I coached for sixteen years. High school, community college, club and even University for two seasons. In my mid-life crisis, I will return to coaching and a university setting. I miss the day to day interaction with athletes and the excitement of learning. While I enjoy my interaction with my coach friends, athletes now, it is not like coaching.
I learnt as much as I instructed. I was fascinated with the discussions in community college track trips, on sex, race, dating, life, and future life as my head coach, Joe and I drove teams to events. The conversations were open, honest, touching, but most of all, enlightening. I was living in my little cold corner of hell at the time, and it opened me to how others were seeing and living in the world.
I remember a large track relays where our relay team was followed by security guards most of the day. The three young black men knew that they were being followed, and I did not know what to say.
Then, one of the young men came up to me and said, "We are being followed because we are black, right?" And I said, " Yes." And he asked me what to do. I said, "Stay focused and go win the relay." Which they did. We then left, got some dinner and drove the long way home. It was a joyous ride home.
That runs in my head about once a week. If I recall, Joe did complain about the situation, which, of course the AD at the relays discounted.
I read this piece today and thought that you, my friends, my readers, many coaches and athletes, would understand and get. Toure is articulate, and honest. He speaks from life knowledge that while I empathize with, I have note experienced. Perhaps there is a young man you know who should read this. Share it with them. Listen to them, let them talk about their concerns and fears. It is honest and it is straight forward. And only with discussion can things change.
How to Talk to Young Black Boys about Trayvon Martin, by Toure (courtesy of Time Ideas)
One last thought: When my son Adam was a teen ager, he would confide in me and I would be frustrated because I could not change things for him. A Dad is supposed to be able to fix things, right? Well, one time, Adam just looked at me and said, " I need you just to listen, you can't do anything, just listen." That is when we began to really communicate.