By: Will Lennon, Jr.
As the buzzer sounded indicating the end of the game, I leaped for joy and began to thank each and every one of my players for their dedication and hard effort. We, the "Glenwood Center" had just won the Greensboro All-Stars City Championship in the 11-13 group, 52 to 45 against our cross town rival, Warnersville Recreation Center. I ran from player to player (imitating the great Jim Valvano after his NC State team had just upset the high flying Houston Cougars) looking for someone to hug and high five. Finally one of my players, Kameron Hairston, smiled at me with so much admiration and said, "I told you we would get it for you, Coach". As I tried to fight back tears I countered, "Yes you did son, yes you did".
You see, it is moments like that why I am so thankful for being a friend; a coach; a mentor. No amount of money, fame or wealth could ever replace what I saw in that 13 year old eyes. For I did not see pridefulness, egoism, or individuality; I saw "BELIEF". I saw a child who believed in his coaches instructions, his teammates commitment for the cause but most of all, himself. And as I traveled from young man to young man, I saw that same look of accomplishment in each and everyone of their eyes. For me, that look of confidence and self-worth was worth more than any amount of gold.
I say 'for me' because my ideals of leading by example mean to physically become involved with those whom I am serving. In order for young boys to grow up and be morally responsible men they need to see men with a positive discplined character. Anyone can stand in front of young men and talk their ears off about how to be men but living the life that you speak in the presence of these young men speaks louder than words. We are living in a society where today's youth are being raised by social media. What ever the going fad is on Facebook, twitter, insta-gram and who knows what else, that's what today's youth are emphatically stressing to be a part of. Morals and ethics are becoming inferior to "freedom of expression". Now-a-days showing off your underwear, 'politically' being able to questioning authority (parents, teachers etc..) is encouraged and manners (yes/no sir), as my 17 yr old son tells me that his teachers says, is discouraged because it "makes them feel old". Their ignorance does not allow them to see it as a form of respect. How can we lead the youth when we are allowing them to be equal with us. It's impossible. We, the adults, are failing them monumentally because our youth need positive disciplined leadership from parents rather than parents who try to be their children's best friends.
While I do believe in focus groups as well as one-on-one discussions, too much talk can cause groups to talk themselves right out of action. Enough with all the talking anyway. There is too much college classrooms discussions, city forums (in which many who are affected cannot get to the meetings due to meeting times, work or childcare issues), State of the Unions Addresses etc... but nothing is changing. If we were to spend less time talking to each other who are not affected and get out into our communities and talk with those who are affected then maybe a change could come. This form of organizing does nothing but cause stagnant community action as we wait on lying governmental officials to solve our problems.
Many of my fellow classmates think that we should hold elected officials, school board committees, and police officers more accountable for our social constructs. I am not saying we should not but sometimes we need to sacrifice time and effort to restore harmony to our own communities. While we are fighting school boards, traveling from door to door gaining signatures to oust a crooked politician, our neighborhoods are being ravaged by drug dealers, violence and thefts at the hands of misunderstood youth. We have the ability to make change but we are unwilling to put the time in. In "Community" by Peter Block he states, "The essence of restorative community building is not economic prosperity, political discourse or the capacity of leadership; it's the citizens willingness to own up to their contributions, to be humble, to choose accountability, and to have faith in their own capacity to make authentic promises to create and alternative future". An alternative future starts with a group of 13 year old basketball players believing in themselves because a 44 year old volunteer coach/mentor, who makes less than $10,000 a year placed the community youths concerns in front of his so that we all can have a better future.
We are all responsible for one another and mentoring is the key. Did you know that, "Youth who meet regularly with their mentors are 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking", also "Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip a class". Those two statements alone which involve education and drugs/alcohol are critical in creating a more productive future for us all. It has been documented that children between 9 and 15 are commonly at important turning points in their lives. It is during this time that they may permanently turn off from serious engagement in school life and turn to a variety of risky behaviors that can limit their chances of reaching productive adulthood. We are all responsible! Scott Holmes, a lawyer from Durham, visited my Restorative Justice class taught by Sherri Giles. To compound the importance of mentoring, coaching, and summer-camp volunteering, take a look at these stats that he compiled from an arrest report for the week of April 8th in Durham:
- Sixty seven people age nineteen or under were charged with crimes in Durham this week. 85% were to people of color.
- Seventy six people were charged with possession of drugs. Ninety percent of these charges were to people of color.
A lot of this activity can be avoided if we as a community would just get involved in the lives of today's youth. We can not depend solely on the government, police, school board, etc... We have to take issues into our own hands, and guess what "Championships" are and added incentive.
As I calmed down a bit after the game, it dawned on me why I am so passionate about coaching/mentoring. You see 31 years ago, I told my "Glenwood Center" coach we would win for him the same-city title, against the same recreation center-Warnersville, in the same gym where my youth team played that day. As a 13 year old african american kid, who was being raised by a mother who worked three jobs, without a steady father figure in my life; my coaches trusted, hoped and believed in me thus compelling me to believe in myself. Can you guess what the reply was from my coach when I reminded him that we would win the game? Well I believe he said, "Yes you did son, yes you did" as he fought back tears.
Block, P. (2010). Community, the structure of belonging. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Mentor: National mentoring partnership. (2013, April 19). Retrieved from http://www.mentoring.org/about_mentor/value_of_mentoring/ \
Holmes, S. (2013 , April 18). The school to prison pipeline report [Electronic mailing list message]. Retrieved from https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1