Category Archives: kids

“The Whitman 5”: Who is to Blame?

Dear mm and mmm:

I have read the comments you have left on my blog and I appreciate you both taking the time to share these.

Whitman is a very good school with high SATs and preparing students for some of the best colleges in the country.  No question about it.

But Whitman, like any other high school, is not perfect nor will it, or any other high school, ever be.  However, Whitman has some real problems right now that go beyond what is wrong at “most high schools”.

While I realize you two are probably in the majority about your feelings for Pat Lazear and the others and whether they committed the crime or not, the minority has been very vocal  and I and others who publicly condemned or questioned those involved in this situation have been subjected to some of the most vulgar, dim witted, unreasonable and threatening messages from the minority.

Now, you both express concern about my claim that the teachers, coaches and administration should be held accountable for Pat and the other’s actions.  I can understand how you might disagree based upon the type of person Robert Warren is/was and your own descriptions of the others, but if the coaches EVER said anything to them about their behavior and the student didn’t listen, did they EVER take further action?  In other words did Wallich or Wetzel EVER make them miss a game or a match because of their behavior?  Did Magathan or Goodwin EVER step in and use their authority?  I’ll be honest that I don’t know the answer but I have a pretty good idea that it is “NO”.

Look at the incident from this past spring at Duke and the Duke Lacrosse Coach.  Did he have anything  to do directly with the alleged rapes?  No.  But he lost his job anyway because the program he ran was so loosely monitored that the team was allowed to behave in a way that they could be put in a position to be accused of rape and commit other acts which reflected poorly on the team and the University.

I have been involved in dialogue in the past with Coach Wetzel about the demeanor of some of his wrestlers and never once did he ever say they could or should have acted with more respect.  Instead he defended their behavior as being “special athletes” who work hard and “deserve everything they can take”.  I don’t think you have to look much further to see there is a problem brewing.

You both say you knew these five guys.  Did you ever tell them to quit being idiots or did you just laugh at their antics?  Peer pressure can go a long way.  I am sure you know of kids at your school over the years who have broken a rule and gotten caught like drinking under age and not been punished because of some talent they have.   Do you think that is fair?  And if they get away with that or see someone similar to them get away with it, then what makes you or them think they can’t away with something more serious.  Something like, well….I don’t know…maybe….ARMED ROBBERY?

As long everyone just looks the other way and doesn’t ask questions it will continue.

Yes, these guys have been through a lot and to be honest it will only get worse as time goes on.  That comes with notoriety and fame.  If Pat Lazear and the others want all the benefits of being a star or hanging out with a star, then they have to take all the criticism, too.  And the blind “Whitman Faithful” who support them have to learn to live with it, too.  If Pat Lazear had taken Whitman to states I am sure no one would be complaining about an article in the paper talking about what a great athlete he was. 

I am sorry your school has had to take this much heat.  But maybe if you, your friends, and all of your parents would put some pressure on the school to stop this kind of behavior before it reaches this level then maybe people could focus on the good things about Whitman and not just what these five kids did.

Ultimately Pat Lazear and the others are responsible for the choices they made.   Their parents also probably carry some of the blame for not doing something earlier (Remember , there were warning signs in the form of credit card fraud).

But PLEASE do not be so naive to think that the at least one teacher, coach or administrator couldn’t have had some influence on at least one of these kids.  If not directly, then indirectly by the way they responded to negative behavior.

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Why I Really Coach

As another season of youth football has come to a close, and it is my son’s last season as he will be entering high school next year, I am faced with the dilemma of, “is this my last season, too or will I coach again next year?”

Many people assume it is my last given my son’s age and I may take a break from it next year, but I don’t really think it is my last for one simple reason – Why I really coach.

Many youth coaches are out there because it is a way to be involved with their own kids.  They find it is a way to build a bond and have something special with their child.  In many cases if they did not step up to coach their might not be a team at all.  Unfortunately, you also see the ones who at the end of a game aren’t as concerned with the final score as they are with their own kid’s statistics.  They coach to insure that their kid is the star and is in every play.

There are also those coaches who do it because it fulfills their competitive needs.  They are former athletes themselves still in great shape, but are too old to be allowed on the field themselves.  They are living vicariously through their players until the Redskins call.  They like the rush they get from winning and the power they feel which is something they don’t get from their jobs.

Then are those who really do have something to share and want to make a difference.  They see coaching as a way to pass along some of their knowledge and help give something back to the community.

So, which one am I?

I definitely have done it to be involved with my kid.  I have done it not to make my kid the star but in one case to prevent that “one dad” from ruining the season for everyone by him making his kid the star at the expense of everyone else.  I do love the thrill of winning but, alas, I have not maintained my athletic physique and if the Redskins were to call me, it would be to be a food taster for Dan Snyder.

I have done it to give something back to the community and make a difference in a kid’s life but I think I am unique in why I think I can or should  do this.  I had a great teacher and coach growing up.   My Dad.

He was my baseball coach all through Little League.   When he passed away several years ago, at his funeral I saw several men who I hadn’t seen since high school or even some since we had played Little League together.  Each one was there because my dad as their Little League coach 30 years earlier had touched their lives in a way they never forgot.  Several of them shared stories about how he had helped them or how as an adult they had remembered something he taught them or said to them that got them through difficult times.  All things that I didn’t know or just took for granted.  When I saw the impact he had on so many young people by just being a dad who was a volunteer baseball coach, I knew I had to follow his example.

This is one of many reasons I am so passionate about what coaches do and say around players and the special treatment gifted athletes are given.  Kids are impressionable and like it or not they do notice.  Winning is important but it is not why kids should be playing and why coaches should be coaching.  It is not the win/loss record that will have a lasting impact.

Do I think any of the kids I have coached will show up at my funeral one day?  I doubt it.  But I would like to think that when one of them comes to a crossroads in their life (i.e. rob the Smoothie King or not?) they will think about something I did or said and make the right choice.

Just like my Dad.

 PS:  I just came across this article from The Washington Post Good Coaches Win in Other Ways”.    Ditto, Bingo, Exactly…..

Side Note:  Jasmina Parazic, who is pictured in the article, coached my daughter this year in Field Hockey.   A great expereince for her and now she is hooked on the sport!

Old for the Holidays

Thanksgiving has come and gone.  The house was full and the noise was deafening.  Plenty of loud music, television, arguing, laughter and best of all conversation.

All four of my children were home for Thanksgiving.  It was the first time in three months that all six of us had been together.  We only had  one night where it was just the six of us as relatives began arriving during the week.   But as I sat at the dining table that night and looked around, I had that eerily warm feeling.

Yes, I was soaking in the fact that our family was complete and also contemplating that these moments will be fewer and fewer as the years go by, but what really got to me was how old this made me feel.  Me, old…..how could it be?

I was having the thoughts that my parents had, and would creep me out, years ago whenever my brother, sister and I were all home at the same time.   I would catch my mother and father both staring at us and one another, soaking it all in and then getting a little self satisfied smile on their lips.  To be honest it was creepy and well, it made my parents look and seem old. 

I only turned 45 two weeks ago!  How can I feel so old?  I guess I feel old because I see so much of my parents in myself.  It is funny how we view our parents through life.

When you hit your twenties you realize your parents aren’t as old as you thought nor as stupid as you thought.

When your own children are infants you realize how much your parents really care for you even though you may find it hard to believe that anyone could care for another human being as much as you care for your own child.

When your children become teens you reliaze how much your parents reallyknew and how much they really must have trusted you.  (I can’t believe they let me do some of the things they let me do).

But when your children start to leave home, when the family unit becomes dispersed, what do you think of your parents?   You begin to understand they had a choice at that point.  Become old and let life slip away or take on a new spirit that involves putting themselves first.

I feel old.  I see life slipping away.  Another milestone reached, another moment in time that signifies life marches on and we get one step closer to finishing our time and jobs on this earth.  We live, we love, we procreate, we teach, we raise, we release and then we fade away to the end.

I have to shake this.  I am not old and I am not ready to be old.  I need to find what is in life that will help keep me young…….It is not a car or a girlfriend or any other stereo typical mid-life crisis cover up.

I have until Christmas.

Super Bowl Update

Last week I wrote that my son’s team was playing in their league’s Super Bowl.

For those wondering the outcome – we won! The final score was 6 – 0 in overtime.

It was a great game played mostly between the 20 yard lines as both teams really stepped up and all the kids gave their all.

The Overtime portion of the game was also truly exciting and well, you really need to see it to believe it.

My son is #30 for Damascus in Green Look for his block on Damascus’ 3rd down play. 

I truly think every kid out there was able to go home that night, win or lose, and say “I Did My Best!”

Where Were You When He Was Making His Choices?

I have received several comments as to my posts on Pat Lazear and the “Smoothie King Incident.”  Some printable, most not – all from Whitman “Faithful”.  One in particular that I received was from a young man who identified himself only as a “current whitman student”.  I have written the post below in response to his comment but it really is for everyone.  

current whitman student:

I appreciate your comments regarding this entirely regrettable situation which several of your former classmates/ team mates were involved. It is clear that Robert Warren had a troubled past and even his behavior at Whitman was not exemplary.

I don’t believe anyone is excusing Mr. Warren for his involvement in the Smoothie King robbery or that Pat Lazear had some magical power over Mr. Warren that forced to commit this crime.

But the real point that is being missed by so many people is that Pat Lazear made a choice to be involved with people like Mr. Warren and commit acts like the Smoothie King robbery.  Where were his parents, his coaches or his teachers to steer him clear of this kind of stuff?

Pat Lazear is a gifted athlete with an unlimited potential ahead of him.  He had his choice of colleges to attend, at no cost, and the opportunity to get one of the best educations in the country.  If athletics did not lead to a career after college for him he would have had the opportunity to learn from some of the brightest minds in the world any subject he chose.  And he could have used that knowledge along with the potential public notoriety he would have gained from playing sports in college to work anywhere he wanted.  The golden path lay before him.  He knew it.  His parents knew it.  His coaches knew it.  His teachers knew it.  Even his friends, like you, knew it.

But he was allowed to throw it all away because nobody ever sat him down and told him, “No.”  And why would they?  He was  this great athlete who if allowed to play in that next game, or wrestle that next match would bring glory and honor to his family, his team, his school.  His parents wouldn’t have to pay for college, his coach might win a state championship and get a better spot somewhere else, and people associated with Whitman could walk around saying they knew Pat when he tackled 3 guys by himself.

And no one can say there were no warning signs.  He was convicted of using a stolen credit card only 17 months before the Smoothie King incident.    He served 90 days court supervised probation for it.  This is not some little transgression.  One of the many Whitman “Faithful” who have written to me about Mr. Warren said that he, too, was convicted of using a stolen credit card.  I am assuming they committed that crime together?  Or maybe it is a coincidence.  Either way, if my kid was caught with another kid committing a crime, it is the last time my kid would be seen with that kid.  Especially a kid who has a checkered past like Mr. Warren.

If Mr. Warren’s behavior at wrestling matches was as bad as you say, how could the coaches not steer Pat away from him?  I know that some people believe that too many parents look to the schools to raise their kids.  And I am not advocating this.  What I am saying is that when a teacher or coach has the rare opportunity to have a student athlete like Pat Lazear, they should help him to see right from wrong, help keep bad influences away that might side track him.  Keep him focused on what he needs to do, and not do, to succeed.  Be an example, be a mentor, be an educator.  Don’t just turn the other way when they do something wrong or begin hanging out with the wrong crowd because it might upset your star and you won’t be able to ride the gravy train.  Do what is right for him.

I am glad so many people support Pat.  He is going to need it.  But where was everyone when he was making these choices?

Youth Football and Guns…I’m Speechless

“He’s got a gun! He’s got a gun!” those were the shouts that silenced the words of encouragement this past Sunday at the Pee-Wee football game in Northeast Philadelphia.

“What now?” is all I could think when I read this story in the Philadelphia Daily News . 

Having been involved in coaching of youth sports for many years, I’ve seen and heard a lot of crazy things.  This year has been no different from the coach in California who tackled the 13 year old player on the field to the coach on one of our opposing teams this fall using what amounted to a  racial slur to signal his team’s defensive formation. 

I have had my share of parents who don’t think their kid is getting enough playing time and aren’t shy at all to let me know it.  I have always been mindful of kid’s playing time because I believe the purpose of kid’s sports is to give every kid a chance.  As I tell all the parent’s of the teams I coach, “When scouts start showing up at our games, I might change my strategy.  Until then, everyone plays.”

So apparently in Philadelphia that was not the philosphy of the coach of 6- 7 year old pee wee football players and a parent took offense at this.   So much so, he pulled out a gun.

First, let me talk about the coach of these are 6- 7 year olds.   When asked by the parent when he was going to put in more players he responded,  “he liked to run up the score before he put in other players.”

I’m sorry.  Did I read that correctly? “he liked to run up the score” first.  These are 6 – 7 year olds! What the F- is wrong with you! 6 – 7 year olds!  Why are you worried about the score?  At this age isn’t the point to teach the kids about the basic fundamentals of football? You don’t need to run up the score at this age.  You don’t ever need to run up the score.  This guy should never be allowed to coach kids.

Now based upon the coaches response I can understand the dad getting upset.  But pulling a gun out is not the answer.  In fact, the real tragedy is that he even brought a gun to his 6 – 7 year old’s football game.  What was he thinking having it there?

My heads hurts just trying to comprehend this whole thing.    If you think you need to run up the score on 6 – 7 year olds before you put other kids in; or if you think your kid not gettng enough playing time when they are 6 or 7 years old will damage the college or professional prospects; or if you have any reason to bring a gun to a kid’s football game; or if you think pulling out a gun is the way to settle an argument….I’m speechless.

I am speechless.

Teen Suicide

I received a disturbing note from an old friend today.  The child of a mutual friend of ours had attempted suicide.  I don’t have a lot of details other than the child is recovering from this unfortunate act and the family is still trying to get a full understanding on the reason.

The news of anyone trying to commit suicide, especially a child,  is disturbing enough.  But see, this was the third young person I knew of who had attempted suicide in as many weeks.  Unfortunately, the other two were “successful” in their attempts..

It is so saddening to think what could have possible been going through these kids head to want to give it all up.  In a way, I can empathize with them.  I was diagnosed as being clinically depressed 18 months ago.

My depression had been going on long before I was diagnosed and the damage it caused in my personal and professional life was/is significant.  But that is all for another time.  What I want to convey here is how desperate these teens must have felt that they would take their own lives.

Even though I suffer from depression, any thoughts of suicide that I have had have been just that, thoughts.  I have never had the urge to act on it even though I have thought of several ways to do it.  There are times when life becomes so unbearable that I wish I could just die.  But I would never do it via suicide.

All I can think about with these teenagers is that their choice to commit suicide and to follow through with it could have been stopped if they were more mature.  I am NOT suggesting they were childish in their behavior, but rather that they did not possess the life experiences and maturity that comes with age to think about the full consequences of their actions.  I know that this is a very large part of what stops me when I get those thoughts.

What is it that would drive a child to have grown up fears, and pressures which they can not handle? 

Are we putting too much pressure on kids to grow up too soon?  With the things on the Internet like YouTube and various explicit websites and the type of television programming out there, are we exposing our kids to too many adult type issues which can only be fully understood or appreciated with age? Is this part of the cause of teen suicide?

I am not blaming the Internet or YouTube or television.  I am questioning the content that we allow our children to access.  It is not the technology , it is the message that I wonder which might be too much for a young developing mind to handle.

I don’t know.  I don’t have the answer.  I wish I did.