Leading off today:
I thought I'd take a few moments today to highlight some excellent feature writing, enterprise work and dead-on column writing that I didn't get a chance to mention last week.
Unsung heroes: We used to do a weekly feature at the Democrat and Chronicle 30-something years ago looking at the folks that kept sports running at all levels -- everyone from the guys manning the chains on NFL sidelines to college SIDs to high school grounds crews to road-race directors.
A quartet of reporters at The Journal News managed to cover just about every imaginable type of unsung heroes at the high school level in one huge project last week. It was done is numerous short and bright vignettes.
Among those highlighted:
• The tandem of Carol Guzinski and Charlie Jenks, athletic trainers at North Rockland who tend to 60 or more athletes in the first hour after classes let out on school days. It's believed no other school in the section has two full-time athletic trainers.
• Yorktown athletic department secretary Jeanette Martimucci, whose day typically begins with a barrage of emails rescheduling games, officials and bus runs. Department secretaries are also often the point of contact for booster club officers, various administrators in the school district checking in on matters such as awards dinners and parents trying to figure out how to get kids to SATs in the morning and games in the afternoon.
"You have to feel the urgency," Martimucci said. "Every day is crazy. But almost every day is great because of its curve balls -- I could never do the same thing every day."
Returning home: New Jersey's private schools have a long history of attracting above-average Rockland County athletes (and those from Orange County and Staten Island, for that matter) over the border to play football.
The Journal News reported that there's been a bit of recent progress in keeping or bringing players back home. Clarkstown South junior R.J. Lamarre has come back from Don Bosco Prep, and recent Super 11 selections Devan Lawson and Ori Jean-Charles of Spring Valley and North Rockland's Jayden Cook have also returned from the likes of DBP and St. Joe's. Travis Samuels, Nick Termine, Charles Regalbuto returned to Clarkstown North in recent seasons.
"Trust me, we're on the phone with some of these kids and we tell them, 'Good luck over there. If things don't work out, the door is always open,'" Clarkstown South coach Mike Scarpelli said.
Scarpelli is even going so far as to brainstorm a brochure detailing his school's academics and the team's success and facilities to better sell young athletes and their families on staying home.
And if they leave anyway?
"We've always welcomed those kids back," Scarpelli said. "It's been happening for 30 years. We just have to deal with it."
Five perfect labels: I knew I'd had have to check out a USA Today column after getting emails from two ADs probably 100 miles apart sharing the link.
Fred Bastie, who runs a college recruiting service and writes a weekly column, guesstimated that 5 percent of parents act in ways that have a negative effect on their athletes' scholarship prospects. And he added that it's pretty easy for college coaches to spot the offenders.
He places them in five categories:
• Helicopter Parents, who take an excessive interest in the life of their child and take an aggressive role in the recruiting process, to the point of interfering with productive coach-prospect communication.
• Sideline Coach Parents, who spend an inordinate amount of time "helping" the actually coaches with shouted advice to players from the bleachers. The behavior is a red flag to college staffs who worry whether the athlete is really coachable.