When reading the Chicago Tribune on Monday, one of the articles by Dawn Turner Trice stuck out to me. It was the story of Jim Maley, a basketball coach at Kenwood High School in Chicago, who was recently relieved of his coaching duties.
After basketball seasons with 15-13 and 15-12 records, Maley was dismissed as basketball coach, although he continues to be a teacher at the school. Maley emphasized grades and academic success for his students, even if it potentially came at the cost of picking up more “L”s on the basketball court. He had more stringent GPA requirements of his players than the general requirements of Chicago Public Schools.
In addition, he used basketball as a method to motivate the students to achieve more, as well as to be on their best behavior. As Maley coached, there was a significant improvement in the players’ grades and academic achievement. Players would also be suspended for off-the-court troubles besides grades. One of these players that was suspended for an altercation reflected, “…I knew the coach wasn’t just looking at this from a basketball standpoint. He cared about where we would land afterward.”
Of course, the article probably does not tell the whole story of why Maley is no longer the basketball coach at Kenwood. But, if I take the article at face value, it definitely shows a troubling trend of decisions being made primarily on a win-loss record on the court.
Especially at the youth and high school levels, coaches have bigger fish to fry than winning games. Playing well as teammates is a transferable skill that encompasses much more than just a sports team–people rarely work alone in the “real world.” Being an athlete means learning how to juggle time–in addition to practices and games, they are student-athletes, with the emphasis on “student.”
As mentioned in the article, there is a minimum grade point average for the student-athlete to even be eligible to play. I feel, especially at the prep level, one of the coach’s responsibilities is to encourage the student-athletes on their academic work, particularly if it is challenging to the student. Playing a sport is a privilege, and should be earnt based on success in the classroom. As the NCAA commercials say, “Almost all student-athletes will be going pro in something other than sports.”
Yet, even at the prep levels, winning is king in the eyes of the coach’s superiors. It is a sad commentary on the priorities of lessons of sports, as I mentioned above. Winning does not necessarily promote character, academic success, or life lessons.
In fact, sometimes I think that losing builds more character than winning–it teaches humility, resilience, and learning from mistakes. And it is better to learn from mistakes made in a safe environment!
Today is the ninety-second day of M.M.X.I.V. That makes thirteen weeks and one day.