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Arrested coach pictured poorly in court, on Facebook

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Unfortunately this happens a lot — a young-ish assistant high school coach getting popped on charges related to fooling around (or trying to fool around) with the kids he coaches. However, these stories aren’t usually accompanied by the unflatteringly douchebaggish photo of the alleged perpetrator.

This story should teach any young coach that if you’re going to be stupid, depraved and unprofessional enough to go all Wooderson on high school girls, you should at least make sure your social network pictures don’t make you look like the kind of guy who might be that stupid, depraved and unprofessional.

From the Deseret News in Salt Lake City:

A well-known substitute teacher and sports coach in Moab has been arrested and charged with raping two teenage girls.

Trace Wells, 24, was charged [July 13] in 7th District Court with multiple counts of rape, possession of child pornography, forcible sex abuse and enticing a minor. …

Wells was a former football star at Grand County High School and worked as a substitute teacher at the high school and the local middle school. He also helped coach the high school track team, of which one of his victims was a member, said Grand County Sheriff’s Sgt. Kim Neal.

Wells and his family are fairly prominent in the community, according to officials. His father is the coach of the high school’s football and wrestling teams. His grandmother is a member of the Grand County Council, Neal said. …

The victims were 15 and 16 years old and both girls whom Wells had known for awhile, Neal said. The child porn charges stem from alleged “sexting” (texting of sexual pictures) of at least one of the victims, he said.

And here is the profile picture on Trace Wells’ Facebook and MySpace pages, a shot the Deseret News picked up and used on its site:

I will emphasize that Trace Wells, like anyone arrested, is innocent until proven guilty. But, sheesh, this isn’t helping.

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Why youth sports hazing happens: because adults say it can

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Sometimes a message board is like listening a roomful of drunks. They’re incoherent, belligerent, funny and rude, and they’re all talking over and around each other. But sometimes, in their uninhibited state, they speak their most closely held feelings that they might otherwise not reveal in polite company.

That’s how I look at the threads on Illinois Matmen, a message board focusing on wrestling, that are devoted to the Prairie Ridge High School hazing scandal. For those of you thinking the only hazing I care about happens in Carmel, Ind., on March 5 Crystal Lake, Ill., police arrested five wrestlers as juveniles on misdemeanor counts of simple battery relating to hazing, which they did without benefit of a 1970s goalie mask. (I bet Crystal Lake people get tired of those “Friday the 13th” jokes in a hurry.)

Specifically, the wrestlers are accused of slapping fellow wrestlers and groping their privates through their clothes.

An attorney for the wrestlers has categorized the conduct as “innocent, adolescent horseplay.” That’s to be expected; he’s on the payroll. But the adults (and other high school students) condoning the wrestlers’ behavior — heck, practically giving them high fives for it — can be found on Illinois Matmen, which I discovered thanks to this recent Northwest Herald article on the school’s take toward investigating the scandal.

I’ll preface this by saying that if it seems like wrestling shows up a lot in hazing news, then some of the posters on Illinois Matmen will confirm your beliefs that there is something about the sport — which already has plenty of groping, intentional or not, of other people’s privates — that invites a hazing culture.

There are three threads devoted to the hazing scandal — well, some would say the scandal is that the school and police made such a big deal about a little necessary rite of passage, or as it’s often called on the site, a right of passage. (Like drunks, as I said.) The threads are here and here and here. There is a lot of discussion about pink bellies: repeated, open-handed slaps to the stomach meant to leave a pink mark (though if done repeatedly and hard enough, an act that can leave red welts).

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The 2007 John W. North High School (Riverside, Calif.) boys cross country team gives us a demonstration of the pink belly.

Now to some highlights, which alternate between extreme tough-assedness and the Stockholm Syndrome:

“This is ridiculous. These kids are going on trial for assault for giving pink bellies. This isn’t chess,it’s wrestling” — BigHeadTodd

“This is complete garbage. This was nothing more than what goes on in every wrestling room and locker room in the Country. This same stuff that happened here has probably happened to your kid Cubs84 as it has happened to almost every kid at sometime in the wrestling room. It looks like this was done late in the day on Friday. I’ll find out more when I get to the Courthouse Monday.” — Radical

“I agree, unless things get out of hand, like hitting as hard as can, it’s just kids being kids. When I was a senior captain on my team, a couple of other seniors taped me up and threw dogde balls at me. it was all in good fun, and the coaches thought it was funny too. It may sound like they didn’t respect me, but they did, and it was just for fun.” — jimbob

“It’s sad that it’s called hazing anymore. It was always a right of passage thing. A way of earning respect and showing loyalty.
I have been given and have given pink bellies that turned into welted red bruised bellies that lasted for days. Those who didn’t get these “badges” were never highly regarded. Showing your team you can take it and not whine or cry about it is part of becoming a man. As long as it doesn’t leave a lifetime scar emotional or physical it’s free range.” –uniteordie

“My wrestling team in high school gave pink bellies to wrestlers on their birthdays. That was the coach’s rule.” — Mr. White

“haha well I forget which team, but they pick a freshman that is on the varsity team and make him kneel in the middle of the mats to where everyone can see. he puts his hands behind his back and an older teammate hits him as hard as he could in the face… everyone laughs and cheers!! it’s really funny, even the freshman laugh” — USAwrestlingDAD189, describing an apparently annual event at an Illinois wrestling tourney

“Pink Bellies are part of a tradition that has been going on for decades. When I think back years ago when I was a Freshman in Highschool they used to line us all on the floor and in a room we call the cave and turn the lights off. Each Senior would go down the roll slapping us in the stomach. When I was a Senior we did the same thing. The intent was not to hurt the other person but to see who can take it. During Football this would happen the whole Homecoming week.” — maddog81

Am I cherry-picking responses from the posters at Illinois Matmen? I sure am! To be fair, there were people who did say they thought that any hazing, even pink bellies, was unacceptable, and that the Crystal Lake police were well within their rights to do what they did. But I’m not sure a lot of young athletes hear those voices. Instead, they hear the voice of the coach who encourages the behavior, or hears the implicit voice of the coach who never discourages it.

Other posters worried about how the Prairie Ridge case would affect the sport of wrestling. One made an interesting point about why perhaps so many on Illinois Matmen don’t have a problem with hazing:

“Most of us on this website are wrestling enthusiasts and have very positive feelings toward the sport. That means that we survived or even enjoyed the initiation or hazing that we (or our kids) participated in. And I agree that most of it is pretty harmless with teenagers just goofing off and having fun. However, the kids who had the worst experiences and were bullied or seriously embarrassed probably are not on this forum to share their thoughts, because they are no longer involved in the sport.” — MatsDad

Illinois high school wrestlers charged in hazing case

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Enough about high school athletes who are still being investigated for hazing. We have athletes actually arrested and charged!

Five wrestlers at Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake — a Chicago northwest suburb that absolutely has never had Jason Voorhees at camp — are charged with misdemeanor battery after what police called multiple occasions of hazing against teammates. You know, I bet you’re thinking this shouldn’t be called “hazing” when it appears to serve no greater purpose than an excuse for teammates to beat the hell out of each other and insert items in orifices where they should not be inserted.

From the Daily Herald in Arlington Heights, Ill.:

The arrests culminated a probe that began after officials at the Crystal Lake school received an anonymous letter Jan. 28 claiming a student wrestler was held down by teammates and repeatedly slapped in the stomach.

The ensuing investigation included interviews with more than 60 students as well as the school’s wrestling coaches, police said. It revealed allegations that several wrestlers participated in hazing activities that included restraining teammates while they were slapped and groped through their clothing, according to police.

Of course, the five juveniles have someone on the payroll who will defend their right to grab-ass.

Dan Hoffman, an attorney for one of the boys arrested, called the charges “absolutely outrageous.”

“Any parent should be very worried if they have a child engaged in sports at Prairie Ridge High School,” he said. “They should be afraid that innocent adolescent horseplay will result in criminal charges.”

Written by rkcookjr

March 5, 2010 at 11:29 pm

Coach of bullies says he's being bullied

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Todd Fox is no longer wrestling coach at Willard High School in Ohio because three of his team members pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for hazing a freshman teammate, a polite way of describing an incident in which that wrestler’s pants were pulled down, his testicles fondled, his rectum the recipient of a finger, and all of it photographed. Even though he resigned last year, Fox remains a teacher, and he remains convinced that, gosh darn it, no one ever told him what was really going on, and gosh darn it, he had better sue the parents of the victim because they’re being assholes about it.

If Fox’s Nov. 30, 2009, lawsuit against the parents for allegedly harassing him and defaming him so he can’t get another coaching job wasn’t enough, Fox decided recently to send a prepared statement to the Norwalk (Ohio) Reflector to let the world know: he’s a victim of bullying.

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“Karma police, arrest this coach.”

From the Reflector:

“It is unfortunate that it has come to this, but I could not sit back and allow a continued attack on my character. I put my heart in soul into the students and community of Willard. I have put students, athletes and the school before my own family many times. I do not deserve to be bullied. I just want to do what I do best and that is trying to make a positive difference in the lives of students and student-athletes.”

Later in the story, the Reflector quoted Fox’s attorney saying that the coach had a “rift” with the freshman wrestler’s father, who had served as a volunteer coach at Willard before apparently putting, in Fox’s view, his figurative finger up the coach’s figurative rectum.

It may well be that the freshman wrestler’s father is a jerk. But the unfortunate facts for Fox is that a) he was coach when such a heinous “hazing” activity occurred, and b) no matter if the father was Wrestling Hitler, his son did not deserve what happened to him. Also, exactly why is Fox sending this email before his trial even begins? Don’t most lawyers advise you not to do stuff like that?

By the way, Fox isn’t the only ex-Willard athletic official involved in litigation. Former athletic director Michael Lillo, now the school district’s transportation, building and grounds director, is accused in a lawsuit of “baiting a certain black basketball player from Fostoria High School” after a Jan. 30, 2009, Willard-Fostoria game, and making abusive comments toward Fostoria players during it. Lillo vociferously denied the charges in an interview with the Reflector. The lawsuit filed by Fostoria coach Rick Renz is not against Lillo, but against Willard police and city for allegedly injuring him while restraining him and forcing him to the gym floor. Must have been one hell of a game.

Written by rkcookjr

February 14, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Ref executes throat hold on high school wrestler

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

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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 sportsjournalists.com.)

Written by rkcookjr

January 29, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Sports hazing: when you can't bring yourself to admit you're gay

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I’m not sure why we call sports hazing, hazing, and not something more descriptive. Like, “Just because I’m sticking this pine cone up your ass doesn’t mean I’m some kinda fuckin’ homo.”

What stuns me about societal acceptance of hazing, particularly in youth sports — well, a lot stuns me, but I’ll stick to this one thing — is how a community can rally around athletes and coaches who participate and condone in homoerotic fantasies and exercises, when if the athletes were otherwise engaged in consensual gay activity, they would have a societal pine cone shoved up their asses.

Sports hazing is in the news again as ex-Willard High (Ohio) wrestling coach Todd Fox sued the parents of a wrestler who alleged he was bullied. Fox says the parents are harassing and defaming him, thus depriving him of coaching opportunities elsewhere. Fox is still employed as a teacher, but he resigned in March 2009 after 10 years as Willard’s wrestling coach after the hazing allegations emerged.

The Mansfield News-Journal, the latest to report Fox’s lawsuit, filed in November, was too discreet to describe the allegations. But the Sandusky Register was less circumspect in October in a story about the sentencing of two of the three wrestlers who plead guilty to disorderly conduct in relation to the hazing:

“I am sorry I am involved in the mess that’s still going on,” the junior said. “I lost a great friend and a wrestling partner. I want you to know I did not realize you were being hurt or felt the way you did.”

The junior said in January he held the freshman down on school property while another teammate grabbed the boy’s testicles through his shorts and then pushed his fingers through the back fabric of his shorts into the boy’s rectum.

He then pulled the freshman’s shorts down when he stood up.

The junior said he would not have pinned the freshman down if he knew such depraved acts were to come.

Defense attorney Peter McGory said the incident was “life-altering,” and his client learned an important lesson about horseplay.

McGory said his client was prepared to make amends, but he urged the court not to forbid him from wrestling. McGory said the junior plans to attend college on a sports scholarships.

Judge Meyer denied the request. …

Weeks before the freshman wrestler was held down and mistreated, the senior [the second defendant] sat naked on the boy’s chest in the locker room area and put his genitals near the boy’s face.

As he did this, another teammate snapped a photograph.

Not long after pleading guilty in this incident, the senior was reprimanded by officials for his antics at football camp, which included sticking a phone receiver in a pair of Speedo underwear he was wearing.

The attorney for the senior also urged the court not to suspend his client from sports.

But unlike in the junior’s case, the attorney’s arguments convinced the judge.

Given the descriptions, what comes to mind is not disorderly conduct. It’s rape, rape done by horny high school boys too filled with self-hate, a self-hate that grew from a lifetime of coaches, parents and community definitions of he-manliness, for their homosexual urges to act out in remotely healthy way. And I know that’s an insult to self-hating gays who don’t act out by forcibly sticking their fingers up men’s rectums.

The judge’s sentence of community service, mental health evaluations and letters of apology seems laughably small given the crime, but no prosecutor is going to try a hazing case as rape. The community outcry is already great just for holding athletes just a little bit accountable. When a star wrestler in Colorado last year was indicted on hazing-related charges, most of the comments to the local newspaper about the case were in support of the wrestler.

At least the judge (who accepted a guilty plea deal that included dropping assault charges) did more than the coach, who just made his wrestlers run laps. Fox claims the victimized wrestler didn’t tell him enough, and that it’s unfair his family would badmouth him. From the Mansfield newspaper:

[Attorney David] Firestine said Fox’s response to the incident was based on information provided by the victimized wrestler. He said Fox would have acted differently if presented with more details.

“Whether it was horseplay or hazing is still to be known,” Firestine said. “(Fox) had no opportunity to deal with the facts as presented to everyone else.”

Horseplay or hazing, still to be known? After three of wrestlers were sentenced? Unless horses play by grabbing each other’s balls and/or sticking hooves up rectums, it seems pretty clear at this point it was hazing. If Fox thinks he’s permanently scarred by what happened, at least he’s not reminded every time he, say, wipes.

There are a lot of hazing experts who have done a great job trying to get people to take the issue seriously, but I’m really wondering, at least among men, whether the issue is desire to exert power over others, or whether the issue really is a bunch of closest queens who can’t bring themselves to do anything they feel doesn’t befit a manly king.

Maybe in the course of their mental health assessment, these wrestlers might confront their greatest fear: that just because you’re sticking your fingers up another guy’s rectum does, in fact, mean you’re some kinda fuckin’ homo.

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Written by rkcookjr

January 10, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Tell me your pet peeves about youth sports

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Tom Kuyper, a youth sports columnist who operates the Kids and Sports blog, invited readers to send him their pet peeves about youth sports. The lists he and his readers have put together have a lot of the usual complaints: overzealous parents, overzealous parents and overzealous parents. And kids calling coaches by their first names.

So in the spirit that no good idea is left unstolen, especially when it’s someone working in your milieu, here are some of my pet peeves about youth sports.

1. Girls’ softball cheers. You don’t have to be quiet, but can you at least come up with some new ones? I know that you told me you would shout it when Katie got a double, or that you’re going all the way to San Francisco where the people do the disco, and that your team is totally awesome, baby. Please, anything else, I beg you.

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2. Coaches with sunglasses. Nothing signals a douchebag who is ready to game the rules at any moment or steal bases when the score is 17-0 than a coach with sunglasses.

3. Children younger than 14 who put one foot in the batter’s box, then stretch one arm with a hand extended in a stop signal toward the umpire to let him or her know not to have the ball put in play. Forget steroids: this is the bad influence major-leaguers have wrought upon America’s youth.

4.  Wrestling as a substitute for working out father-son issues. I never saw so many dads yell and boys cry (teens included) as I did in the year my oldest son wrestled. Just go to therapy, already!

5. Port-a-potties being placed so far from the field. Hey, when it’s T-ball, we could use one a little closer than the opposite end of the park. Like, on the way to home plate from the dugout.

Any pet peeves you’d care to share?

Written by rkcookjr

August 13, 2009 at 12:37 am

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