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Out of bounds? Drawing the line between 'motivational' and 'abusive' coaching in Palo Alto high schools -- Part 1

Original post made on May 14, 2010

Some coaches generate explosions of parent and player complaints. Others inspire impassioned praise and loyalty. Sometimes it's the same coach. A special report.

Read the main story here Web Link

Related material:

– What makes a good coach good? Web Link
– The psychology and effects of bad coaching Web Link
– Sports and coaches at Gunn and Palo Alto high schools Web Link
– Club sports add challenges to school athletics Web Link
– The job of coaching Web Link
– Positive Coaching Alliance seeks to eliminate 'poisonous negativity' in youth sports Web Link
– Documents and complaints Web Link

Next week: In part 2 of ‘Out of bounds?' the Weekly explores how fear of retaliation has kept some parents and players from making complaints about Palo Alto and Gunn high school coaches, how the complaints made have been investigated, and how and when administrators have enforced the standards of conduct.

Posted Friday, May 14, 2010, 8:47 AM

Comments (161)

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Posted by Tyler Hanley
digital editor of Palo Alto Online
on May 14, 2010 at 8:51 am

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

Editor's Note: Since there are several different stories relating to high school coaching, all comments will be consolidated on this thread to facilitate one discussion.


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Posted by Janice Bohman
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 14, 2010 at 9:23 am

Thoughtful and balanced airing of tough subject.


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Posted by Paly sports parent
a resident of Downtown North
on May 14, 2010 at 10:16 am

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
This will take some time to read and digest, but it appears to be the kind of in-depth look at high school coaching that has LONG been needed. As a parent of three starting Varsity athletes at Paly, I can certainly confirm the problems this story addresses.


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Posted by paly graduate
a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2010 at 10:25 am

so happy to see a story like this up! haha too bad the viking never covered a major story idea like this

nonetheless, very well written! exposed an issue that definitely needed attention


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Posted by Former Paly Student
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 10:44 am

Having grown up in Palo Alto, this article brought up a couple of very painful memories involving PE teachers/coached who also taught academic classes (usually math for some reason in the 50's). I remember my Algebra teacher throwing an eraser at one of my classmates and hitting him in the head. It seems like aggressive behavior and perhaps untreated anger management problems (inappropriate behavior) were linked with excessive testosterone (perhaps) in some of the coaching staff. Just my observations. By the way, the teacher did not apologize.......seemed to think he was entitled to do this because the boy was not paying attention or was a smart *ss or whatever. You didn't need an excuse in the 50's. Thankfully the parents of today don't accept that behavior directed at our young people. I am happy that the girl could advocate for herself........I was not equipped mentally to deal with abusive behavior directed at me by teachers.


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Posted by PalyParent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2010 at 10:58 am

The volleyball and soccer programs at Paly had problems a few years back, but in the last few years they have both been outstanding in their coaching and overall achievements both athletically and academically.


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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 14, 2010 at 11:06 am

Some of the public school sports programs have become somewhat of a "professional sports" league. Kids who aren't genetically gifted with height or skills, or whose parents can't afford expensive private lessons or club teams, don't have a shot at being on a team.

While I think competitive sports have a place in a child's life, I'm not sure the competitive structure we currently have is right in the context of a public school, that is supposed to provide educational opportunities for all, no matter their innate/genetic abilities or economic circumstances.

The genetically gifted kids, and those who have the economic resources often play on 2-3 school teams for all four years (working very hard -- there's no question there) and those not-so-gifted don't get to play a team sport at all. It just seems like a bit too much focus on certain kids, when all kids could really benefit from participating.

You could say that PE is the sport for all levels, but it is not competitive.

It's sad to see kids who really want to play cut from teams year after year. No wonder so many American kids don't get enough exercise.

It's also questionable that the intense participation in multiple sports creates more injuries than we should be exposing our kids to at such an age. What are THEIR knees going to feel like at age 40?


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Posted by Another bad coach
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 14, 2010 at 11:08 am

My son was so dedicated to soccer. He played soccer since he was little. His dream was to play soccer professionally as an adult. He tried hard and was on teams. He made it to the Gunn team for two years. He couldn't wait to become a senior so he could play in the varsity team. However when he went for the trials, his coach without explanation will tell him to go try out on the JV. He had no other choice but to obey him so he try on the JV three times, but he would not move him to the Varsity. He felt humiliated, because the coach did not even got to see how well or bad he played. He right away made his mind that he was not going to even let him try out on the varsity. There is a rule that Seniors should not play on the JV, Obviously the coach did not know, and he broke that rule. My son try many times to speak to him, but he was always too busy, or would not reply to his messages on his cell. My son decided to quit because he could not stand being humiliated anymore. Other students will ask Why are you in JV? you should be in Varsity. We parents tried to talk to him, but it was worthless but the time we got response from the head of the sports department the season was almost over. Till this day my son does not touch a ball. This rejection experience was traumatic for him. He had a lot of bad things going on, like loosing his friends to suicidal, and the only think that could had help him was to be part of the team and do the exercise to vent all those feelings and to keep his mind busy.
I feel like there is really no supervision when it comes to coaches, they are pretty much on their own, and students have to take a lot from them in order to stay in the team. This is just another stress that adds to our students. Sports are great for the body and mind, but coaches are sarcastic, violent and like the ones that was described in this article, students get more harm than benefit to themselves by staying there. I hope a group of parents join to improve the sports for our students.


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Posted by mom
a resident of Downtown North
on May 14, 2010 at 11:18 am

Athletic emphasis should be replaced by academic, artistic and community service emphasis. How many of sports kids will actually play professionally or go to the olympics? Put money into the classroom and interesting programs instead of plastic turf fields.


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Posted by Linda
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2010 at 11:23 am

Girls Basketball is a very competetive sport. It would be nice to see Paly Girls go the distance for CCS. With that said, if you want to be competitive in girls basketball you have to do the work. Scott is a good coach and he wants the girls to work hard. When your daughters team gets beat by 20-30 points parents want to blame the coach, when the coach have the girls run liners, they are running too much. Bottom line, when you have the players who are diehard basketball players and want to win they will do the work. If you have players who just want be on the team to say they made the team, they tend to be the complainers My daughter played under Scott this year on varsity and I have told him on many a time that he is too soft on her. When Paly Alto girls teams play in other areas they tend to get out played because we play too weak. I will admit I don't always agree with every play but I am just a parent in the stands. The Coach knows what he is doing. There is no doubt Palo Alto has the talent. Parents we need to back up and let Scott Peters coach.
When a coach is in the heat of a game or working on a play and you have players not focusing or goofing a round it is enough to test the patience of Jobe.
Everyone celebrated when GUNN Varsity Girls won Divsion, now back up and let Scott get Palo Alto Varsity Girls to the same level.


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Posted by Dad
a resident of Southgate
on May 14, 2010 at 11:30 am

To "Mom".
Have you ever heard of the expression "sound mind in sound body"? Your short-sighted idea of putting less money into sports programs is wrong-minded. Just ask most any athlete when they get older how much they received from playing sports. It helps with one's overall health, one's self image, learning to work together towards a common goal, and so much more.


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Posted by Something for everyone
a resident of Barron Park
on May 14, 2010 at 11:45 am

"Athletic emphasis should be replaced by academic, artistic and community service emphasis. How many of sports kids will actually play professionally or go to the olympics? Put money into the classroom and interesting programs instead of plastic turf fields. "

And how many students end up winning the Nobel Prize? How many artists win an Academy Award? There is a place for all of these activities in an educational environment.


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Posted by PalyParen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Something, sports are a healthy way for students to compete, to have fun and to stay out of trouble. Some people are simply athletically inclined.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 14, 2010 at 12:55 pm

"Less money into sports" Given that Paly parents pay a $150 participation fee per sport, per season --- I would say that they are paying a good portion of their own way and not taking money from academics. Further, the sports booster organization also raises funds in order to purchase equipment, uniforms, etc. The coaches receive a small stipend for their work...if you do the math on the hours invested, coaches' pay is far below minimum wage per hour.

To the Gunn parent regarding Varsity vs. JV soccer. Sorry, but you are wrong: Seniors are allowed to play on JV. If a team is set up as Varsity and Frosh-Soph, then upper-classmen (Juniors and Seniors) must play Varsity (if they make the team).

The concern over participation by less-gifted participants...I guess if there was endless amount of time, budget for additional coaches, additional facilities - then I can see how that may work. But the unfortunate reality is that almost all HS coaches have only 2-hours to run a practice. And the coaches/teams have to share space with the other 3-teams that are running at the same time (think about it: there are 2 genders and at least 2 teams per gender all needing time on a field, in a gym or in a pool --- that's 4 full-practices on a daily basis, 2-hours each...the result is sharing space, etc.). It is impracticable to expect a coach to take on "all-comers" and have any chance of running an efficient and well-planned practice under these circumstances. Further - there is only so much playing time and carrying players who will never see the field does not make much sense. That being said - there are some sports that are "no-cut", such as Track and Field and Swimming. Swimming runs JV/Varsity so that the less-than-stellar Seniors/Juniors can still swim on the JV team.


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Posted by Paly Grad and Athlete
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2010 at 1:06 pm

We've had 3 generations at Paly, lots of family members playing sports including water polo and none of us complained about coaches like these. We hope the 4th generations has
our experiences versus what these students have experienced. Please hire wisely!


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 14, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Though not on direct subject - it would be nice to reveal the other side of the equation; the over-involved parent.

The parent who knows more than the coach, the parent who continually berates game officials and embarrasses the team & school, the parent that tries to coach his kid from the stands - detracting from the coach's instructions and, the parent who feels that their kid is the second-coming of Michael Jordan.


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Posted by PalyParent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2010 at 1:21 pm

In fact, 'Something' Paly Volleyball won the American Volleyball Coaches Award for Academic Excellence every year which is based on the grades of the entire team. This means that in addition to playing team sports, the kids have to keep up their grades. That is no small feat at Palo Alto High School. And that doesn't mean the usual 2.0 to stay in sports. I believe it's a 3.0 (or at the very least, 2.5).


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 14, 2010 at 1:37 pm

I'm sure kids'sports are all right, but they get WAY too much attention right here.
I went to Gunn, had kids who attended PALY and was genuinely taken by surprise at the huge emphasis placed on sports at PALY. It wasn't the case at Gunn in my day, the athletes were regular folks, not little Gods. Really, all the local news media coverage about local teen athletes seems over the top. I don't object to coverage, but I consume a lot of news media, so I have noticed the heavy coverage.
Meanwhile, there are kids out there, as "Mom" might agree (from above) who have major accomplishments in academics and other endeavours/extracurricular, who are sometimes unacknowledged and overlooked.
This is after our time at PALY, but I was displeased at how the district rushed to install a new luxury sports field (for lacrosse, I believe). Seems like an odd priority when the district and school are always claiming they are short of $$$.


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Posted by Paly parent and 2nd gen Paly grad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 14, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Just FYI, the money for the lacrosse fields was generously donated.


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Posted by Positive Coach Advocate, No Kids
a resident of Downtown North
on May 14, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Interesting. Couple reactions.

The issue seems to be an economic one.
The pressures of being a coach-- playing time decisions, winning,living in this community and maintaining one's cool--far exceed the listed levels of compensation. This can cloud judgment

Coaches are forced to become entrepreneurs. Private coaching, camps and travel teams become essential to the pressured coach making $2500 to $5000. The offspring of the paying customers frequently become the more familiar or trusted players of the coaches; and understandably receive what can be perceived as favored treatment.

I do not believe it's a coincidence that the three referenced coaches --Cory, Scott and Donny--are appear to be high performing and well compensated tutors/travel coaches. Nobody should resent their entrepreneurship but I think it fair to question such overt and local practice.

I wish your story went further on two levels. First, call out the truly questionable practices. Point out that Kadokawa regularly took appointment calls on his earpiece/cell phone while coaching third base(Something that a non-invested citizen found shocking); point out that Palo Alto's 2010 baseball performance was achieved by the same players DK had MINUS his two top pitchers. Second, propose a solution like: Pay the coaches a respectable salary. Or, practice your tutoring/travel ball business in another community.

As for the comment about the 'unfairness of it all' submitted by Paly Parent, Crescent Park. Do you honestly believe that the maths and science clubs are open to all with a genuine curiousity or passion for these subjects? Do you truly believe that students of all abilities receive the same level of instruction for maths and sciences? There are honors and AP courses that are not available to all students. My guess is these are far more selective/discriminating than the sports teams.

Thanks


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 14, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Mr. Olcott is a teacher at local private school. Hardly big money. He also coaches for the Stanford Club. An educated guess is that he makes less than $3000 from coaching the Stanford club during the summer. This is hardly "well-compensated" work. Frankly - most of the teacher/coaches work club sports out of financial necessity rather than padding their bank accounts. In a sense, it is the equivalent of a teacher providing private tutoring services...most teachers do this in the summer to help make ends meet.


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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on May 14, 2010 at 3:06 pm

The jock attitude of " win at all costs " and " you're not trying enough " filtered into the PE class at the old MVHS and cost me a dislocated elbow and almost my life on the trampoline in the old gym. Punishment was severe and was applied regularly to people who didn't meet THEIR standards. I knew I wasn't ready for a back flip, the result was that I came down HARD on the edge of the trampoline almost breaking my neck. My dislocated elbow was a small price considering what could have happened.

I hope that the MANDATORY P.E. classes taught by these " jocks " is more tailored to individual abilities and not some hard, arbitrary standard. Oh, BTW, I found out why I never lived up to those arbitrary standards; I have a congenital heart defect that literally could have had me dropping dead on the field doing those laps...

BTW, I was Second Board on the Chess Team and ran the A/V department...

And later on created some of the systems that allow you to post these comments...


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Posted by Trust Your Gut
a resident of Barron Park
on May 14, 2010 at 4:06 pm

As a parent, you have to trust your gut about the coach. If your kid is telling you this person is abusive, pull your kid and send in a complaint. Watch a practice and draw conclusions. The poor life lessons learned from even a poor (not abusive) coach are just not worth it.

That said, the comment by McEvoy ("I am gravely concerned that you have continued to allow (your daughter) to participate in an environment that you believe is so detrimental to her emotional well-being.") is deeply wrong. She is clearly just attacking those parents as a way to defend a coach. The coach either did something wrong or not. She doesn't belong in a position of responsibility.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 14, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Trust Your Gut,

I was also horrified to read what Mrs. McEvoy wrote in her response to that family. If that's the attitude of administrators when dealing with concerns about coaching behavior then we need some kind of outside, indpendent ombudsman that these issues can be referred to for investigation and response. It certainly appears that the principal, at least at Paly, isn't able to act as neutral party, and instead just kicks into defense mode.


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Posted by Parent of would be athlete
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 5:45 pm

What upsets me is that there is no chance for a student who loves sport to play that sport competitively unless the student is at the top level and has been coached (usually privately) over the years to get them there. Why can't our large high schools have B and even C teams which would give them a chance to play for their school against another local school and wear the school uniform? I don't expect the B and C teams to get the same hype as the A team, but it would still give them a personal boost to score the winning goal/basket/run/touchdown or whatever and feel valued.

For kids who are not the best athletes, there is very little for them to do in sport in Palo Alto. We need some teen leagues in various sports. Sport would really help self-esteem, making of new friends with similar interests, and possibly even prevent depression or other emotional problems. It would also help give these kids the exercise that most teens so badly need.


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Posted by Donna
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 14, 2010 at 6:35 pm

I think all teachers and coaches should take courses in Boundaries. How can they expect the students to know what is appropriate if they don't set a good example?


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Posted by Commander McBragg
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Back in the late '60s early '70s the tennis team at Gunn High didn't lose a match for ten years. (I'm not sure whether it was the girl's or boy's team). Then the coach retired. It's my opinion that team success at the high school level is entirely up to coaching. I played sports in school, I got to know some of the coaches and I have an extremely low opinion of some of them. It seemed like they were trying to be in the in crowd by picking on certain students. I don't know what the record of this water polo team is, but it sure seems like it's time for a coaching change regardless.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2010 at 7:35 pm



The whole issue is blown way out proportion and will lead to the end of meaningful competitive HS sports in PAUSD.

It is odd that the role model coach put forward in the report lives in NY and commutes to PA to coach-- how odd is that.

If every kid or parent who is pre- offended, or perhaps over sensitive now has a platform for their grievance, then no serious coach will want to work and live in PAUSD for fear of accusation of cruelty and abuse.

It is a shame that the end of competitive sports in PAUSD is near, but the private sector will fill the need on nights and weekends.

Competitive sports are a meritocracy-- like the real world-- they build resilience and character.

It looks like empathic sports are the future for PAUSD-- good luck with that.




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Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 14, 2010 at 7:58 pm

This was such a timely article. Attending some of my daughter's varsity team events at Gunn this year made me a complete stress case. The coach was swearing profusely and berating the players when mistakes were made-- While the Gunn staff and administration are overtly concerned about student mental health and well being, there seems to be little oversight or guidance when it comes to the adults in charge of the athletic programs.

Why doesn't our district work with the Positive Coaching Alliance?

This amazing national resource is right in our backyard and it seems like a 'no-brainer' to require all of our coaches to take this training.


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Posted by Out of the mouths of...
a resident of Downtown North
on May 14, 2010 at 8:05 pm

So much makes sense now - thanks to some of the quotes in this article.

"What some people call always harping on things wrong, I call coaching," said Paly Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson, himself a long-time club baseball coach. "Certain students feel like when they're told they did something wrong that they are being disrespected, so again the interpretation of the (respectful treatment) standard is pretty wide open."

This misguided mentality and lack of sensitivity to what motivates young people to behave or perform would be a horrible carry-over into administrative decisions and general policy, and yet... Berkson's quote explains a lot.

To his leader, Principal McEvoy, "I am gravely concerned that you have allowed suspect coaches to remain, and are willing to risk an environment that could be so detrimental to students' emotional well-being." Where's your hard-line zero-tolerance stance when it comes to adults' behavior?

To students, I apologize. You deserve teachers - respectful ones, good ones (even those of you with the "toughest of skin"). And there are plenty out there. No excuses.


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Posted by all for B and C teams
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 8:09 pm


Parent of would be athlete,

I completely agree with you, it's a pity that HS sports are only for the gifted, talented, and those groomed since childhood for a career that leaves most people out. It's a grooming that also gets them into college, and more attractive to future employers.


I'm on the side of placing a very high value on sports, but it should be open to B and C teams, and colleges should also value these players.

as it is, we are supporting the future careers of a few


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Posted by all for B and C teams
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 8:15 pm


actually, this would be a story if HS sports served more kids,

the audience for this story is for the select few in these quasi-professional teams

get B and C teams, and it will matter






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Posted by hypocrites
a resident of Downtown North
on May 14, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Very hypocritical for a newspaper to brag about high school sports victories every week, then complain when coaches get a little emotional.

Aren't there non-competitive leagues or non-competitive sports that the less talented kids can participate in?

One reason that so many adults get involved in running or bicycling is that they can enjoy these sports (and the fitness benefits) without competing.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 14, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Linda,

In your comments regarding basketball at PALY-- why not just leave it to that-- whay bring Gunn into it all. It just does not make sense--


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Posted by Paly Mom
a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Greenmeadow Gunn Parent makes some excellent points. The administrators and some teachers in our district talk about stress in students' lives as if it's all caused by taking too many AP courses. Based on what I've seen, the experiences that many have with mean-spirited, sometimes verbally abusive coaches do lots of damage and affect their mental health more than academic stress. The personnel in our high schools need to take a close look at what the whole school experience is like for students. Why do so many P.A. students feel bad about themselves? What can the schools and the community do about it? Positive coaching is one piece of it; obviously we need a lot more answers.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2010 at 9:02 pm



When our kids are over 18 yrs they will face the real world

There is no such thing as an empathic boot camp for US soldiers who defend our freedoms.

Those who later join companies like McKinseyWeb Link
Intel, Oracle, GE etc will face a ruthless meritocracy with an up or out philosophy-- that is the real world and it is getting even more competitive as we face China and India.

Traditionally competitive sports gave our kids the resilience to face the set backs and triumphs of the real world--- the joy of victory and the agony of defeat---

All mothers feel the pain of their children growing up and wish they could preserve their childhood innocence-- in the past HS sports coaches provided a "rights of passage" into the real world, traditionally for boys and more recently for girls also.

As PAUSD moves to " empathic" rather than competitive HS sports then smart parents will look to the private sector to build their kids resilience.

Part of the concern is related to the the epidemic of crippling ACL
injuries among young women
"Statistics show that females are now more than 8 times more likely to tear their ACL than male athletes.
Statistics also show that female athletes have a 25% chance of tearing their ACL a second time after having the reconstruction surgery done.
Differences between the sexes in hormones, adolescence, ligament dominance and quadriceps dominance, biomechanics, anatomy, asymmetry, and psychology all may contribute to this anomaly."Web Link

This is tragic, as these young women often need knee replacement surgery before they are out of their 30s.

Unrealistic expectations have been placed upon girls in many competitive sports, when you look at the statistics it is really, really bad.

We need to review the issue of girls vs boys sports-- to preserve the competitive edge while respecting biological reality.

"Empathic" sports will lead to a boxed canyon for PAUSD, but that is where we are headed.


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 9:12 pm

As for B and C teams, in the old days many high schools used to have Freshman, Sophomore, Junior Varsity and Varsity teams in the same sport (or at least three levels). That started to change after the passage of proposition 13 (which I am not nor was against as my parents were on their way to being property taxed out of our house as I grew up in SoCal long ago). Today there are simply less available slots in the major sports in high schools, though if the statistics citing a 44% participation rate of Palo Alto high school students in sports is correct, it means access to sports is hardly exclusive to the top tier athletes.

Another factor in all of this is that the athletes at our high schools are just plain good - this area as a whole has lots and lots of high level athletes throughout youth sports. Paly in particular may be the most competitive public (repeat, public) high school around as far as athletics goes. And I would put Paly's and Gunn's academic teams up against most anybody around as well (and they certainly have proven themselves in competitions over the years). This is a highly competitive and skilled area - we are lucky to live here in this time and place. Go out and watch a game sometime....


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Posted by all for B and C teams
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 9:35 pm



palo alto parent,

well, I don't think you need B and C team for Badminton, but the major sports only have one team, the 44% participation must be everyone doing a sport, not necessarily the sport of their choice.

look at all the kids that are in local soccer leagues, they all end up competing for 1 HS team? in Palo Alto, where there are many athletic kids?

more teams, more games to enjoy




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Posted by Dolphin
a resident of Portola Valley
on May 14, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Sharon,

You miss the whole point. This is not an issue of competitive versus "empathetic" sports, whatever that means. Let's let teams be merit based, and let's let team compete hard for championships. Let's just hold coaches to a standard of decent behavior, and not a double-standard that allows them to bully kids.

Kids who come out of HS sports knowing how to compete fiercely and with class, who know how to work hard within a team concept, and who have a coach who models true leadership and teaching--those kids will be best prepared for the "ruthless meritocracy" they face in the real world. You don't prepare kids by demeaning and breaking them, nor do you forfeit being competitive by using positive coaching. Those kids who are encouraged AND challenged build the reserves of resiliency they need in adulthood. I was an elite athlete and won championships with screamers and with positive teachers, and my confidence, fortitude, and ability to perform under pressure was hands down better with the positive coaches. And the lessons they taught me live on today; the ridiculous of the screamers get mocked over beers with old teammates.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2010 at 9:56 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by PalyParent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2010 at 10:37 pm

The Club issue is pretty unfair. It fosters discrimination. For parents who can't afford Club, their kids are SOL if they want to make a Varsity team at either school unless they are an incredible natural athlete. One of my kids made a Varsity team ten years ago by the skin of her teeth, the Club phenomenon was starting up then, and even so, the Club players on her team were the starters and remained such. Some of us couldn't afford to send our kids to Club, so they spent more time warming the bench. The Club players were always a level above the non Club players. Naturally. Coaches won't go on record to tell players and parents their kids MUST play Club to make a team, but the reality is that everyone knows the score. The Clubs claim to offer scholarships, but the truth is, it is just a precious few per club that receive this aid and even then, the scholarships are partial. Often, the level of play in a Club is commensurate with the price and reputation of the Club, as the more you pay and the higher the Club is in skill level and reputation, the higher the level of tournament play during the high school off season, thus the higher the skill level of the athlete. It also can cause a problem in the school itself, because once in a while some coaches have gotten resources to pay for some low income kids to play on a Club team, while not assisting others, which creates an atmosphere of favoritism. All in all, Club isn't going away so I think there should be two levels of sports teams, the Club teams and the non club teams. At the low pay these non teacher coaches are receiving, there is certainly enough money to pay for additional coaching staff, and enough kids who want to play to go around. One of the benefits of hiring Club coaches is not only the level of experience, but a lot of these coaches have a level of professionalism they must maintain because in each sport, the Club world is small and word gets around. Make a bunch of parents unhappy, and not only will you be fired from coaching in the local Club leagues, but that word spreads to the various school districts.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of College Terrace
on May 15, 2010 at 12:01 am

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie-roll pop?


How many kids need to quit because of a coach before we realize that there is a situation that we need to deal with? Lets find out...


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 15, 2010 at 12:37 am

First, a brief history lesson. Paly & Gunn had Freshmen, JV and Varsity teams when the schools were Senior high schools (10-12) and the middle schools were Junior High Schools (7-9). Further, there was no Title 9, so there was plenty of room/facilities for all of the boys teams (A, B, C and so on). The freshman teams practiced and played at the junior high schools, not at Paly or Gunn. Back then, there were very few sports offered to girls - basketball, volleyball, swimming, track and softball. Thankfully that has all changed; girls now play lacrosse, water polo, badminton, soccer, cross country, tennis, wrestling, gymnastics.

Now fast forward to today. The number of sports teams between genders is about equal now --- the increase in girls teams has taken up the facility space/coach resources/funding that the A/B/C/D paradigm used to take up. IMHO - the right decision.

Sorry to say, that those who want to return to A/B/C/D teams just don't have a firm grasp on reality in terms of (quality) coaching availability, funding and facility space. For example, the two girls water polo teams will split the pool for two hours, then the two boys water polo teams come in after that. As it stands, the teams are at some disadvantage because they cannot practice in a full-sized competitive water polo course. By the time the boys leave, it's almost 8PM. When would you have the girls C or D teams practice? 8-10PM? Then have the boys c/d come in 10PM-12AM?

To "B and C" --- at Paly, every sport has two-levels available, including "major" sports - either Varsity/Frosh-Soph or Varsity/JV. I don't know who told you that the major sports only have one level...that's incorrect. The difference between Frosh-Soph and Junior Varsity is that F-S can only consist of 9th and 10th graders. JV can consist of 9-12th graders - which allows for greater participation. The reason why some sports (boys in most cases) have F-S over JV is the physical development of the athletes. For example, most freshmen will not fare very well against a junior or senior in a physical sport such as football or water polo. Those sports have F-S divisions to keep things a little equitable on the physical side. The running sports do not divide into Varsity/JV - instead they run several heats based upon ability - like-type competition...it works well and it is a non-cut sport.


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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Midtown
on May 15, 2010 at 1:47 am

I imagine we can all recall our greatest, favorite teachers and those not so pleasantly remembered. Our successes in the classroom, on the athletic field, in the arts or sciences, or in community service have derived from inspiration from mentors of our youth along with lessons learned from hard work, disappointment and, indeed, failure. The success in our chosen endeavor has likely come in many different ways and form. Coach as teacher, gymnasium/pool/field as classroom; recall, our schooling began with people in front of the blackboard. And while it started with crayolas and the Weekly Reader for us all, it evolved over through the years to AP Calculus for some of us, third chair violin in the youth symphony and second-string junior varsity football players for other students. The diversity of our beloved community and our children is exhilarating and the reason many of us live here.

One's success in acquiring facility with a second language can be measured in different ways. Progress from level one to level two can be as much a success for one student as achieving a score of 5 on a language advanced placement examination for the next child. Here in our community, the early youth soccer program awards participation trophies to all registered children at season's end; the children have learned a new activity and begun an education in the extra-curricular classroom, afield. Their older siblings and neighbors' success is measured by wins and losses and placement in league standing in high school leagues and area championship tournaments. The best practice player who pushes the starting athlete to be the best he or she can be in the game has achieved as great a success as the athlete who scores the winning point (For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack. - R. Kipling). The success of us, as parents, is worthy of the next two-part article.

Knowledge, leadership, integrity, respect are a few qualities one would hope to see in our teachers, coaches or mentors. When, by someone's measure, a teacher or coach falls short in one's estimation or perception, critical examination and thorough evaluation is necessary. A failing mark on a physics final examination is usually multifactorial in origin. A teacher's ability to construe principles of the physical world in which we live may be called into question; the student's approach to the material requires equal adjudication. Scrutiny of our children's teachers and coaches is useful and instructional. We entrust our beloved offspring to this important group of people. The efforts of the authors and principal investigators are impressive and commendable. The goal of education is to learn; our children have much to learn, our teachers and coaches can learn and improve to be better at what they do, and we parents, as well, have lessons to be learned.


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Posted by Daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 15, 2010 at 6:15 am

There is just too much emphasis on competitive sports in our high schools. Any kind of sport is still just a game, it's entertainment, not real life. Taking it so seriously is ridiculous. Too many coaches perceive it as life-or-death and live vicariously through the sport. Some treat their players, who are still only kids, abysmally, and far too aggressively. I have played football, aka "soccer", professionally outside the US, so I am not a sports hater and I have also coached youth soccer in the area so I am familiar with coaches attitudes. The attitude and behavior of some(too many) coupled with the often ultra-competitive attitude of some parents(too many) and their ridiculous behavior during games made me stop coaching for the sake of my own sanity and peace of mind. I would love to see the resources wasted on high school competitive sports redirected toward arts, languages and community activity. Instead of raising overstressed jocks, we would be raising good people.


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Posted by Finding Focus
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 15, 2010 at 6:25 am

I am trying to get my head around this article - and these are my initial thoughts. The article seems to pick the low hanging fruit - well understood tales of the errant coach. The stories told are almost cliches -- and I was reading for more.

I sensed the Weekly was afraid to connect the dots. The article walks quietly around the elephant in the room because of the consequences. My experience is at Paly. In my experience the weakness at Paly has been more in the management and administration than in the coaching. It is the management that tolerates the bad coach. It is the management that belittles or trivializes the parent concerns. It is the management rejected concerns of a refereeing official. My frustration has been in the leadership.

Sports is a tremendous gateway for our students toward college, and opens the doors. Reflecting again on the management, I believe this attribute is under emphasized and not groomed. Our students and their parents are on their own to sort out how to play the athletics with college - be it Div 1, 2 or 3. The prize is the academic success and pride groomed through athletics, yet the focus seems toward a protective fraternity with old fashion notions of coaching. (As an aside, the physical education program seems to reflect the same tired approach to athletics that the team programs do.)

In time I hope that some of Paly's brilliant mentoring coaches get groomed to become the new face of sports administration. They can bring stronger alignment between a college trajectory and athleticism. They can bring stronger alignment in personal pride -- stressing achieving personal bests. They can rejuvenate physical education as well.

As we have a new bunch of students graduating, I recall an amazing young woman that I was asking about her plans. She had not gotten to her hoped for colleges, and was committing herself toward JCs to build her grades. Her bridge was sports -- where a JC coach had reached out to get her in their program. This is a case where Paly cultivated a healthy mix between school and sports brought a productive transition. Cultivating this success is where the focus should be.

Given this discussion, and a new principal coming to Paly, I am optimistic. I am glad the Weekly facilitated the discussion, but I hope the editorial focus can shift to the institutional issues that generate the symptoms this article highlights. If too many bad apples fall from a tree -- perhaps treat the tree.



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Posted by Dolphin
a resident of Portola Valley
on May 15, 2010 at 7:26 am

Finding Focus,

I agree with your well-written thoughts. I'm hoping that's where the next installment of this story takes us.


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Posted by Parent of would be athlete
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 15, 2010 at 8:23 am

CP Dad, and others.

Yes I do get the point about the time involved for the various sports using the facilities.

My point is different. We have schools tottering at 2,000 students and rising. For each sport, we have one team at each grade level per gender. So, what percentage of each grade can play their first choice sport? As large as the schools are getting, we still have one pool and one football/baseball/soccer field and one team. The competition to get on these teams is only going to get harder as the size of the schools increases. The teams practice on a daily basis, but B and C teams could practice 2 days a week each and still have a meaningful experience. We are building more classrooms and providing more portables but we cannot build a second pool, or another gym, or provide another field, I understand. As our schools get bigger, we can still only provide the same number of athletes a place on the A team.

This is another reason why our schools should not grow any bigger and we should seriously consider reopening Cubberley.


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Posted by Elizabeth Abbott
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 15, 2010 at 8:50 am

This article is absurd. I was a captain at Paly during Coach Olcott's first year there and he would never do anything that could cause physical harm to a player, nor do I recall him ever swearing or doing anything that could have been considered abusive in the slightest. I heard all about this incident from close friends I had who were on the team at the time and I'm sorry that something as meaningless as a coach throwing a ball in the pool and having it land near one of his players was blown into something this twisted and ridiculous that is so out of proportion. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff]it hurts me to see where some of Paly water polo has gone.


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Posted by sharon
a resident of Midtown
on May 15, 2010 at 9:18 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Paly Mom
a resident of Midtown
on May 15, 2010 at 10:07 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by ONLINEARGUING=COOL!
a resident of Community Center
on May 15, 2010 at 10:16 am

I realize that that whole incident may have been completely blown out of proportion, but you need to think about how it affected these girls in the end. A sport should be a way to release tension that you build up inside of you, not create even more.


Can we PLEASE not attempt to beat around the bush and realize that the article is about how coaches should be role models and people that players feel comfortable enough to confide in.

NO ONE cares about all of the little side issues that everyone has. We need to look at the issue as a whole. Picking apart every little piece of this article that obviously took time to write while you sit on your bums picking fights with people ONLINE(HA!) is not going to get you very far...


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Posted by Daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 15, 2010 at 11:10 am

There are plenty of people all over the world who have done extremely well in corporate environments without having being involved in competitive sport activities while at school. Neither Steve J or Steve W who started Apple had any interest in sports, nor did many other entrepreneurs, innovators and trail blazers, including Einstein and Niels Bohr. It seems that in many cases, the kids do it to satisfy their parents excessive competitiveness and overdrive. I have certainly seen this phenomenon while coaching competitive youth soccer(not in school). The pressure parents put on their kids and their sideline behavior was something I had found revolting and it made me swear off coaching for ever. I have seen the same thing happen in Paly athletics, as my kids have been involved in them too, not a nice experience. Spending any money on HS competitive sports is a waste. Kids who wish to participate in competitive sports can easily do it outside school-CYSA for soccer is just one example.


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Posted by Damian Cohen
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 15, 2010 at 11:37 am

This article, its respective authors/editors, and many of the responses are a disgrace to our various local communities. Let's start with the basics. The primary author is married to the paper's publisher. Without that distinction, this article isn't published. The article refers to 2008 and early 2009. Does it really take that long to write an expose? Thank goodness Woodward and Bernstein operated a little quicker and that Deep Throat actually knew what he was talking about. It is our job to be critical thinkers when reading. In the documents section we see a series of letters critical of Mr. Olcott. Yet, people either didn't sign their names to their own letters (but rather signed as a concerned parent) or those names have been blackened out. Are we to simply assume that these are six different letters over two years? How do we know those letters aren't written from say three parents but twice over two years? We don't. Then let's go to the story itself-- the girl who had a ball hit, or accidentally hit her face, was so upset that she quit the team...after the season? If I purposefully had a ball thrown at me in the face by a coach-- I am gone today. I know most of the people named throughout this article. Mr. Olcott, for example, doesn't need money-- period. He certainly doesn't need a three month job that pays him a whopping 3000 dollars (especially if he wanted to coach at his own private school where he could earn double). He coaches for the love of the game and your kids. This is why he is one of the most popular teachers on his own campus, is asked to give senior graduation speeches, etc. Likewise, I know publisher Bill Johnson from our club soccer days. I know one of my players went to his Stanford Quake team but ultimately she didn't enjoy that team as much (in part because she didn't play as much). I always liked Bill. But imagine if I had access to a photograph, unnamed sources, loaded language from a shoddy reporter (aka my spouse), and perhaps decided to write an article documenting how Bill put his arm around the girls to comfort after a difficult loss. And then let's say that my daughter, for whatever reason that day, felt very uncomfortable with that scenario. With the power of the pen, and the means to distribute, I could write a story. But just because I wrote that story, doesn't mean its content is true. Moreover, to write that article is dangerous. That is why this story too is a slippery slope, for soon we could have articles about anyone for whatever the accusation. The use of assumption, conjecture, mischaracterization, is what is abusive here. To use loaded words like "abuse" and then to make reference to sexual abuse (even though the author said no evidence of sexual abuse was reported)-- is poor journalism. If we are so hypersensitive today that a coach cannot cuss at any point or cannot throw his or her say clipboard to the ground, then keep that trophy generation spirit alive, and those helicopter parents hovering, and look forward to that boomerang kid when they return home dispirited because they have no backbone. I am all for positive coaching, teaching life lessons within the game, etc. but I am also for responsible journalism that doesn't berate people in the media with absolutely nothing substantial to buttress the story.


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Posted by One Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 15, 2010 at 11:41 am

Thank you for a stimulating and thought provoking article. I agree that coaches in our district face a lot of pressure from parents, who are quick to criticize and can be remiss in offering encouragement, support and praise to the men and women who put themselves on the line for the team. The article makes clear that being a good coach goes far beyond knowing the sport, and as a parent I'm so grateful for the coaches who understand this and go the extra miles for the players. One factor that I've seen cause much trouble for players and coaches is parents who do not set limits for their athlete students themselves. A coach can only exhaust a player whose parents are not willing to say no. I've seen parents sign their kids up for five AP classes and whine that there are too many hours of practice in the sport. A parent is still responsible for their child's well being and letting them take on a schedule like this, with negative consequences is the parent's fault. In our case, we have thanked the coaches for making lots of practice hours available, and then let them know that we will keep the player home if he needs to rest. This has worked out fine. Also, most club sports make scholarships available so cost should not be an obstacle. If a player has put in the extra effort to play a sport at the club level, they deserve the extra time on the field if their skills are at a higher level as a result.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2010 at 11:43 am

I am the parent of a 6th grade girl, also with a daughter who graduated Paly in 09 as a student athlete and is now on a college soccer team. With my two girls I have seen the ugly and positive sides of sports coaching over the last 13 years. My sixth grader has been working with Paly Basketball coach Scott Peters since 2nd grade. He has helped her develop the love and passion she has for the sport. He has inspired her and taught her amazing techniques which she believes help make her a solid player on the court. She literally cannot wait to get to Paly to play for him. She has never heard him utter a rude or unkind word to anyone, herself included, even when she helped as a ball-girl on the sidelines of Paly girls' basketball games or sat with the girls in the locker room during halftime talks. This daughter, too, has had abusive coaches in other sports. Already as a very young girl, she developed an understanding about herself that she is too sensitive a person to tolerate verbal or physical abuse from a coach and will quit the team if she or her teammates are not treated well. As a side-note, I was interviewed for this article. I only had positive statements to make about Mr. Peters. My words and positive tone from the interview were not included in the article as any sort of balance to the complaints, which I think is unfortunate.


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Posted by Daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 15, 2010 at 12:06 pm

"If we are so hypersensitive today that a coach cannot cuss at any point or cannot throw his or her say clipboard to the ground"

The fact that any youth coach could behave this way or that some accept that kind of behavior is so bizarre. Youth athletics are fantasy, entertainment, not real life, there's no reason for anybody to lose their temper, especially not with teenage athletes. I used to tell my players that no matter how bad mistake the made, I would never berate or put them down, you learn from mistakes. I never raised my voice at a player. All I asked was that they show up to practice, listen to me and try to play to the best of their potential(we had a fantastic team that played attractive, relaxed and high scoring attacking soccer). I would have parents come up to me and complain that I was too quiet and "mellow" on the sidelines while they were screaming their heads off, making fools of themselves, making the players nervous and ruining the expedience for the rest of us. Sports is fiction, for crying out loud, how can anybody take it so seriously that they cuss at kids, throw their clipboard to the ground or throw a ball at their own player?


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Posted by Blinded by facts
a resident of Barron Park
on May 15, 2010 at 12:22 pm

"Neither Steve J or Steve W who started Apple had any interest in sports, nor did many other entrepreneurs, innovators and trail blazers, including Einstein and Niels Bohr."

That is not entirely true. Niels Bohr was a fantastic athlete and a very competitive soccer player. His brother Harald, also a renowned mathematician, even played on the Danish national team and won a silver medal in the 1908 Olympics.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 15, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Again, as a semi-naive outsider past the HS years(parent but not a sports parent), it sounds like a win at any cost mentality is important to a lot of people here. But...SOME care about appropriate growth and development of youth, sportsmanship, treating people humanely...and there is a conflict.

Frankly, this Weekly series is shocking. It sure sounds like multiple episodes of poorly managed coaches; coaches who should not be coaching youth. While I am not a sports parent, I have common decency and understand appropriate operations, motivation, and so on in an educational setting.

There seems to be a lot of fine parsing over whether poor coaching/coaching abuse has indeed occurred or not, but I would have to believe, again as an outsider not knowing any of the people in these episodes, that "one would know it when one sees it."

The attitudes I read here of HS administration are generally disheartening and follow the typical stonewalling of parents and of supporting teachers. It is so not real world to have the teacher tenure system. The language quoted from the PALY principal in response to a parent's serious concerns was flippant.

I am aware of a separate situation (before the time of this principal) where there were major concerns about a new-ish teacher who was granted tenure (rushed through in fact) though that shouldn't have happened. There seemed no way to reach the administration, who turned a blind eye. There absolutely are repercussions to students if one complains; the system of having to go up a reporting ladder rather than being able to take serious issues to the top confidentially means there IS no effective system to do this; really the only way out is what I read in these sports acocunts, and that is to leave a program.

There seems little accountability and no valid means of student/parent evaluation of teachers. That little form they used to have is a joke and not for conveying valid conerns.

The disparity between the top, professional teachers who definitely comprise a high portion of our HS teaching staff (and coaches, apparently) and the ones who totally shouldn't be there at all is incredible. Someone should be observing more closely from administration and also caring.


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Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 15, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Of course we all had favorite teachers along with teachers who did not particularly inspire us. That is not the point. The point is that, just like classroom teachers, coaches can have many styles , personality types and methods --but they should all be held to a high standard of behavior and there must be some minimum code of ethics to which they are accountable.

I can't imagine this community being okay with one of our teachers routinely swearing and screaming at students for answering questions incorrectly.

There are plenty of examples of successful coaches (and teachers) who are intense and competitive as well as thoughtful, reflective and supportive of all the young people in their charge.




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Posted by Damian Cohen
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 15, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Daniel

You fall into the same trap. You assume that an occasional cuss word is directed towards a specific player. You assume that the coach did throw the ball at the player. You assume you were a good coach just because you were mellow or stoic. You assume that "real life" begins at some predetermined point (perhaps you decide this) post high school. You assume that the contents written in this article are accurate and well-researched (even when people have posted comments that contradict the article or say that they were interviewed but their comments were not included). What is unfortunate is having to bubble-wrap our kids. Emotion, frustration, lessons, love, they all go hand in hand. No one is suggesting that students/players should be berated, what I am suggesting is that this article is full of hyperbole. I am suggesting that we think a little more before we McCarthy them through a media meat-grinder when, more often than not, these individuals aim to better our students' lives.


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Posted by Elizabeth Abbott
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 15, 2010 at 2:01 pm

What people say about a positive and calm/non-abusive coaching environment is valid and I agree that oftentimes yelling may not be the best way to approach a situation. But on the small scale, it has to be recognized here that the facts of the first portion of the article especially are blatantly inaccurate. On the large scale of coaches yelling or whatever, as a high school varsity athlete one should recognize that there is intensity (especially with the caliber to which sports and athletics are held to in this day and age) in sports. If, as a varsity athlete, one can't handle the kind of intensity or commitment that one's sport, teammates, and coach might require, maybe one should have the maturity to take a step back on one's own. Just because a student makes the team does not mean they are entitled to a starting position or (more importantly) exempt from the basic respect of working hard and listening to their coach (and teammates). This includes paying attention during disciplinary speeches as well...


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Posted by Palo Alto HS father
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 15, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Well stated, Ms. Abbott. You were in the trench with the coach and your teammates. I played sports in school and I understand precisely what you are saying. Passion in any endeavor pushes human achievement and performance. The opportunity, not entitlement, for participation in sport, art, or academics should be rightly available to all students. I was a bench-warmer for most of my high school sports career; I worked hard in practice and when our teams performed well or gained victory, I took pride because I felt that I helped prepare my teammates for the matches. It was a privilege to be a member of my high school team; I never felt I was entitled to playing time or, indeed, being on the team. Thanks for your insight.


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Posted by PA Polo
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 15, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Coaches will lose their temper, swear, and get mad. It is human nature and it is unavoidable in the pressure cooker of high school sports. It seems that all of a sudden varsity sports are being derided for the desire to win and compete at a high level. If as a player, one cannot take the criticism given by a coach, then they should not play be a varsity athlete. At high levels of sport, the intensity rises. There is a reason why there are varsity sports and then JV and frosh/soph. If you are not serious about the sport and you can't take the coaches intensity, then you are not cut out to play varsity. It is not only about your ability in the water, but also your ability to adapt and learn from your coaches. I have had both calm and angry coaches in my playing career and I cannot say that the angry coaches did not have a point when they were yelling. It is evident in the article that the reason why many girls quit was linked to the lack of their playing time. They were punished for not paying attention or playing to the best of their abilities. Coaches have an innate feel for the limits of their players, if they know you are trying your best, you will not be punished. I think in the age of the Positive Coaches Alliance, everyone is forgetting about the old fashioned hard nosed coaching that built character. Now it seems like the coaches are constantly attacked for a little rough language and tough love. One might note that there is no mention of the football team in this article. I can assure you that there is plenty of "angry" motivation going on there. The reason for no complaints? All the players are there to give there best and try there hardest and they know as varsity athletes, they will not be babied.


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Posted by Sports obsession
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 15, 2010 at 3:34 pm

I shared Daniel's view when he said
The pressure parents put on their kids and their sideline behavior was something I had found revolting.
Competition, aggression and win at any cost are the values these parents are teaching their children and the school promotes it. The Wall Street banker-crooks showed us what these values lead to. Other people pay for the breakage.
In most businesses money and aggression are supreme goals and get the rewards.
We get all excited because a guy can hit a ball more skillfully than another guy. Professional golf is the best example. Ridiculous and mindless and let's face it, basically dumb.
These are obsessions and people should be treated as though they have a mental defect, just like other obsessions.


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Posted by Palo Alto HS father
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 15, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Hear, hear! PA Polo from Duveneck/St Francis...


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Posted by all for B and C teams
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2010 at 4:52 pm



Crescent Park dad,

your description of the lack of sports facilities and qualified people (lack of adequate pay) is case made for smaller schools, or a better system to give more kids support. currently only a very small minority get to play the major sports, and like Math, only the groomed get to play (Math serves more numbers though)

for an example of the grooming required, see the comment form Old Palo Alto parent

"My sixth grader has been working with Paly Basketball coach Scott Peters since 2nd grade. He has helped her develop the love and passion she has for the sport. He has inspired her and taught her amazing techniques which she believes help make her a solid player on the court. She literally cannot wait to get to Paly to play for him."

this is a real business and maybe the same wealthy parents are important to the district for the "generous" donations for sports fields and pools etc.

the bottom line is that sports are very important, for health reasons, college acceptance, future work skills, but only few students get the crowning of sorts, with one or two teams for the main sports, in a school of thousands.

I still agree with would be athlete parent, and believe the real story is that there are no B and C teams


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Posted by Pam
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 15, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Some of the posters seem to have missed the most important issues brought up in the article. You can have lousy, negative coaches who yell at players and belittle them in B and C teams also. I've even seen coaches who have anger-management problems and coach children. There's a need for more guidelines about what is and isn't acceptable and more oversight of athletic coaching at all ages and all levels of play.


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Posted by PalyParent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2010 at 6:43 pm

@One Parent: You said: "Also, most club sports make scholarships available so cost should not be an obstacle. If a player has put in the extra effort to play a sport at the club level, they deserve the extra time on the field if their skills are at a higher level as a result."

Most club sports do NOT make more than one or two scholarships available. And then, those are only for kids literally plucked from the gym floor during Club 'hunting season' by visiting coaches because these kids stand out above the rest. As a parent who spent the better part of 12 years writing scholarship requests to various clubs, and driving her kids over an hour to play in a particular club here and there because the ones farther away were were cheaper, I know that for FACT. The most I could get was partial scholarships, and then only to a lesser level team within the club, and out of a total of 12 years, two players that was ONE TIME. One of the clubs that made a grand gesture of 'scholarship' wanted to put my kid with a team that was below an area team with kids who didn't even play the sport my kid played. They were first time players to the sport while my kids team had gone on to CCS. We would have been still having to come up with a considerable amount of money to have her skill level slip due to the level of play, less tournaments and less skilled opponents. Interesting that the kid who barely got any club went just so far in her sport, then it was over. The kid who got more club time went to college on scholarship. The difference? Two different fathers and ability to pay.

It's not a matter of some kids being more willing to put in the time while others are not as motivated. By the time most kids in this area hit the Varsity level they are as motivated as the next player. It's a matter of the almighty dollar, the have's and the have nots.


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Posted by Parent of would be athlete
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 15, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Pam

To some extent the article is about both. The reason some coaches feel they can get away with so much is because they know that if the kids want to do the sport then they will take it. If a kid doesn't want to accept it and decides to create a fuss or quit the team, then there are always others on the sideline waiting to take their place. This gives coaches a sense of power which they would not have if there were no players ready to come in and play instead of someone who can't take the heat of their shenanigans (for want of a better word).

From my reading of the article, these coaches have a sense of power because the kids want to play the sport. They know that the competition to get on these teams is fierce, that there are only a certain number of spots, and that if someone isn't happy then they will create a fuss which will basically get them off the team or at least get less playing time, or quit the sport altogether.

If there were more opportunities for kids to play the sport then the competition would be less fierce for getting on the team. As a result, the coach could end up losing players and have difficulty in replacing them if the replacements were happy on a different team albeit a B team.

These coaches have power and abuse it because there is a history of them getting away with it. If either the kids or parents complain then there is one sure way of dealing with it - and the kids suffer because they don't get to play. The coaches don't have to be accountable to anyone as their word is gospel. Make them accountable and their behavior will have to change. As it stands, they don't need to be accountable because the system is such that there will always be another willing player to take the place on the team.


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Posted by Daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 15, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Damien, I wasn't referring to the particular incident of the Paly water polo team. I was referring to coaches who treat sports, and youth sports at that, which are in essence nothing but fantasy, entertainment and light diversion as life or death. There just isn't an excuse for a youth coach to ever lose his/her temper, swear or throw stuff. If he/she does, he/she shouldn't be allowed to cocah, period.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on May 15, 2010 at 7:19 pm



Does prior the comment from this thread reflect a common view in Palo Alto?

>"Competition, aggression and win at any cost are the values these parents are teaching their children and the school promotes it. The Wall Street banker-crooks showed us what these values lead to. Other people pay for the breakage.

In most businesses money and aggression are supreme goals and get the rewards.

We get all excited because a guy can hit a ball more skillfully than another guy. Professional golf is the best example. Ridiculous and mindless and let's face it, basically dumb."<


We believe not.

Competitive sports are not for everyone, recreational sports are fine and healthy.

Varsity and Olympic sports are another matter, those athletes practice hours a day for years-- they are driven and the coaches are driven to win and excel.

The problem may not be the coaches-- who are used to coaching for winning in competitive sports-- but the parents who encourage their kids to get in over their head.

For example the parental fashion of driving their daughters to compete in soccer has led to an epidemic of the ACL injuries-- the NYT has covered this in depth and it is a tragic story.

The solution would seem to be 2 levels,
1/low key empathic sports and
2/high performance competitive sports

That way all kids can thrive at what they are good at, we feel that calling the the coaches abusive is inappropriate, it is up to the parents to give informed consent, for parents to acknowledge their kids limitations and for high performance coaches to do what they do best.

Those of us who have been through soldiers boot camp know that not every teenager can make the cut, as troops move to apply for Special Forces less than 12% of the troops can make the cut.

It is what it is-- recreational sports are fine and health, being the best of the the best is a different track -- lets not confuse them .

Go Stanford--


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Posted by Gunn basketball team
a resident of Barron Park
on May 15, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Another horribly disrespectful coach that was not named here is [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] Alas, 6 players ended up quitting due to his childish behavior and favoritism...also his lack to use each players strengths to the teams advantage. He was also caught on tape giving the middle finger to one of the players on the team, not to mention he did that almost every practice. He has been kindly asked to leave after a disastrous season [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Daniel
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 15, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Making money is fine but the end doesn't justify the means. Ultra aggression in business is also synonymous with breaking laws and regulations. Our financial markets and entire economy nearly collapsed less than 2 years ago because of the type of aggression and supreme goals so favored by some posters here. I also find very strange the comparison of children who participate in competitive sports and adults. A 16 year olds cannot be treated like college athletes, who are virtually a professional sans the pay, or professional athletes are treated. I agree though that over-competitive, extra driven parents are part of the problem. A number of my children's friend have told me that their parents pushed them to participate in HS athletics while they actually wanted to pursue other activities unrelated to sports. In my experience as a coach I often witnessed parents whose desire to win vicariously through their children was much stronger than their children and their sideline behavior reflected that. Generally I think that the obsession with competitive sports in our society is excessive and unhealthy, especially when so many of the fans are overweight, out of shape and avoid any healthy physical activity themselves(not in Palo Alto, generally speaking, I know). As to coaches behavior, we would just laugh at someone losing his temper because he lost a video game or because, while watching a movie, his favorite hero got shot on the screen. Sports are no different, they are fantasy, a diversion, entertainment, games, totally unrelated to real life. How can anyone, especially someone entrusted with coaching children, lose their temper over a fantasy?


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Posted by a mom
a resident of Green Acres
on May 15, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Kids who want them need high level sports, but I don't see any resources to make sports a part of daily life for kids who don't want to compete, but just want to play. Our middle and high schools should have separate intramural sports. I just want to pass this along from the MIT athletics department, it explains the difference. (The intramural sports are "competitive" in a different way than the others. They're about getting the benefit of sport for those who don't want to play NCAA or club sports.)

Being able to participate in athletics is an important part of being physically and mentally healthy. I hope our school leaders will consider introducing intramural sports as a way of supporting our youth.


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Posted by a mom
a resident of Green Acres
on May 15, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Here's the link I promised from above:
Web Link

Intramural sports should be there for kids who don't want to play club or high school competitive sports. They're more social and less stressful, and the kids get the benefit of sports in their daily lives.


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Posted by Elizabeth Abbott
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 15, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Quoting from: "Parent of would be athlete, a member of the Palo Alto High School community": "The reason some coaches feel they can get away with so much is because they know that if the kids want to do the sport then they will take it. If a kid doesn't want to accept it and decides to create a fuss or quit the team, then there are always others on the sideline waiting to take their place."

If your child quits the team and someone takes their place, the logical assumption about a replacement is that the new child is either equal in skill or worse. So I can't imagine that a coach would be yelling at this kid any more or less than your child. Where is the logic in the quoted statement since my assumption is most likely the case?

Second: "From my reading of the article, these coaches have a sense of power because the kids want to play the sport. They know that the competition to get on these teams is fierce, that there are only a certain number of spots, and that if someone isn't happy then they will create a fuss which will basically get them off the team or at least get less playing time, or quit the sport altogether."

This too is questionable. While it may be true in some cases, teens should be learning how to stand up for themselves and talk to their coaches about any issues they have. Also, that's partially what captains are for - they are there as leaders to help with the sport itself and any other issues that should arise amongst the team members. Yes, competition is fierce for starting positions and amongst opposing high school/club teams, but if an athlete is unhappy with their playing situation, they should be the ones taking the initiative to find out what's going wrong and do what they can to fix it. Coaches recognize commitment and they recognize effort. If one doesn't have the drive to do that, maybe one should reconsider playing at that level.

The rest of the comment I'm quoting, while again, probably valid in some situations, suggests to me an overprotectiveness and babying of their teenager. Sports are hard, life isn't fair. If something is not turning out the way a high school athlete expects, whining about it is not going to get them anywhere. I would think parents would realize this considering it's one of the quintessential things children are told as they grow up, so WHY do we have so many parents and young adults in on our high school sports teams whining about not playing, etc, etc instead of figuring out (or being encouraged to figure out) how to solve the problem that themselves?


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Posted by all for B and C teams
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2010 at 10:40 pm

mom green acres, I hope someone is paying attention to you and mom of would be athlete -

"Being able to participate in athletics is an important part of being physically and mentally healthy. I hope our school leaders will consider introducing intramural sports as a way of supporting our youth." I'd add MORE youth

that would also be a story, and not this whining and getting personal about the few coaches we apparently do have

it's clear it's better to be a positive coach than a negative coach

but playing time - more kids need that

get more coaches, pay them better, introduce intramural sports and get more kids playing, that should tone down this problem of the elites



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Posted by PalyParent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Two interesting things I've noticed: 1. There haven't been many comments from former or current athletes from the last few years. 2. I don't see any praise for the many GOOD coaches in this school district. Just a lot of negativity. One other interesting aspect, if a parent had written a complaint letter to the paper, unless they had an accusation that involved physical violence or sexual abuse by a coach, nothing would have been investigated or printed. Funny how some things work.


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Posted by paly student
a resident of College Terrace
on May 15, 2010 at 10:49 pm

What I find frustrating is how both parents and players from multiple teams have sent letters and have used other ways to express how they feel about how some of the coaches have a detrimental affect on those participating in the sport (Whether its team bonding, confidence, etc.). Yet, those who were contacted fail to do ANYTHING. I mean they "investigate", but it surely is not making any difference.

Why is it that the paly baseball team has gone through multiple coaches in such a short amount of time and the Stanford football team gets to practice on the PALY field over PALY teams? Can someone please answer that for me, because I am REALLY curious...


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Posted by HA
a resident of Downtown North
on May 15, 2010 at 10:51 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by hs athlete
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 15, 2010 at 10:57 pm

PalyParent,

Yeah the coaches aren't that great. Most of them just sign up to relive their glory days as an high school athlete. This causes them to go on a power trip where they think they can boss around people and be jerks.

Where are all of the good coaches? Well either 1)They are too good for coaching hs and find another occupation 2)They are not at a top athletic school and do not get the publicity

But in reality does anyone expect a hs coach to be fantastic? It is hs. There aren't going to be any Joe Torre's, Krzyzewski's or Madden's who actually know how to run a team.


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Posted by yawning
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2010 at 11:03 pm


Why is any of this news to anyone.... I didn't need a cover story expose to tell me this. Pro and college sports coaches have been going psycho toward their players and refs for decades.

Earl Weaver, Billy Martin, Lou Pinela, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembeckler, Bob Knight, the Stanford womens soccer coach several years ago, etc. etc.etc. For that type of "fiery passion," they get rewarded and become legends, part of our sports culture!!! Bob Knight is on comercials now on TV, throwing chairs. He gets paid $$ to be a caricature of his anger management self.

So why would't a high school coach aspire to be like that? they're just emulating what they see being shown 24/7 on Espn sportscenter.


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Posted by PalyParent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Athlete, there are some good coaches. I know them. And they don't sign up to relive their high school days, they sign on to coach because they enjoyed their sport and enjoy coaching teenagers. God knows why.


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Posted by Soccer mom
a resident of Barron Park
on May 15, 2010 at 11:38 pm

In spite of the pittance they receive for the challenging work of coaching adolescents, there are a number of excellent coaches in local high schools. Some of them were mentioned in the Palo Alto Weekly article. Students know who they are and often choose to play a particular sport based on the good reputation of the coach. For example, a number of girls took up lacrosse at Paly after hearing about Jen Gray's positive coaching. With examples like Jen and others, whose teams have had very successful seasons, I wonder why some still think coaches need to yell, swear and berate players in order to be effective.


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Posted by all for B and C teams
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2010 at 12:49 am



paly student, College Terrace

I'm also very curious why Stanford football team gets to practice on the PALY field over PALY teams

the reply to those asking why there are no B and C teams for the major sports is that there are no facilities

and clearly there are no coaches when there is this kind of treatment of the coaches we do have.

maybe part 2 of this article should focus on how they can improve the sports system altogether - less elitism, more opportunities for B and C teams for kids that love the sport, are also decent athletes, and are willing to put in the discipline, and about appreciating the coaches we do have.

it would reduce the unhealthy pressure there is altogether, it's obvious it's not just a coaching issue, but the system



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Posted by Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2010 at 8:44 am

Oh gosh. Someone took part of my comment ...

"My sixth grader has been working with Paly Basketball coach Scott Peters since 2nd grade."

... and that I live in Old Palo Alto and turned the mention into an example of how coaching is a big business.

Totally pulled out of context. My daughter has attended the Paly summer basketball camps. Big money-making business? I really don't think so. A sign that we are 'wealthy' because we send her to a couple of summer camps per year and we live in Old Palo Alto? Definitely not true. Total luck that we moved here 25 years ago.

The point of my post is to say that for every single disgruntled player who deemed it appropriate to malign Mr. Peters, there are 10, 20, 30, perhaps 100 young players out there who have been motivated in a positive way by this coach.


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Posted by Options
a resident of College Terrace
on May 16, 2010 at 8:47 am

"Kids who want them need high level sports, but I don't see any resources to make sports a part of daily life for kids who don't want to compete, but just want to play."

Both the cross country and track and field teams at Gunn and Paly are non-cut. They both accept athletes at all levels, even kids who have never participated in any sport before.


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Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 16, 2010 at 9:26 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by Linda Conner
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 16, 2010 at 10:07 am

I do not in any way tolerate abusive behavior by coaches, and I can only remark on the paly girls water polo, not any of the other stories in this article. But I feel I must share our experience with Coach Olcott, which has been nothing but positive. He is a smart, experienced coach who seems to care deeply about his players, both in the pool and out. I have always appreciated his concern for the girls' academics along with their athletics. He expects hard work, best effort and a positive attitude. Our daughter began playing the sport just before entering 9th grade, so she was not an elite athlete. She has grown and developed tremendously under his guidance and now hopes to play water polo in college.

Sadly, this article paints a very one sided story as the authors did not seem to seek out any contrasting view points. It's important for people to remember there are always two sides.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 16, 2010 at 10:10 am

Options - although track and field and cross country are no cut - the are not something you "play". I think many students would like the opportunity to continue to play baseball, softball, basketball, soccer, etc. in a non-competitive fun way. Kind of like college intramurals. Although the middle schools have some intramurals at lunch, many kids need to decide what sport they will be serious about at an increasingly younger age (somewhere between 3-5th grade). Soccer has AYSO which is a lot less competitive, but as an example, in Palo Alto Little League, even the "less competitive" non-majors teams practice 5-6 days a week. In 3rd or 4th grade.


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Posted by lady vikes
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 16, 2010 at 10:34 am

I have been playing water polo for a little over four years now and what I have learned in those four years is that the key to success in the game is exaggeration. If you want to get a player to be kicked out of the game or you want to draw a foul you pretend as if you are being brutally beaten in the water. This being said, as a water polo player we are capable of convincing others that a little splash of water to the eye is actually a much bigger deal.


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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on May 16, 2010 at 10:41 am

It is interesting to see that my issue that happened in the 1970s still exists today.

As a side note; these PE teachers ( who shall remain nameless ) were P.O.ed because I WOULDN'T apply for football; they claimed I had the perfect physical attributes.

Oh, I had played sports back in the Midwest; I was actually on the Basketball team as a youngster ( no bench warming due to the " growth spurt " you get sometimes ). I just preferred the academic route and my outside activities were more mentally challenging ( and I DID play against Gunn as second board in Chess Club competitions )

The competitive attributes by using my BRAINS instead of BRAWN led me back to my roots in upper WI Indianhead country, where it translated into building the best and fastest computers. Yes, THAT famous computer company; I was a member of the design team.

So the bottom line is that you don't always need a " jock " mentality or physical attributes to become the BEST, just be the BEST at what you have a passion for doing. LIFE is about choices and you can choose what YOU ( not your parents, not your teachers and especially NOT what coaches THINK you MIGHT HAVE ) are best at.

The solution for this problem and many other of our own making:

It's called learning how to say NO at a early age.

Too bad many ( including government officials ) haven't learned this simple rule of life. Saying NO is a part of life.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 16, 2010 at 10:44 am

I agree with Daniel's several comments above and I'm glad that the Palo Alto Weekly has addressed the issue of inappropriate coaching. In my experience, the coaches who were respectful and positive were much more effective and created a strong bond among the team members. The teams were more successful in competing as well. There is no place for coaches who cannot control their tempers. Adults should model appropriate behavior and respect, not throw temper tantrums like two-year-olds.

Also, the emphasis on sports in the high schools is excessive in general. There are many talented artists, musicians, writers, and budding scientists among our children, yet their achievements and activities are not given the same recognition that "Athletes of the Week" are given. When is the last time you saw "Artists of the Week" every time you opened the paper?


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Posted by The truth
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 16, 2010 at 11:19 am

The water polo and basketball complainers all had two things in common: they wanted more playing time and they weren't that good of athletes. Without those complainers this year, water polo and girls basketball at palo alto hs had fantastic seasons. That says a lot more than this article.


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Posted by Okay
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on May 16, 2010 at 11:50 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Paly and Gunn are too big for every good athlete to make the team. Back in my day (harrumph!), we actually had meaningful PE and got sweaty every day and took showers and etc. There were lots of good athletes in regular PE who didn't want to spend the time on the school team. Nowadays, PE is standing around, discussing the rules endlessly, and avoiding getting sweaty. Absolutely pointless -- they should just make it a study hall. Oh yes -- people are getting obese? OK, then how about bringing back real PE?


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2010 at 12:13 pm

About swearing and abusive behavior from coaches:

It seems to me that some coaches always swore -- but, away from parents, and not in "mixed company" (gee, it sure makes me feel old to use that term!). Our society has tended more and more towards rudeness ever since, oh, let's say "Woodstock". Ugly, rude, violent language is the norm, and, I disapprove. But, although it may in some ways be related to and correlated with abusive behavior from coaches, the two things are different. It is important to make the distinction, because I have seen coaches who swore a lot but the kids loved, and, abusive coaches who didn't swear, but, who still humiliated kids. Correlation is not causality.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2010 at 12:25 pm

> Posted by Paly Mom, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood,
> on May 14, 2010 at 8:39 pm

> Based on what I've seen, the experiences that many have
> wit mean-spirited, sometimes verbally abusive coaches
> do lots of damage and affect their mental health more than
> academic stress.

I think the schools (including teachers) are reflecting the increasing mean-spiritedness in today's society. That spirit used to characterize the old British public school system and British class system-- the system that bred so much hatred and disdain from writers, from Dickens to Orwell. Is that what we are becoming today? It certainly seems so. In the schools, we have the same obsession with test results and competitive sports that you can read about from 80-100 years ago in British schools.


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Posted by PAlo Alto HS father
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 16, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Okay....

Weak... any coach at any level looks for the student athlete who works hard and plays hard. It's not just about innate ability, it's about heart, spirit, respect, teamwork.... so many things. Your personal attack indicates to me a personal agenda to your post and not recognition of what elevates a student athlete to higher performance and 'elite' status. I know this athlete to whom you refer. If all our children and student athletes worked as hard and played as hard, we Palo Altans would be blessed and proud.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 16, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Stanford football rented/paid to use the Paly football field on a couple of Saturdays when their practice field was too muddy for use. This happened in the Feb/Mar time frame. No Paly team was displaced.

Get your facts straight.


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Posted by Actually
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 16, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Stanford practiced on the field over the paly girls lax team last year. FYI


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Posted by EX-PAwaterpoloplayer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 16, 2010 at 1:41 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Bewildered
a resident of another community
on May 16, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I coached in the district for a number of years....and this is why i went to college coaching....parents have no business interferring, participating in hiring, or anything else to do with coaching....money doesn't give you access....you hire them to win...if they don't win you fire them....let them do their jobs....all this warm and fuzzy stuff is lame...and it's too bad if they (your children) can't handle a little yelling....if they get yelled at by their boss, what are they gonna do then? Get you to complain to their boss about how they are treated....? Positive is good, but it doens't work on everybody....this is one of the problems today....some kids don't learn by being put in "timeout"...some only learn by a pop on the butt!


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Posted by Paly Mom
a resident of Midtown
on May 16, 2010 at 2:11 pm

By all accounts (except for perhaps the coach's), Cory, the Paly water polo coach, became more positive with players this year. As one current player stated, "He's done with all that past conduct. There's no swearing...he has realized that it only hurts the team and the play." Another player was quoted as saying, "He's just really different. He doesn't get frustrated with us anymore..."
As the parent of one of the girls who chose to quit, I am glad to hear that Cory has adopted a more positive approach. Too bad that it took a number of parent and student complaints to make that happen. In the fall of 2008 at least 6 parents representing 5 families met with administration and/or Earl Hansen about Cory's negative coaching. Others wrote letters, which were delivered to the administration and sent to the district.
Too bad the girls who benefited from this effort and their parents are too busy defending his coaching and criticizing the girls who didn't return this past season to appreciate the effort that prompted the change in his attitude and behavior.


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Posted by Options
a resident of College Terrace
on May 16, 2010 at 2:37 pm

"I think many students would like the opportunity to continue to play baseball, softball, basketball, soccer, etc. in a non-competitive fun way."

I don't disagree with that, but these opportunities probably are best met by private organizations, not the schools. With limited resources, the schools can only provide so much opportunity for all extra-curricular activities. School plays and bands also have tryouts.


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Posted by Could It Be
a resident of Midtown
on May 16, 2010 at 2:51 pm

@Parent of would be athlete wrote:

"The reason some coaches feel they can get away with so much is because they know that if the kids want to do the sport then they will take it."

Could it be that the reason some coaches, as well as other teachers, feel they can "get away with it" is because they are protected by the union?


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Posted by Daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 16, 2010 at 3:12 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2010 at 3:14 pm

I think that CCS (actually the entire CIF) should start focusing on student-athlets rights. There are strict rules in place if a student even touches a coach (push or strike). They are banned for their career. There is nothing wrong with this rule but the rule does not go the other way. There was a water polo coach at a school who actually slapped a player and he is still coaching school and club today. Our children need to be protected from the temper of coaches.


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Posted by Options
a resident of College Terrace
on May 16, 2010 at 3:18 pm

"Could it be that the reason some coaches, as well as other teachers, feel they can "get away with it" is because they are protected by the union?"

Nope. Walk-on coaches are not part of a union.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2010 at 3:25 pm

I should add to be comment that the slapping incident did NOT involve coaches at either Paly or Gunn, but rather a private high school.


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Posted by Paly Polo Alum
a resident of Walter Hays School
on May 16, 2010 at 3:58 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Happy Mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 16, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Anyone happy with their kid's coach? We love Sarah Stapp - who coaches girls varsity basketball at Gunn. Even-keeled demeanor, deep knowledge of the game - and passion for the game. She loves her players and they love her. She doesn't get angry when things go wrong. She identifies the problem and prescribes a solution. Coach Stapp has developed Gunn girls' basketball program into one of the best in CCS by taking a more long term approach - developing the athletes and building a program. Also, Ernie Lee - Gunn's cross-country and track and field coach. Again, even-keeled, hard working, has invested in building a program, not just winning. He dedicates a tremendous amount of his time to Gunn student-athletes for very little money. He does it because he believes in the kids and the idea that hard work will pay off. Both of these coaches appreciate the value of high school sports for our kids. Working as part of a team toward a common goal, developing relationships with people not in your grade or "clique," learning about commitment and follow-through, setting personal goals to strive for, having fun and building wonderful high school memories. I feel lucky to have these coaches working with my children.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2010 at 4:32 pm

> Posted by Bewildered, a resident of another community, 2 hours ago

> ....you hire them to win...if they don't win you fire them....
> let them do their jobs....all this warm and fuzzy stuff is
> lame...and it's too bad if they (your children) can't handle
> a little yelling....if they get yelled at by their boss,
> what are they gonna do then? Get you to complain to their
> boss about how they are treated....?

I'm sure that this will set off some people. This is exactly what is wrong with sports today. No sportsmanship. Just win. No respecting the game, no learning to be a team player. Just win. Thanks but no thanks.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 16, 2010 at 4:45 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by what
a resident of Barron Park
on May 16, 2010 at 5:08 pm

This article is crazy. Cory was never mean to me!


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Posted by Daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 16, 2010 at 5:21 pm

"Just win"..No, this is absolutely not what coaching youth sports is about. It's about teaching them how to play and then getting them to play as close to their potential as possible. Sometime you lose because the other team is just more talented and that's fine. It's absolutely not about win=or-get-fired, youth sports is not the NFL, NBA or EPL.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on May 16, 2010 at 6:04 pm

The wrestling coach at JLS, now at Gunn, has an excellent approach to winning---- it is the WILL to win that is important and the ability to bounce back from defeat with the will to win intact -- that builds resilience.

In team sports kids collaborate so the team wins--- that is the purpose-- wining the game.

Many sports, like tennis, golf, wrestling etc and chess are not team sports -- it is all about the will to win within the rules.


It seems that most of the complaints on this thread are about the feelings of adolescent girls regarding the real or imagined attitudes of their coaches.

The reality of the world is competition, whether you live in India, China, Russia or the West --In public schools we teach evolution -- survival of the fittest-- not creationism -- nor that the meek shall inherit the earth.

Ohlone has a nice non competitive culture at the elementary level and that is good in the tender years-- but competition is the reality of the adolescent and adult world until we live in Utopia Web Link

Our main concern is that these allegations of " abuse" against coaches, based upon apparently subjective feelings, will result in great coaches fleeing the PAUSD for their own protection and that will be a great loss, but we can understand why they would do that-- are we now going to video every coaching session?-- really


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Posted by disappointed
a resident of Professorville
on May 16, 2010 at 6:05 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Jon Graves
a resident of Professorville
on May 16, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Scott Peters has been one of the most positive influences in our daughters sporting life and in fact beyond just sport. He is an incredibly committed and effective coach. Any negative feedback is just ridiculous. I think it is reflective of the a self important and precious attitudes of some uptight "A" personality parents in this highly charged little town. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]



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Posted by K.Hake
a resident of Downtown North
on May 16, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Scott Peters has been working with my daughter for the past two years and I have seen no sign of the kind of behavior mentioned in the article. I would not let my children play for a coach that used profanity or was derisive in any way. Negativity has no place in youth sports. Constructive feedback given instructionaly - yes! Over the last two years Scott Peters has exemplified for me the best of what youth sports coaching is all about.


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Posted by interesting
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 16, 2010 at 8:41 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by parent 2nd & 4th - Nicole Lance
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 16, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Coach Scott has coached two daughters during the past three years, both during the year and the summer - the experience has been incredibly positive the entire time, for both girls, to the point that I would say that their experience with Coach Scott is probably a large factor in why they both have developed such a genuine love of the game. He has not only taught them a lot in terms of specific on-court skills/tactics, but also imparted important life lessons, i.e. what it means to do your best, how to be a good team player, understanding that even when you lose a game (as measured by points), if you've done your best and learned something then it is a "win." I think of Coach Scott as someone who quite literally is helping me raise our daughters by imparting important life skills, and for this I am incredibly grateful.


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Posted by Johnson
a resident of Mountain View
on May 16, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Scott Peters has been a dedicated coach and role model for both of my children. I have a daughter going into high school and a son in 4th grade. Scott takes the time with both of my children not just when it comes to winning the game. He is there to encourage them in school, sports and in their every day lives. Scott has a desire to win, just like his players and you have to admit.... just like the parents... Really, do you like sitting there watching your child's team lose?? How many times have you seen a coach sit on a sideline and watching a team win win win without a coach raising his/her voice to them. I have been involved with children in sports for 15+ years and trust me, I have seen coaches I would NEVER allow my children to play for. In this case.... Scott Peters can coach my kids any day!


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Posted by time to move on
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 16, 2010 at 9:54 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by huh
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 16, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Well, I am not going to personally attack anyone here, but I just remember how the waterpolo team was one happy family before theo left. I felt comfortable talking to theo and kellan about my thoughts and there was not any tension on the team. And then it all changed...
I never cared about starting or anything like that, I wanted to blow off steam and do something that I loved. It has turned into such a political sport where no one knows what is true anymore and everyone is just trying to better themselves. I thought that teams were supposed to get you to work with others and escape.


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Posted by HSParent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 16, 2010 at 10:22 pm

To the elementary and middle school parents who have had great experiences with Scott Peters, I think you are missing the point. Even his critics don't question his devotion to his players. It's all about what happens in the competitive high school environment and how coaches control their emotions. Scott has improved a lot since last year, which shows he is trying to change. That's to be commended and encouraged. We should all be able to agree that we don't want a coach who resorts to swearing and yelling at our kids when they don't execute a play properly or aren't winning. Unfortunately, some kids get hurt while a coach is learning this.


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Posted by David Shapiro
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 16, 2010 at 10:23 pm

I strongly support the principles and teachings of the Positive Coaching Alliance; every coach should be trained in and held to this style of coaching. Over the past three years my daughter has attended Scott Peters' summer basketball camps and has also been coached by him at times in practices and games, many of which I have observed. He has been the very model of positive coaching, always patient and encouraging (even in the face of some pretty frustrating play!). I have never seen him act toward any player in a way inconsistent with this.


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Posted by Not so fast
a resident of College Terrace
on May 16, 2010 at 10:30 pm

If you read Mr. Berkson's findings about the water polo coach carefully, you'll notice that the players who saw no need for change said nothing positive about Cory. The only statement that could be considered positive in any way is that he was not abusive. Almost all the other statements were criticisms and put-downs of the players who were "on the outs." This disdain is also reflected in some of the earlier posts. What bothered some of the girls like my daughter was just that--The team did not act as a team, and they didn't play as a team. If this changed this year, great. But let's don't act like the problem never existed.


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Posted by Paly polo grad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 16, 2010 at 11:33 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 17, 2010 at 8:22 am

HS Parent who posted:

"To the elementary and middle school parents who have had great experiences with Scott Peters, I think you are missing the point."

Thanks for your note. I am not 'missing the point,' nor do I believe others who are posting notes in support of Scott are missing the point. The point is to provide some b-a-l-a-n-c-e in one's look at these coaches, which your post did and yet the overall article did not. He is a coach who has scores of 4th thru 8th grade girls learning from him and looking forward to the day they might by chance be able to play for him at Paly.


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Posted by Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 17, 2010 at 8:44 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by Randy Scott
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 17, 2010 at 8:57 am

I am coaching our local 4th Grade Girls Basketball Team and the program is lead by Scott Peters who directs our weekly practices. Scott's continual message to me and the other coaches is "make sure the girls have fun and always find something positive to say". My experience over the past 5 years of observing Scott has been extremely positive - he is passionate and caring about Girls of all levels. I have not witnessed any negative situations, Randy Scott


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Barron Park
on May 17, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Yeah, I have to say my son had Scott Peters for a basketball clinic, and Peters reminded me of the best of my coaches growing up: excellent on basketball skills and really first rate on teamwork, motivation, high expectations.


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Posted by soccer mom
a resident of Midtown
on May 17, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Interesting article on "Educator as Bully".
Web Link

"Educators (Coaches) let students know they care. Bullies let students know who's boss. Educators (Coaches) teach self-control. Bullies exert their own control. Educators (Coaches), aware of the power they wield over their students, choose their words and actions carefully. Bullies wield their power recklessly, frequently resorting to anger and intimidation. Educators (Coaches) help all students feel successful. Bullies punish students for being unsuccessful."

Could some coaches be considered bullies? If so, then there are strategies to deal with bullying at an individual and system wide level. These are explored at the site Web Link


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Posted by James
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 17, 2010 at 12:26 pm

As both a former student (K-12) and secondary school teacher in Palo Alto, it is absolutely imperative that coaches for all sports, boys and girls, follow the same strict code of conduct expected for TEACHERS. There are no exceptions. I was a member of school sports at Paly and as a player was not given any respect by coaches as a person. As players, we had no first names and the "old school" approach was prevalent. The star players were treated as stars, and any "beyond the rules" behavior by them was handled with a wink and a nudge. After my junior year, I opted out of returning to the team, but did not stop playing the sports I loved.

The sports programs at our schools are not commercial enterprises, and the win/loss column is not why students join in athletic programs. There is no justification for abusive coaches who use profanity, intimidation, belittling comments or worse on any student athlete.

Perhaps there is too much pressure on coaches and their staffs to win, and the point that they are TEACHING is lost along that path. Parental support for questionable coaches must be interpreted as secondary feedback, as the only people who can directly attest to what "happened" are the players who experience the events.

Coaches should be scrutinized under the same academic review system as all teachers, who are their PEERS. There should be no special treatment or status for coaches. Not every team each year can be a winner, as students change and schools emerge and decline in given areas of sport. A "zero tolerance" policy should be applied to abusive coaches, which would certainly clarify the field.


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Posted by disappointed reader
a resident of Professorville
on May 17, 2010 at 12:37 pm

I am disappointed to read sensational, unbalanced reporting in the Weekly, a paper that normally takes a mature and intelligent view. I know that Scott Peters was incorrectly and unfairly represented in your "Out of Bounds?" article, so I can only assume the rest of the article to be equally anecdotal. Scott Peters went from coaching 13 girls on his first 2008 Midnight AAU basketball team to now- 2 years later - training or being a mentor to nearly 10 times that number of girls and boys. He is a positive influence both on and off the court, as evidenced by the continued growth of his Midnight program. If the PA Weekly wants to be considered a credible paper, it must either print an apology to Scott Peters or do some real reporting and cite more than one source when making targeted critiques. Shoddy work, PA Weekly.


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Posted by Bill Schmarzo
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 17, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Both my son (who plays basketball at Paly) and my daughter (who's in grade school) have played for Scott. I have nothing but complementary things to say about Scott and his approach to working with my kids. I expect my children to be coached, and taught, by coaches and teachers who push them to expect more out of themselves. There are very valuable life lessons Scott is teaching every day in practices and in games – lessons about hard work, focus, sacrifice, team work, dedication and effort – and that's what's required to be successful in life. Is Scott demanding? I sure hope so!! The bigger question is why aren't all of our coaches and teachers more demanding of our kids?
Bill Schmarzo


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Posted by Use the Y!
a resident of College Terrace
on May 17, 2010 at 1:29 pm

For parents who are worried that your child does not have the opportunity to play on a team, I recommend you stop by the Y some evening and see what happens. There are kids having a great time swimming in the pool, using the exercise equipment, playing volleyball and badminton, and participating in a pickup basketball game. Many of these kids are not good enough to play high school sports, but they seem to have a blast hanging out with friends and enjoying sports.

We are lucky to have this great resource in our community.


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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on May 17, 2010 at 2:07 pm

I finally read the rest of the articles and I can relate to the situation and offer a drastic but necessary solution, based on the reviews of the documents and comments by the other learned professionals:

Fire both Mr. Olcott and Mr. Berkson immediately!

I have the team experience; it was just such a team that created these computers called the X-MP, Y-MP and Cray 1m, 1s and Cray 2.

I was a member of one such team. You know good teamwork when you see it. You stick with good team leaders. You also know when the teamwork is lost. The loss of such teamwork is what ultimately doomed Cray Research. That company no longer exists today.

That was an example of team building NOT related to PHYSICAL sports, but the same mental challenges and competitiveness that a cohesive TEAM can exhibit. We CAN DO, WE CAN SET GOALS, WE CAN ACHIEVE!

Mr. Berkson ducked the issue; I wonder what other issues he has ducked as assistant VP? I have the model of my parent, who rose from teaching ED class to retiring as ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR of the SJUSD.

By making the HARD decisions was how this ED teacher became the assistant VP ( YOUR JOB, Mr. Berkson ), to PRINCIPAL and through the ranks to Assistant Administrator.

You dropped the ball and have proven the Peter Principle still lives in the Palo Alto area.

To keep these people in their positions will be a detriment to the learning experience in Palo Alto.

We cannot have people with poor behaviors and poor decision makers being an example in our schools. Keep the best and the brightest TEACHERS and ADMINISTRATORS and eliminate the rest.

Sorry to be blunt, but that is the reality that these future leaders need and should get from their elders.


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Posted by Paly polo grad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 17, 2010 at 2:09 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by Coach Woodcock
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 17, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Yes, I too am disappointed in the one-side reporting; and for those of you that experienced my recent movie, please know that the reporter in this case should simply "man up and take a lap" !


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Posted by couch potato
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2010 at 3:23 pm

The posting "by Bewildered, a resident of another community, on May 16, 2010 at 2:08 pm" brings up THE key point -

" ..you hire them to win... "

Not everyone agrees that a school hires a coach to HAVE a winning team. Some would want a coach to be hired to teach the kids how to play the game, and hopefully improve and learn to love it.

One way to measure a coach is by the team record, another one (not for professional sports of course) is by how much the KIDS improve, individually.

Different approaches may be preferable for the different goals.


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Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 17, 2010 at 4:03 pm

To those of you following the part of this thread that focuses on Scott Peters.
I have known Scott for several years, and he has coached my child many times, mostly in camps and other training - not in games. I agree with Dave Shapiro, Bill Schmarzo and others who have everything positive to say about his coaching. I have also heard a few negative rumors in the past about how he coaches the high school girls. But I have never witnessed this or any other poor behavior by him. And if he did practice some negative coaching in the past, I've been lead to believe that it has ended. I, as one who loves the game of basketball, and want children in Palo Alto to have more opportunities in this sport, have seen how he has become one of the main and positive forces for basketball in this city. He helps to coach in the middle schools, the Midnight AAU program, summer camps, and the NJB league (where he runs the program for 1st and 2nd graders). He clearly loves the game and he instills this in the kids who he trains, along with great skills. I hope those who criticize him will ratchet back the negative talk, and appreciate what he provides to our children.


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Posted by mom
a resident of Green Acres
on May 17, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Picking up some threads of conversations from above:

1) Kids who want them need high level sports, but I don't see any resources to make sports a part of daily life for kids who don't want to compete, but just want to play."

Both the cross country and track and field teams at Gunn and Paly are non-cut. They both accept athletes at all levels, even kids who have never participated in any sport before.

2) "I think many students would like the opportunity to continue to play baseball, softball, basketball, soccer, etc. in a non-competitive fun way."

I don't disagree with that, but these opportunities probably are best met by private organizations, not the schools. With limited resources, the schools can only provide so much opportunity for all extra-curricular activities. School plays and bands also have tryouts.

Answer to 1)
I'm glad to hear track sports are inclusive, but there are no team sports there. I posted the link to the MIT athletics department because the intramural sports were a godsend. Kids got to practice, compete, socialize, without the stress of NCAA or club sports.

Answer to 2)
Private organizations do not now offer anything equivalent locally for any sport I know of.

The cost of such programs is small compared to the benefit to the students: making sport a part of daily life, getting fit, blowing off steam, developing the comaraderie that comes from playing sports without the stress of team sports if that's not for them, the ability to practice and improve without the stress of competing, the chance to try new sports without the sport being such an overwhelming part of life (taking over the family life for games), helping them learn how to incorporate sports in their daily lives while they are still at home (giving them a better foundation and a chance to explore), etc.

The reason I included the link from the MIT athletic department is because it can be such a high stress place, and intramural sports were important BECAUSE of that.

We are looking for ways to help improve connectedness, and physical and mental health for our youth, any money spent on such programs would pay back in spades. And, frankly, it's the fair thing to do, so that we are realistically providing access to sports for all of our kids.


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Posted by Sally
a resident of Southgate
on May 17, 2010 at 6:19 pm

ABUSE is about control and the fear of loosing it. Ill treatment is an absurb effort to maintain and enhance the abusers hegemony-social, cultural, legal and above all, psychological. Abusers exploit, lie, insult, demean, ignore, manipulate and control.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Damian Cohen and Molly Buccola
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 17, 2010 at 7:07 pm

To follow-up one more time here...

I think it is imperative that the PA Weekly rethink part two of this story. Putting people through the press without any conclusive evidence is not only poor journalism, but grounds for a lawsuit. My own act of civil disobedience will be minor this upcoming 2010-2011 season-- nevertheless, I personally will not be reporting my sports scores, conducting any interviews, etc. with this so-called paper. Unfortunately, the people who lose out in that scenario are our youth (as they deserve more accolades and recognition). Regardless, this is a small price for this injustice. The individuals named within have jobs, families, children, students and the like. The press better be darn absolute before they tarnish the one true commodity that we truly own at the end of the day-- our reputations. I applaud those who have written in and shared positive stories about these men and women. Likewise, I feel for the young adults who believed they were disrespected in some manner. Yet, appearance and reality are not necessarily the same. I applaud all parents for being advocates for their children, but such doesn't mean that they have approached the situation level-headed. All the while, I am sure that none of these coaches were perfect on any given day. I know that I am not. Yet, as I suggested before, if perfection is now our barometer we are all doomed to see our names muddied through the press. I see three categories of people within these comments: 1. people who actually know these men/women and only have positive things to say. 2. the original people who remain critical (the original parents and students) and 3. people in the community who simply want to talk about the 1970s, their businesses, etc. who love to hear themselves for fear of loneliness. The only two that truly matter here are #1 and #2. Where does that leave us? Exactly where we were before this article was written. This was an in-house, Athletic Director will follow-up story [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Just because these individuals teach our children, doesn't make them public citizens. They are private citizens who should be protected from being skewered in the media in the name of accusation. This was journalism at its worst.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on May 17, 2010 at 7:32 pm

@ Damian Cohen and Molly Buccola

Very well said--- the obvious next step is to set up an alternate online news source for local news and sports that has integrity and credibility.

Not to difficult-- may PAUSD parents are very angry at and disappointed with this biased unprofessional story--- so are the Real Estate Companies that unwittingly supported it--

Time for a credible reliable online news source for PA, MP, MV

This story did not pass the PBS sniff test by a long way

Nepotism? Bias? the list goes on

There is a strong local financial and ethical drive for a better local news platform--- lets get it done by the fall!-- if not sooner--it should take only a few weeks as the old brand here has been destroyed by this " article"/ Witch hunt/ on PA coaches


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Posted by Lisa & Darren Kerr
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 17, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Wow, interesting how one person/newspaper can libel such a wonderful
human being, coach, parent as Scott Peters? He has done nothing
but create a positive, nurturing and caring influence for our daughter.
I guess it really is true, you can't always believe what you read in the newspaper. It feels like we are in the show "Deperate Housewifes",
but it is "Desperate PA Weekly Journalism".


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Posted by suggestion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2010 at 7:45 pm



maybe part 2 needs to take some direction from the title

Out of bounds?


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Posted by Sally
a resident of Southgate
on May 17, 2010 at 8:14 pm

I find it amusing just how some of these parents NOW come to the defense of this water polo coach after they themselves wrote letters to the administration regarding Cory's horrible and abusive behavior. Shameful!!


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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 17, 2010 at 8:42 pm

What's truly a shame about Mr. Cohen's continuing emotional and defensive reaction to this story is what it reveals about his own coaching philosophy. Of course coaches at public high schools should be publicly accountable for their actions. This isn't a private company. Coaches are people we entrust our children with and spend countless hours with them with no one else present. If a coach is the subject of multiple and similar complaints over multiple years, don't we as parents have a right to know about them and how the school has handled them? We're not talking about an isolated complaint, but many, many complaints. Even the investigation concluded that there were problems. The paper should be congratulated for taking this on, especially since there will always be people who try to divert attention from the real problems by blaming the messenger.

I haven't seen one person point out one factual error in the stories. I'm sure the coaches who have been the subject of so many complaints are well-intentioned. That doesn't make them immune from criticism or public scrutiny.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on May 17, 2010 at 8:45 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Paly '05 Graduate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 17, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Kudos to the Weekly for taking on such a challenging and controversial topic. The strong reactions (both positive and negative) are a testament to the need for discussion. Unfortunately, I think many people are being blinded by their personal allegiances and thus losing sight of the overall goal of the article. There is nothing wrong with expressing support for the coaches mentioned in the article; there IS something wrong with rudely attacking the reporter and the Weekly as a whole. They have done a courageous thing in writing this story, and as a Paly sports alum myself, it is long overdue. Instead of tearing apart this article and each other, we should be focusing on developing better and more clear standards for our coaches. High school sports should bring the community together and be a positive experience, so please, keep your negative, nasty comments to yourself and let's open a constructive dialogue on this topic.


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Posted by PalyParent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 17, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Good luck getting good coaches on staff in this school district after this dreck! You reap what you sow.


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Posted by James
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 17, 2010 at 9:33 pm

It's simple. Be a great coach, love the game, love the sport, but don't love the game or yourself more than you love the kids on your team. They show up, day after day, to PLAY a game that they love, too, hopefully with team mates who are also their friends. They don't come to practice at early and late hours, balancing their studies and personal lives, deprived of a social life so that their Coach can yell and swear and live their winning dream through their young lives. Get a grip? Yes - this isn't a 1970's story, it's a real story. Be a great coach, don't be a bully or a jerk, if your team loses, well, that's 50% of the result of every game or match. Don't forget that you are expected to be a TEACHER and ROLE MODEL, and not a King or God. You may not even be right every time. If the coaches mentioned in this story can refute the claims with proof, then they deserve a voice. Supporting stories from parents have no validity, as ever player knows that the coach can turn on a dime when the parents are away. Let's get a real grip now and let the coaches provide their stories and see who is correct.


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Posted by Damian Cohen
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 17, 2010 at 11:04 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

To the parent who addressed my own coaching philosophy-- I haven't addressed such in any response-- but I appreciate your omniscience. That too has been my concern-- when the masses don't think but rather react. Because I do know a handful of people in this article, and have expressed my concerns, I suppose you feel like you know me now.
Perhaps this is because I actually attach my name to my responses.

Again, I am all for positive coaching, striving to be a role model in the lives of others, teaching the life lessons within the game, etc. I am opposed to naming coaches merely to enhance readership, for a journalist to flippantly use words like abuse, and for a story to be about he said/she said.

Refute the facts, you say. What facts are presented? "Not everyone agrees with Maraboli's recollection of the incident." Ummm, these are facts? This is your lead? Let's make this story the basis for our photo? This is journalism? What's next...he looked at me funny? How does one refute assumption? And that dear reader is the problem-- you think these are facts.

This leads to my next point. I am not sure what you mean by addressing a public institution vs. a private business. I am talking about the law. I am talking about libel. I am talking about defamation of character. I am talking about serious legal issues. I am not talking about corporations or public institutions, I am talking about the rights of individuals. The law is quite clear when distinguishing between private and public citizens on such issues. I.E. The Rev. Jerry Falwell...public citizen. See Sullivan v. New York Times. Scott Peters...private citizen.

Thus, I have no problem with the story's premise or its basic message. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] You can applaud the story, suggest the story is long overdue, you can even tell me my own coaching philosophy, but the law is what is in question here. Journalists are not protected from naming people, via accusation, when there has been no legal investigation. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by PALY water polo grad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 17, 2010 at 11:11 pm

[Portion removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by PA wp
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 17, 2010 at 11:36 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on May 18, 2010 at 9:22 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by PA student
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2010 at 8:14 pm

PA student is a registered user.

I have been playing for Cory since my freshman year. Not only is he my coach at school, but he is the coach of both club teams that I play on, Stanford and Club Viking. From my experience I have found that Cory is an excellent coach that truly cares about his players improvement and involvement, and will take aside players to tell them how well they are doing, or call us out when he believes we are not living up to our potential. Though I was not a prominent part of the drama of 2008, I have always been on his side and believe that he is an excellent coach.
I felt the need to give some first hand experience seeing as most of the comments on this page are from concerned parents, and the article has only expresses two points of view from two players on the team. Bottom line, Cory cares deeply about the team and has really taken the critical remarks given to him after the 2008 season to turn it around and make sure everyone is having a positive experience. Although the stories about Cory were blown out of proportion, he never showed that he was affected by them during the season or after, and he has truly been a class act throughout this entire ridiculous case.


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