By Todd Black // 104.5 ESPN-Louisiana Prep Scoreboard Show Host
Not too long ago I made a post referencing that it would be great if our country saw things through a “Team” culture. In my 22 years of coaching, I cannot recall racial problems on any of the teams and coaching staffs I was a part of. I can recall witnessing racism from our opposition in which we as coaches used as teaching moments. I saw the hurt and the pain in our players eyes when these few instances occurred; the slurs were not limited to just one race.
The response I received was something to the effect “that is good in theory but look what happened in the NFL; look what is happening in colleges.”
I will answer that, with a quote/question from a former player of mine and current Dallas Cowboys lineman, La’el Collins.
There was one Friday night where myself and La’el were on the sideline at a local high school game and he says “Coach, I miss these days. You know out of high school, college and pro which level I enjoyed the most?” I responded ‘college.’ He says “Nope, high school. Coach, we were a team, we hung out together, we had fun together; at the other levels, you are kind of on your own.”
During La’el’s junior year of high school , he kept getting to practice a few minutes late. I told him to quit messing around before practice or else he is going to end up getting detention and miss an hour of practice. Guess what? A few days later, he received and served detention. When he showed up late to practice, I was peeved and we stood toe to toe. Over the next few days things mellowed and we moved on.
Back to the night on the sideline, this is 10 years after our “confrontation”, La’el says “Coach, you remember that day we got into that argument?” I said “Yes.” La’el Collins, starting tackle in the National Football League, says “I’m sorry. I did not understand what you were trying to teach me. Coach, you were trying to make me accountable and a better young man and I’m sorry.”
He did not even have to go there but that is La’els character.
High school sports are different. High school is not college, high school is not professional sports; high school is different. High school coaches have a platform that is unique. High school coaches have the opportunity to make a difference in so many young men and women’s lives. High school coaches have the ear of 14-18 year old student-athletes when oftentimes their parents do not. And other than the parents, I believe high school coaches can have the most influence on our student-athletes than anyone else.
At the beginning of June, Jason Green, the head football coach at Klein Oak High School in Spring, Texas, addressed his team in the middle of the football field. Green took advantage of his platform and addressed the current situation in our country.
“The stuff that is going on in our country is not going to divide us; it’s not! Your skin color, your race or your religion is not going to divide us. There is no hatred towards anyone because of their race, skin color or religion. Are you kidding me!
We are not going to be divided; we are not going to let society tell us who to hate… you need to decide that! And you decide that by their heart, and their character and how they treat others.
I have had some friends that would do some “not-so-good” things; I don’t judge them. I stay away from them from a distance, but I am not going to hate them. We are not going to be divided, we are not going to let them divide us.
Green: What is this program about?
Team: To raise great young men.
Green: What is this program about?
Team: To raise great young men.”
This… this is why high school sports are different. Coaches all over the country will address these issues and I know one thing for certain, I would rather my son hear the message that is coming from his coaches’ mouth rather than what is coming from social media.