Article February 14, 2018

Choose Wisely

I’ve often shared with parents how important it is for them to choose wisely those who will mentor their kids in their athletic pursuits.

 My daughter played high school basketball and volleyball.  My older son was a Division 1 basketball player.  My younger son swam collegiately.  My wife Marilynn and I know that sports can help mold character like nothing else.

That’s why as early as middle school, Marilynn and I tried to find coaches who reflected our values.  We weren’t always successful, but we did the best we could.  One bad choice could have negatively impacted our children’s lives  forever.

That’s why the recent horrific revelations about Larry Nassar should alert every parent.  Over a period of years, this doctor to the Olympic gymnasts sexually assaulted 265 girls.  This man, who was supposed to carefully guard and nurture the sacred trust of these young girls, abused them.  He took advantage of his place of privilege.  

Dr. Nassar could have been a positive influence in these gymnasts’ lives.  He failed miserably.  Now he must live with a 40-125 year prison sentence.  Most likely, he will never be free again.

Contrast Larry Nassar to one the most profound male influences in my life: Dean Smith, my college basketball coach at the University of North Carolina.  He was a man of incalculable influence.

In Coach Smith’s 36 years of coaching, he oversaw the development and maturity of over 250 lettermen---approximately the same number of girls Dr. Nassar oversaw.  At Coach Smith’s funeral three years ago, most all of the players showed up to express their gratitude for his profound, positive influence on their lives.

Dean Smith had enormous integrity.

What is integrity?  It means your life is integrated.  Your words match your deeds.  Every part of who you are---body, soul, and spirit---is interrelated.  You are the same person outside as inside.  You are the same publicly and privately.  You are who you are whether someone or no one is noticing you.

Looking back, I realize how much I lead like Coach Smith led. 

For example, I know that right decisions, made in process over an extended period of time, most often will lead to a successful outcome. That’s what Coach Smith did.  That’s why he’s a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame with 879 total wins at North Carolina.  I emulate how he treated others with fairness, respect, and honor.  I value the team’s success over the individual’s.  I try to mold my staff together as he did his teams---as cohesive units built to win.

I chose wisely.  Yes, I chose wisely when I decided that Dean Smith should be my college coach. 

And I watched my older son choose wisely to play basketball for a good and godly man at Valparaiso University.  I saw my younger son choose wisely to be under the tutelage of an honorable swim coach at the University of Missouri.  Both of these coaches fostered the Christian values by which Marilynn and I raised our sons.  

If you are a parent and you are helping your child to choose a mentor or a coach, carefully examine their character.  Do they believe what you believe?  Do they share your same values?

Do as much investigation as possible to find someone who will reinforce your values.  Interview as many people as possible.  Research every possible site to find out all the information you can.

Then guide your kids well.  Help them choose wisely.  

This choice will foster a lifelong influence---either for bad or good.

If you don’t believe me, just ask the families of those who were under the care of Larry Nassar.  They know how important it is be under the direction of a good, wise, caring, loving, and godly mentor.

One of the wisest decisions I ever made was to play basketball under Coach Dean Smith.  My parents wholeheartedly endorsed the decision. He positively affected my life for good like few others.

That’s what coaches and mentors are supposed to do.

Therefore, choose wisely!

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