Coach or parent? Still bad behavior
Youth football, in recent years, has taken a substantial hit because of today's economy and the inability for parents to afford the cost. For those who can manage the growing fees and the time commitment it takes, there are other problems at hand.
The hit that youth leagues have taken is far greater than just the affordability. I believe that it has taken a big moral hit, and the behavior on and off the field has lowered. One example is my personal account with the Pasco Police Athletic League and one of its programs, the West Hernando Cougars, and how they resolved or failed to resolve an on-field incident with one of the coaches.
The PPAL board agreed that the incident was unfortunate and in bad taste, but was not enough to render punishment toward the individual involved. PPAL also stated the person was no longer acting as a coach, but as a parent on the field and decided to levy no action against her. Even though there were a number of parents who feel that this was an act of violence toward her own daughter, PPAL felt it was okay and tolerable because she acted as a parent and not a coach.
I feel that no punishment is a failure. It allows young parents to see this as condoned behavior and could set a new standard for parenting. What this also tells is that your kid will be at risk of physical outbursts from PPAL coaches and they may not even be held accountable.
Coaching parents may act in any way they feel fit toward their kids because at that moment their new defense is that they were no longer a coach but a parent. When do the children on the field get put ahead of the selfishness of a parent (coach) and the discipline methods toward her child for all to see?
Are our kids at risk because of this league's lack of disciplinary action? I feel that they are indeed at risk when a coach can discipline a child in front of very influenceable 5-, 6- and 7-year-old kids watching. PPAL needs to uphold the standards it has in place and to hold coaches accountable to ensure your children's safety.
Daniel Blevins, Hernando Beach
Parent volunteers learn lessons, too
There has been a discussion recently of eliminating the volunteering requirement because it unfairly hinders, targets or prevents some children from certain opportunities or receiving an education. I want to ask that the requirement for volunteer hours remain in place for the magnet schools.
I say strongly, as a parent and participant in school activities and programs, that this is an important and valuable resource for the schools.
Growing up, I can recall very few parents at the elementary level participating directly with the schools. The teachers and staff were literally the sole interaction in support, guidance and education within the school system. The number of parents involved in the secondary levels was almost nonexistent.
This experience taught me as a new parent, that you weren't supposed to interact with the school during the day. We drop our children off at the bus stop or school and then we cannot help or guide them until they are released from school. There are exceptions of course — parent-teacher meetings, recitals, school performances — but that was all.
When my oldest child entered school, it was just that way. It wasn't until my wife and I experienced the required volunteer hours that we started understanding the opportunities as parents to become more involved with our children. We could help directly within the classroom, front office, lunchroom, drop-offs, pickups, SAC membership — these are things that we did not know existed until we were told of the need.
There were greater opportunities with field trips, science fair judging, junior achievement and justice teaching.
The required volunteer hours are an important learning process for parents. Had this not been a requirement, it's possible we would not have achieved the level of participation we do now, until years later in the school system, because we did not know of the options out there.
If the requirement is removed, you will deny an education to the parents on how to become more involved.
You will also be eliminating a significant resource for the schools. For example, 400 sets of parents (about 900 children), with an eight-hour requirement equals 3,200 hours of work. Multiply this by $7.25 (minimum wage) and that is equal to $232,000 of extra salary that benefits the school.
The decision to do this makes no sense and it will be detrimental to the parents, the school and ultimately our students will suffer.
Robert Neuhausen, Spring Hill
Signs and caution would save bikers
The bicycle rider cannot compete for space with a moving automobile. He will surely lose; and both must understand the consequences of unwise actions of the other. The recent spate of rider-automobile accidents should be a wake-up call for both and for traffic controllers responsible for prevention of these unfortunate situations. Both the rider and driver are lawfully bound to obey traffic signals, but most of the time the bicycle rider, cognizant of the difficulty of stopping and re-starting, seeing no oncoming auto traffic in either direction, will breeze through an intersection, especially in the more remote areas of the bicycle trail system where auto traffic is sparse.
There are very specific steps that can be taken to make our bicycle rides safer: In areas of very heavy auto traffic where there are no four-way stops, as on sections of the Pinellas Trail, stopping should be a given; on the remote outer reaches, cyclists can proceed through the intersection only after the leader gives a clear signal. The less experienced or unsteady rider should always dismount and walk across the intersection. Hazardous intersections would be far safer if bridges were built over them; the Pinellas Trail has a half-dozen bridge crossings; the Suncoast Trail from Hillsborough County to Citrus County has only one, that over State Road 50. The Spring Hill Road crossing is an excellent candidate for a bridge.
Going north the rider may stop and wait for the walk light signal, then he must restart going up a considerable grade, go over six lanes of traffic (stopped hopefully) to the resumption of the trail. Starting on a steep grade is not easy for most riders and is much more difficult for those less experienced.
Some sections of the lower Suncoast Trail are also hazardous even without automobile crossings. Narrow bridge crossings over rivers should have single-line traffic signs in both directions; similar signs would be helpful at the Anclote River crossing (an idyllic section through a swampy area) of the Starkey Trail. It is more than disconcerting for a rider crossing a narrow river bridge to see coming at him a group of three-abreast riders.
Traffic signs on major state roads warn the automobile driver of a bicycle crossing ahead; unfortunately these signs are situated in places almost obscured by other signs. A particularly poor sign placement is the one on State Road 52 going west near the Suncoast Parkway; the driver has to read seven other signs before he sees a small "bicycle ahead" sign a few yards from the actual trail crossing.
For maximum safety, bicycle riders, especially neophytes, should stay on the 6.5-mile trail section of the Starkey Park Trail. There are no road crossings and some of the views are spectacular.
Chuck Huhtanen, Port Richey