Friday, January 8, 2010

What do we teach our kids?

This past week I read two different articles about high school sports.  They were both interesting and both could teach a lesson.  The two, however, could not have been more different.

On Tuesday night, January 5, Yates High School in Houston, the nation's top high school boys basketball team, posted a 170 - 35 victory over their opponents, Houston (Lee) High.  As if 170 points weren't enough, Yates scored 100 in the first half.  (

"I feel very disrespected right now," Lee coach Jacques Armant told Jenny Dial of The Houston Chronicle. "I don't understand why Yates just kept scoring and pressing when they were up so much. These are kids. It isn't good to do that to other young men."

Yates coach Greg Wise didn't apologize for his team's play.  "We practice running, pressing, trapping every day," he told The Chronicle. "If we get to a game and I tell them not to do what we do in practice, I am not coaching well. I am not leaving my starters in the whole game. We have 15 guys, and all 15 play."

Obviously there is a difference between playing hard and running up the score.  In the end, the embarrassment was too much for Lee.  In the third quarter, one of Lee's players intentionally fouled an opponent that led to a fight on the court.  Approximately 20 players were ejected and both teams had to finish the game with only five players each. 

Whose fault is a brawl like this?  I would say it lies firmly on the shoulders of Wise, Yates' head coach.  This is the kind of thing that is wrong with youth sports.

Contrast this fiasco with the other story I saw this week.

On Monday night, Kirkwood (Missouri) High and Coach Bill Gunn demonstrated the kind of thing that is RIGHT with youth sports.  (

David "Chubbs" Stillman, a four-year team manager and special needs student, took the court as a player.  So many people stepped up to make Monday night a night that "Chubbs" would never forget - Gunn who planned this night nearly two months ago, opposing coach, Chris Wilkerson of Fox High who, along with his team, set the stage for Stillman to end the game with a 3-point shot, Miles Artis, the Kirkwood teammate who gave up his number 23 jersey for the night so that "Chubbs" could wear Michael Jordan's number, Ahmad Hicks, a Kirkwood senior who lobbied the coach to get back in the game in the fourth quarter so that he could pass the ball to David Stillman, and the students and fans of Kirkwood who made the night truly unforgettable with cheers, chants and a storming of the court following the game.

I've attached both stories so that you can read them for yourselves.

The lesson, here, that I learned, is that we as adults have so many opportunities to affect the lives of young people.  Whether it is through athletics, or through our daily lives, parents, teachers, coaches and adults often forget the tremendous power we have in influencing kids.  The story of David Stillman also reminds us that even kids have the chance to make a difference in the lives of others.

Today, and every day, please be mindful of the fact that our kids learn not really from what we say, but what we do.  Kids are much more astute than we give them credit for being and they will pick up on every cue - intentional and unintentional.

The two men in the attached stories taught many lessons to young people.  You and I do that every day as well.  What kind of lessons do you want to be teaching?  We all need to think carefully before we speak, and, more importantly, before we act. 

Yates High School Scores 170-35 Victory Over Opponent

"Special" Is the Right Word at Kirkwood

Special Night for Stillman in Missouri

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