Clay, could you do an article about LR Metro Athletics?

Clay, I can imagine you have a ton of knowledge and insight about the demise of public school athletics in the LR metro. We need to get kids off the streets via involvement in sports. Sports will force them to focus on academics. We all have a vested interest in our Capitol city’s crime and this is a root of the problem. We all have selfish desires to see LR metro athletes bring back the glory days of Arkansas Football and Basketball, but this goes further into quality of life for the Metro. We have multiple (UofA, ASU, UCA, UAPB, etc) football programs that would love local talent. Busing the kids across town is impacting athletics. If we can get the kids involved again then we will have some that could need further development. How do we propel Arkansas Baptist to help develop youth further into D1 caliber athletes and citizens? If kids care about school they may not get involved in gangs or drugs.

Sadly, it’s probably one of the most wide-scale, complex problems Arkansans face. My take on it is that Little Rock has had a terrible economy for years, especially in terms of jobs for African Americans. One of the reasons the LR job market is bad is that LR public schools (where I attended grades 1 to 8) have mostly been terrible since the early 1990s, partially due to funds spent on desegregation litigation. Yes, there have been pockets of good academics here and there in LR public schools. But it’s mostly bad. Companies don’t want to come to LR on a wide scale because the workforce is under educated.

These two things result is bad parenting of recent and today’s generation of LR public school pupils. The bad parenting is the byproduct of a couple generations of LR African American citizens that basically have no hope. Because they have no hope, they turn to drugs, prostitution, and gangs. And, due to lack of education, they are not taught to avoid having kids they can’t raise even marginally correctly. They saw their parents have kids and abandon them, so in their mind it’s still OK to do that. Truly awful.

I think LR may be approaching “lost cause” status. I have a friend whose wife subs in a couple of the junior highs there. She reports it is awful.

Frankly, there are so many things to address in the LR public schools right now, athletics probably ought to be low-rung priority. Until we get the bad parenting issue addressed and on the way to resolution, there won’t be any uptick at all in athletics participation. Good parenting, to me, is the key to teaching young men and women the values needed to succeed in athletics. Sure, coaches can make a difference here and there. But it has to begin with the parents.

This is the best story I’ve read about what is happening in Little Rock’s football programs: … -20131201/

It’s really more of a Little Rock public school football problem than a metro area problem. North Little Rock and Robinson are in pretty good shape, and Maumelle will probably be okay long-term. Plus you have to take into account the trickle of private school kids from central Arkansas that end up playing college football.

The LRSD, by contrast, is generally pathetic in football. Two schools-Hall and Fair-are football dumpster fires. Scooter Register has not been able to break through at Central, and is probably only going to coach another few years. Central seems to be trending down.

Two small rays of hope in Little Rock.
First, McClellan has gotten a bit better the last couple of years, assuming they keep ticking up a bit on talent/numbers, it will be interesting to see how academics play out for McClellan kids who have enough talent to get a look by college recruiters. They are not a powerhouse, but they are respectable.
Second, Bolding taking the job at Parkview gives them an above average coach who has been pretty successful in central Arkansas, though Parkview is quite a challenge for numbers. It’s quite possible that he will have them in the playoffs in a couple of years.

I have told this story before. We live in Conway. When my youngest son was either a Jr. or Sr. (so either 3 or 4 years ago) we played Hall in Conway. Conway is 30 miles from Little Rock. All Interstate. At kick off there were less than 20 fans in the visitors bleachers. They had probably 40 (maybe more) kids in uniform and cheerleaders on top of that. That meant less than 1 parent for every 3 kids who were there. That is assuming every fan there was a parent. That tells you all you have to know.

Growing up in a small town, I played football for my school for 5 years (8th - 12th grade). My parents missed one game. My youngest was in the Conway band. We missed one game (at Cabot, they wouldn’t let the Conway band march, so we didn’t go, that missed made us feel like bad parents). We also went to weekend marching competitions, etc. etc.

When I was growing up, the people in town who’s kids had graduated years before still went to AWAY games. I continue to go so some Conway games including a few away games.

For whatever reason (the article covers a lot of it) the community support in Little Rock is just not there. I don’t know how to get it back.

I will say you CAN get a very good education in LRSD. Every year Central puts out top scholars. That said, it appears LRSD also fails to educate a lot of kids.

There is a connection here folks. Parental involvement is the key to education and sports success. You can be poor, working class, etc. and still be involved in your child’s education. I saw it growing up in a working class town. How do you get that to happen? If I knew that, I would be very rich.

There’s a similar story I heard from people in Greenwood when they played at Hall (I think they were in the same conference for a while; might still be). The game was in Little Rock and the visitor’s side had considerably more fans than the home side. It’s a three-hour drive from Greenwood - which admittedly has great community support - to Little Rock.

The Fort Smith schools asked to get out of the central conference a few years back for multiple reasons, including travel. Another was that the LRSD teams didn’t bring anyone to the games, which cut down on gate sales. Southside played a football game against Hall and counted eight people in the opposing bleachers. There was no band and I don’t think cheerleaders traveled to the game.

…and went either to surrounding school districts or private schools. It started in the 60’s and just accelerated until, by the turn of the century, LR was left with mostly very poor and unmotivated students in its public schools. It is a chicken and egg conundrum whether poverty causes poor education performance or vice versa but they do go hand in hand.

2nd-Significant numbers of middle class black parents and students did the same thing (seeking better schools for their children) moving to either private schools or charter schools. (ESTEM Charter in LR won the 3A girls state championship in 2014 and I think all of the starters were black. [imghttp://w … l/home.htm#][/img] They don’t have a gym at their downtown LR campus.) Some took advantage of deseg transfer rules as well to go to successful atlhletic programs outside of the LR City Limits. (North Little Rock, Robinson, and Bryant has started recruiting blacks out of LR).

3rd - LR’s problems stand out in Arkansas with only Pine Bluff, Helena, and a few other east Arkansas districts with similar problems. But, it is very similar to the situation in Memphis, Detroit, New York City, and many other poor urban areas in America. So, if there is an easy and quick fix available, the line will be mighty long to use it.

Don’t look to me for a solution. I live in LR and am part of the problem. My two girls went to private schools except my oldest transferred from Mount Saint Mary’s to Central her Senior Year because of more varied AP courses being offered. The well kept secret in LR is that Central High School has an almost all lily white elite academy inside of an almost all black mediocre urban high school. The AP program is filled with the children of liberal Doctors, Lawyers, and Businessmen who take very advanced classes and go to Ivy League Schools. One time, the majority black School Board flirted with the idea of breaking up the Central AP students and spreading them around to the less successful high schools to help their test scores. Every one of those students could have gone to any private school in the city and their threats to do so squashed that brilliant idea in a New York minute.

Hi matt it says I have to buy the article. Can you paste it in?

I agree a lot of has to do with whatever support a kid gets from home. And like the prior poster, my son goes to a private school here in LR. Baptist Prep. BP is probably one of the least “equipped” private schools in Little Rock however. Last Saturday, the parents got together and repainted the weight room. Their equipment is far from new. They don’t have a big group of wealthy parents. But what they do have is a group of parents that want to make things better and will put in some sweat equity to make things better.

You can’t make a kid to play sports so you can force them into better grades. Kids have to want to play sports in high school to put up with all of the practicing. And if they don’t have support at home, they won’t put in the time. I don’t even think it’s a stereotypical as “if they aren’t in sports they are in crime”. Some of the kids just have to go to work after school. I see them in the grocery stores and fast food restaurants around town. And some of them are getting sucked into criminal activities. There’s a desperation there few people understand.

One thing about North Little Rock. As a city, they are far more progressive in what they will do to attract business and build the tax base. I’ll give you one example I know of first hand. Diamond Bear Brewing used to be on the LR side and they were outgrowing their space. In addition, what they had to pay for water was significantly higher than what NLR made them pay so they went across the river. There are so many examples of that and it all feeds into the tax base that funds projects like new schools, sports facilities, etc.

I see signs out of Robinson that looks promising. They keep sending 1-2 to Fayetteville and they have a BIG infrastructure project going on currently. Talk about parents in the stands? Their Jr. High parents fill the bleachers up. You can argue that isn’t “Little Rock schools” and from a financial stand point that is true but it still central Arkansas football.

…but the question “why aren’t all of those great athletes in LR schools graduating and playing for the Hogs instead of flunking out, getting in trouble, etc.” is not a simple question to answer. The athletic programs are down and get little community support because most of the kids’ parents aren’t geared that way in general, don’t have the disposable time/income to provide it, and may be absent as well.

You can say that it is all the fault of poverty. Who is poorer, the illegal immigrant trying to sneak across the border to find a job or the single parent in a project living on welfare? Probably the immigrant. So, is it just poverty holding them back?

Lack of education? There is free K-12 education available to the project resident. Most Hispanic Immigrants from Mexico have a limited education. When impoverished immigrants get to the states, their kids go to school and do well. Why are the children in the projects in the States not going to school and doing well?

You can say it is discrimination. There is hard core racism in many Anglos in the border states toward Hispanics. That discrimination doesn’t stop them from coming over the border. They take jobs that those Anglos don’t want. Then they move on to better jobs.

The Poultry Industry has been and still is begging for workers. The Construction Industry is begging for workers. Why are those jobs mostly being filled by uneducated, poor, Hispanics, who barely speak the language when they get here? They are not easy jobs. Sometimes the working conditions are tough. There is a steady turn over as those workers find better jobs with better pay but it is a lot easier to find a job if you already have one. The Hispanics travel 1500 miles from Central America through horrible conditions to work in Northwest Arkansas and there are large numbers of impoverished and unemployed individuals 150 miles away in Central and Eastern Arkansas that won’t leave their projects or dangerous neighborhoods to take those jobs. So, they stay poor, have children, and let them fall into the same cycle.

I suspect there is a lot more to this conundrum than just poverty. JMVVVVVHO.

I graduated from Hall in 75. In the mid 80’s I took Mrs. Ned back to my alma mater to see Andrew Lang play the Warriors on a “recruiting trip.” We walked around the school before the game, with me showing her the sights. I had proudly wanted to show her the trophy case where we had won the State Championship in track. I recalled that there was a team photo…with me in it…next to the trophy.
When we got there the case was still there, but empty. Nothing was left but all the broken glass from the case lying under about 5 years worth of dust. It hadn’t even been cleaned up after it was vandalized.
I’ve never been back. I wonder if all that dust and broken glass is still there?

.“Our adolescent success measure, for example, is to graduate high school with a GPA of at least 2.5 and without either becoming a parent or getting a criminal record…just 28% of those raised by never-married mothers reached this level of success.” The 82% that don’t graduate, became a parent, and/or didn’t stay out of jail is where you find the missing Little Rock athletes that aren’t playing for the Hogs. Here is the entire article: <LINK_TEXT text=“ … parenting/”></LINK_TEXT>

In case you are wondering, 2/3 of black children in America live in single parent households. (It is a very safe bet that in impoverished urban areas like in Little Rock, that percentage is much higher since the black middle class has also moved away just like the white middle class did earlier.) It is #4 in the list in this article: <LINK_TEXT text=“ … portunity/”></LINK_TEXT>

I suspect that single parents are far less likely to move to where jobs are located, away from family to help with the children while they work, and are more likely to stay in the system that supports them as single parents waiting for a better job to come along or not. JMVVHO

A kid with good talent in elementary or Jr High will be recognized by his or her classmates. That recognition always drives the kid to dream about better things. No doubt, those kids need parental support, but the Jr High and High School programs should be well managed and supported to provide incentive and support to the athletes. Right now many of the programs in the LR area are a shambles that would not induce pride of belonging, much less enough pride to practice and sweat.

I had never thought of the latinos in comparison with African Americans when it comes to school and pride. I love LR so I’m saddened by it trending towards Detroit. Forget athletics, how do we get the parents to care? Is it true the LRSD is screwed up because of leadership?

The leadership in Little Rock has fluctuated from mediocre to pretty good but this is a monumental problem that has yet to be solved in any urban area in America. I think there has to be incentives. Two individuals who father a child should not receive more money from the government if they don’t marry, they should receive more money IF they form an active parenting household and IF their children succeed in school. As soon as their child reaches Pre-Kindergarten and tests well, they should receive a bonus each month all the way to a bigger bonus when they graduate high school. That would take an act of Congress so it is out of the power of the leadership in Little Rock.

It would be great if Fitz Hill, Portis, Keith Jackson, DMAC, Reggie Swinton, etc could try to get with other people in the community to come up with a plan. The City of LR, Chamber, Dillards, Stephens, etc would be smart to support anything legitimate that the group could develop. I worry about LR after spending time in Memphis and Atlanta. Locally, I have watched Blytheville and Osceola fall hard over the years, because leadership would not demand more police on the streets. Leadership would not educate the population about the need for extra taxes to pay for police and better schools. I am saddened by how far Blytheville has fallen and crime has taken over the streets since the police force is weak. Osceola has a chance with Big River Steel but I don’t think the leadership is going to make it happen.

You have to give Fitz Hill, Keith Jackson, and others credit for going to war on this in Little Rock but they can only do so much. They are great men and we just need more of them.

Here is an idea. Eldorado and other communities have established funds to provide college tuition for each of their graduates. It has slowly helped them improve their schools enrollment and academic success. What if the Stephens, Dilliards, Ford’s, etc. in Little Rock established a similar fund to reward academic success of impoverished children? It would not have to be a large amount for each one each month and it could include rewards for the children as well as the parent. It might apply to current city residents only and require a year wait for those who move in to qualify. It will be up to the federal government to do away with the marriage penalty.

I don’t have a grasp of the Little Rock issues. I have not lived there since I finished high school in 1972. I went to college and never really lived at home fulltime again. I lived in Conway for a few years and either Tulsa or Fayetteville since then. I don’t know Little Rock now, to be honest.

What I will say is that you will read things in our March issue, The Recruiting Special, that points out one shining light for public schools in Little Rock where football is concerned. It is Joe T. Robinson High School. It may be known to some as Pulaski Robinson by some, but the branding that they are going for there is to return to the days where it was simply Joe T. or Joe T. Robinson. Suits me, because that’s my perspective, that it’s Joe T.

Our cover of the March issue features Koilan Jackson, the big wide receiver from Joe T. David Porter is also in this class from Joe T. And, of course, T.J. Hammonds played at Arkansas last year as a sophomore.

I learned some neat things about Koilan that is featured in this magazine. I know everyone will love it.

Joe T. will keep sending players to Arkansas. There are three sure Division I players in the next two classes, maybe more. And, there are more behind them. The next two are WR-CB Nathan Page and LB-TE Hunter Swoboda, both juniors. DL Elliott Harris (6-4, 315) is a sophomore who should be highly recruited soon.

I spent some time at Joe T. last week and I was thoroughly impressed. They are building a new offseason workout center for football they will call Champions Hall. It should be open in a few months. It looks spectacular to me. Todd Eskola, Joe T. head coach, said it will rank behind only the ones at UA and ASU as far as indoor workout facilities in the state.

The young players at Joe T. are off the charts. I’m saying they are good all the way through the junior high. New players are coming all the time, some from private schools. It’s a fun walk through the halls. Everyone smiles. Everyone is happy to be there. I didn’t see resource officers lined the hallways. Reminds me of what I recall about Little Rock schools from my days in the 60s.

I can’t tell you about other schools around the county. Surely, not like what I saw. That’s why I think Joe T. is on a huge up swing. They are going to continue to develop and flourish, in my opinion. They have a small stadium that will be upgraded before next season. They fill all of their stands and line the hills on the west side of the stadium. They are going to need to keep adding seats. They have hit a big up cycle and I don’t see it ending.

Todd Eskola said Joe T. changed its mission statement about six years ago to work to help players off the field to make it to the next level. That regards academics and travel to college camps. He named his linebackers coach, Bryan Maupin, as his recruiting coordinator. That doesn’t mean he recruits. It means he helps college recruiters. Maupin took Joe T. players 13,000 miles to different college campuses last year.

Someone mentioned Keith Jackson. The idea that Keith would put Koilan at Joe T. speaks volumes. He had helped with Parkview’s football program the last several years as Kenyon and Koilan played there. Keith was a voluntary coach the last two years, serving as offensive coordinator and playcaller two years ago when Koilan was the quarterback. He knew what was going on at Joe T., the school in their district. So it was time to step away as voluntary coach and let them go to work with Koilan at Joe T.

Ned - check your PM.