John Mitchell is a 14-year-old basketball coach and a pretty good one at that. The Sportsmanship Brigade dropped in to watch Mitchell’s Herbert Hoover club team play the Arch Ryvals in a 7th grade boys basketball matchup last Friday night. Now, Mitchell is 14 and the players on his team are 12 and 13. At first, it was hard to determine who was in charge of the Herbert Hoover squad.
Someone was providing instructions and making substitutions, but he didn’t look any older than any of the other kids. One of the parents in the crowd said, “I think a kid is coaching them.” Sure enough, Mitchell was doing the job of someone many years his senior. The Arch Ryvals are a team that includes many select-level players and the Herbet Hoover team was overmatched early on.
Even as the score became more and more lopsided, Coach Mitchell’s demeanor never changed. He did not yell at his players or appear frustrated. He encouraged his players and continued to give them sound instruction regardless of the mounting deficit. To borrow from ESPN’s Stuart Scott, John Mitchell was as cool as the other side of the pillow.
We approached him and asked how he came to coach a team of kids basically his own age. Mitchell said, “Well, my uncle is the coach, but he couldn’t make it. He asked me to fill in for him.” I found out later that trusting Mitchell with a team of his peers was not as risky as one might think.
The sports director at the Herbert Hoover club is very high on Mitchell and sang his praises. According to the director, Mitchell coaches in the Pee Wee league, referees, helps maintain the facility and even works concessions – all on a volunteer basis. The Sportsmanship Brigade was impressed with the Herbert Hoover team as well as the Arch Ryvals.
The Arch Ryvals showed respect for their opponents and behaved like champions. They did not taunt nor insult the Herbert Hoover team. This takes a great deal of discipline and humility on any level. Kudos are also in order for the players on the Herbert Hoover team. Following the leadership of a peer is tough enough when you’re an adult – let alone in middle school.
Brigade members were very proud of these kids and decided to reward both teams for their collective show of sportsmanship and respect. One more word about humility – see if you can find John Mitchell is this picture. We tried to get him to take a more obvious coaching position, but he kept fading into the background. C’est la vie!
The Sportsmanship Brigade is a group of Sports Commission volunteers who attend youth sporting events looking for acts of good sportsmanship. Athletes, coaches, parents, fans and officials who exhibit good sportsmanship are rewarded with a certificate of recognition and a gift card to a local business. For more on the Brigade, including scheduling and volunteering information, please visit sportsmanship.org or call 314-345-5130.