Archive for March, 2013

DANGERS OF ENERGY DRINKS: Better Be Careful as to What Your Athlete is Drinking

Over the last few years, the concerns over the safety of energy drinks have been growing at an alarming pace. This involves any and all sports drinks that are clearly being marketed to teenage athletes to give them a competitive edge. These products are slickly packaged, appear in GNC and other health stores, and give the appearance to any consumer that they are totally safe to consume.

After all, if they weren’t safe, how come they can be sold? Or at least that’s the general impression.

Problem is, these drinks are not scrutinized closely by the Food and Drug Administration, and as a result, it’s pretty much a case of caveat emptor – let the buyer beware – when you or your youngster buy these products. Yet these products contain impurities, dangerous additives, and often too much caffeine.

More specifically, and this has been documented by numerous articles in recent months in the New York Times by such esteemed journalists as Peter Lattman and Barry Meier, is that the number of visits to emergency rooms has grown dramatically. Complaints about headaches, heart palpitations, even heart attacks, have alarmed medical professionals everywhere. These products, including Monster Energy, Jack3D, 5-hour Energy, and so on, form a multi-billion dollar business, and clearly they aren’t going to give up their turf without a good fight. The manufacturers, of course, deny any blame for these medical concerns, but the numbers of complaints are growing daily.

But as Peter Lattman of the Times pointed out on my show this AM, there are all sorts of worries about these products, and the time has come for the FDA to step up and set the record straight. In a recent article, Lattman detailed the death of an otherwise healthy 22-year Army private, Michael Sparling, who died two years from a heart attack after consuming a container of Jack3D. That product contains something known as DMAA, which is banned by most sports organizations as well as several countries. But here in the US, it is sold as an ingredient in Jack3D (or at least was), and according to the coroner’s report, most likely resulted in this young man’s death.

But this is just one example. Steve Bechler, a top pitching prospect in the Orioles’ organization, popped some Ephedra pills into his mouth to try and lose weight.  A few  hours later, he was dead from a heart attack. And there have been many tragedies from young athletes drinking these products.

Even Collegiate Baseball, a fairly conservative publication, reported a couple of years that that popular protein drinks like Muscle Milk contain impurities such as lead, titanium, and arsenic. Obviously, you don’t want your youngster drinking something that contains this kind of dangerous ingredients.

So what’s the bottom line? Pay attention to what your kid is drinking. Bear in mind that the ingredients on the label may not tell you everything you need to see. Above all, be  careful. Do your homework on these products. And above all, educate your child.

Everybody wants to get an edge, but who wants to do that at the expense of one’s health?:

LEGAL CONCERNS: How Can We Prevent Future Steubenville Cases?


The Steubenville Rape Case and the Value of Sex-Abuse Prevention Classes in the Schools

By Doug Abrams


On Sunday morning, March 17, juvenile court judge Thomas Lipps found two Steubenville, Ohio high school football stars delinquent for digitally raping a drunk, and nearly unconscious, 16-year-old girl during a night of wild partying following a team scrimmage last August 11.  After a four-day trial marked by evidence that he called “profane and ugly,” Judge Lipps ordered that 17-year-old quarterback Trent Mays and 16-year-old wide receiver Ma’lik Richmond each serve at least one year in juvenile confinement for rape.  The judge further ordered that Mays serve at least a second year for disseminating a nude photograph of a minor, his defenseless victim.  The pair could be confined until they turn 21, and then must register as sex offenders, possibly for life.

Rick Wolff is right that Steubenville’s journey from the alcohol-drenched parties to the juvenile court trial leaves a path strewn with no winners, only losers.  Most important, the victim faces the prospect of lifelong physical and emotional trauma and personal humiliation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that rape victims can suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, fear, anxiety, and persisting suicidal thoughts.

With photographs and text messages widely available on the Internet, the two publicly named teenage rapists face ruined lives.  Also facing potentially troubled lives are the few dozen bystanders who encouraged the two football players; photographed the victim as boys stripped off her clothing; belittled her as she was carried, vomiting and nearly unconscious, from party to party like an animal; and turned a blind eye without intervening or seeking outside help.  Researchers call student bystanders “secondary victims” whose recollections of timidity and lack of resolve in the face of bullying can permanently sear their consciences. 

Tolerating a Jock-ocracy

Rick is also right that sexual violence committed by children on other children can happen anywhere. Steubenville may have presented a witches’ brew — hero worship of local high school football players; freely flowing alcohol; an engrained sense of adolescent male entitlement; and adults willing to cover up sexual violence in the quest for state championships.  Allegations abounded that a local code of silence enabled adolescent “rape crews” to inflict maltreatment, unworried about personal consequences and unconcerned for constraints of common decency. But Steubenville would not be alone in tolerating a jock-ocracy that places high-profile local athletes on a pedestal where they do not belong.

The nation misses the target, however, when we aim only at athletes.  The nation’s police blotters remain heavy with adolescents whose sexual violence against peers has little or nothing to do with sports, but plenty to do with broader misperceptions about civility, mutual respect, and appropriate gender roles in our society. 

Searching for Meaningful Lessons

Disgust during and after a celebrated courtroom trial frequently, and quite appropriately, inspires a search for useful lessons to help reshape the future.  This column focuses on prevention of sexual violence through in-school life skills curricula that teach students (all students, and not just athletes) about how to develop and maintain healthy personal relationships, including how boys and men should treat girls and women.  The Steubenville school district formerly taught life skills courses but shortsightedly cut them a few years ago, reportedly for budgetary reasons.

Classroom instruction about life skills and healthy interpersonal relationships remains essential in every public school district in the United States.  This instruction, which can normally fit within existing health-related courses with minimal budgetary impact, is not a frill, somehow expendable in tough budgetary times.  Effective classroom life skills instruction can help prevent much personal humiliation, and many broken lives and shattered dreams of victims and victimizers alike. 

Carefully Conceived Juvenile Prevention Efforts Work

Preventive classroom instruction about appropriate gender roles plows no new ground because classroom instruction already seeks to protect children from a vast array of potential dangers, such as delinquency, bullying, cyberbullying, and physical violence.  Because we know that well-designed existing classes can work, school districts should assure that one or more of these classes include effective instruction for every student about sexual violence.  Instruction about values and healthy interpersonal relationships begins at home, of course, but the public schools also influence children’s upbringing. 

School districts can determine for themselves where to place this instruction about healthy gender roles. Prime candidates include courses in Family and Consumer Sciences, Teens and Social Issues, personal health, and bullying or violence.  Where one or more of these or similarly named courses are electives, instruction designed to reach all students must be placed in required courses. 

Existing anti-bullying curricula, for example, would be an appropriate and accessible place — appropriate because sexual violence resembles bullying; and accessible because 49 states (all but Montana) have enacted anti-bullying legislation that requires public school districts to teach bullying prevention. 

Because school districts share common concern for student welfare, they can share information and resources with one another as they continually refine their life skills curricula in the light of experience.  Instruction in proper personal relationships can begin in elementary school and proceed through middle school and high school.  School districts may also consider the value of involving parents, students and other constituencies in a collaborative effort to reshape the school’s culture rather than focus primarily on individual acts.

Would classroom life skills instruction have prevented the rapes in Steubenville on that hot August night?  Perhaps yes and perhaps no, but no one event frames the issue.  The issue is whether effective classroom instruction can prevent many, and perhaps most, incidents of sexual violence among children.  Available data indicate that the answer is yes.

Experience has shown, for example, that carefully conceived anti-bullying curricula can reduce bullying incidents by as much as 50% in a particular school.  Many or most students likely change their ways once they learn about the pain that bullying can inflict, but some students do not.  We might wish that the percentages of prevented incidents were higher, but each prevented incident spares one or more innocent victims who will never know their good fortune.

Prevention initiatives measure success by rates of reduction rather than by complete elimination of targeted conduct.  Instruction about delinquency, bullying, and sexual or physical violence cannot prevent all incidents of the targeted antisocial conduct, any more than criminal statutes can prevent all incidents of the conduct they target.  A criminal statute stems from hope that prohibition reduces the number of such acts committed. Reduction, the most realistic outcome of prevention efforts, remains a worthwhile goal when tolerating unacceptably high rates of injury and anti-social conduct is the alternative.

The Coaches’ Important Role

 Even though football players and other interscholastic athletes hold no monopoly on sexual violence, coaches can play especially important roles in the school district’s efforts to shape their players’ behavior and values, particularly if the team holds a high public profile.  During pre-season meetings and throughout the schedule, coaches must make it clear that athletic stardom confers no immunity from personal accountability or from the constraints of common decency and mutual respect. Coaches should stress that an athlete’s prominent status may indeed help assure press coverage of transgressions that can permanently damage the athlete’s future, and may reflect on the reputation and good name of the school and the team.

For parents, coaches and teachers alike, Steubenville teaches us yet again that Benjamin Franklin spoke wisdom more than 270 years ago:  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”


[Sources: Douglas E. Abrams, A Coordinated Public Response to School Bullying, in Our Promise: Achieving Educational Equity for America’s Children (Carolina Academic Press 2009), ; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sexual Violence: Consequences, (2013); Sameer Hinduja & Justin W. Patchin, State Cyberbullying Laws: A Brief Review of State Cyberbullying Laws and Policies (chart), (Nov. 2012).










                                                       By Steve Kallas

 Well, if you followed the trial and (correctly) assumed that there was an impartial judge (Judge Thomas Lipps was brought in from out of town after the local juvenile court judge recused himself because his granddaughter had dated one of the non-defendant Steubenville football players), it was pretty clear that both defendants would be found guilty on all counts (two against Trent Mays; one agains Ma’lik Richmond).  For a detailed discussion of the case just an hour before the verdict was announced, listen to Rick Wolff’s fine WFAN show, “The Sports Edge,” where his guests were law professor Doug Abrams and this writer (go to, click on personalities, click on Rick Wolff, click on Sports Edge from 8-9).

 In the world we live in today, unlike in Winston Churchill’s day, the truth can get around the world pretty quickly due to social media.  And when one of the defendants (Mays) sends the truth (a picture of the victim, naked, in the basement) out himself, well, on at least one count, he convicted himself.

 On Sunday morning, Judge Lipps held that both defendants “are hereby adjudicated delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt on all three counts as charged” (that’s the juvenile court equivalent of “guilty “). The three charges were two against Mays (one count of rape for penetrating the 16-year-old victim’s vagina with his fingers and another count of taking a nude photograph of the underage victim and sending it to others) and one against Richmond (rape for penetrating the 16-year-old victim’s vagina with his fingers).


 Judge Lipps also announced that Trent Mays, the former star quarterback of “Big Red” football, would serve at least two years in a juvenile detention center and Ma’lik Richmond, the former star wide receiver of the same team, would serve at least one year.  Whether they serve a longer sentence (up until their respective 21st birthdays is possible) will be determined at a later date by officials at the Ohio Department of Youth Services (the defendants will be given some time served for the time they were in jail and under house arrest before the trial).

 In addition, Judge Lipps will determine the status of the defendants as registered sex offenders after their sentences have been served.

 In his comments, Judge Lipps pointed out that both boys would have received much longer sentences had they been tried as adults.

 So, why weren’t they?

 Much has been made of the “football culture” that exists in small-town Steubenville, a former steel town with (now) only 18,000 residents.  By many accounts, high school football is king in Steubenville to the point where Trent Mays said in multiple tweets that his coach had “taken care” of it and his coach “was joking about it” so Mays wasn’t “worried.”

 While many criticized the Attorney General’s office for not bringing more prosecutions (another grand jury is being convened to see if there are others to be charged), one subtle way that the “football mentality” may have actually aided these defendants is the decision that let these boys be tried in juvenile court, as opposed to being tried as adults, where they would have been looking at a sentence in double-digit years.


 Apparently, once upon a time, the Steubenville schools had programs to teach young boys to respect women.  Unfortunately, those programs were eliminated due to budget cuts.

 Did the “football culture” surrounding Steubenville aid in that decision?  Can you imagine, in 2013, in a place where a number of citizens were quoted as saying things like “as long as the football team has a winning record, they can do what they want,” that THESE programs are the ones that were cut?  Even porn star Traci Lords got into the act, saying that she (at the age of 10) and her mother had both been raped in Steubenville, where Ms. Lords had grown up.

 On a separate note, the defense lawyers did what defense lawyers do – they tried to blame the victim.  In opening statements, the lawyer for Richmond actually said that the victim voluntarily got drunk.  While totally irrelevant to a rape charge, this attempt (or, as you hear in other cases, she was dressed “provocatively,” i.e., she was asking for it) might have had an effect on a Steubenville juror who loved the football team, but it (thankfully) had no effect on Judge Lipps.

 These defenses, while disgusting and irrelevant, still exist all across the country today.  And, if you have the courage, as this 16-year-old did, to get up on the witness stand and testify, well, she (and her family) didn’t “win,” but, at least, they got some justice (no winners in this case).

 But, on this fact pattern (three eyewitnesses, all granted immunity after taking the Fifth, testified graphically and explicitly against the defendants), there was little these defense lawyers could do other than tell the Court what good boys they had been in all other aspects of their lives (hey, Mrs. Lincoln, other than the assassination, how did you like the play?; hey, Your Honor, other than the rape, these are good kids).


 Remorse? What remorse?  It’s all in the timing.  Clearly there was no remorse the night it happened or the days after this all happened.  Clearly there was no remorse when Trent Mays was trying to coerce the girl not to go to the police.  It doesn’t seem that there was any remorse until the judge said guilty.  If there was any earlier, it was probably when they saw their football careers going up in smoke.

 To paraphrase Rihanna (a singer these kids are probably aware of) in “Take A Bow,” were these kids sorry for what they did or were they sorry they got caught? 


 The Ohio Attorney General has announced that there will be a grand jury convened to see if other charges should be brought against other people.  Who could that be?  Well, 16 people refused to talk to officials in this matter.  The adults in the house where the victim wound up (naked in the basement) with both defendants may be looked at.  The football coach or others at the school may have had some obligation to report the abuse once they knew about it.

 There is also the chance that the victim and her family will file a civil suit against the two defendants, although the family’s civil attorney said (after the verdict) that, if the boys had shown some remorse at a much earlier time, there was a chance that no charges would have been brought against the two defendants.

 There are lots of ways to go here.  At least it wasn’t swept under the rug.

 And maybe at the next Steubenville school board meeting, somebody with a brain will make a motion to re-institute a number of mandatory courses on respect, proper treatment of women, anti-bullying, etc.

 They can take the cost of these programs out of the football team’s budget.

COACHING TIPS: Teaching The Importance of Respect to Kids


Why Youth Sports Teams Should Respect Custodians and Other Service Employees:  Valuable Lessons for Children from the 2012 Presidential Campaign

By Doug Abrams


When historians write accounts of the 2012 Presidential campaign, the “47 percent” video will occupy center stage as a potential game changer.   Addressing a private $50,000-a-plate fundraising dinner in Boca Raton, Florida on May 17, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney was caught on film saying, among other things, that “there are 47 percent who are with [President Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them. . . .”  When the national media aired the explosive video beginning in September, the Romney campaign went into a tailspin from which it never fully recovered.

Neither Governor Romney nor anyone in the audience realized that the camera was on, perhaps because other audience members also had cameras.  Last week, the person who filmed and released the video came forward to reveal his name for the first time.  In television interviews lasting more than an hour, Scott Prouty said that he was working the fundraiser as a bartender for a company that catered such elite gatherings.  He brought the camera because he hoped to have his photograph taken with the man who might become President, but he arrived at the event with no idea what the candidate would say to the audience and no intent to influence the election.

Prouty explained that he released the video because he believed that the “47 percent” statements demonstrated Governor Romney’s world view and reflected on the candidate’s ability to relate to ordinary Americans.  Prouty added that he felt a civil duty to enable voters to weigh the candidate’s own words. 

Prouty also explained how, as he struggled with whether to share the video with the public, prior personal encounters reinforced his perceptions about Governor Romney’s world view and empathy.  Prouty had previously tended bar at another fundraiser that the Governor attended.  When he poured the requested Coke with a twist of lemon, the Governor simply picked up the drink and walked away without any “thank you” or other acknowledgment.  At the Boca Raton fundraiser itself, Governor Romney arrived late, began with a few quips about speeding up the dinner service, never acknowledged the service staff, never thanked or visited with them, and abruptly left the private home after his talk. 

When Prouty tended bar at yet another fundraiser, however, the featured speaker was Bill Clinton.  Before leaving the private home, the former President went into the kitchen to thank the chefs, waiters, busboys and bartenders; shake hands; pose for photographs; and compliment the meal.  The demonstration of respect left a lasting positive impression. 

Dignity and Respect is not a political website, and my weekly youth sports columns do not discuss politics.  I write here not as a Democrat or a Republican, and I cast no aspersions on Governor Romney because the election is over, the voters have spoken, and serving children through sports has nothing to do with partisan politics.

I do try to remain alert, however, for lessons that parents and coaches can teach young athletes.  These lessons can stem from what happens on the field or in the locker room, but they can also stem from what happens elsewhere. The most important lessons have little or nothing to do with athletic skills, but everything to do with life skills whose influence outlasts adolescent athletic careers. 

Concrete examples sometimes reinforce these important lessons more effectively than mere abstract lectures can.  The story now unfolding nationally about release of the 47-percent video provides a concrete example that reinforces what I wrote last year in two columns that concerned proper conduct in youth sports. The first column — “The Power of ‘Thank You’” – delivered a commonsense, but often overlooked, lesson:  “[S]aying thank you takes very little effort, but recognizes a job well done.”

The second column — “Why Teams Should Respect Custodians and Other Service Employees” – discussed the importance of “treating people with dignity and common courtesy.” “Youth league and high school sports programs,” I wrote, “usually depend on custodians, maintenance staffs, grounds crews, security guards, grass cutters, and other employees who . . . go to work every day but often toil in anonymity, routinely ignored by team members who do not even bother to learn their names,” and who fail “to extend the respect and common courtesy that everyone deserves” as they seek to earn a living to sustain themselves and their families.

I explained that “[e]mployees appreciate team members who stop to say hello and chat, rather than treat them like pieces of furniture. . . .  It does not take much effort for coaches, players and parents to treat service employees with respect,” and “[w]ords like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ . . . can work magic. . . .”   

“I Speak To Everyone In the Same Way”

In youth sports and beyond, many service employees work at jobs commonly called “unskilled.”  The term “unskilled labor” rankles me, not only because I perceive all work to be honorable, but also because I believe that all work requires at least some skill.  There is no such thing as “unskilled labor.”

I recall a conversation with a college professor years ago. He held a Ph.D. and a string of other academic degrees that left him with more letters after his surname than in it.  But he told me about how his car had recently stalled on the highway and did not start until a young mechanic arrived to make on-the-scene repairs.  The mechanic may not have proceeded beyond high school, the professor said, “but he was a lot smarter than I was that day, wasn’t he?”      

Dismissing employment as “unskilled” can often be the first step toward dismissing the employee.  Albert Einstein said, “I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”  For parents and coaches who choose to teach children about saying thank-you and showing respect for the dignity of work, Dr. Einstein provides sound advice about right and wrong.

Sometimes failing to heed the advice may even affect or change the course of American political history.


[Sources: Margaret Hartmann, Bartender Felt “Obligation” To Share “47 Percent” Video With the World, New York Magazine, Mar. 13, 2013,; Peter Foster, Why Mitt Romney Should Have Followed the Example of Bill Clinton, The Telegraph (Britain), Mar. 13, 2013, ]




I introduced my WFAN radio show this AM by saying that the alcohol-fueled incident that occurred last summer in Steubenville, OH was a total lose-lose for everybody involved.

That includes the 16-year-old victim who was raped by two HS football players who fingered vaginally when she was unconscious from excessing drinking…for the boys who were convicted this AM and have been sentenced to doing at least a year in a juvenile facility…to all the kids in this small town in Ohio who either witnessed the incident and then, rather than try and intervene, actually snapped photos and videos which they sent out on the internet….and of course, to the parents of these children.

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of getting to know my two guests this AM – law professor Doug Abrams and NYC-based attorney Steve Kallas. Both men are top lawyers, both men are sports parenting experts, and both are sensitive to the issues that I bring up every week on the show. (If you missed their insights this AM, it would be worth your time to listen to the podcast on the show which can be found on

In short, both Steve and Doug outlined the case and what was at stake here. Most notably, it was pointed out that the boys were facing charges in juvenile court; they could have easily been brought to trial as adults, and if they had, they would be looking at very lengthy prison sentences.

As it played out, both Steve and Doug said on the air that they fully expected the boys to be convicted (or held “delinquent” which is the legal term that is used in juvenile court). Sure enough, an hour after my show ended, the judge in this case did, in fact, convict both boys.

To sports parents everywhere, this was a “perfect storm” of diaster for these kids. Terms like “a sense of entitlement among athletes”….”the exploitation of social media”…”underage and excessive alcohol abuse”….and “a lack of compassion” all came together in a confluence which has now upset all of these lives in a major, major way.

As a sports parent, you need to ask yourself: “Could this have been my daughter? Could this have been my son?”

In the courtroom, after the guilty decisons were announced, the parents of the two football players openly apologized to the girl and her family. The boys, Trent Mays and Malik Richmond, openly wept — sobbed – as the impact of their actions finally hit home.

What a horrible mess. This could happen anywhere in America. And even worse, it probably does. It just doesn’t get reported.

One final note. Just a few years ago, due to budget cutbacks, the school course in Steubenville on how to be civil and considerate of the opposite sex was eliminated. I wonder if the school board will bring that course back.


Over the last 20 years, as the issues surrounding youth sports in this country have reached bizarre and at times disturbing heights, there have been a number of individuals who have felt compelled to write books about this national epidemic.

I know this, because I am one of those people. My first book on what was wrong with youth sports, GOOD SPORTS, was first published in 1992. Since then, I have done several more.

But I am not alone in my writing efforts. There have been a number of worthy books on the same topic. Some of these works have merely mirrored what we already know about our nation which seems to have lost its sense of priorities. Other books have pointed out that there are all sorts of studies that show that we’re going down the wrong path with our kids.

All of these books, of course, share a singular theme – that we, as American sports parents, are doing a real disservice to our kids when it comes to sports in the 21st century.

But then you find a book from V.J. Stanley, who brings a breath of fresh air into this very emotional topic. Stanley, a former top amateur athlete himself and who hails from Rochester, NY, has spent the last few years researching and looking for solutions to the everyday concerns of parents and coaches who are involved in youth sports, and he has penned a poignant and passionate plea to right the ship and to get back to what sports are supposed to be about – specifically, kids having fun. Like so many of us, V.J. wonders how today’s parents and coaches seem to have lost their moral compass when it comes to kids in sports today.

Of course, the goal of kids just having fun is not easy to reach these days. Not with parental dreams of athletic scholarships, pro contracts, and the like seemingly right on the horizon. Too much emphasis is put on the rewards at the end, not during the years of development.

Intellectually, we all know that it’s too easy to become caught up with the dream of hoping that our child will be that magical one who will become the next LeBron James or Mia Hamm.  Let’s face it – parents are emotional beings, and Stanley makes his case that we absolutely need to maintain our perspective as best we can. Along the way, Stanley provides insights into coping with tryouts, provides coaching tips, how we can instill in our kids a sense of doing the right thing, and much more. Indeed, this is one of those sports parenting books that really covers all the bases.

If you’d like to find out more about V.J. Stanley, or how to order a copy of his excellent book, go to his website

DANGERS OF HAZING: How We Can Stop this Age-Old “Tradition”

The time has finally come to put an end to this age-old “tradition” or “rite of passage” where older HS athletes pick on younger teammates in order to make them “part of the team.”

In recent years, the number of hazing incidents has increased dramatically (especially because upperclassmen seem compelled to post their hazing antics online). This reality,  also fueled by a number of states which have passed anti-bullying laws which force teachers to report ay kind of bullying incidents they may witness, has moved the issue of hazing into a front-and-center concern.

Here’s the problem in a nutshell: older HS athletes seem to fully embrace the idea that “we were hazed when we were freshmen, so it’s only right that now that we’re seniors, that this crop of freshmen should endure what we did.”

Even worse, as a recent article in the Chicago Tribune pointed out, too many HS student-athletes today not only don’t have a problem with hazing, but they actually see it as a kind of positive team-building and bonding process. They even think that the victim eventually comes to realize that he or she “benefits” from the “unifying bonding” that goes on.

That may be hard to believe – but that’s one of the reasons why hazing still continues. Experts in this field insist that the only way to break the cycle is to bombard today’s athletes with numerous lectures by coaches and parents that not only is hazing actually detrimental and destructive to a team, but it also carries the potential for serious criminal charges.

The most recent example comes from the prestigious Bronx HS of Science in which three upperclasmen athletes on the track team allegedly have been picking on and hazing a freshman runner for several months. While the case is still under investigation, numerous media reports here in NYC are strongly suggesting that these three boys are facing serious criminal charges.

So, how can hazing be stopped? As mentioned, education and more education is where we start. HS athletes have to be taught over and over again that hazing is not a joke, that it’s not good for team unity, and that there are serious consequences. Bear in mind that the number of suicides from HS athletes who have been bullied has risen dramatically in the last decade.

Two, coaches should empower HS seniors on their team to openly report and even intervene if they see any evidence of hazing. For example, rather than have only the freshman carry the heavy equipment bags for the team, have the senior pitch in and help. Having seniors interact with freshman is the real way to build team unity – not by terrorizing them.

By the way, be aware that girls are just as likely to haze their younger teammates as boys are. Middle schoo “mean girls” still thrive on teams when they get to HS.

As a coach, be proactive. Come up with new ways to let your players know that you want the seniors to — instead of looking down on freshmen – to actually try and make them feel unique and special. That kind of different and enlightened approach will go a long way towards getting rid of any athletic hazing tradition.

And finally, remind the team members that hazing penalties go far beyong the HS Code of Conduct. More states do consider hazing a serious crime, and as such, if nothing else, kids should be aware of the consequence of their wayward actions.





Pee Wee Hockey Coach Gets Jail Time For Tripping 13-Year-Old Opponent in Post-Game Handshake Line

By Doug Abrams

 It was a malicious act by a youth league coach who should have known better.  A mighty costly act too, and one whose outcome I hope will help send a message to adults who feel tempted to commit assaults and other violence in children’s games.

At the end of a pee wee hockey game in Vancouver, British Columbia last June, the teams were proceeding through the traditional handshake line. As the boys shook hands with one another, the winning team’s 48-year-old coach, Martin Tremblay, intentionally stuck out his leg and tripped a 13-year-old opponent, whom he had berated from the bench throughout the game.  The boy fell into a 10-year-old teammate, and both players went down. 

A spectator’s video, which quickly went viral on YouTube, showed Tremblay pointing menacingly at the 13-year-old immediately after the tripping. (1:01). The boy reportedly broke his wrist and was fitted for a cast. 

In November, Tremblay pleaded guilty to one count of assault arising from his cheap shot.  On February 26, Provincial Court Judge Patrick Chen surprised some courtroom onlookers when he sentenced Tremblay to 15 days in jail, to be served on consecutive weekends.

The sentence was much stiffer than the suspended sentence and fine that Crown prosecutors had sought, but Judge Chen likened the attack to a “cowardly sucker punch on an unsuspecting victim.” “Society,” he said, “will not tolerate the assault of children by adults.” 

A Signal That Needs To Be Sent

Judge Chen called Tremblay’s jail sentence “a signal to other parents heavily involved in the sporting activities of their children that they must be seen as models of good and acceptable behavior and not as instigators of violence and of riotous behavior.” 

Courts need to send this signal to the relatively few adults who remain prone to violence in children’s games, and I am glad that Tremblay’s plea and sentencing received coverage in newspapers, television and online in Canada, the United States, and indeed throughout the world.  Fifteen days is not a felony sentence, but even modest jail time sends a wakeup call that might deter some adults from similar violence.

In general, the likelihood of criminal deterrence depends on two factors, the nature of the offense and the nature of the offender.  The nature of the offense, by itself, does not hold much promise in youth leagues because publicized criminal punishment is more likely to deter future premeditated crimes than future impulsive crimes of passion. Most assaults by adults in youth sports fall into the second category because I have never heard of a parent or coach who woke up in the morning plotting to commit an assault in a game later that day. Most of these assaults happen in the heat of the moment without planning or thinking, and we cannot count on criminal prosecutions to deter much impulsive behavior.

 The nature of the offender, however, holds much more promise in youth leagues because the realistic prospect of criminal punishment is more likely to deter rational thinkers than people who lack self-control. Despite the usually impulsive nature of adult violence in kids’ games, I suspect that in localities where prosecution for youth sports violence is a real possibility, publicity does encourage greater self-control in some parents and coaches.

These adults are normally family people trying to earn a living and raise their children. They are the kind of people who tend to make good neighbors until the game starts, and they value their jobs and their place in the community. They are not career criminals, and the youth league assault is typically their first brush with the law. The potential for deterrence can be strong when parents and coaches sense what indictment, prosecution and sentencing would mean for them and their families.


Education and Deterrence

 Efforts to stem adult assaults in youth sports need to begin with the adult-education programs that many youth leagues now use with great success.  From my years of coaching, I sense that these programs — created by national youth sports governing bodies, and the public and private schools — do help prevent assaults, violence and other acts of misconduct by influencing many adults to embrace sportsmanship. Adult-education programs must confront anger management issues because every wayward act prevented spares a victim.

 Public authorities, however, should take the criminal process more seriously when an adult commits an act of violence despite the best efforts of education programs to influence their behavior for the better.  Prosecution should be the backup plan because criminal prosecutions can punish wrongdoers such as Tremblay only for injuries they have already inflicted. 

 I suspect that rates of reported and unreported assaults would diminish significantly in places where criminal sanction becomes a more realistic possibility for the relative few adults whom education programs fail to influence.  Too often, however, public authorities let adults get away with criminal misconduct in youth sports, sometimes without even a slap on the wrists.  Following the coach’s guilty plea, Judge Chen sent the right signal.

 [Sources: Hockey Coach Jailed For Tripping Child, Guelph Mercury (Ontario, Canada), Feb. 27, 2013;  Sam Adams, Hockey Coach Jailed For Tripping 13-Year-Old Player As Teams Shake Hands After Junior Game, MailOnline (England), Feb. 27, 2013; Laura Pullman, Caught on Camera! Hockey Coach Faces Assault Charges After “Tripping Opposing Player, 13, and Breaking His Wrist” During End-Of-Game Hand Shakes, MailOnline (England), June 29, 2012]

COACHING TIPS: Organizing Alumni Games Which Are “Win-Win” Propositions


“Competitive Friends”: How Two Longtime High School Hockey Rivals Jointly Honor Their Legendary Coaches Each Year 

By Doug Abrams

One of Connecticut’s storied high school hockey rivalries resumed last Saturday night, February 23, when the West Haven Blue Devils faced off against the Hamden Green Dragons at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven.  The rivalry began in the early 1930’s, but Saturday night’s game was different.  Helmets now hid gray hair, some equipment bags may have hidden liniment, and some players’ skates and pads were vintage 1970s.  The big winners this time were two worthy charities.

This latest faceoff was the Eighth Annual West Haven High School/Hamden High School Alumni Game. A doubleheader, actually.  The first game was for alumni 40 and older; the second game was for alumni between 20 and 40.  The oldest player to suit up was 67-year-old Jim Kennedy, a 1963 Hamden graduate who went on to become QuinnipiacUniversity’s first varsity hockey coach.  The youngest players graduated from high school three or four years ago, according to Hamden’s Dan DiLauro (Class of 1999), who also conducts the well-regarded Southern Connecticut Hockey League with 39 adult teams and a spring league for high schoolers and youth leaguers. 

Players donated $50 each to hit the ice Saturday night, and fans donated $5 each for admission, a princely sum because standing-room-only crowds have marked most of the games over the years. The teams donated the proceeds to benefit cancer research in memory of former West Haven coach Art Crouse and Parkinson’s disease research in memory of former Hamden coach Louis Astorino.  Players and fans gathered afterwards at the Yacht Club in West Haven for a post-game dinner to remember their two former coaches.  Some players began the dinner hour by mixing with their own former teammates, but players soon began sharing the evening with former opponents.

Saturday night’s games raised about $3,000, a sum that both teams hope will continue to increase in future years.  

* * * *

I write about this annual southern Connecticut high school hockey tradition because the Hamden and West Haven alumni have hit on something big.  The annual faceoff began quietly when a group of Hamden players planned a game for their school’s alumni. Former Hamden defenseman Rob Celentano suggested that the players reach out to their former West Haven rivals to play one another to honor the two coaches.  Recalling the teams’ rivalry over the years, some players initially wondered whether the joint venture would work, but (as the saying goes) the rest is history.

“We Are All In It For the Same Reason”

Saturday night’s games hold two valuable lessons:

 The first lesson is that games, picnics, family cookouts and similar annual alumni get-togethers are tailor-made for high school programs and youth league programs alike.  Too often players move through the program’s ranks, finish their playing careers, go their separate ways, and never reassemble again.  But when players and their families simply disperse without periodically renewing a bond with the youth sports that once meant so much to them, they lose the opportunities that Rick Nelson described in his 1972 hit song, “Garden Party” — opportunities “to reminisce with my old friends/ A chance to share old memories and play our songs again.”

 A high school program or youth league program can maintain its rich tradition — and, if the participants wish, support a charity — by holding its own reunions. Otherwise the program can partner with former rivals, as Hamden and West Haven do. Dick Gagliardi, a four-year Hamden hockey star (Class of 1952) and another state champion Hamden varsity hockey coach, speaks about the comradeship, respect and friendship that follows from intense competition and brings back happy memories years later among teammates and opponents alike.

 Rivalries with West Haven were “intense” years ago, recalls Hamden’s 58-year-old former defenseman turned winger Bob Callahan, “but today we play as competitive friends. Some of us are fire fighters, police officers, and some are stock brokers and doctors.  Regardless of profession, we all play as a team.  Long ago we relied on our teammates for the honor of being called state champs.  Today we are fortunate to still be able to do what we love and support our favorite charities at the same time.” 

At the alumni game a few years ago, Coach Crouse’s widow Barbara explained the 70-year Hamden-West Haven rivalry.  “They were good friends,” she said, “The only place they were rivals was on the ice.” The players understand the value of combining tradition with charitable fundraising.  “The games preserve tradition, and the fundraising aspect is something special,” says Hamden’s DiLauro, whose father Bob was a Hamden standout in the late 1960s. To West Haven’s Phil Maddern (Class of 1978), the alumni games “overflow with tradition,” and  supporting charity meant that “we knew we were all in it for the same reason on Saturday night.”  That’s a win-win before anyone turns on the scoreboard.

The Lifetime Coach-Player Bond

The second lesson from Saturday night’s West Haven/Hamden alumni games is as important as the first.  The annual games demonstrate once again how the coach-player bond can ripen into one of life’s most enduring relationships, long after devoted coaches blow the whistle for the last time.  Art Crouse coached West Haven for 32 years, and Louis Astorino coached Hamden for 27.  Together they chalked up an 813-359-27 win-loss record and 16 state titles.  Each won a national high school hockey title and a string of accolades too lengthy to list here.

But as both coaches fashioned these sterling credentials, they also left indelible impressions on their players that never appeared on the scoreboard because respect does not diminish with the passage of time.  Coach Crouse died in 1992, and Coach Astorino died in 2006, but the lifetime coach-player bond means that players never forget, even when they begin raising their own families and combing gray hair.

Coach Crouse “taught us right from wrong and made us accountable for our actions on and off the ice,” says Maddern, who has coached youth league and high school hockey for 23 years.  “We may not have been the best team when we won in state title in 1977,” he adds, “but the coach made us the best.” A half century after playing his last high school game, Jim Kennedy praises Coach Astorino as a “disciplinarian who everybody respected.  He wanted us to behave on and off the ice, and we did.”

* * * *

The scores of Saturday night’s two alumni hockey games?  My sources did not tell me, and I did not ask.  The big winners were the 63 players who rekindled old memories and the worthy charities that shared the proceeds.