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Little Black Boys And Basketball

Basketball Sky
Photo Credit: laffy4k

I've documented my son's love of football to no end on this blog.

He also has a love for basketball. Last year he played for his middle school and had a winless season. It was awful to watch but I was at every game.

This year he tried out and made the freshman team. Based on his height and growing athleticism I wouldn't expect him not to.

His 1st report card arrived in the mail last week. It looked like one of my daughter's tracing exercises for the letters, "D" and "F".

My wife was aghast. Our son had assured us he was doing fine. Clearly he was mistaken. My son does have a slight attention deficit that prevents him from focusing as he should or could in the classroom, but focus had little to do with his grades. He also expressed some freshman angst, which is completely understandable. Effort however, or the lack thereof, made up 85% of the problem.

Instead of getting mad, I looked forward to my son learning a great lesson in consequences. With his current set of grades he'd be cut from the team basketball team as per the school's rules and he'd have no one to blame but himself.

But he kept going to practice...

Perplexed, I emailed the athletic staff to alert them to his grades. They said they'd look into it and stay on top of him.

[What was there to look into, his grades weren't speculation.]

I marinated on this for a day or two, then asked what program(s) they had in place to manage their fledgling athletes if they were going to allow him to continue practicing.

They said they'd have to find out. [But how do they not know?]

Last Friday, my son's team had a scrimmage. And I just knew he'd get benched. Instead not only did he play and score a few baskets (the team lost) he received his shorts and jersey with the coveted Number 23.

I was furious. By night's end my wife and I had yanked him off the team and he went to bed in tears. Never did it dawn on him that he had an F he needed to get his act together in his classes. He actually had the audacity to argue that it was only 1 F and he played down the D's. This is a kid's logic of course, but it was being reinforced by the team that allowed him to play in spite of himself. [Side note: if I had ever gotten an F while under my parents' roof I would've joined the circus and never come home.] It's not my job to dispel his hoop dreams, or NFL aspirations, but it's my duty as his father to stop him dead in his tracks when he begins traveling down a road to nowhere.

After two meetings at his school, at least 15 emails exchanged between his counselor, after school program director, teachers and myself, my son seems to be on course to do better, with new strategies in place and without the distraction of daily 3-hour practices and a demonstrated philosophy of being more interested in what a child can do than what's in his/her head. His counselor apologized profusely for letting this slip through the cracks so that I had to do my job at home and the job they were supposed to do at his school. I still haven't heard from his former coach directly despite my efforts to contact him.

I took it personally and am still upset that I had to enforce the rules that his school did not. But I'm not surprised. I can only imagine how many other kids are on teams who are academically ineligible but playing anyway because they may have some skill in their sport of choice --- waiting for their big break into the world of professional sports with no back up plan at all.

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