Saturday, February 02, 2008

Are sports failing our youth?

I'm headed to my HS alma mater, to watch some boys b-ball. Now why would I want to watch a team that is 0-16 play and probably get pounded, once again? Let me give you a hint: it's tied to the new book and I need some field research. BTW, I once played HS basketball and endured a 1-17 mark, my junior year, so I know a bit about what I'll be covering.

If any of my Maine readers have been following the brawl, last Saturday night, in Lawrence, between the Lawrence Bulldogs and Lewiston, here's a bit of info you didn't read in the paper. While I don't condone students brawling, nor fans entering the fray, I have it from a reliable source that a racial epithet was involved, directed at the Lewiston young man. Having spent some time combing the state's back roads, let me say that this doesn't surprise me. [Here is a newspaper account of the incident in the "hometown" paper of the Bulldogs. Don't forget to read the comments-JB]

I ran across this great contribution from a reader, who posted this at, a site devoted to Maine HS basketball. I couldn't say it any better than this parent, from Calais. It ties well with last Saturday's ugly incident in Lawrence and other happening around the state, connected with this winter's battles on the hardwood.

Go Greyhounds!

Athletes and Punishment

What a year. A player arrested for OUI. A northern Maine team trashing a locker room. A fight during a game (the youtube video showed a much less drastic event than the posts described). A fight in the parking lot. A player contacting an official. And these are just the ones talked about here - how many athletes lost eligibility today with report cards coming out?

Someone much smarter than me once described rules or law as the miminum accepted behavior in a society or group. When did we decide high school athletes, coaches and programs only had to comply with the lowest accepted behavior?

When did we stop demanding and expecting more from them? Isn't that lesson inherent in making players dress up on game days; sign conduct codes beyond the regular student body; retiring numbers; posting records in lobbies and on the wall; hanging banners; etc... Aren't we supposed to be telling them that the more they give to their community the better they and the community will be? When a high school kid gets arrested for OUI is whether he/she plays anymore basketball the biggest problem in his/her life? When kids are yelling racial insults at each other, is their sports future the biggest worry for that town? When fans and parents rush the floor and a team needs an escort to safely leave a school, is the duration of suspensions the biggest safety worry for that school?

Why do we expect coaches, administrators, state agencies and similar organizations to fix this problem? I've got four kids playing sports - two on varsity, one in junior high and one just starting in rec ball. If their grades drop, if they drink, if they drink & drive, if they call someone "n", if they trash a lockerroom, the school and coach will have no decision to make. They will have a freshly laundered uniform to give to a replacement player and my kid will be working hard to make the team next year. I don't mean to imply that the parents of the players involved in these situations aren't doing the right thing - I have no idea about any specific situation or how any specific family is dealing with their child. I'm simply trying to raise the point that maybe we need to look inward to find the cause and solution to what seems to be a tough year. I'm in Washington County and I know nothing about the Teer kid or that situation beyond what is posted on this site. However, I have some admiration for two sets of parents (his and hers) and the coach if in fact they all discussed expected behavior at the start of the school year and then held that young man (and woman presumably) to their consequences when their behavior didn't comply with expectations. Isn't this young couples lives' more important then his basketball team's won/loss record?

This post is longer than I meant it to be when I started, anyone from Calais won't be surprised I talked too much. Any before everyone takes a knee jerk reaction to it, do me a favor, take the kid(s) you love and care for to a quiet spot and tell them they mean more to you than the outcome of the next competition. Remember, it is our job to raise them into good adults, it is not our job to raise them into good high school athletes.

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