When we know better, we do better.

When I set out to talk about the coverage of the NDHSAA state basketball tournament, it was to shed light on the inequality of our female athletes. It was to show that our girls deserve equal footing on whatever venture that they choose to pursue. It was to honor The Huskies, The Patriots, The Eagles, The Demons, The Rough Riders, The Mustangs, The Majettes, and The Sabers.

The reality is that these athletes are the leaders of their community. These athletes have little girls who will one day pick up a basketball because of them, which is a beautiful thing that helps grow the sport. Why would anyone want to stand in the way of that?

But I feel as though the focus has shifted a little, and I don’t want to lose focus of the seminal point here.

Whatever happens for the boys’ tournament, happens to the girls’ tournament. Equality.

– If the boys are televised, then girls should be as well.

– If the boys have a chance at the main court one year, then the girls should have a chance at the main court the following year.

– It is about equality, pure and simple.

I’ve had so many awesome conversations this past weekend. I’ve spoken to Dom Izzo, I’ve spoken to the NDHSAA Board of Directors, I’ve spoken to countless members of the basketball community and media. The crazy thing there are things we can all agree on:

– When the media rights contract was signed 4-5 years ago, streaming was not a consideration, it was a relatively new technology.

– The contract is for coverage of the girls’ and boys’ semifinal and final rounds of the tournament (both to be covered equally). WDAY has exclusive rights to the entire tournament, so any additional coverage by WDAY goes above and beyond the contract.

I’m order for WDAY to pay for the above and beyond service, someone has to pay for it.

– Since the new technologies are tried and tested, it is imperative that the contract is renegotiated to ensure equal coverage. I believe that happens next year.

So there’s a start, we can agree on those things, but, realistically, it is simply not good enough. We need change.

There is enough fault to go around. We can play the blame game all we want, but here are the facts:

– Shame on the parents (myself included) for accepting the status quo and not challenging companies and entities who play into these inequalities; this has been going on for a while and we know better!

– Shame on advertisers for throwing money at entities and organizations and not educating themselves on the workings of equality in production. They know better.

– Shame on the media for not asking the hard questions and uncovering the truth about what was happening. You know better.

– Shame on the NDHSAA for not protecting our female athletes, which is one of the sole purposes of your organization. You know better.

This is on all of us.

Let me be clear:

This is not about the streaming glitches,

This is not about viewership,

This is not about money,

This is not about me,

This is not about basketball

This is not about my beloved Huskies.

This is about access,

This is about equal protection.

This is about representation.

This is about equality.

We can fix this!

Equal.

Airtime.

For.

Women.

Period.

Basketball is a Spectator Sport — For Me

I debated writing this, but, in the end, I think it is more important to share. Don’t judge me!

I have come to a pivotal point in my life. I did not know that I would get to this moment, and it came on suddenly. In fact, it came on so sudden that it took me by surprise. What happened, you ask?

My oldest daughter told me that my help was no longer needed during her basketball games.

Back when I was a genius…

I was not surprised that I was told that my help was no longer needed; it was the manner in which it was done.

I will provide some context:

I have been my daughter’s coach since she was able to run. I have been her basketball coach since she could pick up a ball. Playing basketball and learning new skills has been a part of our relationship – a bonding point between us. Like other kids who have played on a team coached by a parent, we had our ups and downs. But, with my wife’s help, we had always hugged it out with some understanding. Now, she plays on the high school team, which puts me on the sidelines – and I am okay with that.
During her second game, she was defending a girl, who I believe was a weak ball-handler.

“Get up on her!” I yell.

And that is when she looked at me, while playing defense, and held her hand in a way that represented open lips, and she pressed her fingertips together – closing the “lips”.

Yup, that is correct; she motioned for me to shut up — all without getting out of defensive position.

Son. Of. A. Bitch! She shushed me.

I was so shocked by this! I went through a gamut of emotions:

What the…?!

How dare…?!

Ungrateful ass!

Just then, I turned and looked at my wife who was sitting next to me with a family friend – laughing. Not just any laugh; it was a full-out belly laugh. And then it hit me – I am no longer my daughter’s coach. It was time for my transformation from father/coach to father/mentor/fan.

I had once read the book, Changing the Game, which has a lot of useful information concerning the way parents can help and hurt their kids in youth sports. One thing I took away from the book is this question:

Do my actions reflect the values I want my child to embody.

Both on and off the court, I want my child to have the following:

  1. A love for the sport,
  2. A growth mindset,
  3. Confidence,
  4. The ability to make mistakes,
  5. The ability to learn from mistakes,
  6. The ability to correct mistakes,
  7. Independence.

By her gesture, she was claiming her independence. She was ultimately doing everything I asked of her since she was in third grade — I cannot be mad at that. It is effortless to yell out and coach from the sideline. But that is just it; I am no longer on the sideline – I am in the audience, which brings up another thing that this book has taught me—the importance of saying to her the words:

I Love Watching You Play.

She is such a fierce competitor.

As a youth athlete, I remember nothing that I disliked more than the post-game report — especially after a loss. I did not get it from my parents but from the parents of my peers. They all thought that they were being helpful, but mentally, it was not. My parents? I believe that they knew that there were more pressing issues in the world than how much I scored or how much playing time I received. They left the improvement up to me. If I was going to be good at anything, it would be intrinsically motivated (but don’t get that confused with not caring).

So, what did I gain from this experience?
I should count my blessings that I have a healthy daughter who loves to play basketball at a high level. Before each game, I should review my goals for her this year. Realistically, the goals I have for her have very little to do with a specific sport but life lessons that she can use for the future.

Let’s Go, Afro!

Parenting: This can’t be right, can it?

I was reading the book, Every Moment Matters by John O’ Sullivan when I came across this passage:

Far too many coaches think skill is the aggregation of various techniques that are then applied in a linear fashion back into the competition. That fundamentally misunderstands the fact that skill is something that requires context to develop. You cannot separate it from context. You need problems to be solved in order to develop skill. In a practice with no game-like activities, with no defenders or direction to force decision-making, there may be technical development, but there is very little skill development. And without skill development, there is no transfer.

As I read this passage, I thought about the implications it had on my parenting (which is weird, because I chose this book so that it could inform my coaching).

I am a father. I am not so much a helicopter father, but I am an asshole parent. I am that guy who will not let his kids do “whatever the other kids are doing.” I am that guy who creates hard-line expectations for his children that have consequences if not met. I am the guy whose children are the last in the class to have the latest technology/social media platform. I am their father; it is my duty to protect them. To say that I do not enjoy wearing that badge would be an outright lie; I wear it as a badge of honor.

Until I realize that there is a fine line between protection and shielding.

The book continues,

Transfer is the ability of a learner to successfully apply the behaviors, knowledge, and skills acquired in a practice environment to the competition. If training environment does not mimic those game conditions or if it poses decisions and scenarios that are no encountered in a game, then transfer does not occur.

In the parenting realm, this means that if I am applying discipline to my children for them to be able to transfer lessons into real-life situations, that is a pat on the back for me. But, if I am applying discipline that shields them from transferring lessons into real-life situations, then shame on me. I would be blocking the side of the discipline that promotes learning.

The hope is for my children to find themselves in a situation and mentally go through this checklist before making a decision:

  • Perceive the situation.
  • Conceive of possible solutions.
  • Decide on the best solution.
  • Deceive their opponent, if necessary.
  • Technically execute their best solution.
  • Asses their choice and prepare for the next day.

Is there a right or wrong answer when it comes to handling situations, no. There are only positive and negative consequences based on their decisions and actions. Hopefully, when they are conflicted, my likeness can pop on their shoulder and point them in the right direction.

Chuck.

Back in junior high, I decided to try my hand at organized basketball. It was the sport that I grew up around. The Dream Team was big at the time, and everyone in my neighborhood of us would go to the local park for a pick-up game where we would pretend to be one of the members. In my eighth-grade year, I was excited to try out for the junior high varsity squad.

This was going to be my year!

During tryouts, I would hustle for every loose ball, grab every rebound with authority, and make every type of impossible layup that I could to impress the coach. When tryouts were over. The coach said that he would deliberate and paste a list on the locker room floor. I left out of there feeling like I conquered the world — of course I made it!
Until hours later, when I, along with another friend and teammate were summoned into the head coaches’ office:
“Well, I am going to come right out and say it, you two are at the bottom of the varsity list, so I will give you a choice. You either can choose to be on varsity squad were you may not play very much — if at all, or you can play junior varsity as an 8th grader, where you will most likely start. I will give you a day to think about it.”

Both of us looked at each other and said in unison,
“Nope. We don’t need a day, We’ll play junior varsity.”
Truthfully, we did not give a shit which team we played on, we just wanted to play basketball.

Towards the middle of the season, I started noticing a guy sitting awkwardly in the bleachers after halftime of each home game. He would sit with his back on the above bleachers with his elbows pulled up, chest level rested on them — like he was sitting in a Laz-E-Boy. He was lightly swinging a bottle of Diet Coke in one hand, his legs were crossed, and he was wearing a red and light blue jumpsuit. The expression on his face was as if he did not have a care in the world.

Who in the Hell is this joker?!
Whose dad is this?

Each home game, I would often make jokes about the awkward, guy white-haired guy who sat mid-bleacher.

Until one day, one of the varsity players overheard me.

“Dude, that is Chuck White. That is the head coach of the East Anchorage Thunderbirds!”

I will take this time to add context —

The East Anchorage Thunderbirds are a storied team coached by a legend. They literally were the “New York Yankees of Alaska” — everyone loved to hate us. We are talking about a team that not only won the basketball boys state championship almost every year but also had players going to play college ball somewhere in the country. As far as anyone in our school was concerned, making a Thunderbird roster was making it out of any kind of negative environment that you were in.

2015-12-29 20.46.32
I loved my years of high school basketball.

And so, I found my mission: play junior varsity this year, impress the coach with my play while I had him in the audience during the second half, and make a Thunderbird roster when I got to high school.

And, wouldn’t you know it, my sophomore year, I, along with four others made the team.

Let me be clear, there were significant benefits to making the varsity team. You received:

  • A practice jersey with shorts,
  • Travel sweats with your jersey number,
  • A travel jacket and pants embroidered with your name and number (the same red and blue ones that I would see him wear when in junior high), and,
  • Team shoes. Yup. As a sophomore, I had arrived.

What I did not realize was, making the team would be the easiest part of this journey. In the three years that I was on the squad, Coach White would continue to teach me lessons that I would carry with me for the rest of my life.

  1. Although you are small, you can still be mighty: I have no idea what Coach saw in me when he decided to put me on varsity sophomore year. I couldn’t shoot well, my free throw percentage was garbage, and at 5’11”, I played post — where everyone else was 6’2″ and up. Years later when I asked coached why he chose me, he said, “Just because you aren’t six-foot-five does not mean you can’t play like you are six-foot-five.”
  2. Coach them hard, love them harder: A majority of the tactics employed by coach would not be accepted by parents today. He expected a lot from you both on, and off, of the court. If you were not able to perform, keep promises, or take care of responsibilities, he did not have time for you. Being part of his team meant playing your part a system that required maximum time and effort; not everybody was cut out for that system. But if you stayed around long enough, you knew that you were part of a brotherhood – something that was bigger than you.
  3. A measure of a man is not by how much he uses profanity: Although this is true, I do use a lot of profanity still (Sorry, Chuck). Many would watch this man become splittingly mad (seriously, splittingly). But he would never curse. He would stomp his foot or hit his chair, exclaiming, “GOD BLESS IT!” But cursing was beneath him.

    54DDB7FD-764B-4595-8AF2-7B7B3C1D45F2_4_5005_c
    He was a fierce competitor as a coach. He yelled but never cursed.

  4. Although people are not perfect. It does not mean that you cannot expect it from your athletes. He would always say. “I know we can’t be perfect all of the time, but we can darn sure work towards it.” Coach paid attention to every detail, which is why his teams would execute every offensive and defensive play with precision.
  5. If your athletes make mistakes, it is the coach’s lack of preparation: Coach did not take too kindly to losing; we barely ever did. But he knew that when we did lose, we were not prepared physically, or mentally. So he did everything he could to help us get another victory.
  6. The “Our Father” prayer: He was careful to never participate with us. But he knew how important prayer was. So, every game, he would give us our pre-game talk, then quickly leave so that we had our moment of prayer.
  7. Not to give a damn what other people thought: I have never seen a person who was hated, but loved; respected, yet revered; accepted, but feared. I thought those things could not go together. But they can. And truth be told, I don’t think he gave one damn who was on what side. I watched him chew a ref out, get kicked out of a game, then joke around with the same referee 15 minutes after the game had ended. He never took it personally.
  8. Fake Hustle. This is something that he would yell constantly. (the other thing he would do – call you by your mother’s name while your mother sat behind you, laughing).
  9. Every tough guy has a soft spot: East High teams were known for their defensive schemes. You had to be able to interpret a crazy numbering system he had and be able to carry out any directives to perfection. This system, when done correctly, made our team one of the most feared in the state. This meant that players had to be in their top physical condition in order to keep up with these demands.We ran.A lot.And after we ran, we ran some more.
  10. But there was a way out of running — his daughter showing up to practice. We had finally found his kryptonite. She was the same age as I and would often go to the practices waiting for her father. When she did, he got a big smile on his face and eased up on the crushers. During classes, we would often beg her to show up at the end — before conditioning, of course.
  11. It doesn’t matter if the other team knows your plays, winning is about execution: Anyone who has played for or against a Coach White team knows the plays 2 High (or 4 High), 4 Low, Kentucky, Open and Basic (there were a few others, but it really didn’t deviate from there). So why did they work? How was he so successful? Because there was a lot of autonomy in those plays. There was always an option B, C, and D if A did not work. He played chess while the opposing coach played checkers.

I could go on and on with the lessons both big and small that I learned from Coach White. But, I was not the only athlete that had the privilege to be under his care. Upon his passing, hundreds of men gave testimony to his caring, nurturing, and tough-as-nails discipline. His 914 wins, 18 state titles, and 81 percent winning average pails in comparison to the impact that he left on so many young men. He gave 45 years of coaching and mentorship to a community that so desperately needed it; his wife gave a piece of her husband and gained many sons; his daughter and son gave a piece of their father and gained many brothers. Learning of his death was a sad day for many. A pivotal figure in our lives went to heaven. What a gift he gave us all. Rest in paradise, Coach. We love you.

2019-11-25 15.19.30
You could hear that laugh from a mile away.

#tbirds

#eagles

#family

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