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Posts Tagged ‘Michigan

Middle school cracks down on football players who don’t respect sanctity of dead squirrels

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Now if I found out my son was messing with a dead squirrel, once I was assured he wasn’t having sex with it, I would bring him to the doctor for whatever shots you get for messing with a dead squirrel. However, I would be a bit shocked if messing with a dead squirrel led to his dismissal from his favorite extracurricular activity (that didn’t involve messing with a dead squirrel).

North Branch (Mich.) Middle School, however, countenances no messing with a dead squirrel. From NBC25 in Clio, Mich. (outside of Flint, if you must know):

It all started last week.  Fourteen year old Gabe Wells says he and his teammates were walking back to the school building after football practice.  He saw a dead squirrel in the parking lot that he says had been there for some time.

“I told my coach, ‘Hey, my mom made you dinner,’” says Gabe.

He says his coach laughed and continued on his way.  Gabe says he and his team mates kept joking.

Gabe says he saw a Subway bag, tied it around the coach’s “dinner”, then used it to tie the squirrel to a nearby tree.  He then picked a cigarette butt up off the ground and put it in the squirrel’s mouth, saying, “That is what happens when you smoke, you die.”

That night he even made a post on facebook about it, telling facebook friends he wanted to send the message out, don’t smoke.  He even picked on his father for being a smoker.

The next day Gabe says he got a surprise, when the principal called him down to the office.  He says he spent most of the there, missing class and lunch, after being told he was in trouble for his incident with the squirrel.

The principal accused Gabe of gross misconduct, no pun intended. Gabe’s mother told NBC25 that she was told her son could be suspended from the team for this year, and next year, be suspended from school, and charged with animal abuse. You’d think Gabe had had sex with a live squirrel, for all the outrage. Does PETA protest for abuses to animals previously killed by natural causes and/or when they were run over in the parking lot?

Gabe’s parents knew what to do: alert the media. Gabe’s father dialed up Clio, Mich., and got NBC25 on the phone, and on the case.

NBC25 called the superintendent’s office.  Superintendent Tom English said he knew a dead squirrel had been tied in a tree, an inappropriate incident that other students had to witness, but he was not completely aware of the resulting discipline.

He called back a short time later and said the school had decided all ten students at first believed to be involved would not be in trouble.  Only four of them would face consequences for their actions with the squirrel, including Gabe Wells. They would not be suspended or face charges, but they would be missing the last football game of the season.

Justice is served. And so, apparently if Gabe is around, is squirrel.

Written by rkcookjr

October 25, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Parents search for dislike button after coach’s Facebook rants

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Fellow coaches: I know we all have complaints from time to time about the parents of the children we lead. Complaints like, they’re fucking asshole making our lives hellish and shorter, and filling us with existential dread as we watch their poor offspring take their first steps toward a future appearance on Dr. Phil.

But, shit, most of us are smart enough to limit our complaints to ourselves, our spouses, or our little-read blogs. Most of us are smart enough not to jump onto whatever social media site is handing to broadcast our pain.

Jason Windsor, recently resigned soccer coach at Royal Oak (Mich.), is not most of us. From the Royal Oak Tribune:

Just a few weeks into the season, Jason Windsor suddenly resigned his position as varsity soccer coach at Royal Oak High School following complaints by parents about his Facebook postings.

Windsor resigned Monday [Oct. 4] because of schedule conflicts [he coaches other travel teams], according to Superintendent Thomas Moline. However, a copy of the coach’s Facebook page indicates there was a conflict between him and some parents, too.

Last week parents confronted school officials about the coach using the social networking site to threaten to penalize players if parents crossed him. Windsor contends his account was hacked and he didn’t make the comments in question.

One Facebook posting said: “3 words my varsity soccer parents will get used to this week. BENCH, JV, CUT. You will all be taught a lesson you sh– stirring pri—!!!!!!!”

In other posts, he is accused of dropping F-bombs and wrote “(certain) Parents are the worst part of kid’s sports” and “great set of results on the field today! shame certain soccer moms make soccer so negative.”

I presume WIndsor, or that mysterious band of hackers, didn’t type hyphens to play what Sports Illustrated’s Steve Rushin once referred to as “obscene hangman.”

Written by rkcookjr

October 6, 2010 at 11:22 pm

High school football team solves Ramadan, heatstroke problem in one fell swoop

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The football team at Dearborn (Mich.) Fordson High School reflects the population of its student body, in that both are heavily of the Arabic persuasion.

The challenge for the football team comes when Ramadan, a holy month in Islam whose most prominent feature is the requirement that Muslims refrain from eating and drinking in daylight hours. Dearborn Fordson has learned from past experience that when Ramadan falls during football season, not eating and drinking, intended to bulk up the spiritual strength of the players, tends to sap their physical strength. Plus, players refusing water during hot August practices can be a tad dangerous.

So the Tractors, as they are called, came up with a way to solve the conflict between two religions (Islam and football), prevent heat exhaustion AND give their players a legitimate excuse for breaking curfew. From the Press & Guide Newspapers in Dearborn:

Fordson coach Fouad Zaban said the plan was to work from midnight until about 5 a.m. during the preseason, which this season falls during the period of Ramadan fasting.

“We’ve always had to practice and do some work while most of the kids were fasting and we’ve done what we can to adjust everyone’s schedule,” said Zaban, “but this is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to really do something about it.

“School hasn’t started yet and we don’t have a game for three more weeks, so we can change our schedule around and now we won’t have players running around out there when it’s 90 degrees and they can’t get a drink of water.

“It’s a safety issue, but we think it’s going to be fun, too.”

On top of that, the players will get to spend their fasting time the easiest way possible: sleeping.

Actually, having midnight practices might not be a bad idea for the non-Muslim football population as well, at least as a way to beat the heat. Already this summer, there have been reports out of Atlanta, Kansas City, Rowan County, Ky., of high school football players being taken to hospitals because of heat exhaustion. In the Louisville area — where one Jason Stinson was tried but acquitted after one of his players died during a hot practice — one Christian high school is starting before sunrise.

And its training table isn’t even halal.

Written by rkcookjr

August 11, 2010 at 10:46 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

School sports has a sugar daddy (or mama) in Michigan

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[youtubevid id=”1r42Abu_IF8″]

Michael Jackson singing about how he wants to be your sugar daddy — gives you a little shudder, doesn’t it?

The Hastings, Mich., schools, like a lot of districts, require athletes to pay a fee in order to participate in sports. Except that in the three years the fee has been in place, only one person has actually paid it — an anonymous donor. Here’s how it works, from WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids:

For the third straight year, an anonymous donor covered all the costs for middle- and high school students to play athletics next year, writing a $68,802 check.

The amount is set on a projection of how many kids will play sports, and the costs associated with each.

The school system refuses to give up the name of the donor. I could make baseless speculation based on the famous people or industry titans that come from Hastings, except there aren’t any. So I won’t.

Written by rkcookjr

February 19, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Ref executes throat hold on high school wrestler

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You don’t misbehave on Erich Schifter’s mat!

[youtubevid id=”aIKEfQakvk4″]

According to the Tecumseh (Mich.) Herald, which shot the above video, during a Jan. 23 meet Schifter went all ape-schift on Tecumseh High’s Tim Elkins, pushing him by the throat, for the sin of going back after his opponent after Schifter had whistled them out of bounds. The video doesn’t start until the throat-push, and the story also doesn’t make clear whether Elkins was going all ape-schift himself on the other wrestler, or whether he merely was unaware he needed to wait for Schifter to reposition him on the mat before resuming wrestling.

The school can file a complaint if it wishes with the Michigan High School Athletic Association for Schifter getting all Bob Knight-Neil Reed on its wrestler. No word yet on if it is planning to do so. For what it’s worth, Schifter has more than 30 years’ experience officiating wrestling for the MHSAA. At the least, Schifter should get some sort of reprimand. I understand he wanted to separate the wrestlers, but a little hand to the chest could have accomplished that. Plus, what is with him yelling that this is “my mat!” Did he pay for it? I think not.

By the way, the best part of the Tecumseh Herald video is not the actual throat push, but the slo-mo version the paper included, complete with slowed-down, James Earl Jones-on-ludes voices like a Saturday Night Live parody of a suspense movie: “Thhhhhhhaaaaaaaaasssssss myyyyyyyyyyyy maaaaaaaaaattttttttt!!!!”

(Hat tip to

Written by rkcookjr

January 29, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Charlie Weis: your youth coaching anti-role model

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Notre Dame Weis FootballI could do this piece about any of the arrogant incompetents who have fallen on their heads out of the Bill Belichick coaching tree (Mangenius, anyone?). But given the epic way Notre Dame football coach snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory thanks to his decision-making, Charlie Weis becomes the A-1 exhibit of how not to coach.

Weis is an abject lesson that no matter what level you coach, the moment you put the need to show off your genius before the needs of helping your team, you and your team are both sunk.

Today was but one example: leading 34-31 at Michigan with 2:29 to go, Notre Dame has the ball on its own 29-yard line. A first-down run had just gotten stuffed, though the previous run gained a first down. Anyway, Michigan calls time out. You’re in serious time-killing mode here if you’re Notre Dame. Worst-case scenario (other than a fumble), is two runs that get stuffed, two more timeouts called by Michigan, and the Wolverines have to drive without benefit of a time out. Best-case scenario is you pick up another first down and run out the clock.

Instead, Weis has to show what a genius he is, and calls (note — he took over offensive play-calling this year) a long pass down the sideline. Yes, Notre Dame’s passing game had worked well, and if the pass is complete the game is as good as done. But the running game had average more than 5 yards per rush. You have the lead, and you’re trying to kill the clock, not win the game. So the pass is incomplete, and Weis, now on 3rd-and-10, calls another long pass. Michigan gets the ball back at its own 42 on a punt, with 2:13 to go, and two timeouts. Michigan scores the game-winning touchdown with 11 seconds left — 11 seconds it would not have had if Notre Dame at least had run the ball twice and forced the Wolverines to take two time outs.

The reason why that sequence, as the one that will probably get Weis fired at year’s end at Notre Dame, is such an example of how not to coach goes beyond whether Notre Dame won or lost. Instead working with his team to put it in a position to do its best, Weis’ ego took over. He figured he was genius enough to come up with the play that would get him backslaps from all over about how smart he is. Now, he’s looking very, very dumb.

What does this mean for a youth coach? The lesson, as always, is that you as a coach are not the supposed to be the reason your team wins or loses, or why your players succeed or don’t. Your job as a coach is to teach your players the best you know how, and put them in the best position to succeed.

Certainly, when you’re coaching the girls’ fourth-grade basketball team the issues are different than when you’re coaching Notre Dame football. But the point is that you shouldn’t coach in a way that puts the spotlight on you. Success is not a group of parents giving you a backslap because you’re such a great tactician. You know you’re doing a great job when everyone is happy, and no one is sending you nasty emails about what an asshole you are.

Written by rkcookjr

September 12, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Minnesota declares a week without sports…

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…and I’m sure it’ll be just as effective as TV Turnoff Week.

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

…[t]he Minnesota State High School League [approved] a no-contact period for coaches and student-athletes effective July 1-7, 2010. The amendment, which the MSHSL representative assembly passed by a 43-2 vote, calls for an Independence Week of sorts, a small piece of summer reserved for athletes and their families.

“The kids need breaks,” MSHSL executive director Dave Stead said. “They are not collegians connected through a scholarship to play a sport. The good coaches know that, and they’ll make the adjustments.”

Metro-area coaches, while acknowledging a seven-day moratorium is not a big deal — Apple Valley wrestling coach Jim Jackson called it “trivial” — question two principal implications. Girls’ basketball coaches Faith Patterson of Minneapolis North and Ray Finley of Providence Academy wondered what message is being sent when only high school coaches — not AAU basketball coaches — are asked to provide time for kids to be kids.

And Blaine boys’ hockey coach Dave Aus and Spring Lake Park boys’ basketball coach Grant Guzy are concerned that the MSHSL might decide to expand the no-contact period. If that happened, Wayzata football coach Brad Anderson worries that athletes choosing to invest in private instruction might not get a worthwhile return.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association established a similar summer no-contact period in 2007. Associate director Tom Rashid said schools can choose their own seven-day break to be completed by Aug. 1, and about 95 percent do so over the Fourth of July. Adjusting to the new rule, Rashid said, took time.

“We probably had 100 phone calls that first summer, maybe more, from coaches asking, ‘I can’t do this? I can’t do that?’ Rashid said. “The amount of agony in the first year of the program to find 168 hours of no high school sports led me to believe that we absolutely needed something to pull the reins back.”

Bless their bleeding hearts and good intentions, but here are the problems for any high school athletic association mandating a week without sports.

The elite athletes, as noted above, are going to keep playing AAU and club sports, so all this rule does is give athletes and their parents one more reason to find school-affiliated sports lacking in comparison.

As for the comments that athletes investing in instruction might not get a worthwhile return — it sounds crazy that one week mandating no practices or games might make that much of a difference. But I’m sure every hockey and basketball coach (and every other coach in every sport but football) in Minnesota (and the nation) sweats whether the best players are going to keep playing high school sports, knowing college recruiters are paying a lot more attention to the more elite club level.

Meanwhile, the middling high school athletes, trying to keep up, will still end up in private sessions, worthwhile return or not. So it’s not like they’re actually taking a week off — nor are their parents.

I know we’re all trying to figure out ways to de-emphasize sports so kids aren’t getting mentally or physically burned out. But Minnesota’s rule rests on an assumption that kids at the high school level are burning out. That’s not necessarily so. Most surveys talk about 75 percent of youth athletes quitting by age 13. However, one Canadian study, looking at registration data, posits the idea that the decline in youth sports participation into the teenage years not a matter of kids quitting en masse in the tween years– it’s that fewer new players join a sport as the years go on. That makes sense, given the early age so many kids start in sports, and the self-selection either in discovering one’s talent or realizing one is a long way back from the kids who have played for a while.

There are players quoted in the Star-Tribune story saying they feel like the week without sports is ridiculous. After all, if you’re dedicated to some activity at the high school level, you’re probably good at it and passionate about it. Heck, my 6-year-old son, whose T-ball closing ceremony is tonight, is upset he can’t start next year’s league tomorrow.

Minnesota’s move for a week without sports comes from lofty ideals, and I’m sure there are parents who hope that really means they’re on break for a week. However, I doubt it’s going to change the athletic landscape in the state, except to tip a few more of the top athletes away from high school sports.

Getting knocked off the tee of life

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Put your T-ball tees at half-height, or pour a 40-ouncer on them, or do something in memoriam, because the Michigan gym teacher credited with popularizing T-ball has died at the age of 93.

Jerome “Jerry” Sacharski was a teacher and coach in the Albion Public Schools from 1951 to 1980. But his legend was made one fateful summer. From The Associated Press:

T-ball helps young children develop baseball skills while eliminating one of its most difficult aspects: hitting pitched balls. They instead hit baseballs from adjustable tees placed on home plate.

The game’s exact origin is unclear but behind Sacharski, Albion in 1956 became one of the nation’s first communities in which T-ball was played as an organized sport.

On June 19, 2002, former U.S. Rep. Nick Smith, a Michigan Republican, offered a tribute to Sacharski and his T-ball efforts from the House floor.

“After he started teaching, Jerry took it upon himself in 1954 to head up the Albion recreation department’s summer baseball program,” Smith said at the time. “Because of this position, he was able to see the lack of opportunity for younger children that two years later would drive him to develop one of the largest innovations in youth sports.”

The original Mr. T at work.

Here is an earlier account of Sacharski’s work. It was written by the local newspaper the Morning Star, and reposted on an Albion history site. It notes that Sacharski called the game “Pee Wee” instead of T-ball.

The program grew astronomically in its early years. It began with 60 boys in 1956, 185 in 1958, and 228 in 1960. The novelty of the game caught on, and in 1960 Albion boys played at a game at Michigan State University that was filmed and aired on educational television station WMSB channel 10. The program soon received regional press and various presentations were made by Sacharski as the new sport caught on. Albion’s “Pee-Wee” pre-T-Ball origin of the sport was forgotten when the game was developed elsewhere nationally in the 1960s. The tee eventually became the focal point in naming the game, which evolved from Tee-Ball to T-Ball. But we were first in Albion to use the tee in an organized baseball game.

Not everyone is willing to credit Sacharski as the inventor, or even popularizer, of T-ball. A Florida principal named Dayton Hobbs was the first to register the name Tee Ball and on the official Tee Ball site, he is credited as the game’s inventor, in 1960. No mention of Sacharski anywhere. Meanwhile, the Starkville (Miss.) Rotary Club claims two of its members invented the game, with the date of origin sometime in the early 1960s. (By the way, Voit is the company widely credited as having built the first batting tees, though they were intended as training tools, not the basis for a league.)

Whoever the real inventor — and Sacharski at least has documented proof he was running T-ball before Hobbs and the Starkville Rotarians — that person might also have inadvertently paved the way for starting kids in organized sports at tremendously young ages. As Rep. Smith described it in his 2002 tribute to Sacharski:

Because of this lack of coordination in younger children, for years baseball opportunities for children had consisted only of little league teams for children 11 and 12 years of age, and baseball leagues for children over 14. This was not acceptable to Jerry. Instead of simply perpetuating the lack of opportunities for younger children, Jerry acted and came up with a system that we all take for granted today.

Written by rkcookjr

March 2, 2009 at 2:02 pm