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Coaching boys into men, except in football

Posted: April 9, 2013 - 12:00am

An unresponsive female student becoming a sex toy for athletes on a high school football team; a football coach drinking beer and kissing women at a party near a college campus; a professional football player charged with rape, another with firearms violations, still another with murder.

No, these did not happen in Juneau. But they all involved football teams.

In Juneau, a coach is being investigated for boxing – and knocking out – a player at a football camp in Oregon last year.

Hazing, bullying and violence begin as early as kindergarten. At that age however, a girl can be the instigator as much as the boy.

As kids get older, parents rely on school administration, teachers, and coaches to help fill a vacuum that they occasionally cannot attend to.

That includes traveling to other communities; and monitoring sleepovers, grades, school attendance and social etiquette.

It is a heavy load.

As a sports reporter for the Juneau Empire I rely on honesty from school administration, coaches, players and parents.

The school was first made aware of the video of a TMHS football player being knocked out by a coach on Thursday, April 5.

The alleged assault happened in July 2012. It was captured on at least one iPhone. There were reports of others capturing the event as well.

It was out there and viewed, displayed and shared. By whom and how often is unclear.

Social media has become not just a way to connect but also to document that connection.

Go to any local sporting event and watch your athlete or student. You will see most are, even during a competition, using some form of social media.

I have seen youth on the bench, outside the locker rooms at half time and walking blindly along the sidelines with their heads down immersed in texting while their school’s star sinks a 20-foot jump shot.

Socially, our youth are connected on a level we as adults were never introduced to.

That said, with all the connections available, there are also disconnects.

What was once inappropriate behavior is becoming more accepted and more extreme.

Graphic is becoming tolerated and pornographic touted in the sports and entertainment culture.

“Friends” are monitored by a number on a computer screen instead of physical interaction, “Tweets” are used to bully from afar, and “comments” have torn the cover off of diaries.

Last season, in a discussion with a Juneau School District administrator, I asked about an incident between the Falcons and Crimson Bears that occurred during halftime of a football game.

I became aware of something amiss during a home game for the TMHS Falcons. I noticed that the coach left the field when the game began.

School officials in the press box talked openly about it, until they noticed my interest.

It seems that one of our head coaches told our other school’s head coach — face-to-face, in front of fans and players during a game — who was really No. 1, with a certain hand gesture.

The administrator said the matter was being handled “in house” and would not release any information.

I asked if parents were aware of the confrontation, since this affected their children.

The administrator said, “all parents were told of the instance and the resolution."

That resolution included both head coaches being suspended for one game, the Falcons' home contest and the Crimson Bears on the road.

Well, guess what?

At least one school district employee, whose child is on the football team, said, “I had no idea that had taken place. We were never told. I found out much later.”

The coach I talked to was proud of his finger.

“He was the big dog p***ing on my lawn,” that coach said. “I am not taking that from anyone.”

As a sports reporter/photographer I am privy to a lot that occurs during a competition.

At a recent high school basketball game, a small group of fans began to openly mock and taunt a visiting team whose culture was one of indigenous origin.

They used mocking tones and gestures that would have them banned if they were at, oh say, the London Olympics.

I pointed out the transgression to an administrator in charge, who could also see and hear this.

Nothing was done.

This individual said: “I am not in charge of this function” and “Those kids are already in trouble and will not be in school much longer.”

Parents, are you listening? Coaches, are you?

There is a huge confrontation going on between our two high schools.

No, it is not between the athletes.

Attend an event and listen to the fans. Watch administration members, watch adults in the stands and along the sidelines.

At some point cheering becomes goading and goading leads to taunting, and high blood pressures and accusations of bias.

The most adult comment I have heard came last weekend at the start of the Falcons/Crimson Bears girls’ soccer game.

Team captains met with officials.

Officials asked, “Do you know each other?” or something to that affect.

A player answered, “Oh yeah, we grew up playing each other. I was on her team once. She is a really fun to play against.”

Yep, it came from a young girl.

One whose social media base, we hope, will protect her and not victimize her.

The Thunder Mountain High School Football website is reminding everyone that airfare checks for Camp Rilea are due Monday.

Camp Rilea is the site of the Falcons’ football team camp on July 19-25. The airfare is $623.20. A camp commitment letter is due May 15 with $150 camp fee that covers lodging and meals.

Camp Rilea is billed as “The Best Kept Secret on the North Oregon Coast.”

Football team camps have always been, and will always be, an important part of a young football player’s acceptance and a team’s growth.

JDHS and TMHS have had successful football programs and have produced great young men, not just athletes.

The video from Gold Beach could be an isolated instance. But it’s disturbing it happened in the first place.

Disturbing is the adult involvement and the players involved.

Where are all these “boys turned into men?”

Who are the captains of this team? These strapping lads that walk out onto the floor and shake the officials’ hands and their opponents’ mitts?

Do we fire the captains too? This allegedly happened under their watch, as well.

What did they know?

As a role model for younger players, what did they say?

What are they saying now?

Parents, coaches, administrators and fans… are we listening?

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