In 35 years as Duke’s head basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski has dismissed exactly one player from his program. That dismissal came on January 29, 2015, when Coach K booted guard Rasheed Sulaimon from the team after Krzyzewski said Sulaimon “repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations.”
by Laura Godlewski, Athletic Business Intern February 2015
A recreational soccer player in Michigan who was charged with punching a referee and killing him during a game has agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors. Bassel Saad will serve eight to 15 years in prison as part of the deal and will plead either guilty or no contest to involuntary manslaughter, according to his lawyer, Cyril Hall.
A Toronto girls’ hockey league has drawn some attention this month, not because of its performance on the ice, but its policies related to player-coach interactions.
Following a complaint regarding a volunteer coach who congratulated a player by slapping her on the butt and squeezing her shoulders, the Toronto Leaside Girls Hockey Association’s executive vice-president sent out an email to coaches with the following message: “Putting hands on shoulders, slapping butts, tapping them on the helmet, NOTHING, this can make some of the girls uncomfortable and you won’t know which ones, so no contact, period.”
Following criticism from parents and a flurry of online commentary, the league issued a statement clarifying the league’s policy, stating that the email was only intended to remind coaches of the league’s existing policy, not replace it:
“The issue about physical contact is a guideline only. Please know that we naturally understand that contact is part of the game. We also acknowledge that it is normal for volunteers to touch players in certain circumstances – e.g. helping with skates and helmets; assisting a young player on and off the bench; helping an injured player off the ice. The suggestion in the news media is that we have implemented a no contact policy. Please be assured that this is not the case.”
League president Jennifer Smith went on to explain, "At no time did the TLGHA invoke a new policy. The section of the email about physical contact with players did not draw a clear enough distinction between hard and fast rules and guidelines. These are guidelines only."
Still, the zero-tolerance position of the email touched off what many players and coaches feel is an important discussion about the roll of physical contact between players and coaches in sports. Reactions were mixed, with some feeling a no-contact policy went to far and others that it only made sense to discourage unnecessary contact between players and coaches.
“Obviously we’ve been taking steps ever since we’ve known that some bad things have happened to kids back in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” Twenty-year hockey coach David Trombley told CTV Toronto. “Definitely we’re out here to protect the kids.”
“I think it’s a real shame in a public situation on the bench that they’re not allowed to give a congratulatory tap,” said one parent. “I absolutely understand behind closed doors and in the locker room, but maybe on the bench and on the ice, it’s a different situation.”
For Dave Cmar, president of Sun Parlour Female Hockey Association in Ontario, it’s a logistics issue.
“We wouldn’t have the resources to be at every arena, at every game,” he told The Windsor Star. “The difficulty would be in uniformly applying that.”
Sports psychologist Kate Hays defended coach-player contact as an important aspect of player development, telling CBCNews, “It says, 'I'm paying attention to you, you've done a good job, I know you are really engaged, you are important to me, you are important to the team.'"
Perhaps more important, Hays says that it’s part of teaching children the difference between appropriate and inappropriate contact. "The idea of learning about non-sexualized, non-aggressive touch is something that indicates a positive connection among human beings.”
Should touching a player's shoulder be considered inappropriate contact for a coach?
Nearly two months after allegations that the Jackie Robinson West team violated residency rules, the governing board of Little League Baseball has stripped the team of its 2014 U.S. championship title. The team drew significant attention during this past year’s Little League season as the first team comprised of all African-American participants to win the national title.
In December, a rival team accused the Chicago-based team of using players outside its geographic area in December, allegations that were initially dismissed. But an investigation by the Little League organization revealed that the team used a map with falsified boundaries to recruit players from neighboring districts. As a result of the investigation, the team will vacate its wins from the 2014 Little League Baseball International Tournament, including its regional and national titles, the latter of which will be awarded to Mountain Ridge Little League of Las Vegas.
“For more than 75 years, Little League has been an organization where fair play is valued over the importance of wins and losses,” Little League International CEO Stephen D. Keener said in a statement. “This is a heartbreaking decision. What these players accomplished on the field and the memories and lessons they have learned during the Little League World Series tournament is something the kids can be proud of, but it is unfortunate that the actions of adults have led to this outcome.”
Local officials acknowledged in January that they knew of the team’s violations but had not reported them to the governing body, sparking the league to reopen its investigation. The team’s manager has since been suspended, and the league’s administrator for the district has been removed from his position.
“Little League takes these matters very seriously and has spent countless hours gathering information about the many issues facing Jackie Robinson West Little League and Illinois District 4,” Keener said. “During our review, it became clear that both Jackie Robinson West officials and District Administrator, Mike Kelly signed documents to make players eligible who should not have been.”