Category Archives: youth sports

Poor Eren

Ok, this is a really bad title for this blog and to some (namely:  ME), might even be considered in bad taste.  So I apologize.

Now, to the point.

As a person who has written some pretty harsh comments on his blog about the administrators, coaches and teachers of Walt Whitman High School and about a former student/star athlete turned armed robber, I am sure many of the Whitman faithful already have their keyboards and pitchforks all fired up to come after me for writing anything about Eren Civan.  But please read what I have to write before you come after me.

Eren Civan really deserve a better end to his High School Wrestling career.  A 135 -0, 3 time state champion, who was on his way to another undefeated season and 4th state title, deserved better than to be taken out with a knee injury like he suffered. 

I have had the good fortune to see Eren wrestle on a few occasions over the past 3 years.  There really were none better.  Unfortunately, I never got to see him wrestle in a close match.   Everyone was a blow out.  Did he ever have a close match?  I am sure he did, but I just never got to see it.

 To become that good at anything and especially wrestling takes a certain mind set and determination.  I like what Hopkins said in The Washington Post

But in the opinion of Dave Hopkins, in his 30th year as coach at Damascus, Civan could still win it — on one leg.

“I’m surprised he hasn’t suggested doing that,” Hopkins said with a laugh. “He’s an amazing competitor.”

Most of us won’t ever be able to understand or comprehend this type of mental attitude.  Most of us would not want this type of mental attitude about anything.  But for the few who have found a passion for anything that is so strong to drive them to such lengths…..go for it.  We all marvel at it and gain enjoyment from your accomplishments.

So Eren is going on to Columbia University where with luck he will be able to continue his wrestling career after a year or so of rehab on his knee.  But even if doesn’t ever step on a mat again, he has won so much already.

The respect of others, an opportunity to attend an Ivy League School and the knowledge that if he puts his mind and body to something he can achieve it.

As I said, I really hated to hear about Eren’s injury.  You don’t wish something like that on anyone. 

 Good Luck Eren

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“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.

He Did It and It Really Is a Shame

A second teen pleads guilty in smoothie store robbery

Patrick Lazear could serve up to 18 months in prison

There it is in black and white in the Montogomery Gazette on Wednesday, November 29, 2006.

“Patrick Lazear, 17, considered to be one of the top college football prospects in the region, admitted to being the getaway driver and providing the replica 9mm gun used in the March 30 robbery of a Wisconsin Avenue Smoothie King store. “

Ok, so all you “Whitman Faithful”, we waited for “all the facts to come out” but because Lazear took a plea bargain, we will never here them in his case.  Or did we hear the only one that matters. 

‘‘It holds him accountable,” DeGonia told reporters after the hearing. ‘‘He admitted to his role in this, that he entered into an illegal agreement to do an illegal act.”

He did it.  He admitted it.  He’s GUILTY.

I apologize for gloating.  I am not happy that he or any of the other kids were involved in this crime.  If I am to gloat about anything is that all you near sighted and foul mouthed “Whitman Faithful” were proven wrong.  But again, I am not going to gloat or say I told you so.

What I do want to say is, “NOW will you look in your own backyard?  NOW will you start to ask questions about how Walt Whitman High School and it’s Athletic Programs are being run?  NOW will you think twice about defending a kid who needs to be taught some modesty and humility?”

Pat Lazear screwed up and is paying for it.  Is Eren Civan next?  Maybe instead of applauding Goliath when he stomps off the field or the mat after completely humiliating his opponent you will tell him to straighten up and appreciate his talent.  Don’t rub people’s noses in it.   Have some respect for the guy who against all odds at least went out there and competed.

If you wake up now maybe your school, your community and some unsuspecting youth with unlimited potential will be saved from ever having to go through this again.

Pat Lazear screwed up. It is his fault.  It’s the kids he associated with fault.  It is his parents fault.  It is his teacher’s fault.  It is his coaches fault.  It is the administration’s fault.  It is all his adoring fans fault – the “Whitman Faithful”.  Everyone who ever had the opportunity to put some good moral sense in the kid’s head and didn’t do it becasue he was “special”.  You all are to blame.  And it is a true travesty.

Good night and sorry for the rant but this whole thing has me disturbed.  No one is going to learn from this and 10 years from now it will all be repeated.  Different kid, different town, different crime.  Same reason.

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!

Today Is the Super Bowl

My son’s team plays in the league’s Super Bowl today.  We are 11 – 0 and are playing a team that is 9 -2.  Their only losses were to us during the regular season.

We have been preparing for this since August 1 (the coaches a “little” longer).

Let’s pray for great weather, a great game of no injuries and good sportsmanship and at the end of the day have every player and coach be able to 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.