I had to swallow my pride and make an apologetic call recently. Years ago, I traveled all of California in search for the best in girls basketball. My daughter had recently proclaimed that she wanted to be a pro basketball player. She said she was intent on making it to the WNBA. While I knew(know) the odds of such a goal, who was I not to do all in my power to help her achieve it? This led me to immerse myself in the girls game and transition from the boys side.
Our travels led us one night to a gym in the Inland Empire of Southern Cali. We came to witness a scoring machine that now attends at Pac-12 school, one of the most prestigious academic universities in the country. This player could get buckets with the best of them. My young child and I were impressed and had another example of basketball excellence to chase.
This player played with a rebounding machine that I was unfamiliar with at this time. This kid was an athletic specimen. While asking knowing fans, I learned that this kid was also being heavily recruited and was one of the state leaders in rebounds. She was a beast!
The rebounding beast was also unruly. Her attitude and court demeanor was something that I found disturbing. As a father, I could not imagine allowing my child to behave in such a way. However, I inexplicably condoned her behavior and excused her immaturity because of circumstances.
Her team was based in San Bernadino, Cali. A close childhood friend and current California Swat Team Officer recently described that Berndu, as we call it, is easily home to the most violent gangs in the Inland Empire. San Bernadino has had a reputation for poverty and crime for a while. I automatically knew that this rebounding machine was a product of her environment. I reasoned that her fierce rebounding and defensive presence was a byproduct of her growing up tough. I justified her uncouth and down right disrespectful on court behavior as part of the game.
During a crucial stretch of this game, my "ignorance" came to bear. Her coach was yelling at her constantly because of her repeated lack of focus. He yelled at her for not following instructions. He yelled at her for talking trash to opposing defenders. He seemed to yell at her for everything. I became fed up. I "yelled" at this coach, from the stands, "I bet Perris High School(a rival school) would love to have a player like .........." I then continued with, " Hey ..........., Coach Marv(Perris Coach) would treat you better than this dude".
Most of the crowd looked at me, some approvingly and some with disdain.
Fast forward a few years and I am now a yeller. I realize the error in my outburst years ago. In my old age, I have matured(I think). I now see what this high school coach was trying to accomplish. He was trying to steer a wayward kid in the right direction by providing "tough love" to a kid who obviously needed it. All I had to do was take a step back to appreciate the intent of the "yeller".
This coach rarely yelled at the scoring machine. At that time, I reasoned that the scoring machine was worth more to him so he treated her with kid gloves. Hindsight reveals that the scoring machine is currently a standout player and good student at a great D1 university. She obviously did not need the same discipline as her rambunctious teammate.
Hindsight also tells that the unruly rebounding machine is currently in junior college. I am glad to learn that she is still in school, despite her detours. Initially, the rebounding machine committed and signed to a BCS school. For reasons unknown to me, she did not attend this D1 school and is a juco standout. In an online picture, I see that she has found her creative outlet. She has tattoos from her neck to her hands. Her entire upper body is covered in tattoos. Having a tat or two myself, I have not casting the first stone. I am now understanding that the behaviors that I witnessed(and condoned) and prolific tattoos MAY create some difficulties for this young woman in the future.
I have read media outlets rant and rave against "yelling" coaches lately. I am not for abusing players. However, I find it difficult to stomach some of the behaviors of so-called elite players by passive coaches. In a recent prominent tournament, yelling coaches received a ton of negative ink from a media outlet. I then witnessed two so-called elite young women acting in a way that no young women should behave. These two Top 50 players were "acting a fool" in front of scouts, parents, media outlets and young impressionable kids. These players happen to play for one of the best teams in the country and their coach is not a yeller. He saw this nonsense and shook his head in disapproval but SAID NOTHING!
Fatherhood has apparently changed me. In my youth, I aspired to play for Jerry Tarkanian. I fell in love with the game of basketball through the UNLV Runnin Rebels of 1986 and and it hurt deeply to lose to the Steve Alford led Indiana team in '87. Bobby Knight was a jerk to me and too hard on his players. I hated when my UNLV Runnin Rebels loss to the squeaky clean Duke Blue Devils in 1991. Coach K was boring and ran his team like the Army man that he was. The Blue Devils again spoiled my fun in 1992, when they beat the hip hop personification of basketball in the Fab 5 of Michigan. I would have loved to play for Tark the Shark or Steve Fischer. Baggy shorts, black socks, trash talking, and swag when swag was not even a word.
In my phone call to the San Bernadino high school coach recently, I made amends for my outburst years ago. In our productive conversation, he went on to explain what I already had come to realized. He was trying to get his young women to conduct themselves as such. He knew the real "pressures" that his girls go through on a daily basis and being mentally tough was important. Succumbing to wrong choices in moments of "mental weakness" sidetracked many of his girls, many people in general. Yelling at his kids to perform, think and act accordingly, in a game was not abuse. Abuse is allowing these young women to act counter productive to society standards. I went on to explain that I have a new found appreciation of Bobby Knight(save the choking) and Coach K. I wonder if some of my favorite ball players growing up had been yelled(corrected) at more, would they have turned out to be better men? I know that social ills and childhood disadvantages can not be solely corrected through yelling or a game, but still, a little bit of discipline can go a long way. It is better than saying nothing and letting kids create detrimental habits that one day will come back to haunt them, and I can not say this any louder!