Ron Hunter: "I wish every dad in America could have that opportunity – what I just experienced with my son."

Georgia State University won the Sun Belt Conference championship — giving them automatic entry into this year’s NCAA Tournament. Coach Ron Hunter tore his achilles tendon after celebrating his team’s victory. The injury caused him to have to coach Georgia State’s first tournament game from a stool on the sideline.

No. 3 Baylor was up on No. 14 Georgia State, 56-54 with about 12 seconds left. Georgia State grabbed the rebound. The final shot would be left up to RJ Hunter — the coach’s son. The rest is nothing less than a story for the grandkids (email subscribers click here to view media).
Ron Hunter said all he needed to say in the postgame press conference. He wishes every dad in America could have the opportunity he had with his son. Yes, the NCAA Tourney stage is as big as it gets, but I’ll bet dollars against donuts that Ron Hunter has been that big of an RJ Hunter fan since he was a 5th grader with only 50 people in the gym watching his games. Even if he’d missed that shot, I’d bet those same dollars against those same donuts that Ron Hunter would have fallen off his stool trying to hug his son.

This is about more than Ron and RJ, though. When the elder Hunter was helped to his feet, he quickly switched from proud dad to attentive coach. There was less than three seconds on the clock. Baylor still had a chance and Georgia State needed to set its defense. Hunter hobbled on his one, good leg and coached from his one, good heart.

Ron Hunter is proving to every parent-coach out there that your kid’s success doesn’t have to come at the expense of the others. Actually, your kid’s success is tied to the success of the others and that you all can get there together.

Middle school basketball players walk off court to defend bullied cheerleader

This is an awesome story out of Wisconsin. Three eighth grade basketball players walked off the court in the middle of a game to defend a cheerleader who was being heckled by a bully in the stands. Check out their story courtesy of TMJ 4 in Milwaukee (email subscribers click here to view media).

We’ve all seen dozens of stories about kids inviting their special needs classmates and friends to come and play on a team, but how many have stopped playing to come their aid? Welcoming someone into your group is an act of kindness. Stopping what you are doing to defend someone else is an act of selflessness. These boys could have let any number of adults handle the situation, but Desiree is their friend. And who wouldn’t stick up for a friend?

Texas high school basketball players inspired by ’09 Musial Awards winner

The Musial Awards were called the National Sportsmanship Awards in 2009, but the premise was the same — to recognize and celebrate extraordinary acts of sportsmanship. One story involved Grapevine (Texas) Faith Christian School and how its football team treated the kids at Gainesville (Texas) State School. Have a look at the story below (email subscribers click here).

Hudson Bradley and Ben Martinson were in elementary school in 2009, but the Grapevine story left a positive impression on the youngsters. The current Vanguard (Waco, Texas) College Prep students told the Waco Tribune that Grapevine inspired and motivated them to reach out to Gainesville once again. Check out the CBS News story on the Vanguard duo which aired last week (email subscribers click here).

We all too often hear about how older kids negatively influence younger ones. I’m proud to report that positive influences still happen. Wouldn’t it be great in five or six years if we were talking about current fourth or fifth graders who are inspired by Vanguard?

‘White Power’ signs mar high school basketball game

You may be surprised or even outraged by the following video. I’m not. When it comes to racism in America, and by extension American sports, nothing surprises me anymore and I’m just fresh out of rage (email subscribers click here to view media).
I am of the belief that racism is still being taught in homes throughout this great land of ours. How else can anyone explain what happened in this game? A kid could make any number of posters expressing his love for his own team or his disdain for the opponent, but ‘White Power?’ That kind of hatred is passed down. That kind of bigotry is congenital.

Think about it. A current high school student has really only been around around for two presidents: George W. Bush and Barack Obama, one white and one black. Diversity is all around them. LeBron, Peyton, Serena, Beyonce, Iggy, and Sam Smith are all a part of their daily lives. They know that anyone from anywhere can be a successful, valued member of society.

Yet, they still make ‘White Power’ signs.

Time does not heal all wounds. Time really doesn’t heal anything. Healing comes by empathy, compassion and care for a fellow human being. It means teaching and modeling the change we seek. We must learn that it’s OK to see color — much in the way you are meant to see the colors in your favorite painting. Those colors have value. The Artist who drew the painting means for us to appreciate each one and marvel at the masterpiece created when they flow together.

Suspended East St. Louis basketball coach caught on tape cursing out kids

Audio has surfaced of suspended East St. Louis (Ill.) High School boys basketball coach and athletic director Tony Young using abusive language toward his players. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the recordings took place on January 12 and 13. School district officials would not confirm why Young was suspended, but every indication points to the treatment of his team.

The recordings are available on YouTube, but I will not post them in this space. If you wish to hear them for yourself, they are available here. (Warning: These recordings depict an adult using offensive and verbally abusive language toward children. This audio is NSFW. Parental discretion is advised).

This type of “coaching” is disgraceful. Once you get past the exorbitant profanity, you’ll realize there’s no real coaching going on at all. Mistakes are not corrected. No plays are discussed — just a lot of high-pitched yelling, insults and four-letter words.

It’s not necessary to talk to kids or anyone else this way to get them to perform. Particularly with kids, they perform better when they think you care about them. If you’re a coach who doesn’t care if the kids like you, please leave the profession. As I’ve written here hundreds of times, kids don’t remember the score, but they do remember how they are treated.

Treat ’em right. Period.

Three players ejected after punches thrown in Auburn-Alabama fight

In the closing moments of the first half of Thursday night’s women’s basketball game between Auburn and Alabama, three players were ejected when the battle for a potential rebound turned into a real battle. Alabama’s Breanna Hayden and Auburn’s Hasina Muhammad held their own version of the Iron Bowl. Check it out in the video below (email subscribers click here).

Basketball coach should not have been suspended over 161-2 score

I used to be of the mindset that lopsided basketball scores were a show of poor sportsmanship. Paragraph after paragraph was spent criticizing coaches for pummeling overmatched teams. I accused them of ruining the sport for kids.

I was wrong.
San Bernardino Arroyo Valley (Ca.) girls’ high school basketball coach Michael Anderson was suspended last week after his team posted one of the most lopsided victories in state history — a 161-2 bludgeoning of Bloomington (Ca.) High School. The score was 104-1 at halftime. Coach then put in his reserves. They put on a show of their own with a 57-1 performance, resulting in the controversial final score. Watch the ABC 7 report below (email subscribers click here).
Bloomington coach Dale Chung offered a scathing rebuke to Arroyo Valley in remarks to the Daily Bulletin. He said, “People shouldn’t feel sorry for my team. They should feel sorry for his team, which isn’t learning the game the right way.” What is the “right way” exactly? Bloomington has lost every game this season by an average of 56 points.

The 159-point loss to Arroyo Valley is an outlier, but Bloomington is not a very good basketball team. They are 0-16 on the season and have lost by an average of 56 points per game. Their closest game was a 38-point loss on January 6. Every other Bloomington loss has been by 40 or more points.

It’s unfair to demonize Arroyo Valley’s coach when Bloomington does not field a competitive team. Coaches have a responsibility to put their kids in the best position possible to succeed. That doesn’t just mean wins. It means preparing them to have a chance.

Bloomington has not had a chance this year. The team has scored less than ten points in eight of its 16 losses and scored more than 20 points only once. This is a varsity team. They should be more competitive than this. The kids deserve better.

Sportsmanship is about everyone having the best experience possible. Sometimes that means taking your foot off the pedal when your opponent has clearly had enough. It also means knowing that your team has no business being in the race to begin with.