Coaching styles forced to change

Posted: May 2, 2012 at 4:18 am


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Perception of abuse is the driving force

Chris Brinckerhoff, assistant superintendent of the Middletown Recreation and Parks Department, oversees more than 1,000 kids involved in sports and camps throughout the year.TOM BUSHEY/Times Herald-Record

Published: 2:00 AM - 04/30/12

Chris Brinckerhoff used to think nothing of sleeping in the same hotel room as teen girls while helping coach the Diamond Dolls travel softball team. Parents preferred the cost-friendly arrangement knowing their children were in good hands.

A decade later, Brinckerhoff wouldn't consider such a scenario.

She suspects the 24-hour news cycle created by the Internet and social networks have spotlighted the existence of sexual predators. That focus has made coaches, concerned over being perceived as a pedophile by parents, other adults or children, careful in their dealings with kids.

Coaches talk about sticking to fist bumps and high-fives. Most coaches wouldn't even consider the once-acceptable congratulatory smack on the butt. The climate makes coaches leery of how an innocent hug could be perceived by witnesses. Their means of affection essentially have been reduced to hand-to-hand contact the handshake, the fist bump, the high-five.

Brinckerhoff, the assistant superintendent of the Middletown Recreation and Parks Department, helps oversee more than 1,000 kids involved in sports camps and various other activities throughout the year. She holds up a multiple-sheet directive from the state outlining procedures the department must follow to help prevent and deal with issues involving children.

Brinckerhoff and fellow employees in the department must attend an orientation that encompasses dealing with kids victimized physically, emotionally or sexually what to look for, and what to do when problems arise. She said she fields about one child-related issue per year, but has never had a coach/child complaint sexual in nature.

Background checks commonly are used as a deterrent. But they generally only weed out folks convicted of crimes. They can't fix a whole other set of issues between children and even the best-intended counselors, many of whom are teens and young adults. Alluding to the pre-teen crowd, generally 10- to 12-year-old girls, Brinckerhoff said, "Kids make up stuff.'' It can be the interpretation of actual contact between the counselor and child say an accidental bump during a game or something fabricated by the child. Brinckerhoff said her office occasionally deals with cases of kids letting their imaginations run wild. She discusses such accusations with the counselor and child, as well as the child's parents.

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Coaching styles forced to change

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May 2nd, 2012 at 4:18 am

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