Friday, October 30, 2009

What is a Level Playing Field?

The following two arguments were taken from a message board in a different state. However, the points are valid and can be applied locally:

High profile high school basketball programs today are too often lacking integrity. Kids work hard day after day after day with the "promise" of a fair chance to play. But the truth is very different from reality. In an ideal world, kids grow up and go to their neighborhood high school where they try to earn a spot on their varsity team. It probably still goes on in some of the lower profile programs, but it's not that way at all in the higher profile programs. High profile programs are driven by money, power and politics. Deals are done "under the table" all the time.

Promises are made and promises are broken. Recruitment of players is the order of the day. The idea seems to be that if you recruit well enough you really don't have to teach the kids the concepts of the game, let alone coach. You can just sit back and let them simply do what they do.

High school basketball has become big business. It has become the spring board for coaches looking for bigger and better opportunities. The only problem is that the coaches know only too well that the only way to get to the bigger and better opportunities is by having a winning program, so the cycle continues. It's not about developing a player. It's not about developing young men. It's not about what's fair. It's not about what's right. It's about what will propel a coach to whatever his next goal is, and hey, if a kid or two or ten or even twenty happens to get sacrificed along the way, they just look at it as collateral damage.

High school basketball needs help. It needs leadership that actually cares about the kids. It needs leadership that isn't swayed by the typical things that can compromise a person's integrity ....It needs leadership that is committed to a level playing field. Finding leadership that can rise above the distractions is a pretty tall order but the kids deserve nothing less.

A reader followed with this thought provoking response:

However, why would kids go to their neighborhood school in an "ideal world?" In my ideal world, kids and parents would have the choice, freedom and accessibility to the school that best meets the needs of their child. I coach a player who is deaf who takes the bus over an hour to attend a school that has a program for deaf students. Should this player be forced to attend the neighborhood school that lacks many of these resources because it would make the basketball team more fair?

If it is fair for the student who is deaf to attend a school with a program for deaf students, why should a basketball player be forced to his neighborhood school even if the neighborhood coach is not invested in the program or the development of his players? If the player has an opportunity to attend a different school with a great coach, why is that a bad thing? I coach a player who attends the school because its math department is superior to the neighborhood school. Should we short-change this student the opportunity to take more advanced math courses with better teachers to ensure the fairness on the basketball court? Why is it okay for a student who is deaf or a great math student to attend a school that meets their needs, but when a basketball player makes the same decision, everyone complains about fairness and equality?

That being said, there are certainly problems
with different aspects of the development system. Many people make promises that they cannot possibly back up and many parents and players develop an Entitlement Affliction and like to be liked. But, if you look at the entire spectrum of high school basketball, you're really talking about less than 5% of the whole.

The problem is that we spend so much time worrying about that 5%, punishing the 5%, investigating the 5%, etc. that we take away resources (financial and time) from the other 95%. Why not worry less about the 5% and spend more time worrying about improving the 95%?