George Guido: Mercenary AAU-type sports hit rock bottom

July 11, 2018

By now, many of our readers have seen the video shot this past Sunday at an AAU-type game in Emerson, Ga., involving some members of a Chicago team that attacked a referee late in the game against a Houston team.

It was athletic competition at its ugliest. Even uglier was that practically no one, except for the other game referee and another referee on the sidelines waiting to work the next game, was helping the ref who was attacked.

One hears of these attacks from time to time, but it really hits home when you see the sordid video. The video was shot by the Houston coach. The Chicago coach said the video didn’t tell the whole story.

It should be pointed out that, as of press time, no charges have been filed. If charges are filed, the alleged perpetrators are entitled to a fair trial.

The venue’s owners, Lake Point Sports, were contemplating criminal and civil allegations as of Tuesday morning.

The head of the Amateur Athletic Union, Roger J. Goudy, denied it was a sanctioned AAU event.

Whether it was an AAU event or not, the question is the value of traveling to distant cities for what amounts to glorified pick-up games. It’s one thing for a high school sports team to stay together, bond over the summer and work on their skills as long as it’s not overdone.

But to put together these faux all-star teams to go on barnstorming trips is useless after a while.

As former Kiski Area baseball coach Daryl Hixenbaugh, and others, have properly said, there’s a time in a youngster’s life to play for the hometown. Too many times, players become mercenaries of egotistical coaches and parents and lose any connection to their home towns.

Many of these tournaments are nothing more than moneymakers for the promoters.

Parents are told their children might be “discovered” by a pro or college scout, much like actress Lana Turner was “discovered” by a Hollywood reporter while at a Beverly Hills malt shop counter in 1937.

In fact, scouting is so sophisticated these days that if a player is any good, he or she has been looked at. Some good players fall through the cracks, but not many. Parents should know that players would often be better off going to a skills clinic instead of traveling to the endless array of tournaments. If a baseball player is dipping his elbow while swinging and popping up to the middle infield or if a basketball player doesn’t develop peripheral vision, playing three games a day isn’t helping. What is the result of 20 years of travel ball and players being taught a disdain for their home communities?

It goes beyond sports.

• The Springdale-Cheswick Rotary Club disbanded after its membership fell to four.

• A Lions Club in the Ford City area was decommissioned because of disinterest.

• Females aren’t immune, either. The Butler Chapter of Eastern Star went out of business, and a ladies service club in Lower Burrell went belly-up several years ago.

A number of YMCAs in the Pittsburgh region are in financial trouble, and three Alle-Kiski Valley Y’s are planning to merge.

But, hey, let’s get an all-star team and spend $650 to enter a tournament this weekend. Even if the caliber of opponents is questionable and the winner doesn’t advance to a higher level of play the following week like Little League, Inc., Pony League or American Legion.

A lot of credit has to go to coaches like John Gaillot of Freeport and John Skiba of Apollo-Ridge, who are teaching their players the importance of civic pride with community-based service endeavors.

Let’s hope that’s the type of bandwagon that gets bigger as time goes on.

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