Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Posts Tagged ‘middle school

Football coach arrested for running prostitution ring

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As the philosopher Big Daddy Kane once said, anything goes when it comes to hos ’cause pimpin’ ain’t easy. It gets a little more complicated if you’re also moonlighting as a volunteer middle school football coach.

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Yeah, this song sounded just as offensive in 1989.

27-year-old Christopher Wayne Foster, a coach in Springdale, Ark., was arrested in nearby Bentonville (Wal-Mart world headquarters) on charges relating to abduction and running a prostitution ring after a 23-year-old woman told police she had jumped from his vehicle. Police said she answered an online ad to work as an administrative assistant. She told police she met with Foster in his car to get money she said she was owed for her work, and she was horrified to learn his line of business — pimp. The woman told police Foster tried to drive away with her and abduct her, whereupon she jumped out of the car.

Apparently Foster had no criminal record before, or at least one that involved sex crimes, because nothing turned up when Central Junior High did his background check. Hey, the background check is a look at your past record, not “Minority Report.”

Police had some helpful advice for anyone not wanting to unwittingly work for a self-styled pimp — make sure your job interview is done at an office. From KFSM-TV in Fort Smith, Ark.:

“Obviously anybody that is asked to come for an interview with somebody who claims to a stock broker or attorney and wants to meet you at a restaurant and not their office, your curiosity should be raised a little bit,” said Chief James Allen.

One more bit of advice: if that person also violates another unwritten rule of job interviews and orders something sloppy like pasta with heavy cream and marinara sauce, just drop your napkin on the plate and walk out that door.

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Written by rkcookjr

May 23, 2010 at 10:37 pm

How bullying can happen: mass parental indifference

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You don’t have to be a parent who explicitly encourages your child’s bullying behavior, or knows of it and doesn’t discourage it, for such abuse to happen at school. Sometimes, all it takes is good people doing nothing.

Such as at East Middle School in Biscoe, N.C., where 12 students face juvenile charges for sexually hazing and bullying 13 younger members of the school baseball and soccer teams. Fox 8 News in Greensboro is reporting the efforts the school is making to get counseling for the victims and institute new anti-bullying programs.

But the school already tried reaching out to parents three months beforehand — and their efforts were met with a collective shoulder-shrug.

From Fox 8:

Officials at East Middle School held a poorly attended bullying awareness and prevention program for parents just three months before a dozen students face assault and sexual battery charges in connection with a sports team hazing ritual.

Attendance records show six parents attended the program, which was held in January.

I can’t get too haughty about how East Middle School parents must be horrible and ignorant, because my son’s junior high hosted a cyberbullying session for parents, complete with a speaker from Vermont whose son committed suicide after a long stretch of being on the receiving end of such activity. About 150 chairs were set up in the school gym. Counting me, seven parents showed up.

Of course, some parents don’t show because they’re working, or they can’t get child care. But, really, these pitiful numbers speak — to me, anyway — about how much parents want to put their heads in the sand about bullying and hazing. They figure if their kid isn’t a bully, or a victim, who cares? Or, more than that, they could never imagine their child in either position, so why bother? Or, worse yet, they chalk up such behavior as a normal part of growing up, so kids should just suck it up and tough it out — just like they did.

I don’t think the schools — or myself — are asking for parents to be rabid anti-bullying activists. It would be nice, though, if they would acknowledge that the behavior exists, and it’s not a good thing.

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

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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.

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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.

Youth sports hazing: not just for high schoolers, anymore

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If this is any indication of the atmosphere surrounding early-teen school sports, maybe it’s just as well my seventh-grade son got cut.

First, from Indianola, Iowa (as told by the Des Moines Register):

Two members of the Indianola Middle School track team were charged with assault last week in connection with an alleged hazing incident.

Carter Jacobsen, 14, and Trey Kuehl, 15, both of Indianola, were accused of tackling a 14-year-old teammate and holding him down before a track practice. … [EDITOR’S NOTE: Please please please, God, tell me the parents of the latter boy didn’t give him his name as an homage to Green Day drummer Tre Cool.]

Indianola Middle School Principal Mike O’Meara told police that Kuehl and Jacobsen held the victim down and rubbed their testicles on his face.

“There were some sexual connotations in the report but we couldn’t establish that, so we just charged them with simple assault,” Police Chief Steve Bonnett said.

The victim’s mother declined to comment when reached [April 20].

Kuehl and Jacobsen told school authorities that they held the victim down, but denied rubbing their testicles on his face, according to Marsh’s police report.

And from Biscoe, N.C., as told by Fox8 in Greensboro:

At least 10 eighth-graders at East Middle School have been suspended for involvement in alleged sexual bullying and/or hazing over the past week, according to Montgomery County Sheriff Jeff Jordan.

The suspended students are suspected of bullying sixth- and seventh-graders on the soccer and baseball teams, primarily in the boys locker room. A parent told FOX8 News on Tuesday that her son witnessed the eighth-graders pinning younger students against a wall and grinding their groin into the victim’s bottom.

Jordan said the [nine] victims were targeted because they were new to the athletic teams.

Parents and schools needs to teach a simple lesson that would eliminate so many of these incidents. That lesson: keep your hands to yourself.

In Indianola, Jacobsen’s father told the Register his son was just wrestling and horsing around, which a lot of boys were doing. Apparently his son and the other boy didn’t see fit to share that with police, who reported the boys made no statements in meeting attended by their parents. Regardless, if Jacobsen’s father wants to proclaim his son’s innocence, hey, that’s his right. But he should tell his son, when the door is shut, to stop playing grab-ass before track practice. I give the school credit, though: it seemed to deal with this appropriately and swiftly.

I can’t say so much for the schools in Biscoe, N.C., given the Fox8 reports. The school has only made statements that it’s looking into the matter, and it has made clear that the topic of sports bullying and hazing (which the sheriff says also might be happening at the nearby high school) is off-limits at an upcoming Parent-Teachers Organization meeting, April 22. Parents, if they bring up hazing, will be encouraged to speak to the principal privately.

Good luck with that, East Middle School! I understand there are privacy laws, but it might behoove the administrators there to talk about how it was possible for the behavior alleged by police to take place not over a few days — but apparently a few years.

Written by rkcookjr

April 21, 2010 at 6:34 pm

That's not bullying! It's tradition!

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A big part of the problem in fighting bullying and hazing in schools, and on their sports teams, is that no one in authority can seem to agree on what bullying and hazing is. To you, mean cheerleaders stuffing another girl in a locker against her will is probably bullying. But to, say, a principal, it can be written off as a school tradition.

For example, take this incident at Elm Grove (La.) Middle School, near Shreveport.

A sixth-grade girl, Abigail Herring, said that during cheerleader tryouts, she was shoved into a locker, had trash thrown at her, and then had the door shut on her while another cheerleader stood guard for 20 minutes. Sounds a lot like bullying, right? Or hazing? Or something you probably would lose your shit over if you heard it happened to your kid? (For example, if you’re Abigail Herring’s mom, losing your shit enough to run to a local TV station so your daughter could tell her story.)

But to principal Bobby Marlow and his crack investigative team at Elm Grove Middle School, what happened to Abigail Herring was not bullying. From KSLA-TV in Shreveport:

He told us the school’s resource officer completed a thorough investigation, “and what bullying would be is when somebody is repeatedly affected in a negative way by someone.”

Marlow described what happened to Abigail Herring as an unofficial tradition he knew nothing about.  “Evidently, it had gone on for several years where a girl would get in a locker for good luck on the tryouts.”

So let’s see if I get Marlow straight. If we were in school together, and I shoved a broomstick up his ass once, that’s not bullying, because I wouldn’t be repeatedly affecting him in a negative way, right? Now, if I did it twice, that’s wrong. But once, OK.

And, if shoving a broomstick up someone’s ass was an “unofficial tradition” for “good luck,” I’m even more off the hook, right? “Hey, meat! Bend over for good luck! It’s an unofficial tradition! That we’ll only do once!”

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Why do we stuff you in a locker? Tradition!

To be fair to Marlow, plenty of parents, administrators and prosecutors somehow excuse bullying behavior they would never tolerate otherwise as long as it involves kids and sports. It’s this kind of twisting of logic that leads many of us to the conclusion that  waterboarding isn’t torture, at least when our side is doing it.

And in these cases of bullying and hazing involving kids in sports, the bullying is coming from people who are supposed to be part of the same team! On what planet can you, say, interview for a job and be told that before you can be part of the company, you have to participate in some “unofficial tradition” that involves your abject humiliation? You know, to prove yourself worthy. One of us.

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Gobble, gobble, we accept her.

For the record, Marlow says the “unofficial tradition” of stuffing prospective cheerleaders in a locker is over. At least that tradition. Oh, and apparently the good-luck charm didn’t work, because Abigail didn’t make the squad.

'The junior high Paterno'

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“Junior high Paterno” is the nom de guerre the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune affixed to one Barry Crust, who is in his last year coaching middle school sports at Hudtloff Middle School in Lakewood, Wash. That’s not because Crust has coke bottle bottoms on his glasses, wears white socks with any shoes, and found late-career success by loosening his recruiting standards to include more criminals. It’s because Crust is old.

Crust started at Lakewood in 1967 and never went anywhere else, beginning his career one year after Paterno took the head job for Penn State’s football team and never went anywhere else. As the News Tribune itself noted, all Paterno had to do was coach football. By the newspaper’s calculation, Crust has coached the equivalent of 117 seasons — a “baseball coach for 42 years, a wrestling coach for 31 years, a football coach for 26 years, a fastpitch coach for 14 years. Factor in a couple of years of basketball and one each for track and volleyball … .” Crust retired as a physical education teacher in 1997, but he’ll finish his 118th and final season in the spring of 2010 when he coach’s Hudtloff’s baseball team.

The News Tribune asked Crust how kids and sports have changed over 42 years, naturally. Crust’s answers are not what you’d call, well, crusty:

— Girls aren’t just stuck in intramurals anymore, something Crust thought was “silly” and “unfair.”

— Other than being bigger and faster, and having different hairstyles, kids haven’t really changed much over the years.

— The biggest change has been the decline of the all-around athlete.

Crust fears the concept of the all-around athlete has been compromised by a youth-sports culture that demands specialized talents.

“We’ll have an after-school baseball practice from 3:15 to 5,” he said, “and then the kids are picked up for their next practice, which goes until 7. What that means is I’m not their only coach, so I’ve got to be flexible.

“Take bunting. If you don’t know how to bunt, I’ll show you. But if you’ve learned a different technique from somebody else, I don’t want to waste our time trying to undo everything.”

Interestingly, Crust credits spreading himself coaching over multiple sports as a reason why he lasted so long.

Not that Crust bemoans the relative brevity of any junior high sports season. To the contrary, he believes the schedule – two weeks of practice, five weeks of games, everything wrapped up in two months – kept him fresh during the three decades he spent as full-time P.E. instructor and busy-bodied coach.

It sounds like Crust kept some perspective about youth sports and his role in them. No wonder he appears to be retiring happy, and on his own terms.

Written by rkcookjr

November 22, 2009 at 8:46 pm

My kid's not going junior high: dealing with getting cut

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In all my four children’s lifetimes, never has the simple act of getting off the school bus been such a sign of doom.

If my seventh-grade son had survived the final cut of his school’s volleyball tryouts, he would have been at practice today instead of being on that bus. He made it through the first cut down to 20. But he didn’t get picked for the final roster of 14 seventh- and eighth-grade boys.  I found out when my wife texted me, “He just got off the bus. Damn.”

Before I get into the issue of cut or not to cut, let me say that no matter how you feel, getting cut, or seeing your kid get cut, is a punch in the gut. Getting told you’re not good enough to do something is always a rotten feeling, no matter how old you are, no matter what you’re doing.

My son had two days to impress the coaches (though they also saw him in a summer camp), and that doesn’t give you a lot of margin for error. I think he should be proud that he is officially among the 20 best boys’ volleyball players in his school, especially because my understanding is that only five seventh-graders made it to the final tryout. But right now I’m sure he’s upset, and I’m upset for him.

Now, this day, is not the time to share the oft-told, inspiring (and completely untrue) story of how Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore (he was put on the junior varsity team, as most sophomores are). It’s also not the time to start plotting how many camps he’ll go to so he can have a better shot next year. It’s also not time to tell him about all the opportunities it opens up. (Sheesh, I get offended when my wife half-jokingly tells me about all the free time I have when the Indianapolis Colts or Indiana Pacers season ends in a crushing playoff loss, though the Pacers’ haven’t been good enough to give me that headache lately.)

Today is about grieving. If that sounds a bit much, then you’ve probably never been cut before.

However, I’m not joining the chorus of those who say nobody should ever be cut from a school team. I’m not sure we can surmise that the genesis of school shootings is kids getting cut from the basketball team. On the other hand, I’m not saying that I’m a hard-ass who believes snot-nosed kids should learn early and often how much they suck so they can move onto more appropriate pursuits, like staying the hell out of the jocks’ way. If a school wants to do cuts or no cuts, it doesn’t bother me — though it would be nice if schools had intramural programs for kids who either didn’t make the team or would rather play in a more casual setting.

Getting cut can go either way for a child, and for a parent. It can be a positive experience that teaches a child about dealing with disappointment. It can be a valuable lesson in telling a child that maybe there’s somewhere else where his or her talents will work and be appreciated. Or it can be a valuable lesson in how hard work on your own time is the key to success, and coming back from being knocked down.

Or it can be a crushing blow to a child’s self-esteem, making him or her feel a little less like a functioning member of society. That’s always the initial feeling. The trick is morphing that feeling into the positive experience I described in the previous paragraph.

The question is how to do that. How can I help him? Should he spend a year working hard on his game for next year’s tryouts? Should he forget volleyball and pursue other interests? (Even before volleyball tryouts, he said he wanted to do a tech/computer club, a strategy games club and learn drums in the school band.) How long is the mourning period for being cut? (My only sport in high school with cross country and track, where no one got cut.)

I’ve love to learn from your experience, if nothing else so getting off the bus can be a happier event.

Written by rkcookjr

August 27, 2009 at 6:07 pm