My mother had the ugliest car in the world. At least that is what I thought in the mid 80's. It was a funny shade of blue, Chevy Malibu. It was loud, big and unsightly. Four boys would pile into this dinosaur of a car and hope that it would not be a long trip. My mother drove that car faithfully for years. Faithfully! To two jobs, it got her there. To junior college, then to college to finish her degree, it got her there. When it was too cold for my brothers and I to walk to basketball and/or other sporting practices and games, old "Betsy" got us there. Maybe we were late, maybe we were a little uncomfortable or stressed when we got there but that old car proved its worth, served its purpose and is remembered as reliable!
Fast forward to a conversation that I recently had with one of the absolutely best assistant coaches in women's basketball today. This coach is a head coach in waiting, a former high school and college standout. She brought up a topic that is a sensitive one in the world of girls and women's basketball currently; too many men coaching girls basketball. This coach shared the sentiments of many in the community that our girls are being led by too many men and in many eyes, they are men that are" in it for the wrong reason." This coach talked about seeing more and more men who don't know the game, constantly yelling at players and are living their dreams through the kids. Ouch!
Let's assume that this blanket generalization is absolutely true. Now what? Where are all of the female coaches at the grassroots level? And if they were to take the place of all the men that are "destroying the game", how would things be different? I guess the assumption would be less yelling, more discipline, better teaching, and role models that are in it for the right reasons? Cool! So..... what is preventing this much needed makeover of grassroots basketball? Bring on Utopia!
At a tournament this summer, I was overwhelmed with reflection. I felt convicted by my high handed opinions and supposed superiority. I fashion myself as a diligent skill set developer and often would criticize fellow clubs/coaches that failed to help gets kids better. That is where I went wrong. I primarily focused on on-court development, not TRUE development. Back to the tournament, I saw three teams from a well known organization. These teams were not the best representation of this huge organization in terms of talent. What struck me was that in the dog days of summer, 100 plus degree weather with humidity, two of the teams were led by middle aged men. No surprise there but a deeper look saw two men, fathers themselves, coaching 30 young girls for NO material gain! These men are fathers, to now grown daughters, that came up through the club program and yet they still lend a helping hand. I walked outside the gym and saw these men, and a female coach as well, eating $1 hamburgers, sharing french fries and drinking water in the gym's parking lot between the many games. Both of these men have full time jobs that they took leave from, in order for those girls to have a chance to play in front of coaches! These men have EARNED the right to live in nice homes, they have led their families, and possess the financial wherewithal to eat well balanced meals suitable for successful middle aged men. Instead, they sacrificed for what wrong reason?
Back then,I wished that my mom had that brand new Benz 190 that Kool Moe D rapped about. I would see some of my schoolmates parents in hot new Honda Accords, sitting on Dayton rims. I would be inwardly jealous of my teammates whose fathers who bent corners in clean Cadillac Devilles'. I now realize that those thoughts were shallow and short sighted. Deeper thought compels me to remember how many of my childhood memories were made possible by the reliability of old Betsy. What the naysayers of the current proliferation of men coaching young girls basketball must realize, is that these men are akin to old Betsy. Some of them are loud, unsightly and don't provide the smoothest ride. But like old Betsy, they are HERE when needed! Until the utopian paradise of Mercedes Benzes drive up to girls basketball to provide the best ride possible, the ugly blue Chevy Malibus will do. And like me, the young girls that are riding these less than perfect vehicles to a better destination will think back and appreciate how faithful old Betsy was!