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.”
by T.J. Holmes, Record Searchlight (Redding, California) January 2015
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Copyright 2015 Record Searchlight All Rights Reserved Record Searchlight (Redding, California)
Basketball season may be almost over before an official decides whether a formerly homeless teen can play for Trinity High School in this, his final year.
A review of Zach Sanchez's unusual case by the Shasta Cascade League (SCL) Wednesday didn't offer the fifth-year senior the support he was seeking. Northern Section California Interscholastic Federation Commissioner Liz Kyle, who now gets the case, said she doesn't believe there's a deadline for her decision and she's unsure when she'll make one.
She then added she expects to follow the normal student eligibility deadline of 20 business days. There are 21 business days left until the final date of the regular basketball season, which ends Feb. 20. Sanchez has so far missed all 13 of Trinity's games this season.
Sanchez's case has attracted attention beyond the small North State community where he now lives with a foster family. Believing he's been treated unfairly after the loss of his mother to cancer and a period of homelessness, the National Center for Youth Law has written a letter to Kyle urging her to let Sanchez play.
Sanchez applied for athletic eligibility with a hardship waiver after enrolling at Trinity High School over the summer. He attended Liberty Christian Schools in Redding as a freshman, but the instability of living with his biological father following his mother's death caused him to attend sporadically, the letter said.
Before the season, the league had cleared Sanchez to play, although Kyle still had to review the decision for approval. That 5-1 vote was cast Nov. 10. League members determined Sanchez "suffered greatly from his mother's death," according to the letter to Kyle and Trinity Alps Unified School District Superintendent Tom Barnett from the National Center for Youth Law.
But Barnett revoked the eligibility Nov. 20, the letter said. He explained his decision in part, the letter said, because Sanchez's application contained an inaccurate date of death for his mother.
The league officials who met Wednesday could not approve or deny Sanchez's waiver because they could not verify whether federal law supersedes CIF bylaws, according to the league's minutes.
Officials needed an interpretation of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. The act details how schools are required to immediately enroll homeless children and youths, "even if the child or youth is unable to produce records normally required for enrollment," the youth law center letter states.
In the minutes, league members voted 4-1 to forward the decision on Sanchez's hardship waiver to the Northern Section CIF, but with a negative recommendation. The meeting minutes note Sanchez ran away from his father April 1, 2012, becoming homeless.
The league cites a CIF bylaw that would make Sanchez ineligible for a hardship waiver because his grades were too low immediately prior to becoming homeless.
Now, Kyle must decide either to accept the hardship waiver and Sanchez play this season or reject it and give a reason. Sanchez could then appeal the rejection - making the timing of Kyle's decision and the length of the season critical considerations.
Trinity High AthleticDirector Mandy Lahey said she plans to deliver Sanchez's paperwork to the CIF office in Chico on Friday morning.