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Some parents and players need to speak up

There is always much made of the over-active, meddling high school basketball parent. You know – the one who not only likes to complain about their daughter’s playing time but tries to micro-manage or run the entire program. The one who tries to make the life of the coaches a living hell.

To be sure, this is an issue in some quarters. There are some parents who will always think they know better than the coach, and there are those who will never think their daughter gets enough court time. But at the risk of angering some, this seems to be mostly a suburban – and not an inner-city – problem. Players and parents of city schools tend to be the opposite of the squawkers: they don’t speak up enough.

I’ve seen it enough the last few years in various parts of socio-economically-challenged Los Angeles. A coach is verbally-abusive to athletes, has unethical practices, doesn’t develop players’ abilities, creates a culture of fear and negativity instead of fun and learning. Yet the players don’t say anything and neither do the parents.

Athletes are usually hesitant to speak up for one of two reasons: either they “don’t think it will do any good” to talk to the school athletic director or administration, or they fear retribution from the coach. With parents it’s usually either not believing they’ll be listened to, or fear of making waves.

Though these mindsets are frustrating to watch, I understand them. If you don’t think you’ll be heard, why try? The world we live in is still discriminative, racist and frustrating at times.

Yet, I see the “culture of refusing to speak up” as a generational problem, too. Back in the day, both young and old tended to believe that if they spoke up they could make a difference. Remember Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising the “black power” sign at the 1968 Olympics? And what happened to rap and music groups like Public Enemy, who were not afraid to stir up controversy to make their point? Those days seem to be behind us, as our music and culture have melted into sameness.

Many times in high school basketball, parents are disgruntled for no substantial reason; a coach can’t please all the people all the time. But in some cases, players and parents have legitimate gripes. Coaches who berate players personally and continuously, try to involve themselves in an athlete’s life outside of basketball, don’t help a player develop better skills or get her into a college, and who help kill the love of the game in a young person are examples of issues that need to be addressed. And it is a parent’s job to make sure such issues are dealt with.

Every parent has a job to look out for the welfare and well-being of their child. If something isn’t right, speak up. Go to the school’s athletic director or principal, and if they don’t address the issues, keep taking them up the ladder until you find someone who will. Don’t stop until the issues are resolves to the satisfaction of you and your child. Because a girl is only on her high school basketball team once in her life, and those should be some of her best times.

I always do what I can to encourage athletes and their parents to speak up against perceived wrongs. And I hope that more of a sense of empowerment flows back into the inner cities. Everyone’s voice needs to be heard.

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