Archive for October, 2010

Dealing with parents: Coach Bill Tribou’s “Three Absolutes” Approach

Had a lively and spirited interview this AM with long-time head football coach at Greeley HS (Chappaqua, NY), Bill Tribou. As I said on WFAN, you’re not going to find many coaches who are as successful and as well-respected as Bill Tribou.

Bill, just like any HS coach these days, has had to come to grips with meddling parents. That is, sports parents who mean well, but want to make sure that the coach is on the same wave length when it comes to insuring that their kid is getting enough playing time, playing the right position, and so on. Coaches everywhere will tell you that dealing with intrusive parents is the hardest part of their job.

Based upon his experiences over the years, Coach Tribou has come up with a game-plan to head off parents. He calls it the “Three Absolutes” and he presents these mandates in a big meeting with the players and their parents, each April, long before the football season gets underway.

Those Absolutes are: Be Absolutely honest…Be Absolutely organized….and Be Absolutely Committed. Tribou spells it all out and asks the parents as he goes through each point as to whether they have any comments or questions. His approach is direct and simple: in effect, let’s get all of the questions out in the open now, so there’s no misunderstanding as we move ahead.

He makes it clear when and how parents can seek him out to talk about their son BUT that the coach will not talk about any other kid on the team as it relates to the player in question. That immediately stops queries such as, “My kid is better than Jones, the starting QB” or “How come my kid isn’t a co-captain”?

In addition, Coach Tribou makes it clear to the parents that if they want to go over his head and complain directly to the HS athletic director, that’s fine…so long as the AD has his back. If the AD doesn’t fully support his coaches, that’s where real problems can pop up in any school district.

Having coached myself over the years, I can tell you that Bill Tribou is right on target with his approach. Running a tight practice, being fully organized, and most of all, being clear and totally communicative to the players and their parents early on goes a long, long way toward getting rid of any parental intrusions. Maybe a generation ago, these kinds of problems didn’t exist, but they’re everywhere these days. Smart coaches know how to plan ahead to keep them out of the way.

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Does a HS Coach the Right to Stop a Game?

I saw a short write-up a week ago in the Jersey Journal a week ago in which a HS varsity boys soccer match between Hudson Catholic and Hoboken was stopped with the score tied 1-1 with 17 minutes to go because one of the coaches thought the officiating was poor, i.e. he felt that the tone of the game had become physically dangerous for both teams.

So the coach took his team off the field, and the game came to an abrupt end.

A week later, there’s still no word as to whether the coach would either be disciplined by the New Jersey State Athletic Interscholastic Association for his actions…or saluted for being proactive in trying to prevent serious injury to his players.

On my show this AM, it seemed that the callers were split down the middle on this debate. Some felt that this coach was setting a dangerous precedent with his actions, and that he needed to reprimanded, even suspended. Others felt that the coach should be applauded for not waiting for the inevitable to take (e.g. someone getting hurt), and that the game should simply be suspended and picked up at a later date (with presumably different refs working the game).

Almost all the callers agreed that it’s increasingly difficult to get good refs for HS soccer matches, and that even though they are all certified and trained, it’s just hard to maintain a certain level of quality. That being said, clearly this is an issue that needs to be addressed so that the coaches and referee’s can all work in tandem to make sure these conflicts don’t happen again.

As I said on the show, it sure would make a lot of sense for a coach to communicate his or her concerns with the officials either during a time-out or perhaps during half-time. The problem is, when you arbitrarily take your team off the field, that kind of ultimate action puts the coach – and the officials – in a very awkward spot.

No one wants to see a game be marred with injuries or penalties. I just wish there was some sort of policy put into place that can prevent these kinds of situations from happening in the future.

ACL Injuries and Female Athletes: A Cruel Irony

As Dr. Karen Sutton pointed out on my show on Sunday morning, the odds of a young female athlete suffering a serious ACL injury are about 8 or 9 times more likely than their male counterparts.

Even worse, there’s not much that girls or women can do to prevent these devastating injuries to their knees. There’s no indication that wearing a protective knee brace or support wrap will do anything to reduce the odds of these injuries. Dr. Sutton did mention a number of exercises to be done, including the strenthening of the hamstrings, quad muscles, and so on, but the high rate of ACL injuries occurs mostly due to the inherent structure of the female body, and apparently there’s not much that can be done to stop these injuries.

There was one caller who said that there’s some evidence that girls/women tend to see a higher occurrence of ACL injuries when the athlete is going through her menstruation cycle.

The only good news here is that those athletes who suffer these ACL tears do recover fairly quickly from surgery and can often go back and return to their sport. Dr. Sutton did point out, however, that often when one knee is hurt, the other one gets injured too.

All in all, with all the progress that Title IX has made in the USA to guarantee equality between the sexes, it’s just very ironic that women end up having to deal with so many more knee injuries than males.

Why do Athletes Have Such A Difficult Time in Behaving?

I was thrilled to have Jeff Benedict of SI.com on my show this past Sunday. As an investigative journalist, there is no one in the country who digs deeper and does a better job in putting forth the truth when it comes to top college and pro athletes, and how they have such difficulty in obeying the law.

As Jeff pointed out, his research doesn’t focus on garden-variety misbehavior; rather, he checks the police and arrest records for athletes who are accused of serious crimes, including domestic violence, rape, armed robbery, and so on. Common sense would dictate that these high-profile athletes would realize that they need to behave, or else risk all of their high-earning potential. But unfortunately, that’s just not often the case.

To me, what Jeff targeted well is that too many parents, coaches, and sports communities become enablers for these athletes when they are young. Rather than hold these kids responsible and accountable for miscreant activities, we too often look the other way, and just adopt a “boys will be boys” attitude. That kind of approach only aids in the downward spiral of these young athletes; they begin to assume that they can get away with anything.

So, as a sports parent, make sure you do the right thing with your child. Don’t give in. These are vitally important lessons for kids to learn at impressionable ages, and they watch carefully to see just how much they can get away with. The seeds of poor behavior are usually planted when an athlete is young – they grow into real weeds as the kids get older.

Hasn’t the time come to teach our kids internet etiquette?

The tragic case of 18-year-old Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi is just the latest example of a kid feeling so violated by the internet that he felt that he no other choice but to commit suicide.

This is just one more case — and there are plenty all over the country — where a student felt that his privacy had been so invaded and then displayed on the web that he couldn’t bear to go on with his life.

As we discussed on the Sports Edge this AM, the time has come for schools everywhere to step up their curriculum to teach either kids in middle school or in high school that the internet can be a devastating weapon. Internet bullying, hazing, and the invasion of privacy has to be stopped. And the first step to doing that is by teaching kids just how damaging their comments online may be to a classmate, colleague, or opposing teammate.

Anonymous blog posting, incorrect wikipedia edits, posting damaging video on youtube, even photoshopping pictures meant to embarass other individuals can no longer be tolerated. Parents have to be a main part of the solution here as well – they have to step in and try and teach their kids right from wrong when it comes to internet etiquette – or “netiquette.”

Of all the various topics in the world of sports parenting, this may be the most far-reaching. Kids know that when something is posted online, it is there for the entire world to view….and that it’s there forever. They have no control over it. And for too many kids, like Tyler Clementi, they see no way out.