‘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.