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Posts Tagged ‘North Carolina

After dismissals and defections, high school hoops coach calls up full junior varsity

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Not unusual: players being called up from junior varsity to varsity in the middle of the season. Unusual: the whole junior varsity team being called up to varsity in the middle of the season.

It’s happened at East Henderson High in Hendersonville, N.C. Between the players that new coach Clint Loftin dismissed for “lack of heart,” and those that quit the team, East Henderson lost six players between Dec. 15 and New Year’s. So for their first game of the calendar year, Jan. 4, Loftin called up all 10 JV players to join the six varsity players who were left. East Henderson lost to Smoky Mountain High, 76-33, to fall to 2-8.

From BlueRidgeNow.com:

“Believe it or not, I’m not too upset with the loss tonight because there was never a moment in the game that I felt like they stopped playing,” Loftin said. “It was really a JV team playing against a varsity team.”

Since Loftin made the decision to pull up the entire JV squad, the complete team had only practiced together twice before Tuesday’s game. …

“We will come in tomorrow and have an unbelievable practice because of the kind of kids they are,” Loftin said. “I leave practice energetic and excited now.”

Although the many changes right in the middle of the season have caused somewhat of a setback, East Athletic Director John Bryant said the school is standing behind Loftin, but above all, behind its student-athletes.

“It’s been difficult and challenging right now, but we believe in the kids that are here,” Bryant said. “While it’s been a difficult time, there is also a joy in seeing the resilience of the kids and the coach. We’re continuing to believe in them.”

The parents of the departed players planned to complain at the Jan. 10 school board meeting, although it appears the snowstorm moving through the region is keeping the sides apart for now.

So what precipitated all this? Apparently Loftin decided that three players — including Shack Davis, the team’s starting point guard and an all-state football player — suffered from a “lack of heart.” According to BlueRidgeNow.com, following a Dec. 14 loss, Loftin held a team meeting, following which several players said they were considering quitting the team. On Dec. 16, without the three suspended players, East Henderson was blown out. Three more players quit thereafter — which is why Loftin felt the need to get every warm JV body he could.

There are still a lot of details not yet available over exactly went down. But it certainly sounds like a case in which some Coach Hardass decided to run a tight ship in which it was his way or the highway — and right now there’s a traffic jam on the highway. Perhaps Davis and the others (all seniors) were going through the motions, and perhaps there is a method to Loftin’s madness that will pay off next season.

On the other hand, part of being a good coach is dealing with the players you have — not running off everyone except the minions who are only show fealty to you. Does Loftin want players, or automatons? Well, at least the JV kids now won’t have fans itching to get them off the floor so the real game can start.

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Written by rkcookjr

January 10, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Powerball winner funds prep softball field, undermines hard-work message

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Coaches (such as myself) like to teach that hard work is the key to success, that luck is only the sudden opportunity to take advantage of all the time and focus a player has brought to the game. However, what we fail to accept is that sometimes chance and dumb luck happens, whether we like it or not.

At Enka High School in Candler, N.C., outside of Asheville, members of the Sugar Jets (great nickname, isn’t it?) softball team will get a reminder about how hard work knuckles under to the whims of chance whenever they step onto their first-ever home field — funded and named after the Sugar Jet Daddy who just won a metric assload of money in the Powerball lottery.

From the Asheville Citizen Times:

Enka expects to break ground next month on the $700,000 Griffin Field at Sugar Jet Park facility along Enka Lake Road. Its amenities will include seatback chairs, a press box, locker rooms, a laundry room and space for video study.

Most of the money for the project is coming from [family spokesman Kevin] Griffin’s family — his daughter is junior Chelsea Griffin and her grandfather, Frank, won a $141.4 million Powerball lottery jackpot in February.

I’m imagining Chelsea Griffin is being recruited by every club in the school right now. “Hey, Chelsea — wanna join the French Club and bring $100,000 with you?”

Talk about dumb luck: Frank Griffin, a retired Asheville firefighter, bought his winning ticket one day when he had $5 left after pumping gas and figured, what the hell, why not play the lottery. He let the computer pick the numbers. He didn’t know there was a $141 million drawing the night he bought the tickets, Feb. 6, 2010. So, to summarize, Griffin did not participate in a weekly pool, where he carefully plotted what numbers he thought had the best odds. He just decided to piss away $5 for fun, and ended up taking $69 million in a lump-sum payment, or $47 million after taxes. (By the way, do people still complain that winning the lottery is great, but for the damn taxes? I’m guessing Frank is pretty happy to clear $47 million, no matter what the IRS share.)

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Frank Griffin’s lottery-winning message to the guy who told him not to buy tickets: “Fuck you, Larry.”

The school isn’t totally relying on Frank Griffin’s lucky break-fueled generosity. It’s selling naming rights for the individual seats. Still, it’s not like Enka High had to sweat to woo Griffin. It was the lucky school that had his granddaughter on the roster.

You know how in a lot of sports stadiums or locker rooms, there’s an inspirational quote to fire up the team as it hits the field? At Griffin Field at Sugar Jet Park (I’ll buy a T-shirt with that logo), the quote should come from one of Eddie Murphy’s early skits on Saturday Night Live:

…Life is luck. If you’re not lucky, you’re a bum. So go ahead, drop out of school. Get each other pregnant and play Space Invaders.

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Go ahead, play it.

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.

Money can't buy you love, or your kid a high-profile college scholarship

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Rivals.com has a very interesting piece about the sort of monster the site’s near-child-pornographic pantings and ratings of post-pubescent players has helped to make more common.

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It’s alive! And it has a four-star rating!

The story is about Cody Keith, akid whose father is obsessed  with getting him a scholarship to play quarterback at a big-time university. That’s a lot of people’s obsession, except that Cody’s father, Greg, has the money to do it, thanks to a successful development business Greg runs with his father, Graeme, a board member for Billy Graham’s ministries.

Actually, Rivals goes pretty easy on Greg Keith’s ambitions. His shuttling Cody to three schools in three years, including two within Charlotte, N.C., and one in Pasadena, Calif. His hooking up Cody in numerous passing camps, including one by guru-to-the-aspiring stars Steve Clarkson (an initial consultation will set you back $3,000). His connections to Peyton Manning’s quarterback coach, Clyde Christiansen of the Indianapolis Colts, to work out Cody. His putting a lot of money into one high school so he could, ahem, influence the football coach’s decision. His putting one $2.8 million house up for rent and buying a $787,000 house so Cody could transfer to a school in Charlotte where he could start at quarterback after that influence money didn’t work. His moving the family to southern California when that starting job in Charlotte turned out to be mostly handing off. His allowing a North Carolina filmmaker to follow Cody around for a little movie they call “The Hopeful.”

I probably left something out.

To Rivals, Greg Keith is but a loving and supportive dad. But of course he is, or else Rivals is shitting on their own gravy train.

“We’re a Christian family that’s very close knit,” Greg Keith told the Pasadena Star-News in one of the rare interviews the family has given since moving to California. “We’re a family trying to raise our kids the best we can.”

But know this: When Cody Keith gets down about football, he doesn’t turn to Clarkson, his speed coach or even Clyde Christiansen, an assistant with the Indianapolis Colts that Greg Keith arranged to work out his son – just so the practice could be on a DVD about his son for potential college suitors.

When times get tough, Cody Keith turns to his dad – and did so after his horrendous opening game.

The morning after the three-interception fiasco, he walked into his father’s study. Greg Keith, on the phone, looked up saw his son’s anguish.

“I’m going to have to call you back,” Greg Keith said.

Cody Keith slumped in a chair.

“I feel like I let my team down,” he said. “I feel like I let you and mom down.”

The words rattled Greg Keith.

“Hold it, Cody,” he said. “You need to understand something. I love you for who you are, not for what you do. And it makes no difference to me whether you play football or not. You’re still my son, and I’m proud of you for the type of young man you are.” …

He is The Hopeful. Or is it the transfer? Or perhaps, the rich guy’s kid?

Or maybe he’s just another high schooler playing quarterback – one who may unfairly get the blame or the credit from those in the stands, depending on how that week’s game is going.

Isn’t that so beautiful you want to vomit?

The Charlotte Observer had a different impression of the Keiths, with parents at one high school, the one where Cody didn’t start, complaining about how they threw their money influence around to get their son playing time he didn’t deserve any more than any other child. The Observer, in a story last year about Cody’s transfer from one high school to another, noted the old ghosts of Cody’s parents past that seemed to still haunt them.

Greg Keith attended Myers Park himself as a teen. His father pulled him out when the basketball coach refused to play him ahead of older players. Greg enrolled in McCallie [a private school in Chattanooga, Tenn.], where he became the school’s all-time leading scorer and earned a scholarship to the University of Georgia.

India Keith was a young girl swimming for fun in Hillsville, Va., when some Junior Olympics coaches asked if she could be brought to the next town each day to train. Her family wasn’t able to do it.

Now a lawyer, she still wonders how good she might have been.

“I just don’t want to have that regret with my kids.”

So when Cody found himself stuck as Myers Park’s backup quarterback last season, the Keiths decided to act. They believed their son had the talent to start.

How much talent does Cody really have? Not much. For all that money and time spent, he, sad to say, a fairly average quarterback on a not-so-good team (zero wins so far). Rivals itself notes that Cody is listed among college prospects, but not ranked among the elite. Steve Clarkson, smart enough to know not to upset a frequent client, said Cody has a “considerable amount of upside.” This is the sports equivalent of calling a house a “handyman’s special.” For all that work, Cody is not only going pro, but maybe isn’t going Division I either. I hope the Keiths saved up enough money to pay for any therapy bills — and not necessarily their son’s.

After all, you have Greg Keith, a successful businessman, and his wife India, a successful lawyer, two people who know the value of an education, and they’re willing to piss away time and money for the increasingly futile pursuit of their son’s athletic glory and the exorcism of their past athletic demons. No wonder the rest of us feel the need to have to pay so much to put our kids in competitive sports, what with rich obsessives like this.

Learning to get over how your kid's sports prowess (or lack thereof) reflects on you

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As a follow to my Field Guide to Youth Sports Parents, a scary look at parental excesses that has already struck many young couples sterile, I highlight a column from Alex Podlogar, the sports editor for the Herald in Sanford, N.C, in which he reflects on the evolution of his own dreams of youth sports parenting as his daughter announces her retirement from the sport of soccer. At age 6.

The lesson the column teaches is that good or bad sports parenting isn’t about dreaming of your in utero child becoming World Series MVP — it’s about what you do with those dreams when it becomes abundantly clear that day will never come.

Podlogar calls himelf an “idiot” for what he thought before his daughter was born about what his (he and his wife didn’t find out the sex before birth, but he was thinking boy all the way) athletic career would be like, and all the reflected glory if it went well and reflected failure if it didn’t. (And if you don’t think the parent gets reflected glory and and/or failure, watch the other parents watch that kid’s parents in an extreme case of talent or lack of it. I remember my first kindergarten soccer game, when one girl started tearing up the field, and after everyone’s mouth gaped open looking at her, they looked slack-jawed at her mother, apparently to see if they could spot any magic loins.)

The following passage is reflective of what a lot of men think, even those who aren’t sports editor of the local paper.

Allow me to be clear — I, like everyone else who’s ever been so lucky to have a child, wanted only for our child to be healthy. Nothing else was important.

But that doesn’t mean there are never extenuating worries, most of them insignificant, but worries nonetheless. And, I’m ashamed to say, I was a little concerned that if we had a son and he wasn’t a 12-sport letterman by the time he was 10, he would unduly draw the sneers of a public that wondered why the sports editor’s son wasn’t a great athlete.

I shouldn’t say only men have these thoughts. All I know is, I’ve never heard of a group of women discuss whether their babies will ever grow up to be Cowboys.

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Mama, don’t let ’em.

It’s a parental cliche that whether it’s sports or science or stripping, you dream during the first pregnancy of your child become the best, richest and most famous in his or her field. Once the baby arrives, your dreams don’t end, but they are put aside as that crying sound after the hours of labor shoves them aside in favor of more mundane things becoming the most spectacular miracles of life. As Podlogar put it:

Looking back, I try to chalk this insane insecurity up to the plagues of youth. No doubt, though, I should’ve still known better, but when Allison came into the world right at 5 pounds, yet strong and with all her fingers and toes, I immediately stopped worrying so much about my stupid pride.

Not because she was a girl. Because she was Allison. Our Allison. My Allison. My daughter.

However, even those parents who have those more prosaic thoughts can jump right back to my-kid-is-gonna-be-a-star-in-what-I-like. I like basketball, and I made sure my firstborn son had a hoop and ball as soon as possible. The trick to parenting is watching your child develop so you can balance what you would like your child to be with what your child actually wants to be. Podlogar, being a small-town newspaper sports editor, got a pre-parenthood education in wacky youth sports parents enough to know that giving your child a ball and a hoop is one thing, but forcing your child to use it every night from 18 months old onward as you scream instructions is another.

That’s why, after a year of soccer, Podlogar took it in stride when his 6-year-old daughter no longer was interested in playing.

But when she decided after a year to back away, we let her mull her decision. We made sure she knew what her decision meant, gave her some more time, and when all of us were certain it was the route she wanted to take for the right reasons, we moved forward.

I don’t know if Allison will continue to dip her toe into sports. She has interest in basketball and swimming and may want to stoke her competitive fire again one day. When she does, I believe we’ll encourage her to make that happen.

But as she’s grown up over the last six years, I feel like I have as well. Kids will do that to you, I guess.

I’ve learned a lot, but nothing as important as this: when it comes to your kids, who cares what other people think about them? In the end, it matters only what your kids think about themselves.

And it’s my job, my wife’s job, and all of our jobs as parents to ensure they’ve got the wherewithal to understand that.

Let the kid define the experience, instead of the sport, or anything for that matter, defining the kid.

Alex Podlogar, if you read the field guide to youth sports parents, I think you’ll see yourself as The Role Model.

Written by rkcookjr

September 28, 2009 at 12:19 am

More on state legislation and youth sports (emphasis on “Moron”)

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A North Carolina Senator has a brilliant (read: stupid idea) he thinks will improve academics: barring interscholastic athletics for at least two straight years at schools where more than half of the students score below the 50th percentile on end-of-grade or end-of-course tests. From WRAL-TV in Raleigh:

Sen. Charlie Albertson, D-Duplin, the sponsor of the bill, said the proposal isn’t intended to punish students who are doing well. He said he only wants to encourage students who aren’t performing well in the classroom to do better.

“We certainly want our kids to keep playing sports because we know how important that is, but we need to remember the first thing about a school is to be able to learn to read and write and do math,” Albertson said.

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Now that the good senator has cast every opponent as being against schools teaching kids to read and write and do math, I’ll tell you, as one who is against schools teaching kids to read and write and do math, why this bill is so dunderheaded.

Exactly what purpose does it serve punishing kids who are studying by disallowing their participation in athletics because their principal stinks, or their teachers are awful, or more likely, because their schools are “supported” by parents with little regard for education, or parents who don’t want to spend a dime of tax money on schools, or parents who are merely so overwhelmed with the problems in their own day-to-day lives they can’t focus on their own children’s academic issues? Also, with the draconian punishment of two years, you’re knocking out potentially half of a child’s athletic experiences.

Meanwhile, by keeping the number firm at 50 percent, you’re creating, potentially, a rolling list of schools. Some perpetually troubled schools will never get off the list. But some will dip down, then get out while others take their place, and so on. For practical purposes, how can you ever create a schedule? Also, how can you attract good teachers who wish to coach when there is the possibility that you’re going to have to can the coaching staff?

I as recall, most schools or state high school athletic associations have policies covering academic achievement, or lack thereof, already. Students are supposed to maintain a minimum grade-point average or at least minimize D’s and F’s, especially if they have college aspirations and need to meet NCAA standards of having a certain grade-point average in a proscribed series of core courses.

Interestingly, Albertson didn’t extend his bill to include other extracurricular activities, such as, say, the school band. (That might be because Albertson is a professional musician who has performed at the Grand Ole Opry.)

Also, Albertson, whose district includes a lot of large hog and poultry operations, isn’t much for punishing polluting megafarms or poultry companies who abuse their workers.

How about this, Charlie Albertson? How about if your county is among the worst 50 percent of polluters, you don’t get state money for two years?

I didn’t think so.

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Three Little Words: I Thank You… for being a grandstanding legislator in the NC General Assembly — BC