Stories indexed with the term ‘high school sports’

Column: The Gift of Growing Up

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Teresa Bloodman’s son was thrilled to pass the first two tryouts for his Maumelle, Arkansas, high school freshman basketball team, which allowed him to play on the team for the first two months of the fall. But, when the football season ended, the coach held a third round of tryouts so the football players could come out for the team, and he cut Bloodman’s son.

Teresa Bloodman was so livid she sued the school, the district and the state. She claimed cutting her son was arbitrary, that the lack of a formal appeals process was a violation of due process, and that her son has a constitutional right to participate in school sports.

I can appreciate a mother’s pain seeing her son suffer a setback. And certainly, coaches make plenty of arbitrary decisions, even unfair ones. But if Bloodman wins this case, the rest of us will lose – especially her son.

Her lawyer wants the coach to use a quantitative evaluation system for tryouts – rating each candidate’s skill in dribbling, passing, and shooting, for example – to make the process more objective.

But only an idiot would pick a team on stats alone. [Full Story]

Column: A Season of Small-Stakes Softball

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

I went to Ann Arbor Huron High School, considered by every objective source to be the greatest high school in the history of the universe. And one of the things that made it so great when I was there was an intramural softball league.

Maybe your clearly inferior high school had one, too. But the IM softball league at Huron was created and run entirely by students – the burnouts, no less. That meant the adults, perhaps wisely, wanted nothing to do with it.

So the burnouts got the park permits – God bless ‘em – and every clique had a team, from the guys in auto shop to marching band. They gave their teams names like the Extra Burly Studs, the Master Batters and – yes – the ‘Nads. If you pause to think of their cheer, you’ll get the joke.

My buddies and I failed to get a team together our junior year, but our senior year, we found inspiration. Most of my friends weren’t playing spring sports, so we came home every day after school to catch “Leave It To Beaver” re-runs on Channel 20 – on something called UHF. (Kids, go ask Grandpa.)

Come softball season, we were moved to build a team around that very name: The Cleavers. But if we were going to face battle-tested squads like the All-Star Rogues and the Ghetto Tigers, we knew we’d need an edgier name. And that’s when we came up with – yes – the Almighty Cleavers. You know, to instill fear in our opponents.

You can imagine how well that worked. [Full Story]

Column: The Tragedy in Fennville

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Fennville, Michigan – On Monday, I drove across Michigan to see a Class C regional semi-final basketball game, pitting tiny Schoolcraft High School against even tinier Fennville.

Both schools were undefeated – but that’s not why I was going. I was going to see the impact of a young man who would not be there.

Before I drove back, I also learned how quickly even a record-breaking basketball game can become utterly insignificant – and then, just a few days later, how the next game can matter so much.

Fennville is about 200 miles from Detroit, but it might as well be 200 light years. When you approach Fennville, you pass a sign declaring, “Hometown of Richard ‘Richie’ Jordan, Member of the 2001 National High School Sports Hall of Fame.”

You haven’t heard of Richie Jordan, who graduated almost 50 years ago and stands only 5-7. But everyone around here has, and down at the Blue Goose Café, they still talk about all the records he set in football, basketball and baseball. But the last few years, they’ve been talking about Wes Leonard. [Full Story]

Column: A Rat By Any Other Name

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Michigan towns invest a lot in their high schools – and they should, because those schools represent them. That’s why you see those signs at the city limits boasting about their Class B state baseball champs or Class D volleyball team – from 1994. I’ve always thought that’s pretty cool – and even cooler for the state champs who get to see it every time they come home.

A town’s pride often carries over to the team’s mascots, like the Midland Chemics, the Calumet Copper Kings, or the Bad Axe Hatchets – great names, every one of them. When you pull those jerseys over your head, you know you’re wearing a piece of your home, your history, your very identity.

But if you play for the Panthers or the Wildcats or – heaven forbid – the Eagles, you’re one of a hundred. Actually, you’re one of 103. That’s how many high schools have those names in Michigan alone.

Ann Arbor’s newest high school is among the unfortunate. [Full Story]

Column: Spring Rowing on Argo Pond

It’s late March and I’m lingering around the end of the boathouse used by the Pioneer High School rowing team, waiting for the boats to head down to the water for practice. Coach Rich Griffith has agreed to let me ride along in the motorized launch as he monitors the rowers’ workout. The following week I’ll take a ride with Huron High’s coach, Tom Kraft.

Pioneer Rowing

Alec Washabaugh helps carry the boat as Meaghan Kennedy directs traffic. Both are students at Pioneer High School. Next fall, Kennedy will be heading to Indiana University in Bloomington, where she’ll attend school on a crew scholarship. (Photos by the writer.)

From behind me comes the warning from one of the coxswains: “Heads up!” Coxswains steer the boats on the water – and on land as well, because lifting and turning the long craft requires coordination.

A peek over my shoulder confirms that the command is directed at me – I’m standing near the middle of an upside-down 8-person rowing shell held aloft by eight women. My noggin is safe for a few seconds as they pause. To clear the boat completely, I’d need to hustle a good 25 feet in one direction or the other. But that seems like an overly dramatic and panicky move. Surely that’s not what boathouse culture demands? Instead, I simply kneel. The boat makes its way over me and down to the dock.

The learning curve is steep. A few minutes later: “Heads up!” The scene repeats itself.

I confirm with Pioneer senior Meaghan Kennedy, who’s standing nearby, that yes, maybe I should find another vantage point. Kennedy is coxswain for the men’s varsity eight-man boat and one of the team’s captains, along with twins Zach and Mackenzie Miller. Kennedy is waiting to guide her own boat down to the dock. [Full Story]