I had Tuesday off and I was able to get caught up on a few things. Laundry, the gym, cleaning, and homework. On my way around town, I listened to quite a bit of sports talk radio which was dominated by talk of the Penn State scandal. I was quite frustrated and angry while listening and I eventually had to turn it off. What a sick fuck this Sandusky guy is! What spineless jerks everyone involved has turned out to be. The whole scenario is despicable.
It got me thinking about my days as a high school basketball player. Before I go on, let's just make clear that I absolutely never saw anything first hand, nor am I accusing anyone of any wrong doing. However, one of my high school basketball coaches had rumors creep up from time to time about him and they were less than positive.
When my class came in to high school, this guy was in his early to mid 20s and he was the freshmen basketball coach. Our practices were insanely difficult and the competition (against other teams and with each other) was on a level that none of us had ever experienced previously. I know of at least one guy who attempted to injure himself because quitting was deemed shameful but he needed a break from how unbearable practice was. Over the course of the season, though, these harrowing circumstances seemed to pull us together as a team, which I believe was our coach's intention (or he fully enjoyed watching teenage boys physically struggling to see who would break first.)
Our coach preached "respect, loyalty, and love" which, in theory, is all good. Those were the stages of trust that were earned as we worked hard to become a better basketball team. This brought most of us to form blind loyalty to trust our coaches and each other as teammates. Obviously, team cohesion is healthy, but looking back, this was on a different level.
After our season ended, I was brought up to the varsity squad, which separated me from the rest of the bunch. Our freshmen coach kept working with certain players and also started up Spring league teams. Over the next year, it became known who his "favorites" were because our coach would give them rides and hang out with them often (which is weird.) This was next level brainwashing, in my opinion.
In the coming years, I was more separated from the original group and didn't interact with our freshmen coach all that much. His favorites continued to hang out with him and odd rumors started coming up here and there. I fluffed them off because I had heard other ridiculous rumors about varsity initiations involving fingers and anuses. Since no one ever fingered my bunghole, I assumed that lots of people would come up with rumors about our successful program. People love to bring down winning programs with scandals and in our high school, it became obvious that some people were jealous of our success.
After our varsity coach left for another high school, the freshmen coach followed him to the other school. Oddly, within a few months, the freshmen coach left/was dismissed and he came back to assist our new varsity coach. It was unclear why he came back, but he said he felt like him leaving was a mistake and he was loyal to us. Whatevs. I'm fairly certain that, from what I've heard years later, he was dismissed for sharing hotel rooms with players and misusing funds that parents had paid into for tournaments. Not good.
Here's a great spot to remind everyone that if I knew anything concrete, I'd have reported it to the authorities- so again, am I telling a story from my point of view rather than accusing anyone of anything.
Here is as close to evidence of improper actions as I have:
During a Fall league basketball game, I was working as a score-keeper for extra cash. After my shift, I sat and watched another game with our coach and another player. While sitting there, our coach put his hand way too high on my leg, over my shorts. He left it there way too long. Obviously, this was in public view, but it was not OK. I don't remember the context of the conversation because I froze up. He did not touch my genitals, but it was not appropriate. Eventually, I made an excuse to leave and got out of the situation. He never tried anything else with me, potentially because he wasn't a predator or potentially because he deduced I would not be an easy target.
He continued to spend lots of time with his favorites. There was one player in particular that our coach hung out with a lot. Rumors intensified that our coach was molesting this player. Both of them maintained that they were just best friends. I personally don't think this is appropriate or healthy for an adult to be best friends with a teenager, but since I can't prove that anything sexual ever happened, I will not accuse anyone of wrong doing.
The odd thing is (and the biggest hole in the story if there was wrongdoing) that the two of them are still friends today (to my knowledge.) I suppose if there was victimization, then they would be less likely to stay friends, but who knows how the psychology of a potential victim plays out. I will likely never know what exactly happened, and as I said before, if I had proof of anything, this post wouldn't exist- I'd just go to the authorities.
With Penn State in the news, it made me think of my own experience in youth sports. I can see how that is an easy hunting ground for sexual predators. I have experienced how it could work under certain circumstances. Any situation where youth are given mentors that have power and responsibility can open up the possibility for inappropriate actions. Thankfully, I'd like to believe that 99.9% of adults take mentoring seriously and would never abuse children or teenagers. Youth sports, church groups, school and camps can leave children vulnerable to bad intentions by adults. PSU's scandal is a great reminder for all parents that trust should not be easily given to adults who interact with your children.
I really hope that nothing happened with the people I talked about today. What I am happy about is that I was able to separate myself enough to have not been confronted with any situation more uncomfortable than the one I described.
The moral of this story is to make sure you really know who your kids are being mentored by and make sure those adults earn your trust as a parent. Even if they earn your trust, it is not a bad idea to check in often to make sure every adult in your child's life is above board. Even more important- if you ever physically SEE something, you had best report it! Do not be passive in situations like this. It's not the end of the world if you don't stop for someone to help them change a tire on a busy freeway (especially with the inventions of cell phones and AAA.) It is the end of the world if you see a boy being raped in the shower and you don't immediately intervene and/or call the authorities.
My wife and I plan to have kids in the next few years, but on days like this, it is hard for me to come to terms with why we'd have kids and subject them to such an awful world. Hopefully there is enough good in the world to bring some positives out of this scandal (better security or reporting to avoid future scandals like this.) I'm not sure that is much consolation to any of the young boys that were abused by that monster Sandusky.