November 22, 2013

Steve Solloway: The difference between meddling and intervening

Westbrook Mayor Colleen Hilton is looking for that rare person who can turn a deaf ear to the emotions of a small city and its high school athletes. She wants that person to sort out why some athletes were suspended, then reinstated, some just in time for the football playoff game with Kennebunk earlier this month.

She apparently doesn’t think the school department can apply the code of conduct it developed to its own students. Not when everyone’s shouting.

Is this unwanted meddling by the mayor or needed intervention? Before anyone answers, here’s one more question: Underage parties, alcohol, drugs and bad behavior have been around forever. Why can’t a school community write an unambiguous policy?

Over in Scarborough, parents of the high school baseball team want the school to investigate the baseball coach for a perceived conflict of interest. Their sons are being encouraged to attend a winter training camp at the appropriately named Edge Academy to better their skills. That will be $275 per player, please.

Better their sons’ skills? More like paying to better their sons’ chances or paying for a starting spot on the team, say these parents. The coach works at the facility, although by Maine Principals’ Association rules, can’t work directly with their sons.

Unwanted meddling or needed intervention? Or when was the last time anyone’s son or daughter grabbed a ball, bat, stick or racquet and improved their skills simply by playing out of the sight of any coach?

We either involve ourselves in our children’s sports experiences way too little or way too much.

In Westbrook, Mayor Hilton shouldn’t have needed to become involved. Every school can write its own code of conduct. I haven’t talked to one athletic director in recent years who believed his school’s policy was full of holes when it was implemented.

Teenage student-athletes want parameters. Not many want exceptions made. But we’ve made bending rules a way of life. I remember the ones who partied, got away with it and are fine today.

I know the ones who years later had to be admitted to detox or spent their time planning their next drug buy. They tell me about the enablers and apologists they wish they never met.

You want your children to be held accountable until it’s your child and the blame must be placed elsewhere, defeating the whole purpose. Thursday, my assignment put me in Kennebunk talking with community members about their football team, which played Cony of Augusta for the Class B championship Friday night.

Out of the blue, someone had to tell me of the football players they knew who stayed home the night after last Saturday’s big win over Marshwood that put Kennebunk in the title game.

The players watched television with girlfriends. Or played video games. They didn’t want to go out and get caught up in something that jeopardized the big game. I was puzzled. This wasn’t my line of questioning. Then I realized Kennebunk played Westbrook two weeks before with the reinstated players. No judgments were made. No talk of lessons learned or lost.

It’s too bad Mayor Hilton had to get involved. I can’t call it meddling.

In Scarborough, parents calling for an investigation are meddling. In sports, you improve by doing the same actions over and over, whether it’s hitting a baseball, making a jump shot or sinking a putt. I get it that some parents don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars for training at a for-profit facility where the coach may be present.

It’s no different than paying for the summer camps that have become a cottage industry. If it’s July, you can send your child to a camp for any sport. There are math camps and music camps. There are writing camps.

Maybe some see them as babysitting camps. For many others it was to improve and move ahead. That your son or daughter’s coach was on the staff was a given.

Is my son or your daughter doing the extra work because they want to, or because parents want them to gain that so-called edge?

You could hit a baseball in your backyard in January. A bit difficult fielding ground balls after snow falls.

The bigger point is indoor facilities like the Edge Academy or what was Frozen Ropes got into business because many of our children lost their initiative long ago to take their games to the backyards or driveways or playgrounds.

Collectively, that’s our fault.

Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

Twitter: SteveSolloway

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