Archive for December, 2010

Does the Punishment Fit the Crime? Hockey player gets 3 games for using racial slur; Opposing coach gets suspended for a year

During an amateur hockey game in mid-November in Peterborough, Canada, a 16-year-old kid gets angry at an opposing player – who happens to be black – and uses the N-word.

The racist kid is benched by his coach for the remainder of the period, but then comes back to play in the next period, as if nothing happened. No apology, no nothing.

Outraged, the black kid’s coach takes his team off the ice and refuses to play the rest of the game. His attitude is that his player has been insulted to the highest degree, and seemingly the other coach isn’t going to do anything about it.

So what does happen? The Ontario Minor Hockey Assn. deliberates and decides that the racist kid should be suspended for 3 games. But the opposing coach of the black kid should be suspended for the rest of the season. After all, the league decides, taking one’s team off the ice and forfeiting a game is ten times more offensive than using the N-word.

Fortunately, the word began to spread throughout Canada, and after a month of media and corporate sponsorship fury, the league decided to reverse its decision on booting the coach for the season. He was reinstated right away.

What’s the takeaway here? To me, this case cried out for simple common sense. If a teenage kid utters a racial slur, that’s the prime time for an adult coach or league administrator (or even the kid’s parent) to step in, remove the kid from the game  immediately, and banish the kid from the game and any future ones until he fully understands the impact of his words. A written apology wouldn’t hurt either.

But in this case, it was the opposing coach who got punished…even when he was doing the right thing! So how come it took the hockey league more than a month to figure this out?

PS – one of the callers on the show mentioned that during the course of many sporting contests, a lot of trash talk goes on, and that often racist slurs are shouted between athletes who have the same ethnic background. As the caller said – and I agree – using any kind of ethnic slurs during a game is flat-out wrong, and should be addressed immediately. From my perspective, playing sports should lift our society to a higher level, not take it down a few notches.

More warnings about Athletes, Coaches, and the Internet

Coaches and parents…here’s a lesson you need to get across to your son or daughter. When they first start to learn about Facebook or blog posting or texting, that’s the moment to teach them that whatever they post online will stay there forever.

Please. Don’t put this parenting or coaching lesson off. Too often kids don’t often think ahead about the consequences of their actions. And with the internet, while they might think that only a small number of their friends are reading their postings, the truth is — their writings are open to the entire world. Plus those adolescent postings will stay online forever.

As was discussed on the show, there was the case of the HS football players from New Jersey who thought it would be great to videotape a post-game celebration after they won a big game. Within hours, it had been uplinked to Youtube and launched. Within a few more hours, those athletes had been seriously punished by their football coach and suspended from school. If only those kids had thought twice before posting their silly video celebration.

Then there’s the youth football coach from Georgia who must have thought he was being funny or clever by posting a bunch of ethnic slurs on his blog. Most of us realize that Archie Bunker is long gone, but this knucklehead must  have thought it was time to resurrect Archie’s slurs.

In any event, once the blog postings had made the rounds, the coach had to resign from his coaching post, and of course had to apologize to his community for his not-funny, stupid comments.

As many of the callers pointed out, these days, if you have a Facebook account or can be Googled, understand that college admissions officers, college coaches, and employers ALL check on you, or on your athlete.

As such, it’s worth your while to review all the text, postings, and photos that appear online. THINK TWICE before you post anything online. That’s still good advice – not only for kids, but for parents and coaches as well.

Are Today’s Athletes “Softer” than Our Generation?

Let me start by emphatically saying that I don’t think there’s any question that young athletes today are bigger, stronger, and faster than when I was growing up. Whether it’s better nutrition, better training, whatever – today’s athletes are the best ever.

However, I do think a case can made that perhaps kids today, in general, don’t cope as well with adversity as athletes of a generation ago. This theory was supported by a recent survey done of HS football coaches in Georgia by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Overwhelmingly, the coaches reported that kids are too often shielded by their hovering parents, and when it comes to adversity, kids today too often fall back on Mom and Dad when the coach starts to lean on the kids to work harder or practice harder.

Some coaches call it a “lack of mental toughness” in athletes today —  that when you start to push the kids to reach a higher level, the kid often balks or shies away.  They’ll either be non-responsive, or will hide behind the defense of  “I’m supposed to have fun, and this is not fun.”

This kind of general reaction is both baffling as well as frustrating to coaches. As one said, “I want to get these kids to believe in themselves, but how can I get them to do that when they don’t even try to respond?”

Friends, let’s face it. Learning how to deal with setbacks and overcome adversity is perhaps one of the most important life-lessons that sports teaches us and our kids. As I said on my radio show, I have never met a professional athlete who didn’t have to overcome some sort of adversity in their playing career (and of course, you can start with the story of Michael Jordan getting cut from his basketball team in his sophomore year).

Bottom line? Maybe in our rush to protect our kids in their sporting quests we’re actually doing them a disservice by not letting deal with the kinds of adversity that come normally through sports. We may be producing betters athletes, but sadly, not athletes who know how to fight back from a setback.

What Kind of Message Did the NCAA Send with the Cam Newton case?

So let me get this right…Cam Newton – the star QB of Auburn University and the favorite to win the Heisman – didn’t know a thing about his Dad shopping him around to various top D-I colleges, and that his Dad was looking for a payment of $100,000 to $180,000 for his son to sign a letter of commitment?

That’s what the NCAA ruled last week. In effect, they are convinced that the father was way off base, but that Cam was innocent.

Looking beyond the cynicism – I mean, is it possible that Cecil Newton didn’t tell his son about what each college was offering? The real question is, why didn’t the NCAA stand up and punish the father and the son.  They ruled that it’s not fair to punish the son for the sins of the father. Well, I agree with that. But the NCAA could have certainly used this prime-time opportunity to send a very strong message to sports parents everywhere.

Unfortunately, they chose not to do that. And as a result, sports parents everywhere will continue to find other ways to get college coaches to “insure” that their kid is swayed by one program or another. A decade ago, college coaches would simply hire a top prospect’s dad to be on the coaching staff. That was ultimately shot down. But where do we go from here?