Beyond The Score

Central Vermont Sports Blog

Welcome April Wortmann and others . . .

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April Wortmann, the new Girls’ Basketball Head Coach at Montpelier High, had her debut in the Lenny Drew Gym against BFA-Fairfax Wednesday night. Welcome April! Not much hoopla about her arrival from the school community or our local paper. The Barre (sometimes) Montpelier Times Argus sports editor, Anna Grearson, has her agenda and Wortmann is low on her list right now. I’m sure that will change when Anna hires a half dozen reporters to cover events she can’t get to with her limited staff of one or two others. There is a lot going on in winter sports in Central Vermont and the TA can’t be everywhere but a new head coach deserves a stronger welcome from the community and the local news. There was a time when we would celebrate new hires and a time when the stands were full of rowdy spectators. This is not one of those times in Montpelier and I believe it has a lot to do with the degree of involved leadership, supportive community (Boosters Clubs, faculty, students), and interested sports writers. We can’t ignore the efforts of our young people. We need to celebrate with them as they learn and strive to succeed.

I wish April a lot of success this season. Coaching is a very enjoyable experience and I hope you and your players have a lot of fun this year as well as continue the winning tradition at MHS. The BFA game showed signs of promise for the young Solon team. Once they were able to get the ball over half court ball movement in their set offense was good. They had some good looks at the basket now they just need to become better shooters. On the defensive end things were shaky. As they learn to anticipate better and get more active in the defensive lane things will improve. It was great to see Jessica Sweeney back in action after missing a year with knee rehab. She seemed a step slow because of the knee brace and it looked like she was not totally confident about the strength of her knee. Once she wears away some of the basketball rust and gains better mobility, I’m sure she’ll be providing some of that Sweeney excitement we saw a couple of years ago. She is the only senior on the team.

As the Solons and Wortmann begin to know each other better and the new system becomes second nature, we should see some good basketball this winter in the Lenny Drew Gym. Now if only the local papers and school community could get invloved.

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December 17th, 2011 at 10:59 am

Winter Sports 2011

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Winter Sports 2011-2012

Sorry to be away so long but I’ve been building a new house and finally (never really finally) done! My mind has wondered to the process of hiring and informing the public (US) of new hires for coaches for winter sports. I wrote a piece about the firing of Lynn Ribolini last spring for the Times Argus newspaper and have reflected on the process of hiring new boys and girls basketball coaches for this season ever since. Unless you are part of the rumor mill or have a kid playing at MHS you have no idea of who the coaches are or how they were chosen for the job. Transparency is not part of the new direction employed by the new athletic directors at MHS. The outgoing principal has a lot to do with this considering that the new atheltic directors are truly puppies at the job and need direction and help. They are both talented and inexperienced. They will eventually do their jobs well but without knowing the MHS sports culture and expectations they are at an disadvantage and have to HOPE they ae doing what is expectated. Lynn Ribolini had years of success and experience and he didn’t know what was expected of him. Eventually he was fired. Anyway, who are these new coaches and what are their goals for improving the basketball programs at MHS? The first games of the season begin next week and I’m excited to see how MHS players compete. I’m excited to see both Sweeneys return to the court after dealing with knee problems. The new uniform might include a knee brace. Anyway, I’m back and will fill you in on what’s happening on the MHS sports scene as well as other Central Vermont teams that I favor. I hope you’ll respond with your ideas and updates. – LATER!

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December 4th, 2011 at 1:16 am

Posted in Editorials

PROFILE: Dick Rouelle, President of Go Heaves, Inc.

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Rouelle - a huge Frost Heaves fan

Dick Rouelle attends his 100th consecutive Vermont Frost Heaves game.

Dick Rouelle is the current President of GO Heaves, Inc. He’s a native Vermonter and lives in Calais. He has gone to every Frost Heaves game in the past 3 years, home and away, and tonight was his 100 game! Actually, he’s been to a lot more Heaves games than that but 100 consecutive games in three years is outstanding! More than just a fan!

SIDE NOTE: Fran Voigt, father of Heaves championship coach Will Voigt, attended the game with a guest. Her name is Blanche and she may be the oldest Justice of the Peace in Vermont. She is a huge sports fan and at age 98 still attends local games at the AUD and in her hometown of Cabot.

Below Dick is mingling with the crowd during half time of the Saint John Mill Rats game. A poster with pictures of places Dick has attended games, a huge cake shared with the fans and a 106-103 victory over the Mill Rats punctuated the celebration night for Rouelle.

100th consecutive game

Dick Rouelle attends his 100th consecutive Frost Heaves game.

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January 9th, 2011 at 11:42 am

Where Have All the Fans Gone?

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Saturday afternoon I went to a Montpelier High varsity girls basketball game against a strong southern team, Mill River, in the Lenny Drew Gym. The MHS girls were disappointed because they lost but they showed heart and grit. If they could only shoot. They’ll get better as the season continues and it’s a treat to watch them play. Great bunch of kids!

I was disappointed in the atmosphere and lack of fans. The student section had 7 people in the stands. Behind the players bench there were two families – a total of 6 people. 14 people in 4 sections of bleachers that could easily seat 200! The “parents” section may have had 35 people in it. The biggest group of fans could be found in the visitors section. 40-50 people must have driven up from Mill River to watch their girls play an impressive game.

Why? Where have the fans gone?

Things sure have changed over the years. It wasn’t too long ago the stands would have been full of screaming fans and players would have been charged with excitement.

What’s happened? Why aren’t students showing up to support teams? Where are the crowds?

I have a couple of thoughts about it but I’m an old dog so like the kids I can easily be ignored. Anyway, here are my thoughts. The idea of a school community is being redefined by students, teachers and adminstrators.

Coaches generally are not teachers. They don’t have direct daily contact with students that teaching-coaches had in the past. Today’s coaches, show up, coach and are gone. Job done!

Inschool promotion of activies doesn’t happen at the level of the past. When was the last all school rally introducing the teams and players and pumping kids about upcoming games?

There’s a Boster Club. What are they doing to help get fans in the gym and develop a sense of community?

It is rare to see more than a couple of teachers at games or other school events like dances, concerts, art shows. Like coaches many teachers come to school, do their jobs and go home. In the past teachers and coaches of fall and spring sports attended winter games and supported “their” students.

These are just a few of my thoughts on why the fans are gone. What are your thoughts?

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December 18th, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Injuries: When is it OK to play?

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Kreitzberg Arena in Northfield Vermont

My first coaching assignment was in 1967 as a downhill, jumping and cross-country ski coach for girls and boys at Community High in Fort Kent Maine. I was fresh out of college and other than being a college athlete and certified teacher, I knew nothing about coaching. I read books, went to clinics and coached at camps for years and the biggest problem I had as a coach was knowing when a player was ready to get back to competing. Years later I still felt I didn’t know enough about injuries.

In 1984 I decided to take a sabbatical and learn all I could about athletic training, injury prevention and management. I spent the summer at Montclair State in New Jersey with their athletic trainers and in the classroom learning modalities, prevention and taping techniques. I spent the winter as an intern or volunteer at Green Mountain Physical Therapy where I was a goofer but had the opportunity to pick some incredible trainers brains. They helped me create a plan for helping players with injuries. What I learned most was what NOT to do when it comes to treating an injury. I also learn what to do if a player wants to return to play.

This is a long winded way of getting to the point but for over 30 years I’ve advocated for a trainer at Montpelier High. I have never found an Athletic Director, Principal or School Board member in Montpelier that has showed any support for this position.

Saturday a Montpelier girls basketball player returned to competitive play after breaking a bone in her leg during a soccer game a few weeks earlier. She spent weeks on crutches and met with her doctor plus doing some therapy. Saturday she played for a few minutes in a scrimmage against Twinfield and reinjuried her leg after a couple minutes of play.

At what point are athletes allowed to compete after and injury? Who decides? Obviously it’s up to the coach but how does he/she make that decision?

Ask the player? Ask the parents? Get a note from the doctor? Is there a policy in place to guide coaches making those decisions?

Regardless of how the coach makes the decision, it is rarely made with true knowledge about injuries. It’s rare that a coach has the expertise in atheltic training. I’ve watched coaches wrap ankles, knees, wrists etc. and violate every rule of protective modality. I see players taping players.

At Montpelier High players are put in situations that the personnel dealing with their injuries lack the knowledge to help or prevent further injury regardless of intentions. It happens time and again. Players return to competition too early.

MHS needs to hire an athletic trainer to not only assit coaches with injuries but help players learn how to train to prevent injury. Athletic Trainers can be an integral part of the curriculm by teaching courses on nutrition and fitness as well as attending contests and assisting injuried players. Spaulding, Harwood and U32 all have full time athletic trainers. They make a huge difference in players health and safety!

Some comments from decision makers at MHS about hiring a trainer:

We have fireman at football games. Why do we need a trainer?
Kids have insurance!
It’s up to the parents to let their kid play after an injury.

Do you think we need a athletic trainer at MHS?


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December 5th, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Cross-town Rivalry is Dead

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girls basketball

When I first started teaching and coaching in Montpelier back in the 70’s the MHS-Spaulding rivalry was fantastic. Great competition, wild fans and the overflow energy would last until the next game. Local media hyped the events and we had great coverage of the games with profiles, interviews, photos and articles that recaptured every highlight and delivered the emotion of the competition.

MHS was running double sessions of classes because of the large number of students (1400) and U32 was born. Area towns started sending middle and high school students to U32. So a new triangular rivalry began but Spaulding remained the rivalry for MHS into the 80’s and 90’s. I remember one group of SHS girl basketball players that would crash our MHS team dinners. They would sneak over to my house and press their noses against the window to watch us eat before the big game. We always invited them in for dessert and then the next day tried to kick their butts on the court. Great friends, great memories!

Times have changed! MHS (declining enrollment) has moved to DIII in basketball and Spaulding remains DI. This year there is no MHS-SHS girls basketball game. The cross-town rivalry is dead.

Given all the history and the small fact that the schools are only 10 minutes apart, why is it happening? You can’t cry money because traveling to Barre is a money saver compared to a trip to North Country. MHS hasn’t posted it’s winter sports schedule yet so I can’t highlight the long trips they take. If things are as usual we should see the MHS schedule about mid-season. I’m guessing the loss of SHS games it has to do with the AD’s and personal preferences of the coaches.

Spaulding does play Randolph (DIII) but not MHS. Why?

Spaulding used to play MHS in girls hockey – no longer. Why?

Most teams pack the schedule at the beginning of the season with non-conference games and you see some routs but you also see some amazing games. I remember when Spaulding was having a tough year and came in the MHS gym with a record of 1-12. Montpelier was 12-3. The game went into overtime and the place was rock’n! You never know how a game will turn out given the rivalry and the pre-game prep.

Press coverage of local games has changed along with the loss of this great rivalry. You see more and more “Staff Reports” and less pre-game articles building the game of the week.

Why do you think the MHS-SHS rivalry is dead?

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December 2nd, 2010 at 10:28 am

Harassment or Just Trash Talk?

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Fall sports are in high gear and local teams are very competitive. So are the fans. During the summer Montpelier School Board was presented a “new” Athletic Handbook which was aimed at improving communication and making expectations clear about behavior of fans and players during games. So what has changed? Parents, players and coaches now have a comprehensive document that outlines all aspects of sport at MHS. That’s about all that’s changed. What is needed now is for people with strong positive energy to put that document into action before it gathers dust on shelves around town.

The first major incident of the season occurred during a boys soccer game between Lyndon Institute and Montpelier. Players began trash talking during the contest and it escalated into a Montpelier player verbally attacking (racial/ethnic in nature) an Asian player from Lyndon. We’ll never know who said what or how the exchange escalated into harassment but it did and it’s absolutely wrong. The Montpelier District Handbook, the MHS Athletic Handbook and the Vermont Principals Association Guidelines all have addressed Hazing and Harassment. I’m sure Lyndon Institute does as well. Big deal! It’s great that we have all this stuff on paper but does that change the climate or improve fan and player behavior. Apparently not.

So, what are people doing about it? Coaches and Athletic Directors have talked with the teams and players. The MHS player was suspended for a couple of games. So maybe this little lesson will serve as an example of what you shouldn’t do but it’s all after the fact. MHS needs to start cleaning up it’s house because it’s getting messy. Even a game official commented that he doesn’t like Montpelier and it has to do with the fans and players behavior. It needs to be addressed. It needs to change.

What are the lessons being taught? I watch teams come onto the field and always notice the team with the most discipline. Do they look like a team? Do they act like a team? Usually they are the ones that perform the best and have the most fun. When they leave the field what does the bench area look like? How do they leave the bus after the trip? Is it a mess? What does the locker room look like after a game? All this stuff shows the amount of class a team has and you will see it in their performance.

Montpelier has a big job to do this year to improve fan and player behavior. It’s time to start paying more attention to the values and expectations outlined in the handbooks. Start with coaches meetings. Collect their ideas and put those ideas to work. Add some student rallies to develop school pride and maybe create enthusiasm through Booster Club activities.

Get creative! Get involved! Do something! These are our kids and I’m sure we’re not helping them by allowing bad behaviors.

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September 28th, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Who Cares About non-Athletes?

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This has been one of my pet peeves for years! The educational environment in most towns is created to educate children and provide opportunity to excel and grow. Theater, music, clubs, and of course sports. Why is it that we have created elaborate handbooks and policies that support and regulate student-athletes? Most communities require players to maintain a certain academic standing in order to play. They must sign training rules swearing to avoid drugs and alcohol in order to play. Oh, some schools actually say the rules begin with the teams first practice and end after the last contest or practice. That gives athletes a window between sports to be like all other students. (Message: It’s OK to get busted out of season.) Most schools have serious consequences for breaking training rules during the season. Some schools even break it down to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd offenses with a variety of complicated conditions. Vermont Principals Association has guidelines for each sport.

All of this brings me to my current “pet peeve” about Athletics Handbooks. Why is it we only seem to care about the student-athlete? Why aren’t we trying as hard to help ALL our students learn the value lessons outlined for the athlete? Co-curricular, interscholastic competition (debate, spelling, one-act plays . . .), music festivals, foreign trips, clubs, etc. do not have the same expectations that we place on athletes to help them learn and grow. I feel we should apply a high standard of participation and behavior to all students in all aspects of the educational community. A student caught drinking at a party can attend the school dance, participate in spring concert but an athlete has consequences and special attention is given to helping him/her figure it out and do better. Why can’t we help ALL our students with the same level of commitment and caring?

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May 22nd, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Academic Privacy

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Recently I’ve been working with the MHS Athletic Council creating a new handbook that outlines the mission, objectives and goals for sport at Montpelier High. The discussions have been interesting and the new handbook should be helpful to everyone involved in sport, especially parents. The handbook will be presented to the school board sometime in early June and, hopefully, new policies concerning fan behavior and expectations for athletes will be approved. I can’t go into details until we have presented to the board but I will explain one fact that was an eye-opener for me. It has to do with students rights and academic privacy. FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) has been around since 1974. It is a federal law that protects the privacy of student educational records. How this law is interpreted and applied has changed significantly over the years. When I was coaching in the 80’s, I would check with my players regularly about their school work. I would check with teachers and create structures that helped the “student-athlete” manage their time and do as well in school as on the playing field. Total involvement worked and players knew that coaches and teachers were there to help in the classroom and on the field.

Today MHS coaches are not allowed to access student-athlete information without violating FERPA. They can get information about eligibility from the AD but can not actually help students with academics to prevent ineligibility. The days of coaches helping players avoid academic suspension by showing an interest in their school work is gone. Even though coaches have signed a professional contract with Montpelier Public Schools and are required to uphold the schools mission, they are limited to coaching their sport. They are not to address the academic parts of the district mission statement. The term “student-athlete” is now defined separately; students by teachers – athletes by coaches. The single most important reason for spending money on sport is to give students opportunities to work together and achieve their goals: strive for excellence, work collaboratively, solve problems, blah, blah, blah . . .

Student progress is important! Avoiding academic problems is important! Athletics are important. I feel separating the two is a huge loss for our so-called “student-athletes.” Fragmenting education into little pigeon holes of achievement does not help develop a well-rounded individual. Factory education, universal sameness and false accountability are the new corner stones of modern education and the student-athlete now is a misnomer.

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May 19th, 2010 at 4:00 pm

SHS Girls Hockey vs BFA-St. Albans Fans

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The Spaulding girls hockey team was one of my favorite teams this year. Not only were they fun to watch because of their incredible style of play but also because they were classy athletes. They didn’t back down from anyone and always displayed a high level of competitive spirit while showing respect for their opponent. They knew how to have fun and win! They were unlucky during the championship game last Friday at Kreitzberg Arena in Northfield against BFA-St. Albans. They dominated play throughout the game. It was the kind of game that one mistake might win it. BFA scored the only goal on a power play. BFA girls were tough and never backed off even though they did not get many very good chances to score. Their freshman goalie was incredible! She was very aware of everything and quick to anticipate Spaulding’s attacks. It got a little heated toward the end and a couple of players from both teams stopped playing hockey for a bit and let their tempers take over with some shoving and pushing. The refs called it roughing and gave them penalties. It was a great game.

BFA-St. Albans fans on the other hand were anything but classy! They demonstrated some of the worst fan behavior I have seen in sport. They began by chanting in fun and were noisy during the game. They had a lot of enthusiasm and it added to the game until the end. Once the horn blew ending the game the BFA fans started pelting the Spaulding girls hockey team with mardi gras beads they were wearing around their necks. They taunted them with looser comments and general insults.

Why would any group of kids be so out of bounds toward a team that was suffering such a huge loss? Why weren’t they celebrating with their own team that had just won the championship?

I was standing next to some BFA parents, adults and I believe the Athletic Director. I commented on the rude behavior and they just watched smiling. Mixed emotions I’m sure. They were smiling but I’m not sure at what – the win or the behavior. Probably both. I didn’t get a chance to see how the winning coaches reacted but I’m hoping they would have been appalled by it all. I certainly was. It did not reflect the winning teams efforts and great season. It totally changed my attitude toward BFA-St. Albans. I used to take my basketball teams to St. Albans to scrimmage in pre-season. Jim Bashaw was the BFA coach at the time and I have always had a lot of respect for BFA because of him. He is missed-RIP. They need people like Jim to turn their reputation around because right now it stinks!

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March 3rd, 2010 at 8:25 am

Posted in Fan Behavior

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