Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Posts Tagged ‘Seattle

When team-building exercises go wrong

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You know what happens when you enlist kids from the baseball team you coach to help you with a burglary? Punny newspaper ledes, that’s what. From the Everett (Wash.) Herald:

ARLINGTON — An Arlington Little League coach is accused of showing some of his players how to steal more than second base.

Investigators allege that George Spady Jr. was with his son, a nephew and another player from his baseball team when he broke into a vacant shop and took overhead lights and bolts. The boys were encouraged to assist with the break-in, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Edirin Okoloko wrote in court documents.

Spady, 31, was charged Monday with second-degree burglary, a felony.

Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies were called to one of the players’ homes after the boy told his stepfather that his coach had taken him along to break into a shop in Arlington, Okoloko wrote.

The stepfather was angry that an adult would use the boys to commit a crime, and, even worse, “that the adult was his son’s baseball coach,” Okoloko wrote.

I can see the lede now if a coach ever takes his team to a hooker: “A local baseball coach showed his kids ways to get to third base besides hitting a triple.”

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Written by rkcookjr

June 9, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Hopefully the youth culture won’t kill their dog

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Most bands that see someone cop their image are immediately on the phone to their attorney to get a lawsuit good and ready. But most bands, as has been abundantly clear through a long, storied and quirk-filled career of college alternative, telephone-based, TV theme and children’s music, are not They Might Be Giants.

Two guys named John (like the two guys who make up They Might Be Giants) named their Seattle T-ball team after the band, using the images from their first children’s album, “No!” (It’s a word you end up saying a lot when you manage T-ball.) The two Johns in TMBG were so excited, they started a contest in which they will sponsor 10 more teams, anywhere across the nation.

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Photo of the Seattle T-ball team comes from a parent who submitted it to the band. I presume if the band is OK with a team using its image, it’ll be OK with me doing the same (fingers crossed).

The band is having you send your pitches (no pun intended) to littleleague@tmbg.com. You need to include your city, state and zip; the name of the local sports organization; the ages of your team members; the size of your team (presumably, number of players, not actual sizes of players, though both might be helpful); and anything else the band should know.

Band member John Flansburgh is quoted on the band’s site saying: “If a pizza parlor or a super market can sponsor a team, why can’t a rock band? We’ve posted a free shirt offer on our web site, and as new teams form we’re going to post their group photo alongside the Seattle team. We only have t-shirts to offer right now, but if we can get hats too, we’re up for that.”

Given the troubles many leagues are having attracting sponsors, this is a great offer, presuming your legal isn’t halfway over already (maybe the offer will be good for next season if it’s too late). I’m amazed more entertainment aimed at children, or even their parents, haven’t turned to youth sports sponsorship. “Night at the Museum 2” probably could have sponsored every team in every sport in America for what it spent on TV ads, and reached just about as many kids and parents. I’m sure TMBG is doing this sponsorship contest out of the goodness of its heart. But a band that won a Grammy this year for its children’s album is reaching the right market handing out T-shirts to T-ballers.

However, I am emailing the band to find out if they understand what youth sports sponsorship entails. I’m curious how the two Johns (the T-ball coaches) got to pick the shirts. Depending on the league, TMBG is going to have to do more than hand out free T-shirts. Is the band willing to pay $200 to see “Phillies” on the front and “They Might Be Giants” on the back? I’m sure there are a lot of league boards that are going to have conniptions over the thought of the uniforms not being uniform.

When the motherly instinct goes wrong

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The headline says: “Charges filed in Little League brouhaha.” The story appears to be another case of a parent gone wild in a toxic youth sports environment. Me, I see many, many small, bad decisions that escalated to a large, unfortunate case that is going to stain the life of a mother who mistakenly thought she was doing the right thing by sticking up for her child.

pic.phpThe case involves Jodi Scheffler, 41, of Kirkland, Wash., seen at right wearing a very unfortunate hat for her Facebook profile given the circumstances: she’s charged with assaulting a 12-year-old after a Little League game. Here is the story as told by KOMO-TV in Seattle.

The reports say … Scheffler …  left her side of the field and got into an altercation with boys from the visiting team. Name-calling escalated and then Scheffler allegedly grabbed the boy’s face.

Scheffler told Kirkland police that the 12-year-old visiting player was calling her son a loser and taunting him during the game.

Charging papers say she told the boy and his brother to stop talking to her son. They told her to shut up and called her a “dumb blond.” The report says she then called them “white trash,” then allegedly grabbed the boy’s face.

Now the mother of the 12-year-old boy, Michelle McLaughlin, is furious and speaking out.

“He’s scared,” McLaughlin says. “He asks me every day we play a game, ‘Is she gonna be there? Is she gonna hit me?'”

But Scheffler told police that McLaughlin’s husband chest-butted her.

“According to witnesses, the only thing my husband did was yelling at her from 30 feet away to get away from my kids – and charged up to her, asking her politely to go away, ‘Back up, get away from my kids,'” says McLaughlin. “But as far as the chest-butting – that’s a lie.”

No charges have been filed against McLaughlin’s husband. She says she’s the one who decided to file charges against Scheffler.

“Maybe she’ll learn to keep her anger to herself,” McLaughlin says.

The Little League president calls this an unfortunate incident. Longtime coaches, meanwhile, say they haven’t seen anything like it.

Some parents feel the whole thing is being blown out of proportion. But Scheffler faces a year in jail if she’s convicted.

I wasn’t there, but I think, from my informed-enough-to-be-dangerous knowledge of sports parent-child interactions, what mistakes might have been made along the way to turn this game into a brouhaha. Or maybe it’s more like a row. Or a set-to. Maybe a melee.

The first one was made by Scheffler, of course. I know it stinks to watch little brats trash your baby. The parents should have taught their children to be respectful, and the coaches should have tried to stop the trash-talking (maybe they did — the story doesn’t say). Even after she confronted the boys, that’s pretty ballsy of 12-year-olds to call a grown woman a “dumb blond.”

But no adult should never, never, never, never, never, never, ever, ever, ever, ever, confront someone else’s kid before, during or after a game. As a parent, you can (calmly) talk to your own coach. You can talk to the league vice president or president. But there’s no point in jumping on someone else’s kid, or even the opposing coach, in the heat of the moment. If you’re that upset, better to just pack you stuff and go home. The 24-hour rule applies. Otherwise, you risk making an ass out of yourself, embarrassing your child, and risking assault charges.

The second one was made by Michelle McLaughlin. Let’s assume her husband did not chest-bump anyone, though it would be a first for me to see a charged up/ask politely combination. Like Scheffler, it sounds like in this report that McLaughlin could wear a drama queen hat herself. As stupid as it was for Scheffler to do what she did, all McLaughlin needed to do was take her kids and go home. She seems ready to have Scheffler charged just out of spite — “maybe she’ll learn to keep her anger to herself.” Takes one to know one.

I highly doubt Scheffler will face a year in jail. I wouldn’t be shocked if the charges are dropped for something so relatively petty. However the legal case turns out, nobody — not Scheffler, not McLaughlin, not the kids in question — acquitted themselves well. But I’m not going to add my overreaction to the overreaction at hand. The league should ban Scheffler from games, and let players and coaches know they will be ejected from games and/or suspended if taunting continues.

In fact, the league itself should take a closer look at the conduct during its games. I would guess that Jodi Scheffler isn’t the first Little League mom to have the urge to attack when no one was doing anything to protect their kids.

The evolution of Washington’s sports discrimination bill

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Today a Washington State Senate committee passed a bill that seeks to address gender inequities in youth athletics. The bill it passed was not the original version filed two weeks ago. Depending on your point of view, the new version of the bill either addresses legitimate problems regarding equal access and funding of boys’ and girls’ sports, or strips away any enforcement mechanism in such a way that makes the legislation an exercise in do-nothing do-goodism.

The bill seeks to be the second (behind similar legislation passed in California in 2004) to require publicly funded organizations, whether they be  park districts, cities, townships or counties, that administer youth sports or youth sports facilities to prepare a formal statement saying they will not discriminate “against any person on the basis of sex in the operation, conduct, or administration of community athletics programs for youth or adults.”

Privately run leagues aren’t off the hook. If they lease or use any public facility, they need to prepare an anti-discrimination statement as well.

Why aren’t schools require to create such policies? Because schools are covered under Title IX. (However, third-parties using school facilities still must have an anti-discrimination policy).

Here is Washington state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, testifying for the bill. She is one of the sponsors, and she says that in some cases boys programs are still getting preferred funding or access:

You might note her referencing a substitute bill worked out with various “stakeholders.” Presumably, though no one has said so yet, those stakeholders include parks and recreation officials. They found unworkable the original bill’s insistence on task forces (paid for with private money of an unknown source) to study the extent of gender discrimination and the establishment of public grievance procedures (paid for by the potentially offending party) if any parent complained of discrimination. Also, by 2018, it would not have been enough to defend oneself by showing you had a history of attempting to equalize funding and participation rates consistent with the male-female ratio in your purview. If you didn’t, you could be screwed.

Thus, all those parts were stripped out of the bill, lest it not pass because of the fear that cash-strapped municipalities and park districts would end up shoving the knife even further into youth sports than it would otherwise.

So what’s left is a requirement about adding anti-discrimination language, which doesn’t seem like much. But it would be more than 48 other states have done. While I haven’t run into obvious cases of discrimination involving my daughters yet (one of whom is only three, so it’s not like she’s had a chance), no doubt there are plenty of places where boys get the meat and girls get the scraps. An anti-discrimination policy is the least any youth sports organization or facilities manager can do.

I would come down on the side saying it’s a good thing the onerous legalese and paperwork requirements were cut out of the bill, but then again I’m a man, so what do I know? Having codified anti-discrimination language does at least give aggrieved girls and their parents an greater opening to fight if needed — and give leagues and facilities’ lawyers one more very good way to advise their clients how not to get sued. I suspect even with this watered-down bill, some girls in Washington are going to be helped.

As for the boys? I doubt they’ll be tossed onto to the street — unless there is some parks manager deciding to act like a jerk just to make the bill, and the girls, look bad.

Written by rkcookjr

February 24, 2009 at 1:30 pm