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Little Black Boys & Basketball: Week 2

At the beginning of the school year, one of my cousins pulled her son off his high school football team because he wasn't "acting right." I wondered if her decision was wise as it was an extracurricular that would've kept him from getting into trouble, thinking an idle mind is the workshop for the devil.

Then I found out what he did to get yanked off the team and realized there was really nothing else she could do.

Last week I posted Little Black Boys & Basketball. It was my account of having no choice but to pull my son off his Freshman basketball team after bringing home a bunch of abysmal grades. I received the following comment over the weekend:

I am the mother of a girl who is attending college on an academic scholarship and boy who is attending college on a basketball scholarship. While in high school, my son struggled to no end with grades.I spent more time talking to teachers for him than when I was in school. There was even one season he couldn't play half the season because his grades were so bad. He spent every summer in summer school and up to the last day there was still a chance he wouldn't graduate on time. He had to go to prep school for a year to qualify for the scholarship. Everyone around me said I was misguided by allowing him to continue to play when it was apparent he was not doing well in school. I saw in him what no one else did. I knew my son was smart and could accomplish anything. I also knew that the basketball scholarship was a means to an end. Not a basketball career but a degree, free of charge! Now my son has the 2nd highest GPA on his team and he has expressed interest in pursuing a master's degree. I give alot of credit to all of his coaches who told him to keep his eyes on the prize. As a mother who has been there, done that, you will NEVER punish a kid into getting better grades. You have to find what they are passionate about and use it to help you.

I don't profess to know anything about raising anyone else's children on this blog. This is simply my story. So this one caught my eye. And I responded with the following:

I'm glad that worked out for you, but I hope that you didn't take from this post that I was punishing my child because that's the hardly the case. My son is a freshman and his true love is football, basketball is just something he likes to do. As his dad it's my job to keep his priorities on track if he can't himself. My son's grades actually made him ineligible to: 1) play or practice; 2) participate in any other extracurriculars for that matter. Of course I had to step in and do what was not being done according to the rules on record that the coaches were willing to overlook until it was brought to their attention by the academic side via me. Had my son been older and the stakes been higher (scholarships) then maybe I would've pressed harder for both to coexist but that's not the case. As I said, glad it worked out for you but in my house it's not gonna happen. We didn't take away his privileges or his tv or xBox. And there's no sour grapes for me or his mother. In fact his in class performance and homework has already shown marked improvement and he's now actively participating in the after school program that he was on the verge of being expelled from. So from my perspective and his results there was no punishment, just readjustment.

Something I left out of my original post was that while my son was playing basketball, he was sleeping in his classes. Something else I completely shied away from in my post of last week, but I'm willing to state now is that the athletic department at my son's school, comprised primarily of Caucasian men, did not seem to overtly concerned that my son was failing as a Freshman. Conversely, the coaches and staff of color who were alerted to my son's performance were appalled. And they expressed nothing but embarrassment over the fact that I was sent the very clear message that his standing as a student didn't seem to matter. My son is almost 6 feet at the age of 14 and shows no signs of slowing down. However, this will never make an F and 2 Ds, one of them in swimming, excusable.

Since my post of last week, my son clearly understands his grades are what prevented him from playing. His mood is upbeat. He's actually friendlier around the house. He hasn't expressed an ounce of regret or anger. He's staying awake in his classes. And...his in-class performance and expressed commitment to doing well in school has improved. Now he has next year as a goal to work towards and he plays with his friends on the weekends.

The day after my meeting at his school, I attended my son's football dinner. A graduate of the school who is a former New York Giant was the keynote speaker. He received both an academic and sports scholarship to college. His speech was short and sweet (Thank God) and he drove home some critical key points to the boys:

  • "Do the right thing."
  • "If you see a friend going down the wrong path, let him know he's wrong."
  • "Commit yourself to your academics because you're students first."
  • "Find a mentor, an advocate to help you on your journey. You might not like how they deal with you, but you'll appreciate it in the long run."
  • "Have fun now, because sooner or later you're going to get a wake up call. Many of my friends are no longer here because they didn't heed that call."

It's only been a week, but I think the message is beginning to sink in.

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