Did you see the film Coach Carter? It’s about Ken Carter, a man who returns to his former high school to coach the basketball team. The school is one of the worst in the state. Teachers expected little of the students and many slipped through the system. When Coach Carter took over, he made academic achievement as important as winning games. When his team went 13-0 but did not meet his academic requirements for playing on the team, he shut down the season. Many were angry over the decision, but Carter knew that giving these kids a free ride did them a disservice. They needed to get to college if they wanted to make something of themselves.
Carter left Richmond High a couple of years later, but he never left the kids. He set up the Coach Carter Foundation which helps students and schools meet academic goals. This week Carter went back to Richmond High to speak to the students and to hand out thousands of dollars in scholarships. He brought with him former students and a couple of the actors from the film. He continues to work with students in Richmond and other poor districts. He hopes that by sharing his philosophy that they can succeed, they will. He backs it up with money for schools and scholarships.
We need more Coach Carters. For some kids, sports seems like their only way out. Too often we set low academic expectations for kids because of where they live or their background. We don’t even give them a chance as if by doing so gives them false hope. If we give them a boost of self esteem as well as the assistance they need to meet academic standards we can break the chain of despair. The more kids who graduate from high school and college benefits all of us and it’s a goal that we all should work towards.