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High school coach suspended for whipping players

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And when I say whipping players, I don’t follow it with the phrase “into shape.” Marlon Dorsey, head coach of Murrah High School’s boys’ basketball team in Jackson, Miss., on Nov. 11 was suspended (for at least a month) after cellphone video surfaced of him whipping a player on the behind with a weightlifting belt. He has been accused of whipping other players as well. As a result, parents are suing the Jackson Public Schools district — which has outlawed corporal punishment since 1991.

The incriminating video.

Dorsey has admitted to whipping students, but he said in a letter that it was for their own good. A portion of the letter, as published in the Jackson Clarion Ledger:

“I took it upon myself to save these young men from the destruction of self and what society has accepted and become silent to the issues our students are facing on a daily basis,” the letter states. “I am deeply remorseful of my actions to help our students.”

The letter, addressed to parents and others, said the punishment was issued for a variety of reasons, including disrespecting teachers, stealing cell phones, leaving campus without permission, being late for class and not following the dress code.

That same article further stated that Dorsey had support from some parents for, well, whipping them into academic and athletic shape, by any means necessary.

Dorsey is a first-year coach, but he’s hardly the first coach in recent years to get in hot water over corporal punishment. Numerous Chicago schools a few years back were found to have coaches paddling or beating players, despite a ban on corporal punishment instituted in 1994. An investigation in Dallas found at least one case of corporal punishment by one of its football coaches, despite a ban there, as well.

I’ve never hit my kids, and I don’t imagine I ever will. Not because they’re such perfect angels (well, they are, of course), but because I don’t see how spanking is an effective form of punishment, although others don’t share my view that corporal punishment is effective the same way sending someone to the gulag is effective — the victim fears you, but they don’t necessarily love or respect you. A writer at the Dallas Observer reacted with repugnance to a case of a football player who was hit 21 times in the backside, but to him the problem was the degree of punishment, not the actual whacking.

But we wonder how our kids got so out of control? Where’s the respect for teachers? For authority? Where have all the hard-nosed disciplinarians like Bobby Knight and Vince Lombardi and Woody Hayes gone?

Easy. We’ve degenerated into a wussified country weakened by Downy-soft consequences, only to inexplicably react with aghast at the resulting hard times.

I don’t remember all the numerous groundings I incurred as a kid. But I vividly the recall the two times I got paddled.

By the way, to answer his question, Bob Knight and Woody Hayes were forced out of Indiana and Ohio State, respectively, after failing to control their tempers. Lombardi gets an unfair rap. While he was tough on his players, he never raised a hand to them. Meanwhile, Knight had his own controversies thanks his wielding a whip.

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Parent goes to youth basketball game, gets stabby

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One of the many reasons I advocate against laws allowing guns at youth sports events is the powder-keg of emotions in the stands. And what can set it off is not necessarily anything going on in the game. A youth sports event can be a wondrous event to bring families together in harmony — or a horrible excuse for broken families to get together to settle their differences.

From The Indianapolis Star:

MIDDLETOWN, Ind. — Police say a man stabbed his wife’s ex-husband during a fight that broke out during a youth basketball game at a Central Indiana school. Henry County Sheriff Butch Baker says 34-year-old Eric Allred, Muncie, suffered a non-life-threatening stab wound to his torso and was taken to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

Baker tells The [Muncie] Star Press that Allred and 27-year-old Christopher Ellis, Middletown, started arguing in the bleachers during Saturday’s game at Shenandoah Elementary School. Baker says the fight then moved into a restroom, where Ellis attacked Allred with a knife.

The [Anderson, Ind.] Herald Bulletin reports Allred is the father of a child who was playing.

Ellis was being held in the Henry County Jail on preliminary aggravated battery charges.

OK, let me rephrase that — people shouldn’t be bringing any weapons to a kids game. At least, though, a knife can do limited damage compared to a gun. And, with no guns allowed, a trigger-happy vigilante can’t decide to step in the middle of a, shall we say, dicey domestic situation.

Written by rkcookjr

November 8, 2010 at 10:22 pm

A youth sports punch can get you six years in the clink

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I haven’t seen a punishment this severe for an assault on youth sports personnel, but maybe six years in prison should be a warning to any parent who goes nuts over kids’ athletics — at least to any parent with priors.

From the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minn.:

A Minneapolis man will serve six years in prison for punching the commissioner of a Burnsville youth sports association in the face after a sixth-grade basketball game [Feb. 13]

Robin Johnson, 49, also was ordered in Dakota County District Court to pay more than $14,200 in restitution and have no contact with the victims, who were not identified in court Wednesday. Johnson pleaded guilty in June to felony first-degree assault.

According to witnesses, Johnson was taunting at a player to make him miss — during a sixth-grade house league game. Commissioner Jeff Shaud asked him to stop, and when Johnson didn’t, Shaud got out his cellphone to call police. Johnson slapped it out of his hand, and then punched Shaud in the face to register his disagreement with the commissioner.

Police said Johnson landed multiple punches before being subdued by others in the crowd, most notably by a crowd member who kicked him in what my 7-year-old likes to call the “sheen.” (Not named after Charlie, but it could be.)

One of the amazing things about men is that no matter how many times they watch this, they will find it funny. And they will grab their man parts.

As youth sports parents and coaches, we’ve all dealt with nuts, and I don’t mean the kind that Robin Johnson was holding after he was kicked. Often, when writing about these folks, the assumption is they are otherwise normal people who get caught up in the youth sports moment. Alas, if that were always true. Often, many of these nuts bring their nuttiness with them. Johnson, for example, had issues that ranged far beyond his feeling on sixth-grade free throws.

Again, from the Pioneer Press:

In a separate case, Judge Michael Mayer also sentenced Johnson to a year of jail for violating a protection order, a gross misdemeanor, said Monica Jensen, a spokeswoman for the Dakota County attorney’s office. Johnson will serve the sentences concurrently. …

Previously, Johnson was convicted in June for violating an order for protection, in 2007 for giving police false information and violating an order for protection, and in 1997 for fifth-degree assault and fifth-degree domestic assault.

So if you’re the type who punches people at random… well, stop. But, please, don’t come to the kids’ games. If you do, there might already be a prison bunk being made up for you.

Written by rkcookjr

November 4, 2010 at 10:23 pm

The youth sports version of torture porn

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An interesting story behind “Play Their Hearts Out,” a book by George Dohrmann — one of the few sportswriters to ever win a Pulitzer Prize — about the youth basketball machine. Apparently Dohrmann, traveling on his own dime, was able to follow a 9- and 10-year-old AAU team, as long as he didn’t write about what happened until the players were out of high school. The book sounds amazing. The book comes out Oct. 5.

Dohrmann unearthed all sorts of academic fraud at the University of Minnesota to get his Pulitzer, and for his book he unearths all sorts of stink about what really happens in the high-stakes youth basketball world. You might think you have a general idea of how rotten it is, but Dohrmann finds it’s worse than you would ever imagine. From a Los Angeles Times review:

The world … is one of shocking greed and ego, one where adults use and abuse children under the banner of sport. There are few good guys in this book, but certainly not the coaches who seek the big dollars of the shoe companies, nor the shoe companies that provide them.

This is how it works.

The shoe companies — Adidas, Reebok, Nike, etc. — are always looking for the next Michael Jordan, whose unmatchable endorsement power whetted everybody’s appetite for more.

The youth coaches gather teams, play win-at-all-costs games, emulate Bob Knight along the sidelines during games and hope that the shoe companies will not only hear about them and provide their young and impressionable players with free shoes and product, but also put them on the payroll.

Mom and dad allow their 9- and 10-year-olds to be used and yelled at because they have visions of college scholarships and pro contracts. Some parents allow their children to play only if the coach pays their rent. If the coach does so, it is most often with money from the shoe companies. If the parents have money, they bribe coaches to have their child included.

Hangers-on publish ratings of these almost teenagers, even though these raters often have never seen the players they are rating. High ratings of their players, in recruiting newsletters and on websites, mean more leverage for the youth coach with the shoe companies. They are also a recruiting guideline for college coaches, who know these ratings have minimal credibility and ought to know better than to use them.

These children play in multiple games and tournaments that become, to them, the only measure of their worth. The tournaments become meat markets for coaches, scouts and raters, as well the youth coaches’ auditions for the shoe companies.

The writer, Bill Dwyre (Dohrmann’s former boss at the Times), calls “Play from the Heart” a book that makes you want to take a shower.

See, this is why I originally titled this review of the review “A new youth basketball/child torture book I’m not sure I want to read.” It sounds amazing, and it sounds like it should be read by every parent who decides to throw his or her child into the youth sports pool without a floatie. But it might be too horrible to watch the slow, painful torture of children that sounds like it unfolds through the course of the book. You want to find out how you can save these kids — except it’s eight years too late.

If you can’t bring yourself to read the book, know this. The 9-year-old at the center is one of the many next LeBrons, Demetrius Walker. He was still being called a next LeBron at age 14.

Instead of going straight to the NBA, Walker got a scholarship — which, to be fair, is more than most get — to Arizona State. He averaged four points per game, and fell out of favor with coach Herb Sendek. In 2010-11, he’ll sit out a year as a transfer to New Mexico. Maybe Walker will still be an NBA player. But it sure doesn’t look good. And, for that, Walker — once surrounded by adult sycophants angling to cash in his future fame — instead will find himself in therapy in the Next LeBron Support Group.

Written by rkcookjr

September 25, 2010 at 9:38 pm

'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.

Inside a Catholic how-not-to-molest-children class

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John Pilmaier (R) and Barbara Blaine (L) of th...

Image by AFP via Daylife

As you might have heard, the Catholic Church and its pope are in a bit of pickle over new allegations about priests who abused children, and how the church covered up and/or ignored that activity. Of course, this has been a sensitive topic for some time now. How sensitive, I got to see first-hand in 2007 when I was required, in order to coach my son’s fourth-grade Catholic school basketball team, to sit in on special training that was supposed to teach us how to make sure none of the kids on our team were abused, and how not to make sure we put ourselves in a position to be accused falsely of being an abuser.

I wrote the following post Jan. 7, 2009, for my old WordPress blog. I’m bringing it back because it will give you an idea of how some of the most loyal Catholics are dealing with the church’s pedophile problems, and how the church itself is in ass-covering legal mode to the point it’s treating the laity like they were the abusers. Also, because even though my family isn’t Catholic anymore, I’m still getting emails telling me there’s a new online refresher course for my special training.

If you are coaching a team at a Catholic school, or working with children there in any capacity, more than likely you have to go through something called VIRTUS training. Or as I call it, How Not to Molest Children.

I went through VIRTUS two years ago before coaching my son’s fourth-grade basketball team, and my wife went through it this year to teach first-grade CCD (stands for Confraternity of Catholic Doctrine — I had to look that up). I haven’t coached in a Catholic environment since then — the end of that year, we transferred our kids from Catholic to public school — but I still get emails updating me to online training, which I have to keep up with in case I ever do. The latest one came today, which I why I’m writing about VIRTUS now.

The major unvirtuous, if that’s a word, cloud over VIRTUS training is that it was designed by the National Catholic Risk Retention Group — the ones who provide the church insurance to cover costs associated with those pesky priest-molestation lawsuits. Like any corporate lawsuit prevention training, it focuses as much on how not to get in trouble as it does helping the actual, you know, children. It talks about ways to prevent yourself from being falsely accused. And when you go for your two-hour training, one of your first thoughts — well, it certainly was mine — was, why are we here? As I recall, it was clergy that was the problem, not the fourth-grade basketball coaches.

After two hours in the auditorium-like, tiled basement of St. Bede the Venerable in Chicago’s Scottsdale neighborhood, my feelings changed from cynicism to sadness. As easy as it is to joke about diddling priests, it was heartbreaking to the depths to which people have been shaken by the scandal.

I don’t mean that they are questioning themselves as being Catholics, or that they are even sympathetic to the criticisms lobbied at the church. Predictably, some groused the media was making too big a deal out of it. Particularly in Chicago, and particularly on the south side of it, Catholicism is deeply ingrained culture, not merely a place to go on Sundays and worship without ever taking off your coat. Being told not to be alone around a parish child, not to give anyone a ride home who isn’t your own kid, not to leave a kid with a priest until the parents arrived — whatever the sound, ass-covering reasons, for these hardcore, lifelong Catholics, this was like being told that we are not friends anymore. The best (and sometimes worst) thing about life inside a Catholic parish is its intense sense of community, and the message of VIRTUS training was that you no longer could trust anyone.

As you might have gathered, I am not a lifelong southside Chicago Catholic. I was baptized Catholic so my then-nonreligious parents could get me into a Catholic school, and I was later confirmed as an Episcopalian. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Now I go to a church affiliated with the United Church of Christ — letting priests be gay since 1972!] Before I got married to my wife — a lifelong southside Chicago Catholic [EDITOR’S NOTE: Scratch that last word now] — I had priests in two different archdioceses trying to figure out what I was. When I gave the priest my baptismal certificate, he saw that I was four years old when I was baptized and asked me, “This is REAL certificate?” I had no idea passing fake baptismal IDs was such a problem.

Still, I was sympathetic toward people who whole worldview was being rocked good and hard during VIRTUS training. Here we all were, wanting to do good by coaching or teaching kids, and we were being treated as potential molesters first, eyes and ears to potential molestation by others second, and maybe good-hearted people third. The pastor of St. Bede knew the vibe. He had been installed there not long after word broke that the Chicago Archdiocese had reached settlements for molestation by priests, including one who had served at St. Bede. Meanwhile, another former St. Bede priest was already in jail. The new priest, who seemed to me a genuinely nice guy, said a few parishioners greeted him by asking, to his face, if he was a child molester, too.

Guarding against child predators isn’t only a Catholic problem or concern, of course. Everywhere I’ve coached, I’ve had to fill out a form for a police background check. There are too many memories of kid-friendly coaches who turned out to be not so friendly. Heck, just run a quick Google News search and you’ll see it still happens, despite all the precautions. That’s why VIRTUS training exists. Yes, it tries to prevent child predators from entering the system or if they do, from getting out of hand. But it also exists to say to parents, don’t sue us — we tried.

Local YMCA bans spectators from youth basketball playoffs

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You can’t watch your kids play at the YYYYYY, M, C, A!

Like high schools that have banned fans because of suspected gang activity or threat of violence in the crowd, the Tri-Community YMCA in Southbridge, Mass., has closed its Feb. 27 fifth-grade-and-up basketball championships to all but players, coaches and officials because of some other unruly mob — the players’ parents.

From the Worcester Telegram & Gazette:

An e-mail sent out to the parents cites “unsportsmanlike behavior from some parents” during the last couple of weeks.

The e-mail says a few people have become “belligerent” in the stands, even after being spoken to, and have been “setting a bad example for children.”

“All must know that this is inappropriate behavior that will not be tolerated.”

YMCA Director Edward Keefe and YMCA Recreation Director Susan Casine agree it was a very tough decision to make.

“There was a lot of discussion. We didn’t make the decision lightly,” Mr. Keefe said. “This is the last game. This is the last week. We want the kids to have fun, have a positive experience and close out the season on a positive high.

“We don’t want to affect the parents who go to every game and behave themselves and cheer on their kids,” Ms. Casine said. “But we need to make sure that unsportsmanlike behavior from parents doesn’t get out of hand.”

In the comments section — always the most fun read in these stories — one self-identified parent sounds a little, well, belligerent over the decision. From a martyr going by the handle “Innocent yet punished:”

I am a parents with several children who have been participating in the program for several years. I heard about my punishment on the news last night. Interesting that no one bothered to email, write or call. My children have not caused problems and neither have my husband and I. Now we are all being punished to send a message to the poorly behaved parents. What message is being sent to my family? You have to pay for the sins of others. Bring your children up right and teach them to do what’s right and then teach them that behaving has no benefit because they will be punished for something they didn’t do. Do you think I want my children alone in the gym with the same children that swear like their parents and have no problem causing problems? Do you think I want my children left alone without me to witness the adults in charge not having enough courage to eject misbehaving parents and children? I don’t think so. Let me ask the question again of the adults in charge, what message are you sending to my family? Those same misbehaing parents and children will be back next season, how many of the well behaved parents and children will be back? I don’t want my children and I to receive more punishment next season for something we don’t do.

Hey, Jesus had to pay for the sins of others, too, Innocent yet punished, and you didn’t hear him complaining. (OK, maybe a little.)

Other commenters suggested that the Y have the local police or extra security to take care of belligerent parents, which sounds reasonable, except when you ask yourself, the YMCA needs cops to handle a fifth-grade basketball game? In the Star & Telegram article, the Y officials pointed out that they, and the referees, have tried to eject unruly adults or get them to moderate their behavior, but with no success. Apparently they subscribe to the common American fan credo that if you pay your money ($52, or $35 if you’re a Y member), you get to do or say anything you damn well please.

The martyred parent does bring up a good point, though, about whether the “good” parents will bring their kids back for next season if they face the probability of not watching their children play and other people’s children swear. This is why the Y and other leagues are always in such a quandary about what to do about problem adults, because no matter how they do it, they upset their revenue base.

Written by rkcookjr

February 26, 2010 at 10:11 am