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Chillin' with Dylan—What athletes are teaching kids

January 24, 2013

By DYLAN MALONE
    I had the opportunity to watch some third and fourth graders play basketball over the weekend at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Classic. The teams were part of a Midwest regional AAU tournament with members from the Spiece Fieldhouse and Gym Rats.  
    There were teams from Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Iowa and the tournament was a two-day affair. In the first day, all of the teams played against one another to form divisions and brackets with Monday being the day for the champions to be crowned after tournament play.
    I’ve seen basketball from all ages in my life going from kindergarteners learning to dribble all of the way to the pro game with stops in between.
    These kids are the real deal.
    They were running plays, switching defenses, and breaking full-court presses in their games. In third grade I could barely shoot the basketball. I was learning was the difference between a center and a point guard were. These kids were running flex and 2-3 zone pressures. Unreal.
    Enter the parents.
    Of course for these kids to be as knowledgeable as they are there has to be a certain amount of push from the parents, many of whom were coaches in their own rights yelling at their own from the crowd. It was an interesting atmosphere.
    During the championship of the fourth grade tourney, a kid was fouled while shooting a half-court shot just before the halftime buzzer. The official blew the whistle and the clock was stopped at one second. At first, the ref called a foul to dismay of the fouling team’s fans who were already down 20 points.
    After consideration, the official ruled that the half was over and that the players should report to their benches. The scorer at the table (the father of a player on the winning team) put his hands in the air in dismay as did the winning coach who pointed to the scoreboard and noted that there was still time on the clock.
    A huge debacle ensued. The point of this story was not to quarrel over who was right (the original ruling stood). What was important to take away from the sight was the grown men involved in the argument. While the winning team was up 20 points, clearly had the better and more fundamental team, and was well on their way to a trophy, it was the losing team’s coach who was not even present for the argument at the half. He was coaching his squad in the corner of the gym.
    From the stands I could hear the argument with raised voices and pointing fingers. The woman in charge of the event had to split up the coaches, refs, and score keepers and make the final decision. Not only was the call pointless with such a large lead, but even if the game was close, was it worth making such a scene over a call during a fourth grade basketball game?
    What are we teaching our children?
    At a later point in the second half of the same game, a small kid from the losing team (still losing by 20) fell to the floor and got tangled with one of the better players from the other team. The player who was tripped looked at the ref and threw his hands in the air and shouted, “Get him off me!”
    The official just laughed and ran the other way down the court as the disgruntled player adjusted each of his arm bands and long socks and shook his head. The other player, still down on the ground, just had the cow-eyed look of a player who didn’t know what he did wrong.
    And why should he? They’re just kids. There’s something to be said about the way some kids have this attitude that they’re owed the world. They see the way players act on TV. Their parents go out and buy them expensive headphones to listen to their ipods and they have their wrist bands, braces, and warm-ups all color coordinated.
    Whatever happened to the good old days when you just couldn’t wait until after school when you took to the court and played ball? Maybe I was just poor growing up but all I had were my sneakers.
    It's an image thing now with these kids as they strut into the gym with their gym bags, bulky headphones and head bands. I probably sound like an old man ranting about this (whipper-snappers!) but it really gets my goat to see that kind of thing, especially from kids so young.
    Play the game because it's fun. Even if you do play the game in an effort to go to college or even further, don't lose sight of what's really important in life. It's just a game.
    We lose sight of that when we turn on the tv and we see all the crap our athletes are doing. And we do see ALL of it thanks to social media. Twitter and Facebook are good things in theory until we reveal the bad side of our character.

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