How Fatherlessness is killing basketball
Today, I was listening to a report on the complexities of recruiting high school basketball players to college. It was mind boggling to even comprehend the maze the players, coaches, and families must negotiate in order for the player to receive a scholarship. The rules are complex and the access to some of the "elite" players is incredibly competitive.
What amazes me most is the myriad of "handlers" who manage to have influence on these young men and women. These people are typically in the form of AAU coaches (I am not trying to say that all AAU coaches are exploitative or poor coaches, but that within the ranks of the AAU tradition, there exists an very unhealthy element) who guarantee their players that they will give the players exposure and connection to premium college coaches. If you have ever been to AAU tournaments, you can immediately spot these men (typically, they are men). They have a cell phone continuously on, even during the games. They coach marginally, but are all about introductions and looking good. They are typically wearing a $120 athletic outfit, driving a $70,000 vehicle, while living in a terrible apartment or worse yet, with mama.
These "handlers" then use and exploit the players for leverage. Whether that be money or positions, its all about them. No matter how much you talk to the young men and women about these "basketball pimps", they still find themselves attracted to them. Why, because everyone needs a father. Young men and young women need men who will affirm and direct them. This is where the connection of basketball and fatherlessness comes together. Many of these basketball pimps sink their teeth into our young people precisely because there is a void in their lives. A large gaping hole where a father should be. Our culture, particularly our urban cultures, have all but eliminated the role of fathers. Whether this is reactive (fathers began to abandon their roles) or adaptive (Culture made it difficult for fathers, and so they perish) is unclear.
The net result is an escalation in young players being influenced by manipulative and self-serving people. College coaches, in interview after interview, speak about the difficulty in trying to talk with families and players, while the basketball pimp holds the leverage. No one is advising the young men and women about the value of an education that will serve them after the blown out knee and the failing jump shot. No one is teaching them about the value of discipline that makes one not only a better basketball player, but a better person. All that is heard is about "getting paid". The effect has been a degrading of the college game, an alarming amount of talented players who do not go to college at all, and an infusion of talented, but immature NBA players.
Everyone one needs a father. The further I get into my middle-agedness, the more I realize that I need a father to affirm who I am and give me wisdom that comes from a life well lived. Our young people are being destroyed and exploited. We can and must make a difference. If you are a father, renew your commitment to your child to affirm and guide them. Guard who has access to your child's heart and mind, as the ancient wisdom of God declares that their hearts are the "wellspring of life".
Let me know what you think,
Pastor M Traylor