Tom Newell At Large: February 2007

Real Life Issues with Tissues 
The Day After Suspension...: "How to deal with the reality of making poor offcourt choices in a young student athlete's life..."  

This is a telephone exchange with one of my students the other day...

"Hi Coach, I've been trying to reach you and wanted to bring you up to date on how I'm doing...

When the season first started, I was doing okay until I hurt my quad training on my own trying to get into better shape for basketball, and it didn't get any better so I missed a few games and wasn't playing for awhile as it affected my knee's stability also...

BUT, the reason I am calling you, Coach is because I did something over the Holidays that got me into some serious trouble... I've NEVER been in trouble before, but went to this party that was at a teammate's house and their parents were gone, and it ended up getting busted by the Police... There was alcohol there and a lot of people... I went to it because my friends and teammates were going also and it was on MySpace for the invitation... Anyway, Coach, I was suspended along with 7 Seniors and a couple of other players on the Varsity and so were the Cheerleaders and some other students... The suspension is for the season, and I hope you'll forgive me and you'll still allow me to train with you on weekends..."

Here is my reaction...

"I am not disappointed nor discouraged by this life lesson of yours, Harold, rather I think your experience of understanding what "value" choices one makes when a student athlete has everything to do with leadership and listening to your conscience: "this doesn't feel right, I don't think I should go or do this now...". . .1 am sorry to hear about your basketball injury and perhaps this is a blessing in disguise so it can properly heal and you can come back strong in the Spring... It is difficult sometimes to know when we're given the freedom to make choices, both personal and "following others", (which invariably leads to something not-so-positive in the end for any teenager) and the end result causes harm to yourself or others (Family, teammates, coaches, classmates et al), you suffer the consequences, and in your case, suspension from an activity that you truly love and depend upon while attending high school...

That is not an easy remedy/lesson to accept or believe should be the consequence for your choice, but it is the school and team's rules that you broke and everyone has to suffer the same demise...

Coach Tom's suggestions...

 "Harold, have you sat down and handwritten a personal apology letter to the Principal, Athletics Director and your Coach?  Then I highly recommend you do this to demonstrate to them your complete acceptance and contrition for making a poor off court decision, and one that you will hopefully never make again as a minor... I am sure that your former teammates who also are suspended, the Seniors would not consider doing such, and now that you have two years of high school left you are presenting to the Administration and your Coaches that you indeed realize the ills of your mistake and hope they will forgive you for this event... Also, I hope you will find some way in your community whereby you can volunteer at a Boys and Girls Club, working with the kids there, thus demonstrating a leadership skill necessary to remind you of how important your decisions are away from your parents, coaches and others... I look forward to seeing you again in the gym with us, and you will survive this experience in positive fashion, Harold, and that is what is most important in the end: accepting responsibility..."