Archive for October, 2014

INNOVATIONS IN SPORTS: How to Pay Amateur Athletes – Including Little Leaguers – Without Jeopardizing Their NCAA Eligibility

HERE’S HOW TO (LEGALLY) PAY MO’NE DAVIS, LITTLE LEAGUERS (AND OTHERS)

                                                        By Steve Kallas

 

Much was made during this year’s Little League World Series (“LLWS”) back in late August about the fact that Little League participants, mostly 12- and 13-year-olds, should somehow be paid for being in the LLWS.  The arguments were particularly strong this year since ESPN, which was finishing up an eight-year, $30.1 million deal with Little League to televise the LLWS, had just signed a new eight-year deal, but this time for $76 million.

The financial boon to Little League is obvious: next year, and for the seven years after that, Little League, a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit corporation, will literally have almost $6 million more per year than they had this year.

With the increased pressure on Little League for making millions of dollars on the backs of young kids, and in light of the recent O’Bannon decision by a lower federal court to set aside $5,000 per year for certain college athletes to collect after they leave college, the time is right for youngsters to be given financial consideration for making it to the LLWS.

The question is: how to do it?

The answer is that a program already exists to do just such a thing.

Little Leaguer Mo’Ne Davis, who garnered instant fame during this year’s LLWS, has transcended Little League by doing a national car commercial shown numerous times during the World Series.  The program discussed below could also be tailored to allow young people like Ms. Davis to receive monies for her efforts (without the NCAA having to jump through hoops to allow it).

 

HOW DOES THE ‘SMART’ PROGRAM WORK?

Welcome to the world of youth bowling, where thousands and thousands of young bowlers earn scholarship money for post-high school education by participating in bowling leagues and tournaments throughout the country.  According to the United States Bowling Congress, over $6 million annually is earned by young bowlers between the ages of five and 21.

So, how does this program, called the Scholarship Management and Accounting Reports for Tenpins (known as the “SMART” program) work?  Originating in 1994, the SMART program automatically opens a trust account in the name of any young person who participates in any approved bowling league or tournament and wins scholarship money in a league or tournament.  The participants must pay an entry fee to participate and, depending on the tournament or league, youth bowlers can win anywhere from $50 or so all the way up to $10,000 in scholarship money (that $10,000 was the highest prize in the national Junior Gold tournament which takes place every July).

Scholarship money is awarded as points. That is, every point equals five dollars.  So, the winner of this year’s Junior Gold in the oldest boys division received 2,000 points in his trust account.

 

IS THE SMART PROGRAM ACCEPTED BY THE NCAA?

 The SMART program is in compliance with the NCAA, so a bowler with scholarship money can participate in any NCAA sport in college and not lose his/her eligibility.  Part of the reason for this is that the scholarship money is virtually never given directly to the student (if it is, the student cannot play an NCAA sport).  The check is made out to the institution where the scholarship winner attends his/her post-high school education.

Those institutions are broadly defined according to the USBC:  the scholarship money can be used at “universities, colleges, business schools, technical schools, trade schools and continuing educational courses.”  The actual funds can be used for “tuition fees, textbooks, meal plans, housing plans and required class supplies and equipment necessary for the successful completion of a course or program” at the institutions described above.

The above program is offered as an example of something that already exists within the structure of post-high school education and has worked successfully for many years.  While Little League can and should develop its own program, the point is that the time is now and the means of doing it are already in existence.

To compensate the 200 or so ballplayers at the LLWS at, say, $5000 per player, such an award could be put in a SMART-like trust fund until they are out of high school.  That would cost the Little League $1 million of the additional $6 million they will be receiving under the new ESPN deal.  Indeed, if they extended that to the players on the losing regional teams (those that miss going to the LLWS by one game), that would be an additional $1 million, still leaving Little League with $4 million more than they had this past year.

 

CAN A SMART-LIKE PROGRAM BE EXTENDED TO OTHERS?

 On the broader landscape, this type of program could possibly be extended elsewhere in the case of any group of young athletes who are the focus of programming where lots of money passes hands and the student/athletes get nothing.  For example, the high school football and basketball players that are often now seen on ESPN could be compensated via a trust account, even in smaller numbers than this proposed Little League trust fund (depending on the payment for such games).

WHAT ABOUT THAT MO’NE DAVIS CAR COMMERCIAL?

Well, for some reason, the NCAA felt that it had to jump through hoops to allow Ms. Davis to make money on a TV commercial and maintain her college eligibility.  Presumably, the trust account that the Davis commercial money was put into has SMART account-like principles.

The NCAA was criticized for allowing Ms. Davis to accept money – certainly by people who have no knowledge of the long-established SMART program.

Indeed, the NCAA should immediately discuss and allow implementation of, on a much broader basis, a SMART-like program for non-bowlers.

 

CONCLUSION

 

With respect to Little League, the time is now and the money is there.

With respect to others, it shouldn’t be too far away.

 

 

© 2014 BY STEVE KALLAS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

 

TRENDS IN SPORTS: When Too Much Really Does Become Too Much….

New Poll Shows Continuing Parental Discontent

About the “Youth Sports Arms Race”

 

By Doug Abrams

 

Many youth sports parents today are too young to remember much about the Arms Race that pitted the United States against the Soviet Union during the Cold War from 1945 until the Soviet state dissolved in 1991. When one nation built X nuclear warheads, the other would respond by building X+. Year after year, each would continue building more armaments to maintain superiority.  Military experts said that if either superpower ever used any of its stockpiled atomic weaponry against the other, the resulting exchange would produce “mutually assured destruction” of both nations (or, appropriately enough, MAD).

Polling data demonstrates that more and more parents today are mad – increasingly mad – about the escalating “youth sports arms race,” whose dynamics sometimes resemble the back-and-forth that consumed Washington and Moscow.

In youth sports, the major “armaments” are time and money, two commodities that most people find precious and limited. Some parents fear that “if the next town’s team played 40 games for six months last year, our team had better play 50 games for seven months this year, or else our kids will fall behind.” Or that “if Johnny and Susie down the street get expensive private coaching, then our Billy and Mary must get it too, and maybe for more hours a week.”

Parents caught up in the youth sports arms race enroll their children at younger ages, spend more and more money, tolerate “schedule creep” that produces longer seasons, and overlook increased intrusions on family life. And these parents also watch about three-quarters of youth leaguers drop out by about the age of 13, frequently from burnout induced by too much pressure imposed too early by too many parents and coaches.

New Polling Data

A nationally representative poll of parents, released earlier this month by espnW and the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program, suggests what Program director Tom Farrey calls “broad and often deep concern about the state of youth sports.” The poll reaches a range of parental concerns, including emphasis on winning over fun; the quality or behavior of youth coaches; and the risk of injury, especially concussions. This column concerns the poll’s finding that “seven in ten parents have concerns about both the time commitments and rising costs of participation in youth sports.”

The espnW-Aspen poll reaffirms findings about time and costs that were reported in a poll conducted last year by the online market research company uSamp. Last year’s poll was done at the request of i9 Sports, a youth sports league franchise marked by such features as one-day weekly commitments, local play without long-distance travel, and focus on fun.

Sixty-eight percent of mothers responding in last year’s uSamp poll said that their children’s youth sports involvement causes stress in their lives; 51% said that this involvement causes stress for the whole family. Twenty-four percent of mothers said that this involvement causes conflict with their significant other, and 24% said that they have resented their children because sports consumes too much time.

Of mothers who reported sports-induced stress, 87% blamed scheduling conflicts, including five-night-a-week commitments. Sixty-seven percent cited cost, and 53% said that their children’s sports deprived their families of holidays, weekends and free time. Seventy-six percent of mothers polled said that they are happy when the sports season is over.

Expert Advice

One size does not fit all, and each family must determine for itself the appropriate balance among sports, family time, academics, and lifestyle. Pressure can be fierce to join the arms race for the sake of a child who wishes to advance, but expert advice and polling data can help inform family decisionmaking.

“In the 1950s and 1960s, ‘conspicuous consumption’ was a national rage and ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ was an American obsession,” says Rick Wolff, who advocates effectively for equity, balance and perspective in youth sports. “The newest manifestation of these competitive desires is revealed by today’s sports parents who always want something more, bigger and better for their athletically-inclined kids.”

MomsTEAM Institute executive director Brooke de Lench, a leading health and safety advocate, calls on parents to consider whether to “restore some sanity and find a better balance” between sports and other aspects of family life. Longtime Minnesota high school hockey coach and official Hal Tearse says that sometimes mothers and fathers should “exercise [their] rights and obligations as a parent and say no.  No to excessive travel, no to overlap, no to the destruction of the family for the sake of sports.”

Other parents, however, thrive on competitive commitments and choose busy scheduling as best for their families. “Some parents enjoy the commitment that youth sports asks of them because all that time in cars and hotels is time spent with their children,” says Aspen program director Tom Farrey. “The travel team culture isn’t all bad. But it is inaccessible to many children, including, too often, kids from single-parent homes, low-income homes and large families that simply cannot do this for all of their children. The ask is just too high, now that the travel team culture has pushed down into the grade school years.”

Polling Data

This month’s espnW-Aspen poll finds that despite growing parental concerns, more than 80% of parents let their children play sports. But at the same time, Rick Wolff discussed on a recent show that participation by 6-12-year-olds in team sports has declined since 2008.

One commentator helps explain the decline by warning that growing numbers of parents “understand now that the trajectory we’re on is detrimental to our kids.”  Because the nation values youth sports for teaching healthy lifestyles and lifelong citizenship lessons, any sign of a downward trajectory should invite serious reflection.

The youth sports arms race affects not only many of the children who continue playing, but also many children who are priced out because their families cannot sustain the escalating cost and time commitments. Young parents sacrifice for their children, but many families’ budgets cannot stand a few thousand dollars a year for sports.  Some struggling parents also cannot take off the time from work needed to meet tournament schedules and other travel commitments.

MAD

When a hesitant parent sees other families fueling the youth sports arms race, the parent may feel guilty about perhaps leaving the child behind by being the “only” parent who says no. But polling data, and commentary by many thoughtful advocates, suggest persuasively that parents who want to pull in the reins have plenty of company. In some places, these parents may even be the Silent Majority.

Minnesota hockey leader Hal Tearse is right. “Yes” is a possible answer to MAD in youth sports, but so is “no.”

 

[Sources: Tom Farrey, ESPN Poll: Most Parents Have Concerns About State of Youth Sports, espnW.com (Oct. 13, 2014); i9 Sports Survey – Moms Stress Over Sports, http://www.ocalamom.com/profiles/blogs/i9-sports-survey-moms-stress-over-sports, i9 Sports, http://www.i9sports.com/; Brooke de Lench, Balancing Sports and Family: 13 Tips for Parents, http://www.momsteam.com/successful-parenting/balancing-sports-and-family-13-tips-for-parents; Hal Tearse, Parenting for the Game of Life, http://www.momsteam.com/blog/hal-tearse/parenting-game-life]

DANGERS OF HAZING: What Will Happen in Sayreville, NJ – A Scary Proposition for All Involved

TROUBLE IN SAYREVILLE

                                 By Steve Kallas

 

By now you probably know that seven members of the Sayreville High School varsity football team have been arrested and charged with serious crimes in the alleged sexual assaults of at least four freshman football players.  This week, SNY TV produced a one-hour special, ably hosted by Chris Carlin, to discuss numerous angles in this “Scandal in Sayreville” (that’s the title of the show, which will be re-aired on SNY at 6:30 PM on Friday and 7 PM on Saturday – full disclosure, this writer is one of the panel members on the show).

There are, of course, emotions running high on both sides: those who are furious that the varsity, junior varsity and freshman football seasons were cancelled and those who are shocked and appalled at the notion that, if the allegations are true, kids were sexually assaulting other kids with, apparently, no coach with knowledge that anything was going on.

TRIED AS JUVENILES OR ADULTS?

From a potential criminal liability perspective, specifically in terms of potential sentencing, arguably the biggest battle is whether these kids, ranging in age from 15-17, will be charged as juveniles or adults.

As you might imagine, the differences in potential sentencing if convicted (remember, all are innocent until proven guilty) are astronomical.  At the high end of the charges, for crimes like aggravated sexual assault and aggravated assault (the accused are charged with holding down and digitally penetrating freshman football players), if tried as adults, players can be sentenced for up to 10 or even 20 years in prison.  If tried as juveniles, the sentences are far more lenient.

Three of the seven are charged with the most serious crimes; but the other four are also charged with various crimes that have a huge disparity in potential sentencing.  For example, the crime of criminal restraint comes with a three to five-year sentence if one is tried and convicted as an adult, but only up to a 60-day sentence if one is tried and convicted as a juvenile.

Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey has stated that the factors he must consider in making this decision include the seriousness of the crime, the history of the juveniles involved (first-time arrest?) and the wishes of the victim(s).

Most telling for the Sayreville case, Mr. Carey told CBS 2’s Christine Sloan the following:  “If you put somebody in jail for a significant time, they’re not going to come out of jail a better person.  There’s a chance we can help everybody involved and help Sayreville to heal and to move on from this.”

That’s a very strong statement that would seem to indicate that Mr. Carey is leaning towards treating these kids as juveniles and not adults.  While Mr. Carey has a couple more weeks to decide this issue, this may be the time where some of the seven charged would at least consider, with their parents and attorneys, making a deal with the prosecutor.

 

FRESHMEN VICTIMIZED AGAIN AND AGAIN

One disturbing factor in this case is that there were far more (to a lesser degree) than four victims on the freshman football team.  For example, there are a number of published reports that state that many freshmen were afraid of the upperclassmen, that they would dress outside of the locker room, that they would not take showers or take them very quickly to get out of the locker room.

While the four victims, if true, were the most victimized, it says here that all of these young kids were victims in varying degrees.

But it would seem that all of these freshmen were further victimized by having their season cancelled by the superintendent and the school board.  A number of parents of varsity players vehemently stated at school board meetings that their kids, who did nothing wrong, should not be punished.  But there seems to have been no outcry on behalf of the freshmen; no discussion, at least publicly, about whether the freshman season should have continued.  While there seems to be a general view among objective people that the varsity program had to be totally shut down, one cannot find any discussion, article, blog post, anything, on the freshman football team.

Would the community have rallied around a freshman team that was allowed to play after at least four of its kids were victimized by upperclassmen?

Well, that’s something we will never know.  But, at a minimum, that should have been considered separate and apart from any decision with respect to the varsity team.

Some freshmen have been victimized for a third time.  According to published reports, the names of a couple of the accusing freshmen have been bandied about on social media.  One can only imagine the grief they are getting – one kid told the New York Times that the backlash “made me want to shoot myself.”

So, while people can hope and say that the community should all get behind these freshmen and support them, the reality is that’s a pipe dream.  While all should be done to protect them, mentally and physically, the truth is, when someone has the courage to come forward, they are going to be vilified by certain members of the community.  Like it or not, that’s just the way it is – in Mepham, Long Island, in Steubenville, Ohio and, yes, in Sayreville, New Jersey.

WHAT ABOUT THE COACHES?

Well, what about the coaches?  At best, they were totally ignorant of what was going on.  Apparently, Coach George Najjar, a Hall of Fame coach in New Jersey, simply had no idea that any of this was happening.  While it’s hard to believe that no coach (apparently the head coach had 12 assistants in his football program) knew anything about any of this, if they didn’t, then, at a minimum, they are guilty of some kind of non-feasance, of some kind of lack of supervision.

While five of these coaches, who are also tenured teachers (Coach Najjar is a physical education teacher), have been suspended (with pay), it’s hard to believe that they will be allowed to return to coaching football at Sayreville if the allegations are true.   Whether they keep their teaching jobs is a separate and more difficult issue.

According to one published report at nj.com, Coach Najjar told his team, the day before the first cancellation of a varsity football game, “I don’t trust you guys anymore.”  It seems that the coach believed that the players should police their own locker room and that he was rarely, if ever, in it (apparently the coaches’ room is separate and apart from where the players dress for practice and games).

Many other coaches have opined that, in 2014, it’s hard, if not impossible, to leave kids alone as they dress and undress before and after practices.  Coach Najjar, who has been coaching for at least 30 years, maybe didn’t realize the changing dynamics of youth sports in the 21st Century.

But it seems clear that somebody should have been there in a supervisory capacity.  “Where were the coaches?” is the common refrain one has heard from many people.

Coach Najjar has made no substantive comment on these allegations.  Presumably, he has either consulted with or hired an attorney who has advised him not to say anything.

WAS STATE-MANDATED ANTI-BULLYING TRAINING GIVEN TO THESE COACHES?

 Part of the coaches’ defense (and none of them have been charged with anything), at least as articulated by an assistant coach at this past Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, is that the coaches were never given required anti-bullying training.  New Jersey has one of the toughest (some would say the toughest) anti-bullying laws in the country, revised as recently as 2011 to spell out what has to be done.

A review of the law and a review of the Sayreville School District’s website shows that, at least on paper, these changes have been implemented.  Indeed, with respect to training, Sayreville War Memorial High School gave itself nine out of a possible nine rating in its 2014-15 “Anti-Bullying Self-Assessment Ratings” for “Training on the BOE-approved HIB Policy” (that would be the Board of Education-approved Hazing, Intimidation and Bullying Policy).

Of course, we are probably all skeptical of “self-assessments.”  But this should not be hard to prove one way or the other.  If these coaches were not trained, that’s a big problem for the school district.

 ARE YOU A CONSPIRACY THEORIST?

Arguably the most shocking claim at Tuesday’s Board of Ed meeting was set forth by assistant coach Robert Berardi, who accused Superintendent Richard Labbe of “celebrating” the demise of the football team and its coaches, saying Labbe said things like “we finally got them” and “they’re done.”

While that charge seems far-fetched and was totally rejected by the superintendent and the board, it turns out that the superintendent started as a teacher at Sayreville in 1990 and was an assistant football coach there in the early ‘90s.  The conspiracy theory goes that the superintendent was apparently relieved of his coaching duties in 1994 – when present coach George Najjar came to Sayreville and took over the football program.

 

The superintendent does seem like somebody who really cares about the kids and the school district.  While it’s a stretch to this writer that such a thing would happen, there will be conspiracy theorists out there, as well as people who hold the cancellation of the season against this superintendent, who will believe that this was a vindictive guy settling an old score.

Again, hard to believe.

 PENN STATE: INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY OR GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT?

One of the unjust (at this time) outcomes of the scandal in Sayreville is what has happened to the football team’s star running back.  He had accepted, at least verbally, a scholarship to Penn State to play football next year.  While it’s not clear that he is one of the seven charged (reports are that there was police activity at his house the day six of the seven were arrested), Penn State went ahead and stated that he no longer has a scholarship offer from the school.  Apparently, that’s the case whether he was involved or not.

But this is really disgusting.  Whether charged or not, this kid has been found guilty by Penn State.  Unfortunately for him, Penn State, in the wake of the horrific Jerry Sandusky scandal, is probably the worst school in the country to have a scholarship from when these kinds of Sayreville accusations exist.  Not surprisingly, Penn State ran the other way when they got even a sniff of the allegations.

So this kid is guilty until proven innocent.  And even if he’s proven innocent (or not even charged), he apparently has lost his chance to play at Penn State.  A sad state of affairs.

HERE COME THE LAWSUITS?

The pink elephant in the room, of course, is the specter of lawsuits coming down the pike.  At least one victim was scheduled to meet with a top New Jersey lawyer, according to a published report.  That lawyer has already categorized the attacks as “rape.”

So you have the possibility of victims suing the school district (deep pockets there), maybe the coaches, maybe the perpetrators.  The three victims in the Mepham, Long Island case sued that school district and settled, according to one of the attorneys in that case, for “lots of money.”

If the coaches get fired, or even if they believe they have been wrongly suspended,

they may very well wind up suing the school district and/or others.

If the lawyers want to make it really sticky, they may wind up suing board of education members and/or the superintendent individually (whether they can recover in that capacity is a different issue), in addition to the school district.

CONCLUSION

Well, obviously, the whole thing is a mess.  But it would seem, that with proper supervision, all of this could have very likely been avoided.

This is (another) wake-up call for school districts in general and coaches in particular.  While nobody believes that coaches are responsible for watching their players 24/7, it seems clear that, at a minimum, what goes on in the locker rooms of America has to be supervised and monitored by those in charge.

Whether that’s a coach or some kind of security guard or an “anti-bullying specialist” (who had to be hired under the New Jersey law) remains to be seen.

But something has to be done.

And the time is now.

 

© COPYRIGHT 2014 BY STEVE KALLAS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

DANGERS OF HAZING: How to Finally Put an End to This Abusive Behavior

As I discussed in length on my radio show this morning (and by the way, if you want to hear any of my shows, you can listen to the podcast at WFAN.com), the time has finally come to stand up and eradicate hazing from our schools.

Now, I write that, knowing full well that hazing is one of the most insidious epidemics in our schools, and that it exists all over the country. What happened in Sayreville, NJ happens in countless other school districts: the sobering news is that probably only a handful of these abusive hazing incidents are ever reported. Why? Because the victims are terrified to come forth and because the miscreants don’t have the courage to apologize for their heinous acts.

As a result, if parents, coaches, and school administrators want to get rid of hazing, they need to work together to build a strong commitment to educate all students about the horrors of hazing, bullying, and taunting.

Here are some suggestions I’d like to put forth:

1…Educate ALL students as to what actually constitutes hazing. In my experience, most kids have no idea how to define hazing. So start with that. Have a classroom session in which teachers and coaches literally explain to their students what hazing is.

Ask them, for example, whether it’s considered hazing to make the freshmen carry the equipment to and from practice everyday (it is). Ask them whether it’s considered hazing if a senior makes a freshman run errands for him (it is). You get the idea…explain and define to the athletes what hazing is, and how it has to be recognized as such.

2….Review the HS Code of Conduct. Most Codes are nice gestures, but they tend to offer second and third chances for infractions. The feeling is that teenagers make mistakes, and as such, they should be given second chances. That’s a nice gesture, but when it comes to hazing and bullying, there’s no need for second chances. Kids have to be strongly educated that hazing is a serious crime. As such, we need to get them to think ahead of the consequences of their actions. That’s the key: THINK AHEAD…BECAUSE YOU WOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS.

3….If that sound like zero tolerance, well, yes it is. Zero tolerance needs to come back into style. You need to warn kids over and over again that if they haze or bully a teammate, then they will be immediately dismissed from the team permanently, and that they might face criminal charges? Harsh stuff? Yes, it is. But we’re talking about a serious offense here, so get their attention. And keep reminding them.

4….Here are other new mandates to put  into place — and coaches, a lot of this involves getting the complete cooperation of your senior athletes:

5….First, Coaches, meet with the seniors, and explain how you need them to step up and stop any hazing. Tell them to reach out to the younger players on the team…make them feel welcome…give them positive feedback…in other words, be a true leader, and not a tormentor. If you talk directly with your senior players, and empower them to take charge, then they will. Make them step up. 

6…As mentioned, do not force the younger players to carry equipment or do other menial chores. In fact, turn it around. Seniors, YOU do those tasks…make it clear that all ties to previous hazing rituals are being wiped away. What a great way to really build a sense of camaraderie by having the seniors lead the way in terms of handling menial tasks.

7……Athletic directors and Booster clubs, put up banners and posters that your school takes pride in being hazing free….make it a concerted effort to make it a point of pride. Let the world know that hazing has been eradicated from your school.

8….And finally, coaches, make sure you are physically present in the locker room before and after all practices…also, have at least one coach sit in the back of the bus for road games…in short, don’t give the kids a chance to misbehave.

Yes, this will take a lot of hard work, at least in the beginning. But once you make it clear that hazing is not allowed, but that it’s not considered “cool” in your community, it’s a good bet that hazing will finally go away. For good.

ABUSIVE COACHES: When Coaches Take Away Scholarships and Don’t Give A Reason Why

This story will make your blood pressure rise, but just remember this: what this college coach did is NOT illegal.

In October, 2013, Beth Alford-Sullivan was the women’s track coach at Penn State. And as part of her job, she routinely recruited the very best track athletes she could find to Penn State. One of those top HS track stars was Morgan Harvey from NJ. She was such a top hurdler in HS that Coach Alford-Sullivan offered Morgan an 80 % full athletic scholarship to attend PSU.

Morgan was delighted, as was her family, but she turned it down. Why? Very simple. Morgan would have taken the 80% scholarship to Penn State except that she had been a full 100% scholarship to go to Tennessee. She went to UT. The money was important, because Morgan has a twin sister and the savings from Tennessee would help pay for her sister’s college tuition bills.

But then fate intervened. Coach Alford-Sullivan was hired as the head coach at Tennessee. For Morgan, this was wonderful news. After all, Alford-Sullivan had recruited Morgan.

But then a couple of weeks ago, Morgan Harvey, along with six other freshmen recruits on the UT track team, were called into the new coach’s office and were told they were being cut. The girls and their families were stunned. UT had announced Alford-Sullivan’s hiring on June 24th. And the Coach told the media on August 6th that the girls who had been recruited before she had been hired would arrive on campus intact.

But on September 24th, the Coach cut six of the girls. All of them had enjoyed not just good, but spectacular HS accomplishments as runners or hurdlers. Even worse, the Coach didn’t offer any reason for the women being let go, nor had they been in trouble or had academic issues. She basically told the girls that they didn’t fit into the direction that she wanted for the program.

In other words, a hurdler like Morgan, who was personally recruited and offered an 80% scholarship by Coach Alford-Sullivan, apparently was now no longer was good enough to make the Tennessee track team. Hard to believe.

Here’s the caution: too many sports parents don’t realize that college athletic scholarship are renewable on a yearly basis. In this case, UT is honoring the scholarships for these girls for the rest of this year. But after that, those scholarships have to be refreshed every year by the coach, and in this case, they have been cut from the team.

By being cut from the UT team – through no fault of their own – their names are removed from the school’s track and field roster, they are no longer allowed to use the school facilities for weight training, treatment, or nutrition. They can run on the track, but only when other the school teams are not using it.

At this point, Morgan and the others are looking to transfer. But it’s a hassle transferring schools in mid-year, and there’s always the issue of trying to get scholarship from other schools.

Now, in all fairness, perhaps Coach Alford-Sullivan has a different side of the story to tell. But regardless, no matter what her side of the story may be, her actions are going to follow her, especially in the tight-knit world of track and field. One has to wonder how she’ll do when recruiting the next crop of scholarship athletes.

BOOK REVIEW: Winning More Than The Game

WINNING MORE THAN THE GAME:  Developing Character Through Sports

By Fred Northup

 

The world of sports represents, for many of us, a higher level of calling.

That is, if one aspires to be an athlete, then one should also aspire to lead a life that transcends the usual and pedestrian disappointments of human frailty. If one is an athlete, then that carries a built-in responsibility of not only inherently always competing in a fair and honest way, but to live one’s life at a higher standard. As the author suggests, it’s not just about winning or losing games – it’s about how go about your pursuit of winning.

Although generations and generations of athletes have striven to follow this unique and special code, the truth is – no one has ever really taken the time to study this special Code, and then actually write it down.

That’s where Fred Northup comes into play. A former athlete himself, Northrup founded Athletes for a Better World, and in this fine work, Northup outlines what he perceives as the three elements of The Code. As he sees it, The Code sets an unwritten standard for one’s life – as an individual, as a member of a team, and as a member of society.

His book is peppered with pithy observations from famed philosophers, as well as with stories of athletes who have striven to do the right thing. Along the way, he elucidates the so-called Code of standards that athletes should strive for. A good deal of his message is making it clear that you and you alone are responsible for taking charge of your life and your decisions. For many athletes today, that’s a responsibility that they seem to avoid.

By the end of the read, you will come away, refreshed and rejuvenated, by Northup’s observations and, quite frankly, challenges to see if you, too, can live up to The Code. It’s an excellent read, and I recommend it highly to all parents, coaches, and student-athletes.

DANGERS OF HAZING: How Can We Stop the Madness from Continuing?

Hazing has seemingly been an American tradition in sports for decades.

The problem is – it’s not a tradition that anyone wants.

Even worse, schools/coaches/parents have had a deuce of a time trying to eradicate this terrible habit.

The latest episode has occurred at Sayreville HS in New Jersey where, according to numerous reports, seven HS varsity football players allegedly pinned down several freshman players to the floor and then forcibly sodomized them as part of some sort of hazing, or rite of passage, issue.

Sayreville, which has had a superior football program in recent years in terms of wins and losses, has now had the rest of its football season cancelled, and seven ringleaders of the hazing have been indicted and charged with a variety of serious assault crimes.

It’s a total lose-lose for everyone involved. The victims, their families, the players who did the assaults, the other kids on the team, the school, and of course, the entire community.

Hazing incidents, sadly, are nothing new. The Sayreville incident reminded me of a similar tragedy 10 years ago at Mepham HS on Long Island, where another football hazing involving sodomy of younger players. Everybody was outraged then as well, and called for stronger educational measures to prevent hazing from ever happening again.

But of course, hazing continues. And it’s just not football. Each week there are horrible reports of older HS student-athletes in soccer, basketball, wrestling, baseball, ice hockey and so on where they put their younger teammates through all sorts of unnecessary and unneeded torture.

So how do we stop hazing? Here’s my two cents:

1– Make a strong, concerted, and ongoing commitment in your school to get in front of hazing. Continuously educate ALL the students about the dangers of hazing, tell them about Sayreville and Mepham HS. Tell them how the University of Vermont cancelled its men’s ice hockey season a few years ago due to hazing among its players. Let them know that perpetrators of these crimes end up in court, facing an array of serious charges.

2 — Many kids think it’s just a joke or a prank. Your job is to let them know it’s anything but a joke or prank.

3 — Some seniors think that since they had to endure hazing when they were younger, it’s now their obligation to continue the practice. That is, they don’t want to be known as the senior class which broke the chain of this so-called rite of passage.

4 — Turn it around. Work with your senior athletes and strongly encourage them to BE the FIRST class which had the courage to break of chain of hazing. Make your school take pride in being a “hazing free” kind of environment.

5 — Finally, parents…alas, you need to sit down and talk candidly with your kids. Explain to them that hazing is a serious matter, and is not to be treated lightly. Tell them that they may need to find the courage someday to step up and to stop their friends and teammates from following through on such an act. This is definitely not easy for a youngster to do, but it needs to be done.  Tell them to imagine if they were the victim.

COACHING TIPS: The Best Coaches Know the Power of Listening…

“The Sounds of Silence”:

Why Adults Should Listen to What Players Do Not Say

By Doug Abrams

 

A few years ago, my 9-10-year-old squirt hockey team held a practice three days before we played in the state championship tournament’s final game. By rotating games all season, our two goalies had helped keep us in title contention. Because we did not want benchwarmers, a goalie would skate as a forward in the games he was not scheduled to start in the nets.

Before the practice, I talked with the younger goalie, whose turn it was to play. In a tentative tone of voice, he told me that he thought he could help the team more if he skated as a forward in the title game.  I heard what he was saying, but I thought I also heard what he was not saying, namely that he did not want to play in goal. I discussed the conversation with his parents, who agreed to adjusting the normal goalie rotation, which we did.

We won the final game, and the state championship, that weekend.

Listening to More Than Words

This story carries worthwhile lessons for parents and coaches alike. When adults ask about the game, players typically chatter away. Win or lose, most young athletes like talking about themselves, their teams, and their sports experiences most of the time.

Like the rest of us, however, young athletes sometimes convey messages by non-verbal communication – by their action or inaction, body language, tone of voice, and other tell-tale signs.  Sometimes they drop hints, or say one thing and mean another. Young players may feel unable or unwilling to say something outright, but what players do not say can alert parents and coaches who are perceptive enough to “listen.”

What if for three consecutive weeks, for example, a player complains of a headache or upset stomach a half hour before it is time to leave for practice and asks to be excused from attendance? Or if the player continually appears sullen and withdrawn on the way to games, or in the locker room? Something may be wrong because chronically wanting to avoid practice, or chronically avoiding teammates and locker room camaraderie, is simply not normal for most kids.

That “something” may relate to the player’s emotional or physical well-being, or to team chemistry. Perhaps, for example, the player does not want to play the sport any more, which is OK because youngsters’ interests do change. Perhaps the coach verbally abuses the player and teammates at practice or in the locker room when parents are not watching. One or more teammates may be bullying the player, or the player may feel embarrassed for being one of the team’s smaller or less talented players. Perhaps the player is hiding an injury, or remains unsure about its potential seriousness.

Of course, nothing may be wrong at all. Players may appear sullen and withdrawn, for example, from the usual pregame butterflies. Players’ apparent disinterest may simply signal ordinary late-season fatigue, a matter that coaches and parents should try to remedy, but that does not raise especial concern.

“The Sounds of Silence”

One way or the other, parents cannot enlist help from coaches, and coaches cannot provide that help, unless the adults remain alert for potential problems. This alertness sometimes comes from more than the player’s words. Remember Simon and Garfunkel’s 1960s hit song, “The Sounds of Silence”: “People talking without speaking/ People hearing without listening. . . / Hear my words that I might teach you.”

LEGAL CONCERNS: Catholic Diocese Tells Male Wrestlers to Automatically Forfeit if They Have a Female Opponent

So…does Title IX not apply to religious high schools?

I ask that, because last week, it was revealed that in the Roman Catholic diocese in Harrisburg, PA, male wrestlers have been instructed to NOT compete against any female opponents. In other words, in an interscholastic competition, if a girl is the opponent, the male wrestler is supposed to automatically decline to compete and forfeit the match.

Although this sounds like a policy from the days  long before Title IX was enacted, which basically guaranteed equality in sports for all boys and girls, the truth is that, by all accounts, the Catholic school district has the right to determine its own policies regarding its student-athletes. In this case, the religious powers-that-be felt that in a particularly physical sport like wrestling, it was not in keeping with the school’s mission to find boys and girls placed in an “immodest” state of such prolonged contact.

I want to point out that the diocese DID NOT make a case that boys were superior to girls as athletes, or any thing along those lines. That was not the purpose of this mandate. Rather, it was done to stay within the confines of the school’s religious objectives.

Regardless, we received a number of calls this AM on this topic, I believe the diocese made this statement because just about a year ago, a middle-school girl in Pennsylvania who had hoped to compete as a wrestler found herself suing her (public) school district for that right. Not surprisingly, she prevailed, and she went onto compete as a wrestler, and from what I can tell, just about all of her opponents were boys.

But again, this was in a public school district, and the school district is bound by the laws of equality, most of them prescribed by Title IX. I can only presume that the diocese then moved in and made its proclamation that its male students can not wrestle against girls.

Ironically, towards the end of the show, a caller named Danielle Coughlin added that she had wrestled in HS, and that in fact,she had won the Massachusetts state championship (boys and girls) just a couple of years ago. She said that it had always been a dream of hers, that she knew she would have to compete against boys, and that she felt she had gone beyond being “a girl who wrestled” to being seen as a top competitor. Indeed, her senior year she compiled a record of 29-6 in the 106 weight class.

Again, I am sure that the Harrisburg diocese has its reasons for telling its male wrestlers to forfeit against females, but I do wonder if, in the long run, that’s really the best policy for all concerned. I recognize that for many boys, it may be somewhat humiliating to lose to a girl even in this day and age, but let’s look to Danielle’s success as a wrestler.

And let’s also look to Mo’ne Davis from the Philadelphia LL this August. Lots of boys struck out against her. I gather if she played for a team that came up against a Catholic team from Harrisburg, that team would automatically forfeit? Hmm…

HEROIC ATHLETES: The Meaning of Derek Jeter to Our Kids

THE REMARKABLE CAREER OF DEREK JETER AND YOUTH SPORTS

By Steve Kallas

 

So, what do we take away from the brilliant career of Derek Jeter as it relates to youth sports?  Well, here are a couple of quotes from Jeter’s Yankee Stadium press conference before his final home game on Thursday, September 25, 2014.

After admitting that many players have more talent than he has, Derek Jeter said, “I don’t think anyone played harder.  I don’t.  Maybe just as hard.”  Later, he said, “Every single day I went out I tried to have respect for the game and play it as hard as I possibly could.”

\For you big-time, old-time Yankee fans, Jeter’s quotes are a reminder of a quote from one of the greatest ball players ever:  Joe DiMaggio.  When asked, towards the end of his great career, about why he played so hard in a meaningless game, DiMaggio said, “Because there is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first time.  I owe him my best.”

 

SO, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR YOUNG ATHLETES OF TODAY?

 

Well, in a world where many players think it’s optional to run hard to first or where some players think it’s cool to stand at home and admire a ball they hit (which may or may not go out), it means that right from wrong dictates that you play hard all the time, that you always respect the game, that you never give up.

For Derek Jeter, it was never all about the “Flip” play, or Mr. November, or being number six on the all-time hits list, or even about five rings.  For Derek Jeter, it’s about playing hard, respecting the game and never giving up.  THAT’S what young people should take away from the career of Derek Jeter.

And that’s what you parents should impress upon your young children about the career of Derek Jeter.

In a world where most athletes try and make the game about themselves and try to draw attention to themselves, it was Derek Jeter who deflected the attention and only wanted to do one thing: help his team win.  And, by playing hard, by respecting the game, and by never giving up, that’s exactly what he did for 20 years.

In the look-at-me 21st Century, thank goodness we all got a chance to watch Derek Jeter play baseball.

 

@ COPYRIGHT 2014 BY STEVE KALLAS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED