Thursday, May 31, 2012

Play with puppies, don't be mad when they lick ya face!

Anything and everything in South and Central Texas Basketball is what the slogan is for this Blog. With that in mind, this subject is relevant, I think.

 Many  years ago, my teenager was in a store with me and witnessed the intolerable.  A young boy was disobeying his mother. He was throwing a tantrum. He threw store items, yelled at his mother and basically had his mother in tears. My then 5 or 6 year old daughter watched in amazement. She had never seen a kid act this way. She never seen a kid be ALLOWED to act this way. My baby looked at me and quietly said, "Daddy, that boy needs a spanking".  I could not have agreed more!

How is this relevant? Because so many coaches, club and high school, lack the backbone to ensure kids behave, or be mentally strong against pressure. Winning or having the best players has become more important than instilling discipline.

Bob Knight was a coaching tyrant to some. The man choked one of his players. That was wrong. However, his disciplinarian ways helped many. A young Isaiah Thomas was raised by a strong mother in the toughest part of Chicago. Mamma could only do so much to deter her kids from joining the streets. A few of Isaiah's older brothers fell victim the vices of the street. With this in mind, young Isaiah went to a private high school outside of his hood, a school coached by the very strict Gene Pingatore. Thomas thrived in the structure and chose to attend Indiana to play for 'The General' Bobby Knight.

 An account in the unauthorized biography of Knight, a disturbing exchange occurred. Isaiah was behaving and playing like the undisciplined kid from the south side of Chicago. Knight crossed a line and reportedly asked Isaiah if he wanted to end of like the rest of the "*******" in his neighborhood. The bleep in this case was a racial slur. Isaiah reportedly cried. He was hurt. Yet, in his own words, he understood the intent of the cruel and inappropriate message. In fact, Isaiah denies that Coach Knight ever used such language, despite numerous players that witnessed the exchange and have reported otherwise. Why would Isaiah lie about the incident? He credits Knight with truly having his well being in mind and instilling a discipline in him that he needed at that time.

Where have all the tough coaches gone? Yelling at a kid today in tantamount to abuse in many circles. Coaches are no longer instructors on discipline and mental toughness anymore, many of us have become "friends" of players. Since when should a coach be "friends" with a player? 

Last summer I took my club team to New Orleans. I had yet to experience Bourbon Street. I along with a fellow middle age coach visited Bourbon Street. I was uncomfortable! This coach and I are both fathers of girls basketball players. We both are disciplinarian yellers. As we walked down Bourbon Street, at close to midnight, we were alarmed with seeing so many young basketball players wandering the same streets in groups. The same adult clubs and dancers that solicited clients out in open did not clean up  their acts for the kids. Better yet, it was the young basketball players whom did not clean up their acts. As the coach and I walked back towards the entrance of Bourbon Street and back to our cars, we spotted a group of girls, dancing in front of a dance club. The girls belonged to a club basketball team. The girls were dancing like the adult dancers that were hawking their services. Witnessing this made me feel old and upset , like Booby Knight. Somebody needed a spanking. Then it got worse. The club coach of the girls was smiling at the debauchery. He failed to see us approaching and as he turned, he saw that the fellow coach and I were looking at him like he too needed a spanking. He stopped smiling and looked  ashamed. That is the problem! Too many coaches try to befriend players instead of teaching them through discipline.

Here are a few things that I have witnessed or been made aware of recently:

- Some of the best players in the nation and locally, love smoking weed.  Two of the best kids in the class of 2013 brag about getting high on Twitter. A few of the best players in the class of 2012 and 2013, locally, talk in code about smoking weed very openly.

-  A few local players have a reputation for drinking and partying.

- Recklessly promiscuous behavior is being promoted among many high school players. I know of players who feel ostracized because they are not "trading cards". I recently learned that at some schools, "trading cards" are pictures of naked girls, taken with their consent by local boys, and shared around the school. Kids are bragging about taking the morning after pill.

These are just a few instances of undisciplined and destructive behaviors that ARE KNOWN by high school and club coaches.  Yet, these players are not held accountable by the adults who guide them. Please understand, I am not casting the first stone about teenage indiscretions. I was a West Coast youngster, raised to do right by Mamma, but taught by Too Short and Snoop Dog how to do wrong. The difference between now and then was that my old coaches did not tolerate  crap. The old gruff coaches that would curse you out for doing dumb things are gone. The old coach that demanded respect through discipline has been replaced by "friendly" coaches that have a lot in common with their players. Tweeting with 15-17 year old about shared interests does not make a coach better. It makes a coach unable to demand respect from players. Teaching mental toughness through basketball is outdated and apparently archaic.  

Kids are needing medication for anxiety attacks because of math tests. Kids are succumbing to harassment by teammates and classmates to make sexual decisions. Kids are clinically depressed because of boy or girl dumping them. Some of the strength that it takes to withstand negative peer pressures and misbehavior can be instilled through TOUGH coaching! Instead of showing sympathy for mental lapses on the court, good coaches should use those instances to mold better players, stronger people. Instead, mental meltdowns are condoned. Not only does this not prepare kids for life, please make a mental note about how these undisciplined players  fail to thrive at the next level. College coaches make a living depending on young adults having their act together.  "Friendly" coaches should start doing their part in preparing these kids for college. Not "spanking"(not figuratively) them for their tantrums(undisciplined behavior) will hurt them more in the long run.