Sunday, November 17, 2013



    1.  strong enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough or careless handling.
    synonyms: durable, strong, resilient, sturdy, rugged, solid, stout, long-lasting, heavy-duty, industrial-strength, well-built, made to last.
    2. involving considerable difficulty or hardship; requiring great determination or effort.
    synonyms:  arduous, onerous, strenuous, grueling, exacting, difficult, demanding, hard, taxing, tiring, exhausting, punishing, laborious, stressful, back-breaking.

    1. a tough person, esp. a gangster or criminal.
    synonyms: ruffian, thug, goon, hoodlum, hooligan
    1. endure a period of hardship or difficulty.

My son was cut from his high school basketball team this week. I had mixed feelings about him even making the team again. His experiences last year – to say it nicely – were character building. Along with a stimulating education on the many uses of the f-word, he whole-heartedly learned the meaning of the word tough. Tough – not like I can kick anyone’s trash, but tough – as in able to handle incredibly difficult situations. He found out what he was made of. It’s a skill that should be valued more than the ability to dunk a ball through a silly hoop. Funny thing, his coaches would probably say he was cut because he wasn’t tough enough. Yes, while other teammates were bossing the underclassmen and taking advantage of every situation to exploit another, my son was helping carry the equipment.

Toughness is remembering how it felt when you were degraded and choosing not to do that to others. 

Toughness is being concerned about each individual and helping them to feel included.

Toughness is knowing your chances of making the team might be slim, but sticking with it, and taking advantage of every opportunity to improve your skills while others who feel comfortable with their spot on the team do not even show up. 

Toughness is following the rules even when others – the privileged few who don’t need to – are not. 

Toughness is being completely knocked down and showing up the next day.   

His coach said he wished there was room on the team to keep him. It was a nice sentiment, but sadly, there will never be room on the team for kids like my son. And quite frankly, it is their loss. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Then End of March Madness?

Chucking the ball at another player, trash talking, holding jerseys, and shoving may not always be considered sportsmanlike conduct; however, each is still accepted as tolerable actions among players on the basketball court. Some would say it is all just part of the game. It seems that someone forgot to tell Rutger’s Mike Rice that he was definitely not in the game or even listed  among the names on the players’ roster. It actually might have been helpful during his team’s practice, when he began his derogatory tirades and childish kicking, if someone would have reminded him that there was a “Coach” in front of his name.
It is common knowledge that college basketball coaches desire and compete all year for an invite to participate in the NCAA tournament each spring, Yet, this coach was not just enticed by the lure of March Madness, but seemed to aspire to February Fits, April Aggression, and May Meltdowns.

            If these videos had not been released by ESPN’s Outside the Lines, one must wonder how long this “coach” would have been allowed by Rutger’s University to berate, belittle, and accost “his” players. After all, the Athletic Director Tim Pernetti has had a copy of these videos in his possession for several months. So, it’s not surprising that Pernetti now admits that he probably should have done more concerning these allegations. Oh, really? Pernetti has discovered, unfortunately, a little too late for him – and these ball players – that when one makes excuses for someone who merits absolutely no job security, you usually end up losing your job too. Perhaps he will learn something during his deserved unemployment and will have a desire to look out for – and protect – the right people in the future.
            The sports’ headlines and news programs are all abuzz with their take on Mike Rice. On April 6, Salt Lake Tribune columnist Gordon Monson asked the question many have wondered after viewing these abusive videos, “How many Mike Rices are out there coaching our kids?” On the following day, USA Today answered the question with their headline, “Mike Rice not alone in abuse, just caught.” Sadly, I agree. 

             The larger question is why, oh why, do we tolerate this behavior among adults who are given the responsibility to guide, teach, direct, and instruct our children. We would never allow a teacher in a classroom setting to drop the f-bomb at will, but very few adults bat an eye when it is yelled in the face of a player on the sidelines of a game. That type of behavior has become commonplace among coaches and widely accepted as part of the game. My son’s high school basketball coach was heard using that word during a game, and no one questioned him.
            In fact, that coach was quite fluent in colorful language and freely shared his skills. The line my son heard most often was”&*#% Bryson! Catch the #@% - &$#% ball!” I should probably be grateful that my son did not find that blankity-blank ball making a point-blank bee line for his head – courtesy of his irritated coach. 
            Often parents – and I am one of them – have feared it will hurt their child’s chances on the field if they speak up, or perhaps, we might worry that our actions will cause more abuse for the kids during practice. We definitely have given too much authority and power to the coaches, and in turn, we have left our children defenseless.    
            Just viewing the complete submissiveness of each player as Rice shoved, grabbed, kicked, threw balls, and verbally attacked them made my stomach queasy. And then when some of the players publically defended him, I thought my head my actually explode.  I wondered how and why they thought any of this behavior was okay.
On the one hand, we desire compassion for our children and have national campaigns to prevent bullying in schools and on the playground, but when there is a coach in front of an individual’s name, we condone their intimidation methods all in the name of motivation, toughness, and winning. It is hard to have it both ways.
I say that we have enough self-centered, name calling, jerks in the world. Let us not raise another generation of Mike Rices because we believe it is more important for our children to be tough, aggressive athletes than kind human beings.
            Coach is a title we automatically respect, but those who warrant that admiration are the ones who teach discipline and resilience by example. After all, how can we expect young athletes to show self-control if their coach cannot. Thankfully, not every coach is a Mike Rice. There are many who understand that when they are called coach, a young athlete regards them as a wise and trusted mentor.
            Next year, let’s hope the Madness in March simply refers to Cinderella stories, buzzer beaters, and that one glorious shining moment, and if any frustration is involved, it is towards your mate and his or her bracket and not a misguided, potty-mouthed, fit-throwing, angry-eyed, little man.