Friday, August 1, 2014

Big Game Big Name Hunting!

Spring 2007 and the TV was on all night. ESPN would typically replay SportsCenter throughout the night and I would awaken with stats and game scores seemingly memorized. Sleeping with the TV on has been a longtime habit, albeit one that does not lend itself to peaceful sleep. This particular night, or better yet, early morning, I awoke to some interesting noises.  I initially heard them in that state between sleep and being awake. "Oh my GOD, Oh my GOD, Oh my.......GOD! ", exclaimed a woman, repeatedly! The exhilarating calls of a woman in the middle of the night awakened me and I immediately began to wonder what the heck was on TV. Did I mistakenly fall asleep with the TV on HBO or Cinemax or some channel that broadcasted steamy programming at night? This woman was excited, thoroughly interrupting my sleep! My eyes opened and adjusted to the screen to find what extreme pleasure engulfed this lady; she killed a dear. ESPN showed a hunting program in which the exhilarated woman killed her first Buck(I  quickly learned what a Buck is after moving to Texas). Confusion couldn't describe my thoughts as I listened to this woman go on about the "greatest feeling in the world" as she spoke about.....killing a dear (wordplay intended)! Really?! A dear or Buck or any animal being killed makes you act like this? This is ecstasy for you? I soon learned when watching hunting shows, the response of this woman was not an isolated one. Grown men speak of the same joy when taking down "Big Game". Sure enough, 10 years into girls club basketball, many club coaches and directors behave the same about winning the "Big Game" or in some cases ,"Big Name".

They are easy to spot, the Big Game hunters of girls basketball. They prominently display the trophies and or tournaments they have won on websites, t-shirts or better yet, in their homes. Rarely will you find personal trophies of their youth on display, trophies that indicated their athletic prowess, achievements or successes. Like the Big Game hunters using rifles to take down unsuspecting  animals, the Big Game hunters of girls basketball  are usually well off financially. They can "buy" the best players and claim to be great coaches and leaders while attaining victory in the process. Like the animal killers renting land leases to shoot animals for sport, their money and the connections that derive from their money,  are the weapons that allows them to claim be "experts". Interestingly, many of these Big Gamers celebrate their trophies more that they celebrate the young women who earned free educations in the pursuit of the famed hardware.

The Big Game hunters of girls basketball can also be called the Big Name hunters. Here is how it works. You train a kid from youth. She was awkward, unsure of herself and big for her age. You taught her the game. You showed her parents that an education can be paid for using the great game of basketball. You dug in your pocket to help cover the inevitable shortfalls in tournament fees, uniform costs, food and gas money, etc. Unlike the deep pockets of soccer and volley ball parents, "elite" basketball is typically not the place where the very affluent play. Then it happens. Once the kid becomes a potential asset, the Big Name club director comes in to the kid's parents to say they you are not sufficient anymore. You and your guidance is now "holding the kid back", if she truly wants to be the best. They promise her parents that she would be an All-American if she joined them. She would be able to attend any college, if she played for them. She would play against the best competition with them. Big Game, Big Name, Big Thangs! For sure! If the parents do not bite on the Big Bait, they will go to you, the club coach that raised something from nothing and offer you the same. Of course when you join the Big Name, you will eventually realize what you have done is "lose" the kid you worked so hard for, worked so hard to help. They will fold your club into their Big Name club and in the process, you lose your identity, developmental philosophy and eventually the young star(s) that you have groomed since the beginning of her playing career. 

Here is some insight into the mindset of some Big Game hunters. A few years ago, I spoke with a high school coach who had recently traveled to Africa to hunt Big Game. This coach was somewhat meek and coached with a new age parental style of rule by consensus. Knowing the timidness of the coach, I was surprised to learn that this coach traveled to a different continent to kill exotic animals as a hobby. When I inquired as to why Africa and what animal(s) met their end during the visit, the coach gave me an interesting reply. The coach went on to say that he/she was doing a service to the animals of Africa because if not for ORGANIZED HUNTERS, poachers would indiscriminately kill the animals of the land. Wow! That's sort of the same logic that some Big Game club hunters use when they are hunting for players in the their quest for fresh trophies to mount on their walls. Apparently the people of the land are nothing more than poachers, not qualified hunters, according to some the Big Game people. People of the land (true grassroots developers/coaches) and Young Bucks beware.......