Posts Tagged ‘sports’
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.
“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.
Burning up the mommy blogs and parenting sites is a Wall Street Journal piece by Amy Chua called “Why Chinese mothers are superior.” I had to admit they were, at least by the description she gives, because the night before I read the piece my 11-year-old daughter had a sleepover.
A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:
• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.
I think you could sub “baseball” or “volleyball” for “piano” and “violin,” and make whatever substitutions are necessary to turn a Chinese mother into a sports parent — or any parent so obsessive about their child’s success that they are strict beyond belief, lest anything take anyone’s eyes off the prize.
I think you can also find justification given by the intense sport parent in this passage from Chua’s piece:
What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.
On some level, she probably is right. A child usually is not going to play piano for hours a day, or hit the batting cage for hours a day, or do whatever for hours a day that does not involve some level of enjoyment — unless they’ve done it for so long, and they’ve gotten so good at it, that they respond to the praise they’re getting for doing it so well.
Alas, being the “Chinese mother” is a tricky strategy. For every Ichiro Suzuki that seems to respond well and thrive to the parental-obsessive treatment, there is an Andre Agassi who does well but resents his father, or a Todd Marinovich who advances to the highest level and falls apart, or skads of others kids we never hear of who just burn out. And I’m not talking just sports. Unfortunately, as a parent, we never know whether we’ve pushed too hard or not enough until it’s too late to undo the damage — and the guilt you might feel as a result.
Chua details a confrontation she had with her 7-year-old daughter over trouble she had playing a certain piece on a piano, a fight that escalated into screaming fits (by the daughter) and threats of eternal punishment and withholding water until she learned to play the piece (by the mother). At one point, when Chua’s husband (who is not Chinese) tries to step in, she responds:
“Oh no, not this,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Everyone is special in their special own way,” I mimicked sarcastically. “Even losers are special in their own special way. Well don’t worry, you don’t have to lift a finger. I’m willing to put in as long as it takes, and I’m happy to be the one hated. And you can be the one they adore because you make them pancakes and take them to Yankees games.”
I’m amazed he can take them to Yankees games. He must sneak them out.
Anyway, the 7-year-old learns to play the piece, she’s joyful she can, she loves her mother, dumb-ass dad admits she’s right, and all is well.
There are all these new books out there portraying Asian mothers as scheming, callous, overdriven people indifferent to their kids’ true interests. For their part, many Chinese secretly believe that they care more about their children and are willing to sacrifice much more for them than Westerners, who seem perfectly content to let their children turn out badly. I think it’s a misunderstanding on both sides. All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. The Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that.
Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.
Unlike many who have commented on Chua’s piece, the fault I find is not in her individual parenting methods. They’re her kids, and that’s her business. I don’t doubt that she loves her kids and wants the best for them — and I don’t doubt that either from sports parents who also might seem overbearing on first, second, third and fourth looks.
But I do find fault with this either-or at the end of her piece. To me, good parenting combines the best of both the “Western” and “Chinese” scenarios she lays out. You can encourage your kids to pursue their passions while also reminding them that many others are pursuing the same passion, and showing them what they have to do to make their passion into a viable future, thus providing a nuturing environment AND giving them work habits and inner confidence no one can ever take away.
Now, I need to step away to have my kids turn off their video games and go to bed.
For a lot of us in the parenting way, one of our New Year’s resolutions — inspired by a few weeks off from getting kids up in the morning for school — is to “take back” our lives, much like the Tea Party wants to “take back” America. We Tea Party Parents want to hearken back to a simpler time, before schedules, before burning the candle at both ends. Basically, before we had children. Like the Tea Party itself, we Tea Party Parents probably aren’t going to be successful at turning back the clock (or cutting spending, either), but, hey, no sense not trying to talk a good game!
On the site Lifetimemoms.com, run by the Lifetime cable network (during the Christmas season, is the site called Fa-La-La-La-Lifetimemoms.com?), Dawn Sandomeno of Partybluprintsblog takes time off from posts like “Rae’s Ultimate Eggplant Sandwich!” (if yours is better, you’d better put two fucking exclamation points on it) to describe herself as a Lifetime woman in peril, although the culprit is her kids’ sports schedule, rather than a fiendish man who seemed OK at the start but turned out to be danger.
This post stars Joanna Kerns. Or maybe Judith Light.
What’s crazy is that the problem is also what’s good for my kids: Youth Sports. For me, it’s three boys who play ice hockey, but it could be baseball, soccer, dance, lacrosse, or any other activity these days. Youth sports have gone off the deep end and to what end, I’m not sure. Mind you, I’m not against them, quite the opposite – I love that my boys are physically fit because of sports, have learned team play, and are developing great leadership and time management skills. However, there are no boundaries anymore. I was actually at an ice rink for a game on Easter Sunday and missed Thanksgiving with my family so we could play in a tournament in another city. Each youth sport is now a 9 – 12 month commitment and it’s not just time, it‘s money, lots of money! Practices, lessons, games, clinics, camps, it turns out to be 7 days a week – God rested on Sunday, why can’t I?
So, I will need to be strong and committed to this challenge, the pressure can be strong from organizations and clubs, not to mention my own kids. I want and need this change to happen. I’m determined to succeed and I truly hope to take some time back by being brave and saying no to the extras. I want to show my children that family time is important.
That’s all well and good, but a Tea Party Parent is going to fail cutting a few extras like, say, education. But you’re not going to reduce your family deficit by cutting a few extras here and there. The only solution is a radical one — eliminate activities altogether.
After all, it’s not like the sports organizations are going to say, “Oh, you want more family time? Please, take all the time you need!” It’s more like, “Oh, you want your kid home? I’ll tell you what: he can leave the team and BE HOME ALL THE FUCKING TIME!” So you have to decide as a parent, what do you want to do?
The rule in my family is that if you, as a child, love the activity — as in, we don’t have to drag your ass there, or tell you to practice — you can do it to your heart’s content. If you only kind of like it, then it’s on the bubble. I’ve got four kids. My wife and I don’t have the time or energy to schlep them around to stuff they only kind of like, whether or not our rationale is wanting to spend more time with them.
So Dawn Sandomeno should ask her kids whether they love playing hockey. If they do, then she IS getting her family time. If not, then she can cut off the sport like a Tea Party candidate wants to cut off spending on everything but the military.
Just so you know where the real writing talent lies in my household, you can check out this Chicago Parent article, written by one Jacqui Podzius Cook (wife of the proprietor of this here blog), titled “The challenges of being an older mom.”
I bring this up not as a way to note my wife’s birthday Nov. 1, which for 27 days will make me the baby adult of the household, but for the cogent points it makes about the realities of how parents freak out less, to everyone’s benefit most of the time, as they have more kids, and how you as the experienced parent can end up looking (and feeling) disengaged as a result.
I was thinking of this story at my 7-year-old son’s final soccer game of the fall. There were parents who, clearly on their first kid in sports, were cheering and coaching and waving and yelling. And then there were parents who, clearly not on their first kid in sports, were reading the newspaper, talking with each other or working toward being the mayor of Oak View Center on Foursquare. (I’m actively running for that post in the closest thing I have to a political career. I’m trying to figure out how I get Foursquare to run negative ads.)
From my wife:
The ritual of Kindergarten Parent Night: A room full of fresh-faced moms and dads, peppering the teacher with questions about snacks and flash cards as they carefully inspect every square inch of the room where their precious baby will begin his or her formal education.
But if you look a little closer at any given group of kindergarten parents, you are guaranteed to find at least one mom hovering near the back, half-listening to the presentation while she furiously composes a grocery list, texts her teenage daughter and tries to conceal the gray hair and laugh lines that tell the world she’s a decade or so removed from the majority of parents in the room.
Whether you call this last one your “caboose baby,” “bonus baby” or-as several of my friends refer to their third or fourth (or fifth) child-your “oops baby,” you’ve probably learned in the past few months that this school experience is just a little different. I certainly have as my final baby, Emily, gets settled into her kindergarten class, while my other kids are making their way through second, sixth and eighth grade.
Emily’s Friday folder? It usually gets emptied Sunday night instead of 3:30 Friday afternoon. School pictures? Let’s see what I can find the night before in that hand-me-down bag at the back of the closet. This began even before kindergarten when I had to program an Outlook calendar reminder for preschool show-and-tell.
This isn’t to say I value Emily’s school experience any less than the other kids’, but the cold, hard truth is being a parent of four kids at 41 is a whole lot different from having one in kindergarten and one in preschool at 33.
Jacqui’s article (I normally use last names on second reference, but I while I might call my wife many things, I don’t call her “Cook.” “Hey, Cook, how about a romantic dinner this weekend?”) talks about how more experienced parents can take steps to find ways in their busy lives to get more engaged with their younger child’s classroom experiences, with valuable techniques that do not include freeing up time by selling your older children into sharecropping.
As for sports, I would say that a more experienced parent did not feel compelled to be involved in every aspect of the athletics lives of his or her younger children. Your children might thank you for it. For me, the difference between my older son and daughter and my younger son and daughter is my own expectations.
With my younger kids, I’m not going into sports parenting with the expectation that this is the first step to a lucrative pro career and/or nervous because my baby is in someone else’s hands, the common reactions of the first-time sports parent. I’m sure enough of myself as a parent that whether my child is a jock or picking daisies, it is no reflection on my parenting skills.
I am concentrating on coaching my younger kids’ teams, because the others in any activity have passed my levels of knowledge and dedication, and also because I feel more at ease with the situation. I don’t have to think to myself to make sure I don’t do anything that seems like I am unfairly favoring my kids over others. I just coach everybody, and if parents think I am unfairly favoring my kids over others, then fuck ‘em.
That epithet brings up a reason for the experienced parent NOT to coach his or her youngest children. That would be the too-knowing, been-there-done-that attitude you can bring, having been there, and done that. When I coached my 7-year-old son’s baseball team last spring, I might have handled conflicts with parents better if I wasn’t such a know-it-all douchebag about youth sports, and this baseball league in particular. For example, I might not have said, with such swagger, to a mom who threatened to file a complaint with the league on me that, well, good luck, considering I’ve coached in this league for five years, and I know how desperate it is to find managers.
As Cook’s article (I guess if I’m going to treat my kids like any other athlete when I coach them, I guess should treat my wife like any other writer when I cite her — right, honey?) notes, it is a boon to the youngest child’s education for the experienced parent to get involved in whatever way possible, even if he or she is busy with older siblings.
For sports parents, that’s a game-time decision. It might be beneficial for youngest children to have their experienced parent coach their team. But the experienced parent’s experience might be better used letting the kids be in the hands of someone else while he or she reads the newspaper, talks to other parents, or does oppo research on the mayor of the field on Foursquare (your reign of terror will end soon, I swear, Staci C.!)
I was out with my 7-year-old son, walking the family Maltese dogs — because there is nothing more male-bonding-looking than a boy and his son walking these:
So as we are walking, my 7-year-old asks me if baseball signups are coming up soon. I said, yes, probably in a couple of weeks. And I ask him why he’s asking. Because, he said, he doesn’t want to play baseball this year.
I was a bit shocked by this news. I managed Ryan’s team the two years he played, and he seemed very enthusiastic about baseball. He had just mentioned to my wife the other day how he hoped he would be a Phillie again, as he was his first two years:
Given that I write and hear all the time about kids quitting because they had a lousy experience in the sport, I was concerned that my youngest son, once enthused with baseball, no longer had an interest in it. And given that I was his manager, I hoped it wasn’t because of something I did.
So I probed.
“Did something happen last year to make you not like baseball?”
“Was it something I did? Because you can tell me if it was.”
“I just don’t want to play it anymore.” (You can see his body stiffening.)
“But why not?”
“I just don’t.” (At this point I’m being as annoying as a 7-year-old.)
“OK, you don’t have to play if you don’t want to.”
“OK, well, maybe I will.”
“No, Ryan, you don’t have to.”
We were heading in a direction in which I would be ordering him not to play if Ryan seemed like he was only playing to make me happy. Because, believe me, with two daughters playing softball in the spring, having one fewer child playing baseball would make my wife and I very, very happy. My 13-year-old son stopped playing baseball after age 9, and I must say, neither he nor we miss it.
Not that I wanted Ryan to quit to make our spring weekdays easier. And I was still feeling guilty. So I asked, “Is there something else you’d rather do?”
“I’d rather do bowling and soccer” — sports he plays now — “and maybe a play, or a technology club. Because I want to be a video game designer.” Like how other kids dream of playing in Major League Baseball, Ryan dreams of being a video game designer. Knowing Japan’s prominence in the video game world, Ryan is joining his school’s Japanese club to learn the language and customs, about 15-25 years before he takes in his first big meeting in Tokyo.
It was a great conversation, especially because my guilty conscience was soothed. (Whew.) My wife and I have tried to make it clear to our four children that we do not mind spending the time and money on something if they enjoy it. But if they don’t enjoy it, we are more than ready to let them quit (at least once the activity is over). I’ll be honest — having four kids, ages 5 to 13, in various activities means we are ready to throw one over the side at any time. But more importantly, there are enough activities out there that it’s not like it’s baseball, or sit at home.
Ryan is fortunate, too, that he’s the third child in this process for us. My oldest son has tried about every sport available, but his interests right now are centered on theater, music, and joining the Marines. My oldest daughter, age 11, looked to have a starring career in softball, but she learned over the summer that she while she enjoys house league she didn’t care for travel ball, and that in her Animal Planet-mainlining heart of hearts she still like horseback riding lessons best. (Horseback riding lessons definitely test our notion that we will gladly pay for an activity if the kid likes it.)
Maybe Ryan will decide after spring 2011 that he wants to go back to baseball, but I’ve learned with my kids that once they’re done with an activity, they’re usually done for good. I feel confident calling his move a retirement, and not just him putting his baseball career on hiatus. Either way, I’m glad Ryan told me that he would rather not play baseball, before he — and we — made another heavy commitment to it. And that he doesn’t mind being seen with his dad, out walking Paris Hilton’s dogs.
As I write this, today is the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the month of Ramadan. My kids, who go to a school district with a large Arabic population, know all about the holiday even if, as Christians, they don’t celebrate. For one thing, this means their friends at school can have lunch with them again.
Speaking of which, a little while back I did a post about how Ramadan affected the football team at Fordson High in Dearborn, Mich., a school with a nearly all-Arabic population. They had their preseason practices overnight, so the players could eat before practice. Tonight they face Belleville, and let me tell you, the Fordson Tractors are hungry for a win — but they’re not hungry anymore. The team went 1-1 during Ramadan, by the way.
Of course, given the charged environment on all things Muslim, Fordson’s Ramadan practice schedule wasn’t merely an interesting, passing thought. For some — particularly the type who say things like “All I need to know about Islam I learned on 9-11,” it was one more stick in the eye in all things American. Heck, Fordson’s mere existence as an Arab-populated school is a stick in the eye.
That’s where the above video clip, which I found on Goat Milk Blog, comes in. A documentary is being released about Fordson, and it focuses on two great American topics: sports, and the assimilation of immigrants. The movie, “Fordson” (where did they get that title!) looks like an inspiring tale of how the younger generation of immigrants uses sports to integrate themselves and their families into the American melting pot.
They are Muslim, they have ties elsewhere, but on the football field they carry on the Fordson tradition of hating rival Dearborn just as their non-Muslim forefathers have done. The story is not unlike other children of immigrants, feeling pressure from home to keep the customs of the old country alive, while they are just as interested, or more interested, in doing the things other American kids do.
Of course, as the trailer points out, this isn’t a simple plucky immigrant story. Not with 9-11, and not with the seething resentment of Muslims that President George W. Bush, in retrospect, helped keep under wraps as he — and I’m not trying to be political here — tried to walk the tightrope of fighting in Islamic countries without sending the message America was fighting a holy war.
Just in the last few months, it seems like the football players of Fordson have been sacked in their attempt to gain ground as Real Americans.
An anti-Islam whack job’s blogging about a Muslim community center close to, but not within sight of, the former World Trade Center (where from 1994-96 I worked, in Tower Two), turned into a political football, if you will, that allowed anyone with lingering resentments or stereotypes of Islam to unleash their crazy in the name of “the sanctity of Ground Zero.” This, even though no one in New York appeared to care much about it when the site was approved in 2009.
Then you have the alleged Rev. Terry Jones, leader of a tiny, goofy Christian church in Florida, sparking an international incident with his self-proclaimed “International Burn a Koran Day” on, naturally, Sept. 11. A guy punted by his own church in Germany for being “mad” is now, essentially, holding us all hostage as he threatens to set a Koran on fire unless he gets what he wants — or burns it to get what he wants, which appears to be holy war. Meanwhile, he incites hate and creates another figure around which anti-Muslim nuts can coalesce. You can say the media should have ignored him, but like with the slow growth of the Park51 controversy, someone like Terry Jones exists only because many believe what he has to say — and because many have let their fears of 9-11 take over their logical mind.
Over Labor Day I went with my four kids to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, which has an exhibit about kids who changed the world — Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges and Ryan White. They were thrust into their position because of fear and mass hysteria: Frank, as a Jew during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands; Bridges, as a black girl intergrating a white school in 1960 New Orleans; and White, as the first child with AIDS to fight for the right to go to school like any other kid. In all cases, it’s easy to look back and see how wrong people were. But once fear gets the best of people, there is no telling them they’re wrong.
The American story of assimilating immigrants is one in which, often, a new group is looked at with fear and loathing, and that’s even without association with the worst act of terrorism ever on U.S. soil. But what we always learn is that those people — just like Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges and Ryan White — want to be normal, to be Americans. That is, if we let them.
And that’s why the players on Fordson’s team aren’t just football players. They’re political symbols, ciphers onto which people can project their images of Muslims. In my children’s school, I don’t get the sense the kids think too much about that. They’re just other kids. They play baseball (and coach it, as happened on one of my younger son’s teams). They play tag. They sing in the school play. Maybe they’re parents don’t quite understand it all. But in the end, they are kids who just happen to pray in a different way.
For years, I read that 13 was the magic age, the Logan’s Run of youth sports, the time when 75 percent of kids (or whatever stat you want to pull out of your rectum) quit sports en masse, bitterly, for a lifetime of obesity.
As it turns out, my 13-year-old son, Bobby, coming home today from his first day of eighth grade, told me today that he would not try out again for the volleyball team, despite being one of the last cuts as a seventh-grader, despite going to volleyball camp this summer, despite the very good jump serve he’s demonstrated in our back yard.
He announced this angrily and dejectedly after… well, actually, he was pretty darn excited when he told me. That’s because he found out his school’s spring musical, in which he played the title role of “The Wizard of Oz” last year, would for this school year be a fall musical instead, a production of “Bugsy Malone.”
Yep, the all-kid gangster musical.
While I’m sure there are 13-year-olds who are out of sports because they have had miserable coaches, mean teammates and nutball parents, it turns out my 13-year-old is getting out of sports because, like other 13-year-olds, he’s finishing what my wife has referred to as his logical path of self-discovery (a phrase she coined sarcastically to refer to my peripatetic early professional career).
My son like sports OK, and maybe he’ll play rec league basketball this winter and try out track again in the spring. But he knows he LOVES performing. He likes being on stage, and not to put to fine a point on it, he’s good at it. He got his grade’s “best actor” award last year, which isn’t exactly a preview of the Oscars, but the kind of encouraging sign that points you in the direction of something you might enjoy for a while. My 13-year-old went to a theater camp over the summer, and he’s wanting to take improvisational acting classes.
Also, he really, really, really wants to be a Marine. So I see where he wants his path to lead: Rob Riggle.
That’s a USMC hat my 13-year-old son Bobby (left, posing with his 7-year-old brother, Ryan) is wearing at the July 4 parade in Munising, Mich. No kidding: not long after this picture was taken, a Marine in full dress walked by in the parade, saw Bobby and his hat, and gave him a Marines poster. Is this how Rob Riggle got started?
Like most any father, I had a thought from Bobby’s babyhood what sports he might play. That he’s not playing any — I’m good with that. The excitement he felt telling me about the school musical made ME want to sign up for it. After a youth of baseball, basketball, wrestling, volleyball, track, soccer, hockey and other sports I’m probably leaving out (like roller-blading, which he does just for the fun of it), Bobby’s logical path of self-discovery has given him sports he can enjoy in his down time, and activities he can enjoy the hell out of most of the time.
I still need to talk to him about that Marines thing, though. It’s great he loves the idea of serving his country, and I’ll support him in whatever he wants to do. But as a parent I’ll take Bobby dying on stage over dying, for real. Maybe I can get Rob Riggle to have a chat with him.