A FATHERS WISH, A COACHES RESPONSE...AND A REBUTTAL

I came across this adapted article that I thought might be interesting to share.

"Readers Digest" published the following in 1979. An unpublished response was also written in 1979 by Ross Mounsteven, who was then a coach. Although written more than 31 years ago and a little dated, very little seems to have changed.

A FATHER'S WISH
Dear coach,
Tomorrow morning my son starts basketball. He is going to step out on the court, and his great adventure that will probably include joys and disappointments, begins.

So I wish you would take him by his young hand and teach him the things he must know. Teach him to respect the referee and that his judgment is final. Teach him not to hate his competitors, but to admire their skills. Teach him it is just as is important being a play maker and get an assist as it is to score a basket. Teach him to play as a team and never to be selfish. Teach him never to blame his teamate when they score a goal against him, because five mistakes were made before the ball got to the player he was guarding.

Teach him that winning is not everything, but trying to win is. Teach him it is far more honorable to lose that it is to cheat. Teach him to be a competitor. Teach him to close his ears to the howling mob and to stand up for himself if he thinks he is right. Teach him gently but do not coddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel.

This is a big order, Coach, and I place my son in your hands. See what you can do for him. He is such a pleasant little fellow.
His Dad.

A COACH'S RESPONSE . . .
As in so many situations, it was interesting to read your note in Reader's Digest. It seems so often that after the newspaper, league executives, and all your friends and neighbors, the coach finds out, second hand, how you feel. It is a delight to see you emphasize the teaching aspect of my role as coach. I agree wholeheartedly, but have you ever tried to teach someone who wants to shoot two more baskets before he joins the team when I have blown my whistle, or having joined the team, is more interested in knocking the ball out from his teammates hands, or wants to talk to a teammate while I am trying to teach a point?

How do I teach respect for authority to a boy who listens to parent's scream at a referee, curse a police officer, or complain about bosses and politicians?
How do I teach admiration or skills to a boy who watches professionals grab, trip and fight, and then hears parents yelling "Hit Him," "Grab Him," or "Kill Him" from the stands?
How do I teach play-making to a boy who is paid by parents or relatives for each basket he scores, or is told he is the best, and not to waste his passes on others?
How do I teach a boy tolerance of the mistake of others when all of our society stresses perfection, and he is constantly reminded of his success and his "good plays," his "super passes," his "great steals," and nobody points out his own fallibility?
How do I teach honor and fairness to a boy who watches his loved ones ease over the speed limit, drinks alcohol in the stands, or keep the extra dollar that a store clerk gives by mistake?

I agree that the test of fire makes fine steel, that he must stand up for himself in what he feels is right, that trying is more important than winning. Nevertheless, that is also LIFE, not just a basketball game!

You have asked me to make your son into a man . . . and I cannot do that. I can only teach him a set of skills, called basketball, that will fit into the principles of life by which he, and you, live. The respect for authority, admiration for the skills of others, cooperation, tolerance, honor, integrity and self-respect have to come to the arena with him. Then, and only then, can I teach him to play basketball the way you and I think it should be played.
Your son's coach

THE REBUTTAL
Dear Coach:
I have done my share of coaching over the years. That is how my son became a good enough player to make the team you coach. Otherwise, he would not be there. Yes, there are always those kids who are disruptive but perhaps they are only looking for attention. I found that if you criticize the behavior and not the young man it has a profound impact. I have gotten absolutely livid about bad behavior always being careful not to attack the boy himself. Explain to him how unfair his action is to the rest of his teammates who want to learn to become better players. Explain to him how unfair it is to you the coach who is giving of his time.

Ask the boy these questions in a civil, firm and unthreatening manner in front of the team? I have and the reaction is amazing. Treat him with respect and he will respectfully respond. Be a role model that the boy can fashion his actions after. Don't give in to your emotion and crush a boy's future in the heat of the moment. What can possibly be gained by this? I, too, see the terrible behavior exhibited by parents at games and yes, I may have participated at times. But, I teach my boy that I am human and I make mistakes. And when I am wrong I admit it and apologize when warranted. We are human afterall, not robots.

I don't have the solution for the garbage shown on television and the bad behavior exhibited by some professional athletes. Understand that we are all products of our environment and that boys will emulate their favorite sports star. Let boys be boys within reason. Each player has his own personality that makes him the individual he is. Would it not be better to take the time to recognize each player's strengths and weaknesses and work to best utilize and improve these? Yes, I have paid for points but I also pay for assists, blocks and steals equally. Why would I want a son who is not a well-rounded player? Perhaps when you give your game box score to the newspaper you can emphasize these stats and not just the scorers. They only print what you tell them, coach. Or do you have the luxury of having a reporter at each and every game?

And what is wrong with giving my boy some encouragement by saying "good pass" or "great shot"? It's called motivation to do well. It's my job, I'm his dad. I have been picking him up and putting him back together again all of these years and will do so as long as I possibly can. I love my son, coach. It is apparent that you see the proverbial glass as half empty rather than half full. You have given up before you start, coach. If you cannot teach honor and fairness simply because of what you perceive as overwhelming odds that society has thrown at you then perhaps it is time to bid adieu to coaching. Why would want to continue in such a unpleasant situation. It is only bound to result in some ugly manifestation.

Remember that all of it is really about the kids and making them better players and people in general. I hope that my son understands that he should try his best during the game and leave it there when it is over. It is just a game, afterall. It is a tall order to allow another to stand up for himself and I would hope that when my son does so that you are willing and able to admit when he is right. I don't expect you to make my son into a man. I expect you to be a role model that he can fashion himself after, someone that we can all be proud of. Yes, teach him the skill that will fit into the principles of life by which we all live. I send him to you with whatever skills I have been able to give him hoping that you can build upon that foundation and will serve to show me and others a role-model in the making.

Only then can we all sit in the arena and enjoy the game as it should be enjoyed.

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