I am a basketball skills trainer. I teach kids basics and fundamentals. I have conducted a free year-round basketball program in the Morgan Valley for over three years and have nearly 80 boys and girls ranging from 5 to 17 years of age attend. I played high school and college basketball and have participated in several nationally organized skills camps and training clinics. I had some great coaches in my past; one in particular, helped me through some rough times, taught me skills and helped me to be a better player and a better person. He’s dead now and I’m doing what I do because, in my way, I feel I’m paying him back for his kindness.
There is a young man attending Morgan High School as a freshman this year. He is a disabled athlete. He is different in some ways. He is disabled only because he has a learning disability. I have had the pleasure of working with this young man over the years. He has developed amazing skills in the sport of basketball. He is adept at all aspects of the game. He shoots 65 percent from the three point line and 90 percent from the free throw line. Last year, while participating in a basketball competition league, he scored 29 points in one game while being double and triple teamed by the defense. He has worked on improving his skills year round, often shoveling snow from his driveway to do so. Since entering his freshman year he has attended every suggested basketball camp, every strength conditioning class before school and every skill development session after school.
Recently he tried out for the freshman basketball team. I attended the first day of tryouts and witnessed that his skills were as good as or even better than most of the other boys. On the second day of tryouts the boys were asked to perform a rather complex offensive set. Most of the boys had difficulty with this task. Can you imagine how difficult it was for this boy? Because of his disability he had a more difficult time than the others and therefore didn’t perform to the coach’s satisfaction. Later that day he was told that he was being cut from the team as a result and that he should consider trying out next year.
This leads me personally to ask the question…what should we care about most: winning, teaching or giving everyone a chance to play? Most coaches believe it is winning and are absorbed by that aspect of the game. I believe a good coach is a coach that coaches for the love of the game. John Wooden comes to mind, a coach I’ve always revered, and Dean Smith, another, were gentlemen, legends and great coaches. In my opinion, a good coach helps an athlete, yes, even one with a disability, become a success.
I believe coaches who put winning in perspective and teach players it’s just one part of the game are more respected. This helps them be, above all else, teachers of the game, giving everyone a chance to play by teaching skills instead of focusing on only a few kids.
I believe as a community we need to take a greater interest in such things. Too many parents just accept what happens in sports without question, preferring not to make waves. I say make a tsunami. This is America, and I believe you have the right and an obligation to speak up.