Archive for February, 2012
Monday, February 27th, 2012
Let’s just say that I am curious. Likely, others too.
When it relates to being chosen as “Coach of the Year” in amateur sport, you will hear people say that it is an honour and something special. Many more will likely say, the real award is working with athletes, helping them learn and do the best they can. After that, it’s gravy.
After observing many coaches, programs and the politics that has become part of amateur sport, I started scratching the little hair left on my head at the selection process for choosing the top coach in a league. I would imagine the criteria changes – from rep to high school to club to university. Maybe, some don’t even select a top coach.
From what I have been told, usually, the top coach is picked by colleagues in the same league. Players have no say. Administrators stay out of it. No spectator involvement. Makes sense to some. Not so to others. I would imagine there is some sincerity and, likely, some jealousy. Not sure if the top coach is picked just prior to the playoffs, during the post-season round or maybe when everything is over?
Then again, maybe that changes for sports and leagues.
My point. I just wonder if the best person is always rewarded?
I see that Queen’s University pulled off a double win in Ontario University Athletics volleyball – women’s and men’s provincial titles. Neither Brenda Willis (men’s coach) or Joely Christian-McFarlane (women’s coach) received the Coach of the Year. Should they?
Basketball in the OUA is interesting.
Lakehead won the men’s OUA title last year and coach Scott Morrison was the recipient of the West Division award. Dave Smart, from Carleton, won the East – and his team went on to win the National title. On the women’s side, Windsor won the OUA gold medal – but coach Chantal Vallee wasn’t the top coach.
And now hockey, women’s Coach of the Year in the OUA is Waterloo’s Shaun Regan. I am sure he is a worthy candidate. His team finished out of the playoffs, 9th place of 11 teams with a 10-11 record and five OT losses. Still, a huge improvement over last place in the previous year.
But what about Laurier’s Rick Osborne whose team is ranked No. 1 in Canada and enters the OUA gold medal game for a 12th time and eight titles in the past 10 years.
His colleagues figured that wasn’t good enough?
Saturday, February 25th, 2012
An e-mail shows up just a couple of days before the NBA All-Star game, not sure if it was coincidental or planned that way, from a student manager of the Men’s Basketball team at Ryerson University in Toronto .
The machine above my shoulders started thinking about the good ‘ole days.
More about that in a minute, or so. First the content of the note.
Battle of the Boards. That’s the title given to a gathering of eight Greater Toronto Area high school all-star teams (I am assuming it’s boys only and that’s unfair) meeting at Ryerson on Tuesday, March 27 from 2:00pm to 10:00pm for a “one-day celebration of excellence”.
Sounds like a series of basketball games. Not sure what else that could be?
The release mentions names of some former players (one spelled incorrectly), but nothing about who might be playing in the upcoming event. I would assume that might be a selling point to come out and watch some interesting hoops – and, maybe, players who will graduate to universities in this country.
Nothing about guest coaches or any events related to this special afternoon and evening.
It is a good move on the part of Ryerson to host this and, I am sure, Rams head coach Roy Rana – who I have known for years and respect – had something to do with this. Rana may not be hoisting university championship trophies, but he has a good resume of basketball success and was a great grab by Ryerson. Wait until Ryerson officially leaves the dumpy Kerr Hall and moves in to the new digs at Maple Leaf Gardens.
Now, the good ‘ole days.
As someone who reported on high school sports for longer than I care to remember (OK, it was more than 30 years), Toronto used to have some marvellous showcases of high school all-star games – boys and girls. Jarvis Collegiate comes to mind, the U of T’s Varsity Arena had a huge crowd out for a game one year – and then, well, things went down the dumper.
Michigan and New York State sent some of their top players to challenge our teams. The folks from the USA won almost every time, but it was exciting, attracted crowds and was fun to attend. Yes, more than just basketball players were in the bleachers watching.
I remember Marv Pearl as being the catalyst behind these games – and he had some rough times trying to bring together the best of the best to highlight amateur athletes. Yes, there is lots of politics in school sports. Pearl is now long retired as a high school teacher and his great work is history – a dream from the past.
Alright, let’s give the student manager and the team behind this event a chance.
If this is supposed to be a major event, others – with experience in these attractions – need to get on board. Otherwise, it’ll just be another one of the many high school basketball tournaments, lots and lots of empty seats and complaints about why no one cares about high school sports.
One more thing, a phone call is better than an e-mail.
Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
Embarrassment is the best way of putting it.
There are some people in positions of authority at York University’s Department of Athletics and Recreation who are red-faced these days at yet another incident that has rocked the Canadian university sports scene.
No steroids. No serious problems involving the law. But a bureaucratic farce that has now taken its toll on York’s crown jewel – the women’s volleyball team.
Ranked No. 1 in Ontario with a record of 16-2, in the Top 10 in Canada and considered to have a good shot at a National medal, now the Lions are a group of 20 players dejected after their team was disqualified for using an ineligible player.
I feel bad for York head coach Nick Tran, chosen Coach of the Year. I can just imagine how Brandie Wilkerson, top player in the OUA this year, feels. Wilkerson is also a First Team all-star along with Melissa Humana-Paredes.
Post-season playoffs snatched because some people didn’t do their homework well enough, checked the rules carefully and raised the caution flag before the shenanigans went public. I guess there is always the accidental mistake.
York is staying quiet about this. Nothing on its website as of now. Here’s the official release http://oua.ca/news/2012/2/22/WVB_0222120943.aspx
The Canadian Interuniversity Sports Eligibility Committee ruled on a violation by York who, apparently, self-disclosed an ineligable player in a post-season game on Feb. 18 against Royal Military College. York, who won 3-0, claims it was all an oversight regarding a rule about having players in a game before competing in Regional playoffs.
But York had a player (who transfered from the U of Windsor) required to sit-out one year from her last participation at another CIS institution. Michelle Pierce, a 6-foot middle hitter, missed being eligible for the regular season – by two days and, therefore, was deemed ineligible for playoff participation.
Pierce did play in a first round playoff game over RMC. She led York in points and kills.
Far too many times York has been caught with miscues like this. Just as many times, administrators have insisted it won’t happen again – and it does. A mess, innocent players lose out and we’re back to square one with comments about making sure this doesn’t repeat.
Instead of York hosting the OUA Final Four, the team gets slapped with a forfeiture. York gets publicity, but for the wrong reason. The facts are straightforward.
York U’s senior administration needs to get involved and clean up the un-tidy state of things. Yes, black eyes do heal – eventually. But, one of Canada’s largest universities has had to cover the blemishes far too many times.
One more thing, York has exercised its right to appeal the OUA sanction of forfeiture. The chances of this being altered – yeah, right.
Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
Ever wonder what it’s like putting on one of those large stuffed animal outfits and taking on the job of a mascot for a sports team?
I have received several e-mails over the years, including a bunch in the past week, from several people asking if I would consider writing something about the individuals, many of them not athletes or folks in the spotlight, who enjoy being the good luck charm for their sports team.
So, I thought one way to find out about a mascot – was to put on that darn outfit.
Okay, some of you smartass folks, think I don’t even have to don the uniform because….
Forget the sarcasm. Being a mascot is no easy job.
Sometimes the uniforms are heavy. It can get quite warm under all that padding, fur and whatever else goes in to making those things. You should also invest in deodorant. If you’re wearing a pair of shorts or t-shirt, much easier. There are always lots of people who like mascots – and, sadly, some who have choice words for them.
And those little kids, the ones who go running out and cuddle on the leg of the mascot and accidentally whack you…ah…in a strange spot. People who forget that mascots can also be women. Like watching the little kids sneak up, stop, stare and then burst in to tears because of fear that the over-size version of something similar they have at home just might eat them.
Oh yes, the majority of mascots also need to zip up. Something, in my profession, that is very difficult to do – even at the best of times.
You see mascots on most professional teams. There’s “Carlton The Bear” for the Leafs. “Raptor” for the basketball team in this city. Remember the Winter Olympics in Vancouver with “Miga”, “Quatchi” and “Sumi”? Lots of colleges and universities have them, too. Very few high schools and virtually no elementary schools unless it’s some administrator in the office. Not sure how common the mascots are on National, Provincial or even local community teams?
And mascots can change because people find things that are “politically incorrect”.
Helder Frizado is one of those who applied for the job of being a mascot three years ago at George Brown College in Toronto – and got it. Spoke with him the other day. He’s a 21-year old third year Mechanical Engineering Technology student, who wants to be a racing car driver, plays a few sports for recreational reasons and hopes to buy a go-kart to race this summer.
He’s also a member of the George Brown College Dance team. So, you can imagine the work-out he gets – in uniform as “Husky” the mascot.
Frizado left me with the impression that he doesn’t do the job for the few bucks he gets. It’s more for fun. To be inter-active. To bring smiles and bring on cheer. Hmm. Got me thinking. Wonder if we should make these mascots mandatory in many more places?
Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
With much respect, Will Finch has had the power of a horse in his young football career.
So, it comes as no surprise that he graduates from the Burlington “Stampeders” to the Western “Mustangs”.
OK, so he is a student at Nelson High – but I won’t muck around with a team that has the nickname - ”Lords”. Nor will I say much about notable Nelson alumni Stef Ptaszek, head coach at McMaster, his assistant Jon Behie, a former QB, or long-time grad Gary Jeffries, now head coach at Wilfrid Laurier.
All three know football, have won Vanier Cups and would have salivated seeing Finch on their teams in the Fall of 2012.
Finch, who put his latest stamp of success on Team World’s stunning upset of the highly touted top football players from the USA at the International Bowl earlier this month in Austin, Tex. has verbally committed to a Canadian university that is known for excellence in academics and football.
Last time I looked, Western won three of the past six OUA titles, won a large chunk of those National championships, is known for graduating ex-QB Michael Faulds (who did something great in Canadian university football) and has a head coach in Greg Marshall. No need to elaborate on Marshall – who was Finch’s coach a few weeks ago in Texas. That’s enough, for now.
With support from his family, Finch made a tough choice – but picked Canada.
I am told there was interest from the USA, and a last minute pitch by a prep school, but Finch – smart in more ways than on the gridiron – chose to go the route of his friends. They include a few quarterbacks that might come to mind, assuming you’re a football fan, names like Kyle Quinlan, Adam Archibald and Danny Brannigan.
University football fans in this country, and there are many at Western whose home games are packed with the appreciative and partying-type folks, will benefit from watching Finch. He can run, drop back and find receivers. Not sure if he can kick?
I know he hopes to train with a Canadian Football League team, but wouldn’t it be nice if we wake up one morning in the Fall – sometime in the future – and actually see a Canuck at quarterback in the CFL. Maybe, just maybe, it might happen with Finch.
Saturday, February 11th, 2012
Yes, every day – it happens.
A telephone call, an e-mail, a conversation at the coffee shop. People ask me: sounds like you really like highlighting amateur sports?
Been doing it a very long time and on this radio station for 21 years. Thoroughly enjoy every minute of it. Amateur athletes today, some to be Canadian international stars of tomorrow and, yes, even pros and Olympic athletes. How can you not want to know what pushes an athlete to practice, thrive, enjoy and even deal with the emotions of sport?
Sunday Morning, and I mean Feb. 12th when Prince Edward Island ends a weekend of hockey, hockey and more hockey, we’ll find out what pushed Chris DeSousa from Mississauga and his OHL days to play at the University of PEI. And how Brittney Crago picked up her belongings, after graduating from high school in Stouffville, and decide to go to Wilfrid Laurier in Waterloo – and play for the No. 1 women’s hockey team in Canada.
And there are more stories to tell and share with an audience that is thirsty for the interesting stories about athletes, coaches, officials and everyone else that doesn’t always get the major league spotlight.
Lots of great comments from people who like what we do – and I try to thank as many as I can. Some wonderful words come our way. There will always be people who like to voice their opinion in other ways, too, like complain. That’s fine.
What’s disappointing is that when given an opportunity to share their concerns – things quiet quickly. People find a cocoon. I can appreciate that some individuals like to hide controversies that occur in sport or the contentious issues. Figure there is no place for it in the media. We should only be doing “good” stories – but life isn’t perfect and neither is sport.
Let’s not allow personal grudges about something or someone to stand in the way of raising the flag for Canadian amateur athletes. Remember, they deserve the support.
Tuesday, February 7th, 2012
I am sure you know of people who have been on a teeter-totter. That long and narrow board that goes up and down – depending on how much weight is at either end.
The teeter-totter appears to be the case for many young people having to make choices about pursuing education plans in colleges and universities across Canada, the United States and beyond – and relying, for financial reasons, on the word of some.
Things work out and things can hit roadblocks.
Students, moreso their parents, need to read the fine lines on agreements, listen to others and pray nothing backfires.
Two young athletes on my show the other day seem to be going in different directions, like the teeter-totter – one up and one down. But things will improve. I am quite confident.
An interesting story about Brittany Crew, doing exceptionally well at Toronto’s Birchmount Collegiate. She’s a multi-sport athlete and excelling in discus and shot put. Her success has caught the interest of post-secondary institutions in North America. It appears that Crew could be leaning to either Eastern Michigan University or the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. There could be a third.
She said on Sportsnet 590 THE FAN the other day that she still hasn’t made up her mind. My gut feeling is that she will try somewhere in the land of red, white and blue rather than a Canadian university. There is still this infactuation, by some, to the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Some are great schools and some, well, not so great. The same can be said all over.
There are schools who offer full, or partial, scholarships for athletics that can also be enhanced with awards for academic excellence. No worries for Crew, she’s got the marbles working above the shoulders. And, if things continue to prosper, could one day be competing for Canada.
The story gets a bit sour, the bottom end of the teeter-totter, for Marcus Hanson. At least for now.
Hanson is another multi-sport athlete, but outstanding in soccer. Like Crew, he knows the importance of good academic grades and has strong support from his family. He also knows what to do with a soccer ball and has some very strong credentials, which is why schools have been on the prowl for him.
A student at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Secondary in Mississauga, Hanson had committed to an offer from Temple University in Philadelphia. Just one thing, Temple has shut the door on Hanson. He says the school claims that his grades (3.5 out of 4.0) don’t seem to meet their criteria anymore.
Disappointed, and that wasn’t the word I wanted to use, the 17-year old is embarrassed after telling his friends, teachers and others that he was going off to the City of Brotherly Love. No Valentine’s present from Hanson to Temple. He can argue, challenge and more, but likely lose and hurt his chances elsewhere.
Hanson will end up at another big school with many chasing him – Syracuse, University of Massachussetts, etc. But, he now has to wait as schools have committed scholarship dollars for the next academic year – or so they say – and he’s left hanging with the vault empty. There’s also the University of Toronto – but that’s a longshot on his list.
It’s unfortunate what young people are put through by an educational system that likes to play games, shuffle athletes like cards – and more. Maybe schools have problems. Maybe schools have scholarship funds cut back. Maybe the U.S. is still in pain from an economy that is in turmoil. Maybe something else. I am not sure.
I feel bad for Hanson – a good kid.
Before committing, or searching, get advice from a lawyer. It might go farther than a school counsellor or someone else with promises to help – when they, too, may also be on the teeter-totter.