I was reminded this week of an incident that happened to me when I was attempting to play high school basketball (attempting is the key word to focus on here).
This story usually pops into my head when adults say, “Kids sure have changed since we were in school.”
I have my answer to that, but first you have to sit through my sad little story.
During my high school basketball career (brief mind you, based on playing time), I was every coach’s dream. A complete player. In my mind, I had all the tools to be great.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t dribble, pass, shoot and I was slow, couldn’t jump, and certainly didn’t rebound. I tried rebounding once. Didn’t like it, so I chose to focus on other aspects of the game at which I was equally as bad.
In my defense, I was always on time for practice and games. I don’t mean to brag, but I was even early on several occasions.
Although as I look back, the coach was probably hoping that I would be late or better yet, not show up at all.
One day in practice, I was playing point guard (playing is probably too strong of a word). Coach told me to run a play and I did my best.
Turns out Coach wasn’t looking for “my best”, he was actually hoping that I could run the play correctly.
He stood underneath the basket holding a ball on his hip. I believe he was wearing those really short gray coaching shorts with the big elastic waistband. Cool at the time, but disturbing today.
As I recall the sequence of events went something like this; Coach calls the play, I run the play incorrectly, Coach yells “Dammit”, I turn my back to him, he wings the basketball at my head trying to knock some sense and hopefully some talent into me.
That is a lot of information in one paragraph, so let’s break down the details.
For years I thought my first name was “Dammit”. I say this because when Coach yelled, that word always preceded my last name.
I never even thought about it at the time, and I certainly never ran home and told my parents. Wouldn’t want Coach any madder than he usually was at me (my advice to kids…you never poke the angry bear with a stick).
Well on that particular day, I decided to take a stand. In retrospect, not the best idea I ever had. I probably wasn’t thinking straight; no doubt from the blow to the head from a basketball zooming at me at 112 miles per hour.
But in the infinite wisdom of a teenager, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Surely, Coach would stop me and apologize. Nope.
Evidently, he also picked that particular day to take a stand. And his stand was “don’t let the door hit you in the behind on the way out of the gym.”
I found myself out in the parking lot in my practice clothes. No choice but to walk home and get some sympathy from the parents.
Another in an unfortunate series of bad ideas.
As I made my way to the house, my dad was mowing the yard. My gut feeling was my day was just about to get worse.
And for the first time on that day, I was right.
He stopped the mower (I later learned that dads don’t like to stop the mower… I wish I had known that little nugget of information before I left practice).
To make a long story short, he wanted to know why I was home. I attempted to tell my sad story about Coach, the blow to the head, and then I was going to ask if my legal name on the birth certificate was “Dammit.”
Turns out he not only didn’t he like stopping the mower, but he didn’t care for the story either. In fact, he didn’t even let me finish.
He cut me off about halfway through and said, “I don’t care what happened, go back to practice and apologize to Coach and see if he will take you back.”
Not exactly the response I was looking for.
There is nothing sadder then a teenage boy schlepping home from quitting practice, except that same boy crawling back to practice 15 minutes later.
I went back. Coach shook his head in disgust (which really didn’t bother me because I had seen that look about 1,216 times before).
I don’t remember exactly what he said but it was something like, “Dammit, you can’t even quit right. Get back in here.”
That was it. I don’t think it was ever spoken about again; at home or with Coach.
No lawyers, no meeting with the Principal, no phone call to the Superintendent, and no special School Board Meeting.
What Coach did wasn’t right, but I was no worse for the wear. I grew up in a world where teachers and coaches were to be respected and sometimes a little feared.
I learned a lot that day that continues to apply to my life.
Run the play right, don’t turn your back; excuses are just that… excuses, dad’s don’t like to be interrupted when mowing, and most of all if someone throws a ball at your head… duck.
So I don’t think kids have changed. Parents have.