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Saturday, May 19, 2018: Score one for the coaches vs. the parents

   Leading off today: Though the term has been out there for several years as a play off the phrase "helicopter parents," I don't think I'd ever heard of "lawnmower parents" until Friday.

   "They just mow everything down that's in their kid's way," Mark Storm told the Democrat and Chronicle.

   Storm coached a variety of high school sports over 31 years before he was let go in 2015 after a few parents went to the school board with allegations Storm was a bully and broke promises to his players, the Democrat and Chronicle reported Friday. A letter sent to Honeoye Superintendent David C. Bills accused Storm of being verbally abusive and having a drinking problem.

   As detailed by the paper Friday, that contributed to a school board vote ousting Storm as the varsity basketball and baseball coach and turned out to be a $50,000 mistake. That's the amount Storm recovered in a settlement with one set of Honeoye baseball parents after originally seeking $150,000 in a civil suit filed in December 2015.

   If that victory in a defamation suit brought by a dismissed coach isn't unprecedented, it's at least close.

   "This went over the line," Storm, 61, said of the letter in question. "Something had to be done."

   He added: "My hope is people will at least start to think about what they're saying, think about what they do before they send that email."

   As noted by reporter Jeff DiVeronica in the story, the parent-coach dynamic has shifted in high school sports. Parents are more likely than ever to challenge coaches over issues like playing time and roster decisions. They'll often go so far as to criticize game strategy.

   Increasingly, it's done in confrontational fashion rather than constructively. Some trace the origin to the rise of a youth sports culture in which even third- and fourth-graders are enrolled into clubs with elaborate practice schedules and travel to distant competitions.

   "Families are paying younger and they're paying more (money) and for 10 years if parents have questions they've gone to the coach," said Robert Zayas, executive director of the New York State Public School Athletic Association. "It gives them the misconception that they have a say, but when their kids get to the high school level parents are amazed they no longer do have (a) say."

   The newspaper's story contains much more on the whole Storm controversy, including details of the process that led to his not being rehired as coach. Suffice it to say that the school district doesn't come out of it looking very good.

   You can find some additional background, including very specific allegations made against Storm in the fateful letter, in a 2015 article in The Daily Messenger.

   More on controversial decisions: At least two of the three new members elected to Suffern's school board this week were on record of supporting the return of boys cross country coach Joe Biddy for a 50th season, which would overturn a previous decision that was widely panned.

   Stay tuned for updates on that situation once the new board is seated.



   Blunder in Oregon: If you thought the contro- versy in the New York boys Federation basket- ball game between Archbishop Stepinac and Long Island Lutheran was as bad as it gets in the world of game management for high school sports, the Oregon Schools Activi- ties Association had an episode this week that exceeds it by a factor of 10.

   The OSAA disqualified 12 golfers from the state tournament for hitting from the wrong set of tees on one hole during the first round at Eagle Crest Resort despite evidence that it wasn't their fault.

   The issue stems from instructions given by a volunteer marshal at the tee box to hit from the red tees instead of the blue tees specified in instructions distributed before the round. Unable to reconcile a discrepancy on the scorecoard -- the listed yardage indicated they should play from the red tees -- players in the fourth threesome raised the question and were given incorrect instructions.

   "After we had finished the 12th, we walked to the next hole, towards the blue tees," said James Gordon of Rogue River. "After checking the scorecard and seeing that the yardage didn't match up, we asked the marshal."

   Rogue River coach Rob Isom was at the 13th hole when this occurred.

   "(Gordon's) playing partners started at the blue markers when the official said, 'Hey, you guys are down here,' motioning to the reds," Isom said.

   As their balls reached the green, another marshal asked which tees they used. The athletes answered, were told to use the blue tees the rest of the way and completed their rounds -- at which point they were DQ'd.

   That's where the story turns ugly. The players, coaches and marshal were questioned by the tournament committee -- and the marshal flat-out denied giving the wrong instructions, Gold Digest reported.

   "He flat out lied. There are the three kids who are in the group that heard him say it, plus a coach was standing right there who confirmed it." Red River golfer Joe Lafever said. "Did the kids just see a marshal and decide as a group, 'Oh, he's right there, let's just say he told us, too.'? ... No, no! Why on earth would they do that?"

   Faced with the likelihood that its golf committee has screwed up, the OSAA nevertheless decided the disqualifications would stand.

   "Everyone involved, from the OSAA to event personnel to the coaches and even the players themselves, has the opportunity to learn and grow from this situation," OSAA Executive Director Pete Weber said.

   More reading: My weekly column for follows up on a few recent topics and points out my failure to think outside the box when it comes to tackling issues dogging a couple of state tournaments.

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