Athletes With Character

One of the main reasons I have written three books about a high school boy with bright red hair is to set forth an athlete who has talent, but more importantly, character. Randy “Red Hot” Bowman treats everyone with respect, doesn’t believe the world revolves around him, and shows humility in the midst of times when other want to put him on a pedestal.

As I come close to 30 years of coaching middle and high school kids in basketball, the need for athletes like Randy have never been more evident. After a year where athletic competitions were limited or non-existent, I see the warts and blemishes coming out in middle school kids whose only models for the past months have been the make-believe athletes on their video games or professional athletes who strut their stuff in front of the cameras.

During the past two weeks, my coaching buddy, Ron McKinney and I have been conducting a basketball camp after school for sixth-graders at our school. I brought in a couple of my former basketball players, one junior male and one sophomore female, to help us. Both os them are talented players who have character. This week I talked to the campers about the vitalness of having character on the court and in the classroom. In fact, I emphasized that when I evaluate players who are trying out for one of the school’s basketball teams, I place character above talent in importance.

Coach McKinney and learned that over the years. In his evaluating of players that his professional football team was considering drafting, former NFL coach, Tony Dungy, would sometimes puts the letters “DNDC” beside a prospects name. It stood for “Do Not Draft- Character!” They determined that an athlete who had great talent but was lacking in character had more potential to be a problem in their team concept than a potential player.

That also means that coaching 12 and 13-year-olds has to include guidance, mentoring, and modeling. The coach must model what being a person of character looks like and, in a short amount of time, needs to talk and teach about it. What does it mean to be an honorable seventh-grader? What does it mean for a second-string player to take ownership in what the team is emphasizing? What does it mean to work hard and have a great work ethic? What does it mean for an eighth-grader to show positive leadership? In an era where bullying often gets talked about, what does it mean for a team member to strive for a safe environment for his/her teammates?

At our sixth grade camp, Coach McKinney and I can already see that there are a few kids who will need to be reeled in some, others who have the seeds of a good character foundation, and others who need to be guided toward becoming awesome young people. That has made the inclusion of the two high school athletes so important. They model who these kids have the potential to become.

In a culture that exalts winners and laughs at losers, thee needs to be a committed effort to teaching the fundamental skills of the sport, the principles of and how to function as an effective team, and being a teammate and student with character.

I am who I am as a coach because of awesome coaching mentors. Don Fackler, Leo Swiontek, Ron McKinney, Steve Achor, Scott Shattuck, Jim Chapman, and Kevin Wenger have all impacted my life n not just game strategy but also modeling character and integrity.

I’m at the point in my life where an opposing coach talking about how great my kids were in sportsmanship and hustle brings a smile to my face more than a win.

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