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.

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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.

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You could hear that laugh from a mile away.

#tbirds

#eagles

#family

The Letter She Received this Morning

Look at you! My first-born in her first varsity competition! I have dreamed about this day since you were born… although I did not think it would come this soon.

You were so nervous when you found out that you were chosen, you freaked out and started crying. You started the dangerous game of playing all of the “what if” scenarios in your head.

What if I miss?

What if I do the wrong thing?

What if I suck?

It was funny to watch such a composed girl, a girl who I have viewed countless times score baskets in numerous situations, freak out about something that seems so trivial.

But then I remember how young you are. I often forget that. You have conducted yourself in such a way that it is easy for anyone to forget that you are a year or more younger than girls in your grade.

As you are traveling to the venue, I know you are nervous, so I am going to give you some advice:

• You are going to suck; embrace it – It is your first crack at some real competition. Newsflash: you may not win. The coach believes in you but understands that you are very green. You do not have a target on your back, so you are in a low risk/high reward situation. Just go out there and compete.

• Have fun in the moment – There are many who would love to be in your shoes. Next week, it could be someone else; but today, it is all you. Live in the moment, and everything will be fine.

• Take notes – There is going to be a lot of good athletes out there. Most of them have been playing this sport a lot longer than you. Take notes on the best or the ones that you favor. Look at their routines, study their approaches, emulate their techniques so that later you can make those same techniques work for you.

• Do not try to live up to any other athletes’ standard – As I said before, these athletes have been doing this a lot longer than you have. Don’t try too hard to outplay them. You are here to gain varsity experience so that you can learn the game at a different level and with a different pace. If you make this a head game, you will be terrible. Relax, slow down, and play like this is recreational. Winning is nice, but it is not the point.

• It is really about the small victories – Playing a sport that you just picked up 2 months ago is a win; daring to join the school team is a win; being chosen for varsity is a win. Enjoy the small victories. The big ones will come later, don’t look for them now. If they happen – great, but if they don’t, learn from it, count yourself fortunate, and move on.

Your mother and I are proud of you. And we cannot wait to hear about the day.

Now, go have fun.

Pick-Up Basketball Retirement Notice

Effective in 2019, “The Juggernaut” is retiring from all pick up basketball games. In the past year, I discovered the following about myself:

My first step is gone,

My hops are gone,

My muscular stature is now working against me,

My Achilles are tight,

My hamstrings hate me,

Ibuprofen is my friend,

My mind is telling me yes, but my body (my body) is telling me noooooooo,

I am always the oldest guy on the court,

I am still wearing And1’s and partying like it’s 1999,

I regret my decision to play every morning for the next four days afterward,

People now say, “Oh you are still playing, good for you!“

My wife shakes her head in disgust as I can no longer hide my soreness/injury from her.

Streetball has been good to me for the past 38 years. But, year 39 has been hell. So, goodbye old friend. I am letting go and putting myself out to pasture to heal.

The Gift of Failure

“Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.” – J.K. Rowling

2018-04-07 10.48.48

A couple of weeks ago, you tried out for an AAU elite travel team. Now, you already how much I absolutely detest AAU teams – although, I’ll admit, it has allowed me to see some awesome locations, meet wonderful people, and play against some of the most talented basketball players to ever walk on a court. The problem is, I have also witnessed the dark side of elite basketball — but, I won’t get into that now; that is for another time.

Honestly, Honey, as we wait for this letter to come in the mail, I keep hoping we receive bad news.

I honestly hope you don’t make the team.

Bear with me…

Listen, I may be a little biased, but whenever you walk into the gym, you are the best player there. You have the size, you have the speed, you can shoot, you can use your left hand, and you have the drive. But, more than anything, you have fun, you are social, you are humble, and you are smart; and that is what I love (and will continue to love) most about your game. I am proud of you every time you step out on the court because I know your competitiveness will compel you to make the most of your abilities as well as make your teammates better. Yes, I will admit, as your coach, when your team falls short — or when you have a terrible game, I am upset. I am upset until I look over at you, joking and laughing with your teammates as if you guys don’t have a care in the world. Basketball is just a game to you; you know you are good at it, but you are there to have fun and socialize.

That being said…

If you are selected for an elite AAU team, there is a whole new dynamic to consider…

Winning.

Man, o’ man. Little girl, you will be expected to win. Not only will you be expected to show up to a tournament and produce, but, when you do not produce, you will sit the bench until you are able to produce (which could be a while dependent on if your replacement has a hot hand). You will need to practice your craft on your own time — no excuses! It does not matter if you are the best player on any given day; you need to be the best player on that specific day. The expectation is for you to show up to a tournament, hours away from your home, and claw and scratch your way to a championship. Period.

Look, I am not here to bash AAU or crush your dream, but, my job as your father is to protect you. That job requires me to deem what is, and is not, appropriate for you given your age and maturity level, whether that be cell phones, music, movies, boys, and yes, basketball. And frankly, right now, I don’t think you are ready.

Is there a side of me that wants you to make it? Yes! But I have come to realize that it is the part of me that is selfish, self-serving, and competitive. Of course I want to show everybody that I produce the best of the best. But that is not right.

So, here’s to you staying young, having fun, and not making the team.

2018-03-30 20.50.06-2

———————————————————————————————————————————-

For the record:

Weeks later, I found out that you, in fact, did not make it…

“Unfortunately, She was not selected for our 6th grade team.  We had so many girls at that level trying out this year and looked at each one very carefully before making our decision. 

We highly encourage your daughter to try out again next October.

Thank you.”

Okay. Now, let’s make them regret that decision…

Father of the Year Moment #99: I got 99 problems…

“Dad. What is a good number in Basketball?”

“23”

“No. Seriously?”

“23.”

“How about 2?”

“Yup, that’s fine.”

“Well, I picked 99!”

“Wait. Wha?!”

Are you shittin’ me?! 99?! What basketball coach lets a kid pick 99?! What is she — starting at left end now?!

Just imagine:

“Hey, who’s your daughter?”

“Number 99, The one who’s fouling the shit out of everyone.”

He did this on purpose. 😡

10 Things I Learned from Taking My Daughter to a WNBA All-Star Game:

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  1. Get your Merchandise Early: The merchandise shop in the arena is a mad house. I went in for a jersey and ended up partnering with a mom that I had never met before so that we could both walk out of there with our goods and our limbs intact. If you love personal your space, don’t step foot in there.
  2. Be Prepared to Pay for Convenience: If you want a good parking spot, pay for it. If you want to get good seats, pay for it. If you want a hotel closer to the arena so you won’t have to do much walking, pay. Take the dive, don’t complain. The All-Star game is a bucket list experiences; you might as well live it up.
  3. No Cap on Drinks: This may be specific to the Target Center, but when you order a bottled drink at the concession stand, the venders remove the cap before they give it to you. I don’t know why this is, but I think it is so you spill you drink, which will make you pay another six bucks to quench your thirst.
  4. See the Sights: During the NBA All-Star Weekend, there are different venues/events that you can attend when you are not at the practices or the game. The WNBA All-Star weekend does not provide as many opportunities. Make sure you map out what you are going to do on your down time. Minneapolis was awesome! With places such as the Walker Museum, Minneapolis Sculpture Gardens, Target Field, Mall of America (Bloomington), Minnesota Children’s Museum, Como Zoo, and much more; if planned correctly, there is no end to your adventure.
  5. Entertainment: If you ever have the opportunity to see the WNBA All-Star Game, you will not be disappointed. There may not be the flashy dunks that you would see in an NBA All-Star Game, but you will some of the best personalities on the court that you could ever hope for. One of the highlights of the All-Star practice? The team dance off… If you don’t know what I am talking about, you missed out.
  6. Game recognizes game: It is a shame that female athletes do not get the recognition for their talents as their male counterparts; and I am not talking about the business side of things (that is for another point). What I am talking about is an overall lack of respect for the game.

Look, it does not matter who is playing basketball. If the person has game, you respect it. I was shocked at some of the comments on social media regarding the WNBA, its players, and the All-Star game. Some of those comments were from male players, both amateur and professional; and that’s damn shame.

My best friend growing up was a girl who used to run both boys up and down the court. She was the only girl in the city who was allowed to play in the men’s league, averaged 35+ ppg. in high school, was the 22nd best point guard in the country, had multiple college scholarship offers, and played at both Ohio State and the University of Nevada Reno. I never realized the trials and tribulations she had to go through to have men recognize her game. Shame on me for that. I was too ignorant to see it then. Now that I have daughters, I will not let that happen now.

I would love to see the support from more NBA athletes in terms of sporting WNBA jerseys or attending the All-Star game (shout out to those NBA athletes that did make the trek to the game, and to those NBA stars who are supportive).

  1. Game recognizes game (business): As a black man, I have always stressed fully utilizing the power of your dollar. But what I failed to do is utilize it when it comes to other aspects of humanity, including sexual orientation. I looked high and low for a WNBA All-Star jersey only to be disappointed when I was unable to find one. Why is there not a WNBA All-Star Jersey? Because it does not make as much profit as an NBA All-Star Jersey? Come on Nike, shame on you!. The least you can do is make a custom jersey. Hell, charge double for the customization.

For me, this is mostly about the trickle down for my daughters. There is an impact to be made with little boys and girls. There is nothing cooler than walking into a sports outlet and seeing a Maya Moore jersey next to a Kevin Garnett jersey. Game recognizes game. Period.

I have stock in that Nike, I may look at selling. Will it make a difference? Who knows. But a dollar is a dollar.

  1. A Woman— Dunking!: I don’t care what anyone says – you can see it multiple times on television, but to watch, in person, a woman dunking is something out of this world.
  2. Height I could only dream of: The event program lists each of the athlete’s bio, so it should come to no surprise that these athletes are tall. But, it is a totally different thing to actually stand next to them. Excuse my ignorance, but to walk up to a 6’6” (or taller) female to ask for an autograph is pretty daunting. Luckily for me, these athletes are some of the most down-to-earth individuals that you could ever meet.
  3. Once and a lifetime experience: If you ever get the opportunity to see an All-Star Game, do it (especially if you have young children). To see all of the greatest athletes to ever play the game together in one venue is a sight to behold. I am so glad my daughter and I took advantage of the opportunity to attend.

2018-07-28 16.44.55

Father of the Year Moment #399 – Re-discovery:

On my road trip to and from Iowa with My Oldest, I found out:

She is a fierce competitor, but does not have as much self-confidence as she puts out.

She runs like the wind, but has the running form of Popeye.

She does whatever is in her power to impress me and is upset with herself when I am not happy (even if it is not about her).

She is very funny, but she sucks at telling jokes.

She is kind.

She has a non-chalant attitude, but cares about other’s opinions.

She screams for independence but wants me right by her side.

She is very book smart, yet very gullible.

She loses everything. Usually, it is right in front of her.

She is very tall for her age and has huge feet, which is why people are surprised when they discover her age.

With all of my deadlines for work and school, I had barely noticed how she is becoming her own person. This is happening way too quickly!

Father of the Year Moment #656 – The Progression of Sports Equipment/Apparel:

Kid #1: Only the best for him. Look good, play good, right?

Kid #2: Hmmm… Well, it does fit; and (kid #1) only used it a few times…

Kid #3: That cost how much?! Oh heyell naw; I got one right here; put this on. I said, put. it. on!

Kid #4: I don’t give a damn if it does have a hole in it, you want to play (the sport), right?! Where is my duct tape?

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