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.

Equal Airtime For Women

Sexist and Discriminatory.
That is the only way to describe what is going on regarding forum communications and the North Dakota High School Activities Association’s State Basketball tournament.
Let me provide context as I understand it:
The boys’ quarterfinals are televised for free, and the girls’ quarterfinals will be streamed for a price. Do you mean to tell me that in 2022, we are still under the guise that male sports sell tickets and women sports do not? Do we still have entities looking to optimize the mighty dollar instead of furthering the sport for both males and females? We still believe that males deserve visibility and females don’t?
That is a crying shame.
It is bad enough that you barely report on local prep sports anymore, but it is even worse to realize that you have formulated your coverage based upon gender.
It is shameful,
It is disgusting,
And it needs to change. Now!
I am calling on every female, every parent of daughters, every true sports fan, and every human, and advertising companies. being to demand that this be changed immediately, and a statement of apology issued to all North Dakota female athletes.
Shame on the Forum Communications company for perpetuating female athletes’ stereotypes and shame on the NDHSAA for not demanding better for our female athletes. Thirty-two teams qualified for the state basketball tournament; twenty-eight of the thirty-two will appear on Television and get the recognition they deserve for making it. Let’s flip the calendar to 2022.

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!

The Decision

To be a black male is to live a life that is full of contradictions. Contradictions that cause us to make decisions that we may not understand. Decision that now our black boys are having to make.

It is a critical one that directly affects them future and the future of their children.

It is one that has been overlooked in our society for far too long, and it is time we discussed it.

It is a decision whether to assimilate or not.

Each path comes with favorable and less favorable outcomes. And, it is a decision that each black individual will need to make for himself.

The decision is whether to become an assimilationist or a non-conformist.

The definition of assimilation is to act accordingly with the intent of fitting in and or conforming. In this case, we are talking about societal norms and expectations.

A non-conformist is a person whose behavior or views do not conform to prevailing ideas or practices. Again, we are talking about societal norms and expectations.

For a black male, assimilation can be considered a good thing. A black person who chooses to assimilate is more likely to be accepted and given privileges that maybe not part of their original environment — an environment that could deviate from society’s expectations of “success.” On the other hand, choosing to assimilate could come at a great price. The acceptance of one set of norms could mean the a denial of another. The ability to attain and keep street credit within ones own community (not just geographical location) is an important part of the black society. To be able to walk down the street and get “the nod” from peers means acceptability and the ability to walk through certain neighborhoods with confidence and respect.

For a black person, to be a non-conformist is to keep and maintain street credit, which holds the ability to walk around a neighborhood as a leader or a a well-respected member of that community (again looking at more than geographical location). People who do not understand this may ask, “Why would anyone forgo the opportunity to improve themselves for street credit?” Those people would be missing the point.

Improving oneself is only relative to society’s definitions of success. If a house, a car, and a picket fence is society’s definition of successful, then the non-conformist may net ever meet the expectations for success, which is why it is important that society does not create perimeters for what it is to be successful. Success can come in many forms and is only contingent on each individual who must decide for oneself when enough is enough.

In order for black youth to be able to make a concious decision, they must first be presented with the question through conversation. This conversation between older and younger generations of blacks males needs to be had and must continue because it is critical. The conversation has not gotten any easier — especially for those of us who live in homogenous communities.

Look no further than the current state of events. It is getting harder and harder to avoid the elephant in the room. It is harder to look past the fact that if it were a group of African Americans that stormed The Capitol, we would be reading a different story. But, who bears the cross of uncomfortable silence? Is it me – who fears that the conversation could go too far and disrupt my livelihood or my life’s work? Or is it my community — who has to live with the fact that there are some truths that they must come to terms with? Especially since the community knows and interacts with me, my wife, and my children daily.


Once again, I, a forty-year-old man, am forced to decide between assimilation and non-conformity. I am once again forced to make a decision that can derail what I have worked for. I am forced to make the same type of decision that I had to as a youth.


Is it fair? No.


Is it real? Yes.


So, here I am, stuck between two worlds — forced to navigate this world without a playbook, instructional manual, or a tour guide. Trying to be successful, while trying not to become a traitor –

An Uncle Tom.

An Oreo.

A Coon.

While also not trying to be angry —

ungrateful

ghetto

intimidating.

It is a terrible thing to be black male to be labeled as one of these things. But, it is a reality.

This is why representation matters. This is why we need black people in positions that matter. Black males deserve to have people in positions that matter!

We shouldn’t have to make this decision. But we do — and, as a whole community, it is our job to guide our black youth and not judge their decision. There are no wrong answers, only consequences.

There is Still Time for Good Trouble…

The issue with choosing leadership is that, when it goes our way (either side), we (the constituents) take a breath as if our job/our civic duty/our mission is complete, which, in the end, only leads to disappointment. Let me be clear, the easiest part of democracy is getting your leader in office.

No matter who we choose as a leader:

Rights will be challenged,

personal values will be questioned,

you will be taxed,

people need representation,

children need to be educated, and,

evil will come in some form.

No matter the leader, become educated and active in politics.

If your candidate won, congratulations! Now get to work.

If your candidate lost, sorry. Now get to work.

It is the same as it ever was.

This is Not a Moment, This is a Movement

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There was a time in history when it was illegal for black people to be educated.

There was a time in history when black people could not vote or hold a political office.

Both actions were punishable by death.

But, history tells us that if you tell black people that they cannot do something, they will show you how it is done.

And that is why 2020 is such an important year for my family and me — I did both.

I have been asked why I would want to run for political office or why I would want to hold a doctoral degree. I have always been hesitant to answer the question; I didn’t think people would understand.

The reason is: I know exactly what my purpose is in life. Many people have no idea why they are on this earth, but I do. My purpose in life is to lead. How did I know this?
My ancestors told me.

I was recently shown that I am a vital part of American history. My people were from Africa; brought here for slavery in Auburn, Alabama; persevered and sought opportunity through the great migration; marched through Jim Crow; and fought for this country in the United States military. I am a product of their perseverance, diligence, sacrifice, and hard work. My ancestors told me that I am needed and that I should prepare. I was told that I would have to sacrifice personal pursuits for the greater good.
So that is what I did.

While some were on vacation, I was locked in a room typing away. While some were watching their child’s events, I was seated next to them, feverishly typing on my laptop. While some spent their weekend at their lake cabin, napping and tubing, I sat in a classroom from 10 am to 6pm, learning, debating, and sharing. I am not saying I am better than, I am saying I had my orders — this was the sacrifice I was told about; this was part of the grand plan. All the while, my wife was tirelessly and selflessly holding the fort down in my absence.
Now, I am not trying to be “the next great” anything. I only needed to lead by example. The objective is simple, beat the odds and achieve at the highest levels without excuse.

So the doctoral degree? Not for me.

The City Council Seat? Also, not for me.

These achievements are for those who look like me; those who have the same backgrounds as me; those who came before me; and hopefully, those who come by way of me. I am a vehicle for others to achieve success. If 3 to 4 people of color see me and feel that they can achieve anything, I have done my job.

So what is next? Unfortunately, my mission is not completed — no, it has just begun. And I am not sure it will ever be until I am in the ground. I still have responsibilities. It is part of being young, gifted, and black.

Signed,

Councilman David L. Woods II, Ph. D

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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.

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