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Open Mike

Whatever happened to pride and teamwork?

My son, Ethan, who just turned 9 years old, and I just watched "Coach Carter." You know, the movie with Samuel L. Jackson-who happens to be the coolest black man on the planet. The movie hits right on the nose about a couple of issues.

The gist of "Coach Carter," which is based on a true story, is that he takes an undisciplined group of teenage boys and instills some pride in them. Once the pride falls into place, things start to go well for this group of ghetto kids. One part that goes sour for these young men is their grades in the classroom. In response to the student's academic failings the coach locks the players out of the gym and cancels a couple of their crucial games. Prior to the season Coach Carter had given each of the players a contract to sign, which asked for their commitment to earn grades above the minimum requirements. The contract also called for them to dress appropriately and display pride in themselves and their actions.

I like Coach Carter. I think the world should be full of Coach Carters, implementing his beliefs and philosophies.

During his run at trying to turn this group of youngsters around, the coach runs into parents who basically try to negate everything the coach is doing. The parents and the community don't care about how these youngsters failed to have the pride to live up to the contract they signed.

Pride is an issue we struggle with here in the Lower Valley. Some kids believe they can't compete with the West Valleys, Zillahs and Hanfords of the world. Some take no pride in representing the team they are on.

The world of athletics holds many positives for youngsters. It teaches them how to win, lose, play fair and all that other good stuff. Youngsters learn through athletics that sometimes you don't win them all.

What some haven't learned is that it is wrong to not try your hardest. Without getting into specifics, how many times have we all seen lackluster efforts by our local sports teams? There is nothing wrong in losing, but the worst thing is to lose while not giving 100 percent.

How many times have we seen teams that aren't teams? How many showoffs are there nowadays?

The successful programs are the ones that instill pride on and off the athletic field in their students.

In "Coach Carter" there is a part in the movie where the parents think their kids should be able to play basketball even with failing grades. By the way, Carter benches the entire team when some of the players are failing classes. He did this because if one member of the team fails, the entire team fails.

There are parents and people in this world who think that just because a child is gifted athletically, none of the rules should apply to them. What a foolish, misguided line of thinking. Participating in athletics is a privilege, a privilege more of our youngsters should take part in. But, the work in the classroom comes before the work on the athletic field. The worst thing we can do for youngsters is make excuses for them or allow them a free pass because of their physical abilities.

Student athletes need to understand they not only have a commitment to their teammates to maintain their grades, as well as their performance on and off the field, they also have a commitment to themselves to expect the very best in everything they do.

The lessons in school and in the athletic arena carry over into life.

Imagine working for a company where not everyone gives their best or understands the meaning of teamwork. I have had a couple of jobs where the teamwork side of things have been lacking. It makes for a less than successful experience.

I love talking to the likes of Scott Linehan, Ken Potter and all those guys from the good old days in Sunnyside. Even Shag Williams, coach of the Davis Pirates boys basketball team told me the same thing-success is about having pride and believing in yourself. Success was expected of these people when they were youngsters and look where they are today.

We need to start expecting success, encouraging and breeding pride in our youngsters and even some adults in the community. When we start nurturing and breathing life into the thoughts of success the time will finally come when we are all successful.

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