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Blowing the whistle: Teen ump throws herself out of the game for good

Katelyn Sherwood loves baseball, just not being an umpire in today's "anything goes" world.

According to the 15-year-old Canton resident, who endured an unhappy stint as an ump in the Greater Canton Youth Baseball Softball Association, she had no problem calling players out at home.

She just didn't think she'd have to deal with so many people who were out -- of line. What made it worse was most of her vocal critics were adult coaches and parents who were making it impossible for her to call boys baseball games in the age 9-11 division.

"I would get a lot of jeering from the parents and the coaches because they did not agree with some of my calls," said the Belleville High School sophomore, formerly a catcher on the Canton Cardinals travel boys baseball team. "This is supposed to be a fun game, this is supposed to be relaxing, it's fall ball, it's a way to get some extra practice for 9- and 10-year-olds.

"So being insulted and criticized for my strike zone game after game, I thought it wasn't worth it."

The ongoing abuse certainly wasn't worth the $35 per game, which she originally thought was good stuff when she was recruited by Joe Bottorff, a veteran MHSAA/GCYBSA umpire and assignor who also coaches varsity baseball at Plymouth Christian Academy.

"She started younger than normal because (Bottorff) was short umpires," said Rich Sherwood, Katelyn's dad who also coached her with the Canton Cardinals. "She started a few months below the age where they normally want you to start."

Katelyn said she had a good rapport with umpires who called the games she caught and heard comments such as "‘Oh, it's a pretty good experience.' And since I had a good relationship with them, it seemed like a fun opportunity. So I was like, ‘Why not do it?' Plus I got paid."

But just a short while later, she decided to give it up -- she doesn't even play the game anymore -- and focus on playing high school basketball.Apparently, she isn't alone in making that same determination as the MHSAA and youth leagues are constantly on the lookout for new and capable people to call games, meets and matches under the microscope of fans who are quick to shoot a video in order to document what they perceive to be blown calls or dodgy decisions.

"In my work with assigning for the Canton (youth) baseball league," Bottorff said, "I can tell you that I had about five youngsters give up on umping this season due to coaches and parents riding them.

"Most of these were (age) 9-11 rec games. Many times I told them that I would have ejected someone in that situation and that they do not have to take abuse. But in the end, $35 a game was not enough for them to continue to be treated that way and they found other ways to make money."

Katelyn nodded that it might not be so bad to work in a fast food restaurant somewhere, especially compared to what she had to deal with in her few months as an ump during fall 2014 and spring 2015.

"It would start with the coaches and then escalate to the parents," she said. "And then the kids, being 9 and 10 years old, they're going to follow what their parents and their coaches are doing.

"So then they started being disrespectful towards me. It just wasn't a fun experience.

"Funny thing was, I ran into a lot of the coaches multiple times, but it didn't get better. I don't think I could have gone a few more months."

Rich Sherwood said he felt heartsick at what Katelyn put up with and pinned the unraveling of respect and human decency to the way of the 21st century world.

"Maybe it's that people, they've gotten to the point where they feel like it's OK to criticize everything," Sherwood said. "Maybe that's the impact of the social media; everybody's got a voice and a sounding board.

"So their views come out all the time. So now, when they're interacting with real humans, instead of over social media, the same thing happens."

And fewer and fewer individuals are joining the officiating club for that very reason.

"I know the lady who runs GCYBSA," Sherwood said. "She told us they're having such a hard time getting officials that they've had to raise how much they pay the officials per game in order to attract new ones and keep the ones they have, because this is such an ongoing thing.

"This has got to be costing parents more money, because that means their fees are going up."

Also on the rise are blood pressures on diamonds and in bleachers and dugouts all over the place.

Consider a "game in the life" of Katelyn, as recalled by her dad.

"What happened was, a pitch was thrown in the dirt and it hit a batter after it hit the dirt," Sherwood said. "Katelyn said, ‘Batter, take your base.' The coach said it was a dead ball because it hit the ground. She said it's a dead ball when it hits the batter, but it's a live ball when it hits the dirt.

"After the game, he started arguing with her again, that (she) she needed to look at the rules and that she didn't know them. I was there, I said, ‘Coach, that's the right call.'"

Sherwood said an adult ump from another field was brought in for his opinion and confirmed that Katelyn was correct. "But they were insulting her throughout the game because they thought she didn't know the rules," he said. "It's like, come on."

But that was the appetizer for the main course, the single event that convinced the teenager to get out of the umpiring biz.

"There was a runner on first, someone caught the ball and they're yelling ‘timeout,' so Kate raises her hands," Sherwood said. "The girl on first base thought it was three outs. So she walked off first base. So immediately, the coach is yelling ‘Throw the ball to first.'

"They throw the ball to first and they think they got an out ... Kate says, ‘Safe, you called a timeout, play is dead.' So (the coach) comes out and was getting in her face."

Making matters worse were the dirty looks the 9- and 10-year-olds were giving her.

"I felt like saying to the coach, ‘Instead of putting all this effort into yelling at the umpire, maybe you should teach your kids how to play the game,'" Sherwood said. "The problem isn't that the umpire recognized that you called a timeout and that it's a dead ball. The problem is your kids are throwing the ball all over the field."

After that verbal onslaught, he added, Katelyn walked off the field and "was just crying. She was like, ‘I don't want to do this anymore, that was such a horrible experience.'"

Ugly experiences such as that might give other youngsters pause before considering becoming an umpire or doing the job for any length of time.

Organizations like the GCYBSA and Plymouth-Canton Little League want what happened to Katelyn as the outlier and not the standard.

In the GCYBSA's code of conduct, boorish behavior from a parent could jeopardize a player's spot in the league.

"I pledge to be a positive role model for my child by showing respect, courtesy and positive support for players, coaches, umpires and opponents at all practices and games," reads the code of conduct that parents must agree to during the registration process. "I will not engage in ANY unsportsmanlike conduct, verbal, physical or gestures that takes away from a positive sports experience."

The code concludes with a clear-cut edict that not abiding by it could lead to "disciplinary action which could include warnings, suspensions, forfeits or termination of participation in the GCYBSA."

Likewise, no shenanigans against umpires or anybody else is tolerated in the PCLL, especially under the watch of new president Jeff Holt.

"Everyone who is involved is a volunteer on some level," Holt wrote in an email to the Observer. "I expect our league -- kids, coaches, umpires, parents, stakeholders -- to treat each other with dignity and respect. Common courtesy. I won't put up with nonsense.

"Every constituent in PCLL is part of our extended family. That includes our umpires."

Echoing that stance is Don Lohmann, PCLL chief umpire and vice president of baseball operations.

"We have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to abuse on any level," Lohmann said. "Although, we do not have many issues of this sort in PCLL, they do occasionally occur.

"When they do, we respond quickly and proportionately. ... One of the points I stress to our umpires is to make every effort to diffuse situations before they get to that point and to keep their ears open. We must all remember that this is a game."

Unfortunately, every season in every league in every town is pockmarked by bad behavior that unfairly targets officials just like Katelyn Sherwood.

That's not a game, it's a crying shame.

Source: Hometown Life


Stillwater girls hockey coach resigns after 'vicious' verbal attacks

In the wake of what he called "unrelenting" and "vicious" verbal attacks on his family, Tony Scheid announced his resignation as Stillwater girls hockey coach on Friday. He coached the team for 14 seasons, leading the Ponies to a 260-112-21 record and two state titles.

Scheid announced his decision in a release. He couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

"I know how fortunate I have been. Very few coaches have anywhere near the longevity I have been able to enjoy here in Stillwater," Scheid said in the release. "The success of our girls both on and off the ice has always fueled my passion for the sport. I would like to think that my love of hockey rubbed off, if only a little, on both the students I coached and the program itself."

Stillwater went 9-16-1 last season, and Scheid cited waning support from school administrators and parents as some of the reasons for his departure. He said criticism has been amplified through mass emails and social media.

His family, he said in his release, has been "subjected to an unrelenting and vicious personal series of verbal attacks from a group of parents of intensity unlike any I could have imagined, much less seen before."

In his resignation letter addressed to Stillwater Superintendent Denise Pontrelli, Scheid said, "Much of the joy of coaching in this program has been taken away by the need to defend my own family from these vicious attacks, which would seem to be channeled to and through your office. In the past, I might have shrugged much of this off, confident that I could move forward with the program and an administration that 'had my back.'

"I simply will not put my family through any more of this."

A call to Pontrelli was not immediately returned. Both Stillwater athletics director Ricky Michel and district community engagement manager Carissa Keister declined comment, citing data privacy laws.

 "I now know that I no longer have that support from the new administration at Stillwater," Scheid said in his release. "While I regret this, I understand that it does mean that it is time to focus my passions and efforts in hockey in other directions and to allow the program I have worked so hard to develop well to look to others for leadership."



Albert Lea Considers Not Renewing Coaches who are not Teachers

The Albert Lea School Board will consider a resolution Monday that would allow the district to utilize any extracurricular positions to recruit teachers.

Albert Lea Superintendent Mike Funk said the resolution would authorize the administration to use coaching and other extracurricular adviser positions when hiring. This could include anything from yearbook and choral directors to science fair coordinators and musical directors, all described within a schedule with the teacher bargaining unit called Schedule C.

The board is not expected to vote Monday on a controversial proposal presented by Albert Lea High School Principal Mark Grossklaus that called for not renewing contracts with three district head coaches. Funk said these positions could be considered at a future date.

The superintendent said the resolution being considered would allow the administration the discretion to post for any of the special assignment positions. The administration could recruit and recommend people for positions, but ultimately the board would retain authority for hiring and terminating.

The meeting comes after Grossklaus last Monday suggested not renewing the contracts of Rick Barnhill, varsity girls' soccer coach; Bob Furland, varsity boys' soccer coach; and Jamie Cameron, varsity volleyball coach, in an effort to help the district find experienced teachers. The three coaches are not licensed teachers within the district, and the proposal would have essentially called for only licensed teachers to be coaches, with the exception of retired coaches.

In his proposal, Grossklaus said he has noticed a lot of quality teaching candidates have required they be able to have a head coaching position at the school. He thought being able to offer coaching positions could be a recruiting tool.

He said the suggestion had nothing to do with the coaches' performances, noting it is tough to convince someone with teaching experience to come to Albert Lea.

Grossklaus referred to news articles across the state addressing the difficulty of recruiting new teachers and said the goal of his recommendation was to attract teachers with experience to Albert Lea and to keep teachers here from going to larger markets such as Rochester and the Twin Cities.

Executive Director of Administrative Services Jim Quiram said this proposal is one of several approaches district officials are considering to alleviate a teacher shortage. Quiram said officials are going to more teacher job fairs, participating in mock interviews at colleges and posting positions at colleges, universities and state education job sites.

Quiram said with the recent contract agreement, starting Albert Lea teachers are some of the highest paid in the Big Nine.

Reaction to Grossklaus' proposal

Cameron, who has completed his first season as volleyball coach, said he had questions about Grossklaus' proposal that would have allowed only licensed teachers to be coaches.

Cameron asked why Grossklaus' request did not apply to varsity wrestling coach Larry Goodnature or varsity boys' hockey coach Roy Nystrom, both retired teachers.

The volleyball coach said he thinks implementing the change while retaining retired teachers would do nothing for the district's goal of obtaining quality, experienced teachers who can assist students during the school day.

Grossklaus said he did not recommend the retired teachers because he does not think people who dedicate their lives to teaching should lose their coaching positions to retirement.

Cameron, pastor at First Baptist Church in Clarks Grove, said Wednesday the district needs to look at other possible reasons why it is having trouble hiring and retaining quality teachers.

He said Minnesota State High School League training included the assertion that a coach is a teacher through their responsibility of implementing life skills, and added he understands that Grossklaus' hands are tied trying to bring in qualified teachers to the district.

Furland, who is the interim recreation director for the city of Albert Lea, said he understands Grossklaus' recommendation, noting that the position is a great job.

He said he will wait to see how the situation plays out, and added he enjoys coaching.

"I love coaching the boys and hopefully will do it again," Furland said.

Nystrom said he has known Furland for several years, and he believes Furland has done a good job as coach, but understands the district is trying to attract more teachers.

Nystrom, who said he is paid a yearly salary of more than $6,000 by the district, expects the district to replace him once he retires with a teacher with head coaching experience.

Nystrom, a special education and physical education teacher at Albert Lea High School from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s, retired from St. Theodore Catholic School at the end of the 2014-15 school year.

When asked whether other districts allowed only licensed teachers to be coaches, Quiram said he was not aware of other districts having the same practice. He noted he does not know of any other district that does not have a Schedule C part of the teacher bargaining contract that lists all coaching positions and pay.

"This is an obvious contractual indication that there is a strong preference for filling with licensed staff," he said.

Austin Public Schools Human Resources Director Bradley Bergstrom said Austin Public Schools does not have a set policy to hire staff members to coach, but noted district practices include hiring staff who have an interest or desire to lead extracurricular activities, such as clubs, activities or sports.

Multiple attempts to contact Barnhill were unsuccessful.

Source: Albert Lea Tribune


6 Signs Your Kid Should Quit a Sport

Playing sports is wildly beneficial for kids of all ages. It fosters physical, emotional, and social development and teaches teamwork, grit, goal setting, and commitment. So what if your son suddenly says he's sick of lacrosse? Should you let him quit the team or make him stick with it? It's a tricky call. On one hand, you want to encourage perseverance and physical activity, and you don't want to let you child make a rash decision he'll later regret. On the other hand, you want him to be happy and let his interests dictate his activities.

Experts say the key to determining if quitting is a good or bad idea is communication. The problem is that kids, especially teenagers, aren't always forthcoming about their feelings. In some cases, they might not even realize how they truly feel about their sport, leaving you to do the guesswork. Here are six signs that it may be best to let them quit.

She's Just Not Having Fun

Besides the many positive health and social aspects of kids' sports, the No. 1 goal should be having fun. "If your child is experiencing more frustration than pleasure, or she's simply not enjoying her sport, consider switching her to a different activity," says Patrick Cohn, a mental training expert and founder of Peak Performance Sports in Orlando, Florida.

Activity hopping is very common among younger children, who are still forging their identities and figuring out what they find fun, says Martin Camire, a sports psychology and youth development expert at the University of Ottawa. But even as kids grow older and start specializing, it's important to check in with them periodically to make sure they're still enjoying swim team or basketball. "Let them know you fully support them in their sport, but if they're not liking it anymore and want to try something else, you're open to that as well," Camire says. "If kids feel like they have some autonomy over the decision, they'll be more compelled to tell you if they're not having fun."

It Gives Him Major Anxiety

There's a fine line between pregame jitters and full-blown, all-consuming anxiety, Camire says, and parents need to monitor their kids closely to tell the difference. "A bit of performance anxiety before competitions is a healthy part of the experience," he explains." But if they're stressing about practice days in advance, if their schoolwork or social life is suffering because all they can think about is football, or if they're acting anxious no matter what they're doing, it's time to reconsider whether this is the best experience for your child."

She Has Stopped Trying

A younger child's motivation for joining soccer or T-ball may be more about hanging out with friends and playing outside than it is about achieving athletic goals -- and there's nothing wrong with that, says Camire. You also shouldn't sweat it if your older child wants to play a rec-level sport "just for fun" and doesn't give it her all each game. However, if you're sinking major dollars into equipment, tournament fees, and travel year after year and your kid could care less about whether she performs well or not, it's probably time for a serious conversation."

"Parents want to know that they're getting a return on their investment," Camire says.  "If a kid just isn't motivated to try or compete anymore, it may be better to cut both of your losses and move on."

He's Playing Just to Please You

Whether it's a dad reliving his quarterback glory days vicariously through his son or a mom pushing her daughter to stick with soccer so she can score a college scholarship, parents sometimes become more invested in their kids's
ports than they are. In these cases, kids usually start playing because they had fun at first, says Cohn, but now they're staying in it just to please their parents. "

When a kid's sole motivation is making you happy, that's not a good sign," he says.

Sometimes the gap between your interest and theirs isn't the result of anything you did wrong." At a certain age, kids become cognizant of the time, money, and passion parents put into their sport and may feel obliged to continue," Camire says. You don't want to send the message that it's okay to bail on commitments, he insists. But if you're the only one getting psyched for the big game, make sure he's playing for his sake, not yours.

He's Suffered Too Many Injuries

The risk of injury is simply part of sports. However, if your kid is chronically hurt, has already had multiple surgeries, or is spending more time rehabbing than playing, you may want to weigh whether it's all worth it, says Cohn. "If a soccer player is on the bench half the time, it isn't much fun," he explains. Kids who desperately want to play but can't because of injury also run the risk of becoming depressed. Additionally, you have to consider the long-term ramifications of frequent injuries. "You don't want your kid to get to 30 or 40 years old and not be able to walk," Cohn says. In that regard, Camire believes chronic concussions are another sign that perhaps your child should hang it up.

She Has a Bully Coach

Sadly, kids' sports are full of intimidating and verbally abusive coaches. "This is a real problem," says Cohn. "Coaches are not held to the same high standards that teachers are. And because they control kids' playing time and positions, they can get away with so much more." If a coach is causing your child major stress, or if she'd rather sweep the kitchen than go to practice, find another team if possible, Cohn says. If that's not an option -- say, if she plays high school volleyball and there isn't a competitive club team she could join instead -- and if your talks with school or league administrators have been fruitless, it might be healthier for her to quit the sport.

Source: Mens Journal


5 Important Mindsets for Dads When Your Adolescent Wants to Quit

Is playing sports your child's dream or yours?

As springtime rolls around every year, I look forward to nicer weather and getting to enjoy more outdoor activities. I'm a huge sports fan so whether it's baseball, sand volleyball or softball, I love a great springtime game.

It's up to you to ask the right questions, without shutting them down, to get to the real reasons or issues prompting their decision.

As a dad, this time of year can be a great time for enjoying all of these fun sports with your kids, but if your adolescent is a new or returning athlete, it could spell some unforeseen challenges for you.

Kids that enter the youth sports leagues during their middle school years usually end up at a crossroads at some point as to whether or not they are going to stick with it or not. There are many pressures that weigh on their decision to continue on with a sport as they move on to high school. They will either decide they want to quit or push ahead through whatever challenges lay ahead.

If you, as a dad, are prepared for the "Q" word to come from them, then you are more likely to know exactly what they are thinking and be better able to talk with them about this important decision.

Here are 5 important and helpful mindsets to have when you are faced the tough conversation when your adolescent wants to quit a sport.

1. Find out why they want to quit.

That may sound like a simple task, but in reality, it's probably going to require some tactful digging on your part to get to the real reason(s).

Adolescents are in such huge transitions physically, mentally and emotionally that there could literally be a list of reasons why he or she is wanting to quit the team.

It's up to you to ask the right questions, without shutting them down, to get to the real reasons or issues prompting their decision.

2. Overreacting is not going to help.

Depending on how invested you are as a dad in your son or daughter staying on the team, it can be really tempting to overreact to their decision to quit the team.

It's completely understandable to have a strong reaction, because, in reality, you have made a considerable time, money and energy investment in them being on the team.

Then there's the concern you may be experiencing over how to parent them through this decision to quit or not to quit, and it can become a trigger for you to have a parent sized reaction.

Maybe you start hearing those voices from your own past saying things like, "We never quit in this family!" or "Winners never quit and quitters never win!"

Whatever the case, there is a balance between our kids having legitimate issues fueling their desire to quit versus them having a poor work ethic and being labeled a "quitter."

3. Get the perspective of the coach.

After you've talked with your adolescent about their reasons for wanting to quit, sometimes those reasons involve how they get along with the coach, the dynamics of other members of the team, or even how they perceived their athletic ability in comparison to other team members.

Unfortunately, not all sports coaches are self-aware enough to take corrective feedback from parents and they can be very defensive about their coaching methods and practices.

There can be a huge range of reasons that young adolescents and teens can have for wanting to quit that are connected in some way to the coach or teammates.

Keep in mind that your adolescent's perception of what is happening is also their reality.

Having a talk with the coach and getting their perspective, will at least, provide you with a different vantage point on what is actually happening.

Two important reminders here…

The way you approach the coach to gain his/her perspective will set the tone of the conversation and how much quality feedback you receive.

Remember, no matter what your son or daughter told you, approaching the coach with an accusatory tone will not keep the communication lines open.

You may discover fairly quickly when you talk to the coach that any negative perceptions your adolescent shared with you about the coach are actually very true. Unfortunately, not all sports coaches are self-aware enough to take corrective feedback from parents and they can be very defensive about their coaching methods and practices.

I was a school principal and superintendent for many years and supervised some amazing coaches. But, sad to say, I also had my fair share of those who had issues of their own and brought those into their coaching responsibilities. Those situations never end well for anyone.

4. Pick your battles.

Once you've asked your adolescent their reasons for wanting to quit and you've also gotten the perspective of the coach, you are in a much better position to make a decision.

If the sports season hasn't started yet, the decision may be a little more simple. But if the season has started, and, even more time, money and energy has been invested, it tends to make the decision to allow them to quit a little more complicated.

Be an encourager and an advocate for your adolescent no matter what..

If you decide to let them quit, there are some things that you can do and say that will help you if you are still hearing those "you can't be a quitter" voices in your head.

  • Don't immediately sign them up for something else to do.
  • Remind them they can always try again later.
  • Don't push them to start again too soon.
  • When the time is right, suggest alternatives.

If your decision is to not let then quit, there are some equally important reminders.

  • Keep monitoring the situation to make sure that your adolescent is handling the pressures of being on a team in healthy ways.
  • Don't be so committed to your initial decision to not let them quit that you won't change your mind later if things don't turn out well.
  • Be an encourager and an advocate for your adolescent no matter what.

Keep your own self-awareness high to ensure that your reasons for not letting them quit are solid and not based on your own limiting beliefs.

5. Never Quit!

It may seem ironic in a conversation about how to parent your child when they want to quit to say to you, "never quit!" But, what I mean is, as a dad, never quit on being willing to do the hard work of getting beyond surface reasons and excuses in the life of your adolescents.

Never quit being their biggest fan and loudest encourager.

And, trust me, it's hard work.

Many times, they will put up road blocks, diversions, decoys and steel walls to keep you from knowing what is really going on deep down inside of their thoughts.

Our role as a parent is to teach them how to be great decision makers so that they will have a positive tool set for making the really tough decisions as they enter young adulthood..

But your strong connection with them, even during what is sometimes tough and challenging years, will serve as a time tested foundation for your relationship with them that will last for many years to come.

Whether or not your adolescent decides to quit or stay in the game, as a dad, you can offer some very valuable life coaching through the entire decision-making process.

Our kids' lives are full of choices and decisions. Our role as a parent is to teach them how to be great decision makers so that they will have a positive tool set for making the really tough decisions as they enter young adulthood.

No one ever said being a parent was going to be easy, but the rewards far outweigh the challenges when we arm ourselves with healthy mindsets and behaviors. So whether you're enjoying the game from the stands while watching your adolescent play in the game or the two of you are enjoying being spectators together, they know you're their biggest fan!!

Source: The Good Men Project


Abusive coaches: Sometimes the coach is the team bully

A varsity high school field hockey coach in San Diego, while denying any wrongdoing, recently resigned amid accusations of bullying. A girls JV basketball coach in Allen, Texas, was put on administrative leave in December for "racial bullying." Last July, the Massachusetts state's Attorney General's Office investigated complaints made by parents against two Wellesley High School coaches for what was described as an atmosphere of "fear, negativity and humiliation."

While bullying is historically and generally defined as a peer-to-peer dynamic, this behavior can happen wherever one party exerts control over another, like coach-to-athlete or teacher-to-student, according to child psychology experts. Many sports organizations, including high school sports associations, have codes of conduct against bullying. Forty-nine of the 50 states, with Montana being the exception, have school anti-bullying legislation.

Bullying: "The systematic abuse of power in which a stronger individual exhibits a pattern of intimidating behavior against someone weaker or less powerful." -- Pediatrics, Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Bullying by coaches is not a new phenomenon. Bobby Knight was given extensive latitude for nearly 30 years. Among his transgressions while at the helm at Indiana University included hurling a chair across the basketball court in the direction of an opposing player. His mistreatment of people, including choking a player at practice, finally led to his firing in 2000 for what the university called his "unacceptable pattern of behavior."

More recently, a video emerged in 2013 of Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice verbally and physically abusing players. A public outcry led to his firing, followed by the athletic director's forced resignation.

Bullying has three components, according to Jim Thompson, founder and CEO of Positive Coaching Alliance. Bullying involves an imbalance of power, it is ongoing and it is degrading. He said coaches clearly fit the power-differential criteria. "It can be physically punishing or emotionally demeaning," he said. " It's nasty."

And it's counterproductive, causing athletes to shut down. Parents may notice changes in mood, confidence, self-esteem and performance. Players may want to skip practice, or they may start performing poorly, which escalates the abuse. Ultimately, they may quit the team.

Thompson, who has written several books on the subject, including Positive Coaching: Building Character and Self-Esteem Through Sport, started the Mountain View, Calif., organization 17 years ago in an effort to change the win-at-all-cost mentality. PCA, who teamed up with Kidpower, which provides tools and resources to prevent and stop bullying, has partnered with thousands of schools and sports organizations across the country, providing coaching workshops. One resource is PCA's Development Zone (, which provides additional information for youth and high school athletes, coaches and parents.

"Our society gives a lot of leeway to coaches," said Thompson. "You often see when players rebel against bullying behavior the commentary often is 'kids today, they're not tough; they're pampered,'" he said. "In general, kids don't feel they have a lot of power."

When players and their families in San Diego started making noise about the 28-year-old field hockey coach berating the teenage girls, blaming losses on the bench, telling them they sucked and even ignoring them, the pushback began. The administration tried to minimize the claims, chalking it up to poor communication, and renewed the coach's contract. Outraged, the parents went in front of the school board and made their concerns part of the public record. Other players – those not targeted by the coach -- and their parents came to the coach's defense. The backlash spilled over into social media, some making the conversation about playing time.

"It's a competitive sport and it's tough," said one respondent. "I'm sure that no matter the outcome, those little princesses will no doubt still get their participation trophy from mommy and daddy, and probably a new car so they can feel better about themselves again."

Thompson said it takes moral courage -- standing up in public for what you believe in even when other people, including your own teammates or others may disagree with you. "It's uncomfortable, especially if you're the only one that doesn't like what's going on," he said. "But you need to do it if your son or daughter is being mistreated." He also said the bystanders need to be transformed into "upstanders" --  people who stand up effectively against bullying, providing emotional support.

Dr. Sage Breslin, a licensed psychologist familiar with the San Diego case, said as soon as the school received complaints it should have reacted by sending the coach to anger management, therapy, or even a coach's training program. "That could've done wonders for her," she said. "Maybe creating a new style that was much more productive for her. They didn't make any choices like that."

Bullying by a coach isn't defined by the number of players affected. "One child is all it takes," Breslin said. "There is no greater good when it comes to a sports team. You can't let a team stand around and let even one child be bullied. That's never going to be OK. We have to be focused on every child."

Source: Youthletic


The Consequences of Verbally Abusive Athletic Coaches

My 10-year-old son was bullied recently. He was told that he was an "embarrassment." He was told to "shut up." He was yelled at and scolded in a tone of voice tinged with disgust and disdain. He was told he would be punished for any mistakes he or his peers made in the future.

Surprisingly, this didn't happen at school. The bully wasn't even a peer of his. The bully was his swim coach, a young lady of perhaps 26. She was desperately trying to motivate her swimmers to swim fast in the big meet the next day. And this was her attempt at motivation.

In speaking to the lady in charge of the coaches on this swim team, it quickly became apparent that this type of "incentive" was not only okay with her, it was actually encouraged. She said that 9- and 10-year-old boys were "squirrelly" and "needed to be taken down a notch." She was in full support of her coaches yelling at, embarrassing and insulting young children to motivate them to swim faster. "That's just the way swimming is," she said. Had I not spent 12 years of my childhood swimming competitively, I may have believed her.

How Do I Know if My Coach Is a Bully?

To determine if a coach is a bully, you must first know what bullying behavior looks and feels like.

Bullying is aggressive behavior that occurs repeatedly over time in a relationship where there is an imbalance of power or strength. Bullying can take many forms, including physical violence, verbal abuse, social manipulation and attacks on property. Physical violence is not usually a component of a coaching relationship. If your coach is physically violent with an athlete, call the authorities.

Verbal and emotional abuse is much more common in athletics. It can lead to severe and long-lasting effects on the athlete's social and emotional development. In a world where "more is better" in terms of training and "no pain means no gain," there is a great deal of machismo in coaches. Most coaches coach the same way that they were coached while playing the sport growing up. This means that many coaches are still operating as if the training methods used in the Soviet Union in the 1970s are state of the art. "Ve vill deprive you of food until you win gold medal." Central to this old school mindset is the idea that threat, intimidation, fear, guilt, shame, and name-calling are all viable ways to push athletes to excel.

News flash: None of these is a worthwhile motivator for anyone. These are the bricks which line the road paved to burnout, rebellion and hatred of a once-loved sport.

What Does Verbal and Emotional Abuse Look Like in Athletics?

Usually, this involves a coach telling an athlete or making him or her feel that he or she is worthless, despised, inadequate, or valued only as a result of his or her athletic performance. Such messages are not conveyed merely with the spoken word. They are conveyed by tone of voice, body language, facial expression and withdrawal of physical or emotional support.

This is a large part of why bullying in athletics is so hard to quantify: A clear definition of bullying is somewhat elusive. Even if we can define it, as above, it's highly difficult to measure.

Bullying is partly defined by the athlete's subjective experience. In other words, if the athlete feels shamed, frightened, or anxious around the coach due to his or her constant shouting, name-calling or threatening, then the label "emotional abuse" is warranted.

How Widespread Is Bullying by Athletic Coaches?

There are no hard and fast figures on coaches who bully. In school, we know that 90 percent of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of some form of bullying at some point in their past. In a 2005 UCLA study, Jaana Juvonen found that nearly 50 percent of 6th graders reported being the victim of bullying in the preceding five-day period.

In general, boys are more physically aggressive (physical bullying), whereas girls rely more on social exclusion, teasing, and cliques (verbal or emotional bullying).

In 2006, Stuart Twemlow, MD gave an anonymous survey to 116 teachers at seven elementary schools, and found that 45 percent of teachers admitted to having bullied a student in the past. In the study, teacher bullying was defined as "using power to punish, manipulate, or disparage a student beyond what would be a reasonable disciplinary procedure."

Psychological research has debunked several myths associated with bullying, including one that states bullies usually are the most unpopular students in school. A 2000 study by psychologist Philip Rodkin, Ph.D and colleagues involving fourth- through sixth-grade boys found that highly aggressive boys may be among the most popular and socially connected children in elementary classrooms, as seen by their peers and teachers.

Another myth is that bullies are anxious and self-doubting individuals who bully to compensate for their low self-esteem. However, there is no support for such a view. Most bullies have average or better than average self-esteem. Many bullies are relatively popular and have "henchmen" who help with their bullying behaviors.

And so it is with the swim team that supports the coach's bullying. Bullying does not take place in a vacuum. There has to be an environment around bullying behavior which allows it and enables it to survive.

We know that bullying is rampant among children as well as adults. We know that 45 percent of teachers admit to having bullied a student in the past. On average, teachers have more training (1 to 2 years postgraduate) in areas such as child development and educational and motivational theories than the average youth athletic coach. So it appears safe to assume that teachers are less likely than the average coach to engage in bullying. Assuming that's the case, it seems safe to assume that roughly 45 to 50 percent of coaches have bullied an athlete in their past.

According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, there are approximately 2.5 million adults in the United States each year who volunteer their time to coach. Using our tentative number of 50 percent would mean that there are roughly 1.25 million adult coaches who have bullied a child athlete in the past. And this number does not even take into account coaches who are paid for their services and who may be more likely to bully due to the pressures and expectations placed upon them.

Source: PsychCentral


Advice to Help with Abusive Coaches


Many of the parents at our local high school are worried about the coaches, their abusive behavior towards the athletes and their attitudes towards the athlete's parents. For example, some of the coaches use derogatory terms when referring to some of the student athletes that do not run as fast as the other athletes. In addition, at least one coach as been heard referring to the parents of the athletes as "crybabies" when the parents complain about their coaching styles. The abuse has also turned physical, with the coaches often hitting the athletes on the arm during games. Although many parents are concerned about the abusive coaches, they are not sure what to do about the situation.


One of the best pieces of advice to take is to get as many parents in the community involved as possible. As history as taught us, the more voices a cause has, the more effective it can be.

Every school district in the country has set rules that govern the conduct of all teachers and staff at every school. You should get a copy of these rules and go through them carefully, highlighting any provisions that you feel the coach or coaches have violated. You can also give highlighted copies to the abusive coaches in question.

In addition, you can take some of these steps:

  • In keeping with the theory that the more voices behind a movement the better, go to the school principal and ask him to set up a public forum where parents can come and tell the coach(es) their issues with their coaching style.
  • If the forum fails, go to the Superintendent of Schools for your school district and tell him or her of your concerns and complaints about the abusive coaches.
  • Go to the school board meetings with a list of complaints about the abusive coaches.
  • Send a complaint to the State Board of Education.
  • Get a story about the abusive coaches into the local newspaper.

Lastly, if nothing else has worked and no one has paid attention to the problem, you can file a civil lawsuit against the coach, alleging assault and battery as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress. Because this lawsuit may be tricky to win, you will probably not want to represent yourself and should find an experienced attorney.

In order to win your case for civil assault, you will need to prove two elements:

  • That the abusive coach acted in a way that was intended to cause a harmful or offensive contact, and
  • That the student/athlete reasonably believed that he or she was about to be touched in a harmful or offensive way.

In order to successfully prove a claim for battery, you will need to show four elements:

  • That the abusive coach touched the student/athlete with the intent to harm or offend,
  • That the student/athlete did not agree to be touched by the abusive coach,
  • That the student/athlete was offended or harmed by the touching, and
  • That a reasonable person in the student/athlete's position would have been offended or harmed by the touching.

Lastly, in order to successful prove a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, you will need demonstrate four elements of the claim:

  • That the abusive coach acted intentionally or recklessly,
  • That the abusive coach's actions were extreme and outrageous,
  • That the abusive coach's actions were the sole cause of the emotional distress, and
  • That the student/athlete suffers from severe emotional distress because of the way the abusive coach acted.

Source: FindLaw


Rhode Island bill would mandate face protection for certain girls' softball positions

Rep. Eileen S. Naughton (D-Dist 21, Warwick) has introduced legislation that would mandate protective headgear for certain positions on girls softball teams.

The bill (2016-H 7756) would require that Interscholastic League athletes and youth sports athletes who are female and 19 years of age or younger and who play certain softball positions wear protective face masks during practice and at games.

"We're learning more and more all the time about the seriousness of concussive brain injuries," Naughton said in a release. "We've passed laws mandating that coaches and other youth officials be trained in recognizing the symptoms of a concussion, now it's time to ensure that these girls are protected while on the playing field."

The positions that would require the facemask include the pitcher, first baseman and third baseman. The facemask would have to meet National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment or ASTM test standards at the time of manufacture. The Rhode Island Interscholastic League would be required to adopt rules to see the law is carried out.

Traumatic brain injury among youth athletes is a serious public health concern in the United States. In 2011, more than 55,000 high school football players and 29,000 young soccer players sustained concussions during practice or competition, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Source: Warwick Beacon


Dad wears different hats helping San Dimas youth through sports

Alvaro Avalos Sr. was a gardener working hard to support his homemaker-wife Teresa and their five children and didn't have enough spare time to coach his offspring in sports. But Alfredo, his second-born, had big brother Alvaro Avalos Jr. and community volunteers.

Young Alvaro's example inspired Alfredo to volunteer for the San Dimas Youth Softball Association, assist San Dimas High School softball coach Don Pollard with the junior varsity girls team and form, manage and coach the Fury Softball Travel Club.

"Our dad was the sole provider for all of us, so he was busy working. My brother and I walked a mile to sign up for baseball and basketball in community programs," said an appreciative Alfredo, now 44 and a 2015 winner of the San Dimas Distinguished Service to Youth Award for his continuing commitment to young softball athletes.

No job is too small or too big for Avalos, according to the association officials who nominated Avalos for the city's highest award for people serving youth. Avalos has devoted 13 years to serving as San Dimas Youth Softball Association president and board member, coach, manager, field maintenance and snack bar volunteer, trainer, mentor and scheduler, they said.

"He has seen thousands of girls come through the organization," Steven Valdivia said.

Nominations are being accepted for 2016 Distinguished Service to Youth honorees until 4 p.m. Friday at the Parks and Recreation Department in San Dimas City Hall, 245 E. Bonita Ave.

Department Director Theresa Bruns said Avalos and the other 2015 winners "exemplify excellence because they unselfishly donate time, resources, energy and mentoring.  They don't just say, 'Young people are our future.' They help prepare children to become productive, contributing adults by their willingness to mentor, coach, educate and serve children today. We want to continue to honor people like them."

A Southern California Gas Company mechanic, Avalos said he understands many parents face the same challenge his dad did. Just as his big brother and adult volunteers filled the gap for him, Avalos said he tries to do the same for community children.

When Alfredo and his wife, Margarita, registered daughters Araceli, Aleena, Alyssa and Arleen in the San Dimas youth softball program, he realized this was a chance to do for other children what adults in his childhood had done for him.

Being involved in youth sports "was a positive experience for many reasons," Avalos recalled. "Sports enabled me to be part of a team with all the guys from our neighborhood, build friendships with guys from other neighborhoods and open my eyes to what else was out there. Sports also kept me out of trouble."

Besides Alvaro Jr., Alfredo was heavily influenced by Sugar Ray Robinson and Millikan Junior High School teachers and coaches after he and his siblings were bused from their rough Los Angeles neighborhood to the Sherman Oaks middle school.

"Mr. Robinson was a great and famous boxer, but he was giving back to a bunch of kids (as part of his youth foundation) and made you feel good about being part of a program like his. I look back now and realize I was blessed to be exposed to the community volunteers, coaches and teachers I had because they really cared about me," Alfredo said.

Source: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin


Arizona softball and baseball coaches concerned about overuse of high school athletes

Will this new way of thinking go away as college coaches come out against it?

It's no secret that one of the reasons Arizona has a new head baseball coach in 2016 is the ever-changing world of college baseball and softball recruiting. UCLA's John Savage redefined how the system works, and now coaches are forced to go younger and younger.

As it stands right now, Arizona has a commitment for the 2019 baseball class, and possibly the 2020 class as well. That's two kids that have yet to play a game at the high school level that have already decided where they will play college ball. Softball is also working in the same age bracket.

This forces these young kids to play more games, possibly causing physical damage to themselves, especially in the sports of softball and baseball, where you're doing a lot of unnatural body motions to play the game.

"Kids today are playing a lot of games," legendary Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea said. "So they have a lot of wear and tear on them, and so we have to be smart at our approach to this game with our training."

"It's certainly an issue," new Arizona head baseball coach Jay Johnson added. "I like for guys to play, that's the only way you get better. I do think with young, developing bodies and doing something physically, there's a component to that you have to pay attention to. And I think the young players have to be really smart about who they invest their time with and how they invest it. The balance between training and competing, particularly on the pitching side of it. I do believe when you're talking about pitchers specifically, some injuries are going to happen, but the more we can educate them, as we certainly do, to try and put them in a position where they're healthy and can advance their careers. But it's certainly an issue."

The amount of games played is an issue in both sports, but more so in softball due to the fact that they pitch underhanded. But it's still a trend that has presented several issues in the college game.

"They're playing 160 games easily a year," Candrea continued. "I'd rather see practices than games. There's a couple things we're seeing at the younger level. One of them is kids are playing a lot of games, but they're less competitive because they're not playing a lot of games that count. Everything is revolved around exposure, getting a scholarship, and it's working for them because we're recruiting kids right now that are in 8th grade. So who's the dummy? They're getting what they want, but it's changed the complexion of how kids are being prepared for our game."

"I've felt that you should probably practice about five times for every one game that you play, and that's what college does. We practice a lot more than we play, and they do the opposite. They practice once for every five games that they play."

"I think people are starting to look at that. You're going to start seeing more tournaments that end up with a winner, so that kids understand that there's a winner every tournament. And softball was not meant to have a clock, but a lot of the games they play in the summer are time limits; an hour and fifteen (minutes). So that's the challenge that you have with the kids getting here: Alright, the hour and fifteen's over, but you still got three more innings."

Candrea attributes the phenomena of more injuries and needing more depth to the one sport specialization that happens at a younger age now than it ever has before.

"Our athletes are bigger, stronger and quicker, but are they as durable? I don't know that. I know we used to play a lot of different sports, and different sports prepare you differently."

"And so we're getting kids here that sometimes are a little banged up. I remember one year we won it with 12 players, and I can't ever see that happening. Even when you have 18 you feel like you don't have enough, and I never thought I would say that, because I was always that 14 or 15-type roster. But now you probably need 18 to 20 to get through it."

Softball has changed in a lot of ways in recent years, but this is probably something that's gone overlooked by most people. That's a more than 50% increase in the number of players Candrea is looking to have on his team. That's crazy.

Last year, the baseball team had four players recovering from Tommy John Surgery at the same time, including two of the five pitchers used in the 2012 postseason run in Tyler Crawford and Mathew Troupe.

As youth sports continue to go the way of travel teams and one-sport specialization, the college ranks are held prisoner by these new ways of thinking. But maybe, hopefully, parents and coaches will realize that they may be doing more harm than good when looking at the big picture.

That's doubtful, but with someone that has the track record that Mike Candrea has coming out with such strong opinions on this, maybe that will get in their heads. Maybe.