‘Hood mentality

Don’t take that scholarship for granted.

The success stories abound: local girl goes off to Division I school, or JC-to-DI, and makes a mark. Think Jeanette Pohlen, Layshia Clarendon or Hazel Ramirez if you’re a Los Angeles-area resident.

But those are the exceptions. Unfortunately, there is far more wasted talent out there than success – particularly in low socio-economic areas – AKA the ‘hood. I might offend some with this terminology, but I have to call it what it is.

First there are the ones who don’t even try. A girl from my former school of employment comes to mind. One of the best skill sets we’d seen, and all that natural talent. But she wouldn’t even play for the school because she “didn’t care” (Translation: fear of failure).

Another girl from that school with similar great talent did play, but she didn’t want to go to college. She could have got a scholarship easily. Almost went to two JCs before abandoning the idea altogether. She seemed to like the idea of sitting around the house better than being a student athlete.

And then, don’t think that landing that scholarship necessarily means that it’s “happily ever after” for these kids. Two examples from other South Central LA schools come to mind.

One girl came home from her JC for winter break. She got one of the assistants from her former high school team to take her to the airport for the return flight after the holiday. He called the JC coach the next day; the girl never made it. He checked the girl’s house. Apparently after he left her at the airport, she found a way home and never got on the plane. She told her brother to tell the coach that she wasn’t there when he called.

Another girl came home from her college for winter break, and her people practically had to throw her on the plane to get her to return, as she didn’t want to go. And her team and program are ranked very well.

It confounds the mind, but for every Mykiea Russell and Reshanda Gray (Washington Prep High School), there are 10 times more of the types of girls as the two above.

Why? The reasons vary. Fear of failure, fear of success, family influences, neighborhood influences, lack of role models, lack of reinforcement, lack of structure, lack of self-esteem, lack of resilience. Most likely, a combination of the above. But it’s agonizing for those of us like myself who surround these girls, and all of our efforts fail.

College coaches know about ‘Hood mentality. Some – especially high-profile programs – steer clear of recruiting in certain areas. They don’t want to deal with it, and who could blame them?

I wish we had the resources to address the social issues in poor neighborhoods that lead to so much wasted talent. But that’s another column for another blog.

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  1. geesh sue, i hope you feel better getting that all out. i feel your pain and i don't take offense with the way you use "hood". i can't speak for others, but being from the hood myself, i don't find that hurtful.

    yes, there are any number of reasons those talented few fail to take advantage of the opportunities you speak about. i'm not a sociologist or psychologist and really can't put a finger on it either. frustrating as heck. i will say as one that came from the hood…poverty, low self esteem, and a daily dose of "you people" can take a lot of fight out of a person.
    that said, thanks for all you do to help us. i believe you feel as i do…the ones that find some measure of success are worth it.

  2. Sue,
    I usually enjoy your blog, but I think you are off the mark here. I am a black american from the hood and currently in a six-figure, professional occupation
    (I don't say this to brag–just for context.).
    The code for appropriate behavior is quite different in the hood and the white world. Please don't assume that the standards are "higher" in the white world. They are different but not higher. For the typical person from the hood, whites lack loyalty and back -stabbing is common practice. These realities are often quite difficult to deal with for young sisters from the hood.

  3. This happens in all areas and even with the boys. Many just don't want to work hard anymore on the court or in the classroom. They're content with how their other family members live. Plus most get lied to by all the college coaches promises during the recruiting period, find out they're liars later and don't trust coaches anymore. College sports is a business. It's who you get that counts. Sad situation as you described so very well.

  4. Russ, I love what you said: "…poverty, low self esteem, and a daily dose of "you people" can take a lot of fight out of a person."

    I couldn't agree more. That's what I wish could be addressed by some kind of agency, etc. But like I said at the end of the post, that exceeds my knowledge and breadth.

  5. sprat I understand about the differing codes of conduct. I never said – nor am I now – that one is superior to the other. What I do lament is that some kids don't even want to try, and I usually see this attitude more in the lower-income neighborhoods. The reasons for this are undoubtedly complex and over my head, but I wish they could be addressed and worked on.

    I'm not going to touch your "white are back-stabbers" assertion with a 10-foot pole. I've found back-stabbers in every race.

  6. Anonymous, you make some excellent points. Situations like these also happen with the boys, and of course in other economic groups. It goes along with the general apathy of today's world, that we see especially in young people. We're having to movtivate kids to do things we never have before, such as play for top programs.

    There is indeed also the aspect of the increased "business" of college ball and recruiting. It's all about the money in this increasingly cynical world.

  7. I would simply point out my understanding that the kids you've held out as examples both had/have support systems that are unrelated to basketball, with no basketball agenda who have been and will continue to be in their corners no matter what happens on the basketball court.

    It takes a village to raise a child, if more people would take the time to mentor kids, take an interest in kids, not be their parent, but help their parents help them be the best kid that they can be, without an anterior motive (e.g. basketball), perhaps we would see some breakthroughs in this area. If nobody's on the other end of the phone telling you, this to will pass, you'll get through this, this tough time is a short term sacrifice for a brighter future, I believe in you, you can do this, you will do this…there's no incentive to stay when the going gets tough.

    I don't know how you best facilitate these types of interactions, but I tend to think that if you could find a way to put together a program that combined inner city student athletes with successful NCAA athletes in their neighborhoods, who talked to them about the importance of academics, and SAT/ACT prep at the beginning of their high school careers, before it was too late…to watch their games, to be an independent shoulder to lean on, a person to cry to, vent to, etc. You might be on to something…of course, that would require finding mentors willing to participate. However, I have to hope that wouldn't be the hard part…

  8. Ah, ANONYMOUS!!!!! Bless your heart. You 100 percent nailed it. Absolutely everything you said is correct. You truly got what I was saying.

    I'll let you figure out why this is so important to me. But in the meantime, thanks – you've been inspirational.

  9. I am from the hood, noone was at home (out drinking), no food, I stole monsy to feed myself, I had A's and forged signatures on my report cards as there was noone home to do it.

    My point is school kept me in check along with sports, I went on to play for my country, of course noone from my family was there, but I had some friends who supported me.

    I have daughters now and are D1. they are also great students, but the biggest thing is that they are striving to reach their potential and being held accountable.

    I will make no excuses for my childhood which involved a lot of abuse at a young age, as I think that making excuses are the biggest problem.