Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Basketball Coach Suspended - The Bigger Picture

I felt compelled to chime in on this topic because I both played basketball for many years through college as well as coached at the high school level and now for my daughters traveling team. I watched the video, listened to the player and his attorney and read as many opinions as I could. Knowing the history of the coach I do not think this was meant in any way to injure the player, therefore the quick rush to judgement was wrong. The player choose to go public with the issue and that is his right. It is also his right to now deal with the consequences. My interpretation is this; it was a contact drill, the player was not executing the drill properly or to the coaches standards, the coach was making a point to create contact with the player thus exposing him to how it would or should feel to execute this properly. It case you have not noticed, basketball is a contact sport, period. You can't play the game at that level and not get banged around. Even at the level I am coaching now, it is very physical and I facilitate contact in practice. It is part of the learning process.

All of us have been intimidated, harassed or embarrassed at some point in our lives. The strong ones learn from the experience and improve on whatever was the task. The weak ones make excuses, point the finger at someone else and thus learn nothing. Learning is about communication and communication in sports sometimes becomes physical. Would the same level of attention be given if a teammate had pushed him down? The answer is no, or there would be no one left to compete.

The best teachers are the ones who leave us with an experience that helps guide us. My 5th grade teacher used to yell and scream and kick tables all the time. Was it right for him to do that? It really is irrelevant. No one was hurt, but we all learned to complete our tasks in a timely manner. My first trip to visit a college I was asked to play a pick up game with some of the then current players. Within one minute of starting I was met with a deliberate elbow to the mouth. The message was your not in high school anymore. Message received. I ensured that I never received on of those again.

Whoever consulted this player to go public was wrong. Life is full of obstacles. Our experience guides us through or around them. The real issue here is not how the player reacted to the coach, but how is this young man going to react to the next elbow to the mouth, or other challenge he may face.
The coach was handed a judgement that I feel was completely out of line with the action, but this is  really par for the course with the direction of our society.

I truly judge situations like this by asking what my grandfather would have said. He was a Great Depression child, worked in "labor camps" in West Virginia at 14, fought in the Battle Of the Bulge, was a POW in Germany and a Teamster for 30 years when he returned. He would have told me to work harder so that it did not happen again.

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