Tucker Center director Nicole LaVoi sees (in addition to her noting what I said in the previous sentence about many women not wanting to add more one responsibility).

But then again, she’s conducting research, and I’m not. And I do agree that women, no matter who they’re coaching at what level, face questions of competence that men would never hear. From a conversation LaVoi had with Minnesota Public Radio:

“If a guy shows up for the first day of practice, he’s automatically assumed to be competent because he’s a male. But when a woman comes, that’s the first thing we think of,” said Lavoi. “That’s another one of the gender stereotypes about leadership. We automatically assume men are more competent than women.”

Lavoi says that uphill struggle to acceptance keeps some women away from the sidelines.

“A lot of them are sitting around going, ‘I didn’t think you wanted me. No one ever asked me,'” said Lavoi. “That’s a bright spot to me because I know there are a lot of women out there who are very qualified, who would make great coaches, but we have to figure out a way to get them to the dance.”

For more on the dynamic of women coaching boys at the high school level, here is a Nov. 5, 2009, piece from Central Florida News 13 on Tracy Stephens, the offensive line coach at East Ridge High School in Lake County. She has worked there for three seasons, hired by her husband, Jeff, the head coach, after he ran short of coaches to help in the spring. Just by being there, Tracy Stephens teaches an important lesson to the boys: that a woman can do things as well as a man, which is a message you wouldn’t think would need to be taught anymore, but does.

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Female football coach blows chauvinist pig minds

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Bringing back a 1970s, Equal Rights Amendment-era sobriquet such as “chauvinist pig” seems appropriate given some of the reaction to one Natalie Randolph — a dame! a chick! a skirt! — on March 12 officially taking over as head football coach at Washington, D.C.’s Coolidge High. As far as anyone can tell, the 29-year-old Randolph is the nation’s only female high school football coach. [MARCH 13 UPDATE: She isn’t. But she’s one of a very, very few.]

From Washington Post metro columnist Petula Dvorak:

After The Post broke the story Wednesday [March 10] that Natalie Randolph will take the job at Calvin Coolidge Senior High School in the District and probably be the only such female coach in the nation, a flurry of online commenters worried about the boys of Coolidge.

“This is a brutal physical sport that rips the testosterone from guys and puts it on display. There is no place here for an estrogen injection,” one reader commented on the story.

I wonder if this person has ever seen childbirth up close.


I’m sure Randolph knows more than anyone that her lack of a penis is going to come back again and again as an issue, even though she played women’s semipro football and has experience as an assistant coach in the District schools.

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No. 81 in your DC Divas program, No. 1 in your hearts. Check out the TD catch Randolph makes at 1:25 in this summation of  the Divas’ 2006 championship season.

Even though it appears Randolph is the only female head football coach at any American high school, Dvorak points out that women have had success coaching boys’ teams elsewhere.

That includes Joanie Welch of Wasilla, Alaska, a hockey mom who has brought her presumably Palin-esque pit-bull-with-lipstick style (if we believe the Sarah Palin definition of hockey mom) to the local high school as an assistant hockey coach for the last three seasons, in her first year attempting to guide a local lothario named Levi Johnston.

Back to Randolph, as unfortunate as it seems that her being a head football coach is news — even in an age where the Florida High School Athletic Association (dubiously) claims football is a coed sport — what’s even more unfortunate is that her coaching at all is news.

Yes, there are many female coaches at all levels of sport. Research by Nicole LaVoi, associate director of the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport and Michael Messner, professor of gender studies at sociology at USC, finds that only one of five youth sports coaches is female, even though by at least one count, girls comprise close to 50 percent of all youth sports participants.

While LaVoi and I have some slight differences on why that number is low, we would be in agreement that it would be great to see that number go up. I’m disappointed that this year, for my 7-year-old son’s baseball team, I will not have a female assistant, as I did last year. It was disappointing that when I managed by 10-year-old daughter’s softball teams, I never had a female assistant, even though I begged one ex-softball playing mom to come aboard. (Claiming she was too busy — a pretty legitimate claim, and a common reason in my experience why moms haven’t coached — she instead sent her husband.) I was heartened that one the assistants of my 10-year-old daughters’ co-ed basketball team was (well, still is) a woman.

I think the message sent to both boys and girls by having a female coaching (and I don’t believe she has to be relegated to an assistant — it’s just in these cases I happened to be the head coach) is that women can be athletic role models and are knowledgeable about sports. Again, that seems like a ridiculous message 40 years into Title IX, but a subtle message can creep in, with no female coaches, that sports is a boy thing only. It’s my 10-year-old daughter, not my 7-year-old son, who talks about how unusual she is compared to her classmates that likes to play sports.

In Randolph’s case, I’m going to bet that while some of her players might at first resist having a girl for a football coach, that opposition will fall as it would for any male coach. That is, once it’s clear to them she knows what she’s doing, they will follow. At least the players are at the age where their lack of maturity might excuse some of their conduct vis-a-vis a lady football coach.

I’m not sure what the excuse would be for adult football coaches who would know better than to worry about a dame! a chick! a skirt!, like this knucklehead quoted anonymously (way to have some balls, tough guy) in the Washington Post:

“All I know is, I don’t want to be the first one to lose to her. That’s going to be wild.”

Written by rkcookjr

March 12, 2010 at 2:48 pm

13-year-old quarterback commits to USC

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David Sills says it’s always been his dream to play football at USC, and good for him that new coach Lane Kiffin is fulfilling it by offering him a scholarship. The catch is that Sills can’t use it for another five years, what with him only being in the seventh grade.

I mean, you hear of kids graduating early so they can go to spring practice before their freshmen year, but I’m not sure Sills can finish his high school courses before the end of junior high.

Sills is a 6-foot, 145-pound seventh-grader who is, presumably, talented, and also well-known within the youth sports-industrial complex. Kiffin heard of the Delaware native when he got a tape from Steve Clarkson, a quarterback guru who students have included current USC quarterback Matt Barkley, who started last season as a freshman (slacker). From the Los Angeles Times:

Clarkson said he phoned Kiffin on Thursday to inform him that one of his pupils, Santa Ana Mater Dei quarterback Max Wittek, had received a scholarship offer from Florida.

“While we were talking, I said, ‘I’m going to give you the scoop on a kid,’ ” Clarkson said.

Clarkson told Kiffin that the 6-foot, 145-pound Sills might be better than Clausen or Barkley, who started 12 games for USC in 2009. Then he instructed Kiffin to watch a video of Sills on his website.

“He calls back . . . after going through all the NCAA stuff, and says, ‘I’m prepared to offer this a kid a scholarship right now. Will he commit?’ ” Clarkson said.

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I don’t know if this is THE highlight tape Clarkson sent Kiffin, but Clarkson did put together this Sills highlight video.

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By the way, this is not the first time Lane Kiffin’s name has been linked to a barely-into-puberty commitment. In his one year at Tennessee, Kiffin offered a scholarship to 13-year-old quarterback/safety Evan Berry, whose father and brother had also played at the school. While he was an assistant at USC, Kiffin made an offer to a then freshman-in-high-school-quarterback — Barkley, who by happenstance will be Kiffin’s starting quarterback now that he’s back at USC.

Current Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell, while head coach at Wake Forest, offered a scholarship to quarterback Chris Leak when he was in the eighth grade. And it’s not just football. In 2008, Kentucky’s then-head basketball coach, Billy Gillespie, made waves by offering a full ride to California eighth-grader Michael Avery.

As ridiculous as recruiting pint-sized prospects sounds, I understand how it happens. For the school, it gets an early lock on an elite athlete, well before anyone else even thinks of recruiting him. For the athlete, the offer amounts to a sure thing that, in theory, will keep other coaches at bay and let them develop in less of a recruiting hothouse.

Of course, nothing ever really goes as planned. Leak decommitted from Wake Forest after his older brother, recruited in a naked attempt to get Leak himself, transferred. (Leak ended up at Florida.) When Gillespie was fired after the 2008-09 season, Avery decommitted, enrolled in a private high school in Florida, joined an AAU team in Indiana, and put himself back on the open market. (No word yet on whether Berry changed his mind after Kiffin left Tennessee for USC.)

There’s always the risk, too, that the athlete doesn’t develop as expected, or gets hurt. Leak was a star at Florida, but he topped out at six feet — not an elite size for a quarterback. Sills’ highlight tape looks great, but until a letter of intent is offered and signed, Kiffin can pull his offer at any time if Sills doesn’t grow much more, or breaks his arm, or develops a drug habit, or whatever peril can happen in the next five years.

But these early, early commitment go a long way toward explaining why you can find lists of the best fourth-grade basketball players in the nation. For competitive reasons, coaches are compelled to scout, and project, younger and younger players.

By the way, the NCAA followed Avery’s early commitment by, in early 2009, declaring seventh- and eighth-graders male basketball players “prospective athletes,” meaning schools could not recruit them. There is no indication yet that the same clamps will be put on football coaches.

Written by rkcookjr

February 5, 2010 at 11:06 am

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

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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.

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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.