April 2 was a Saturday. And it was different.
I was at a basketball tournament when I saw him, Number 14. He juked left, crossed over right and finished with a hard reverse lay-up over a beefy 6’ 7” center: a move that I had only seen point guards like Keith Langford or Kemba Walker make. He had 18 points so far, 10 plus assists and only two turnovers. It was the second half and the kid hadn’t even come out of the game yet, but played like he’d just come off the bench. Number 14 was a machine.
I saw him plop his body down on a cream colored fold out chair during a time-out, douse himself with cool water in the stuffy East gym and wipe away at least an ounce of sweat off his forehead, all while hanging on every word of his coach.
Across the gym, I saw Number 14’s dad: a black man, wearing a Buffalo Bills Terrell Owens jersey, jeans down to what seemed like his ankles and corn rows perfectly aligned.
“Trevor!” He called out awkwardly loud, causing an uncomfortable crawl on my skin.
Number 14 rolled his head and took his focus away from his coach to face his father.
“Trevor, you owe me 75 boy,” he shouts.
“Two missed free throws and two turnovers. Get ‘em done.”
I saw Trevor’s face turn strawberry red out of embarrassment as he got up out of the huddle and positioned himself behind his team’s bench, laying flat on the ground.
Puzzled, I watched closer as I saw him begin to struggle through 75 push-ups while his father counted them out softly to himself. Trevor winced. Trevor cried. But Trevor did not stop. Dad yelled if he stopped.
It was at this moment when I began to realize exactly what I was witnessing. Trevor was in seventh grade, about 5 feet tall and weighed no more than 80 pounds, and was being treated like he was a prison inmate. Disgusted, I peaked towards Trevor’s father. I caught him turning to his buddy, also standing up near their bench, and I read his lips.
“He’s going to be famous someday,” Trevor’s dad said with a smirk.
I want to be a good father one day. I think that is a goal of most males throughout the world.
I want two daughters and a son. In a perfect world I guess two volleyball players similar to a Kerri Walsh, Misty May duo and a boy the size of Shaq with the quickness of Sebastian Telfair would suffice. But of course, I will love my children even if my boy has the skill set of “Smalls” at the beginning of “Sandlot”, or even if my daughters are the girls who pick dandelions out in left-center during their softball games.
I want to be the dad that scares the ba-Jesus out of every boy that picks up my daughter for a date and polishes my unloaded shotgun as they drive away. I want to be a role model for my kids so that one day, they can look back on our time together and realize I did everything I could to make them a great person.
But one thing I know I won’t do, is what Trevor’s dad did.
I actually witnessed this incident at the most recent SME Basketball Tournament the players help run. I was running the score-sheet for the game and was two feet from Trevor when his when his idiot father sentenced him to the push-ups. It took everything out of me not to get up and give him a few pieces of my mind.
Trevor’s team was up by 40 points at the time and his team (an eight grade travel team known as the “Sixers”) didn’t need him in the game, but what kind of sick parent would do such a thing to their own child? 75 push-ups? During a game? For his “poor play”? I’ve never understood parents who practically haze their children when it comes to activities, all I know is I loathe it.
This kind of behavior you probably assume just happens everywhere else, not in our perfect patch of Kansas. Wrong.
I played basketball freshman year with a kid whose dad wouldn’t speak to him for the rest of the night if his son played poorly in a game. Seriously? Come on, does the love for your son really depend on if he makes a 13-foot jumper or not? That’s like you reconsidering feeding him dinner because he sneezed.
The reason why the child began the activity in the first place was because they genuinely enjoyed it. And in most cases I’ve seen, when the parents get suffocatingly involved, it eradicates the fun and contorts it into work.
It’s not healthy and in no way helps the kids, or the relationships with their parents.
And sometimes its not even sports, it can be school too. Everyone who goes to this schools knows “that kid” who is so caught up in their grades they lose sight of their friends and social life, all because if they don’t get all A’s they are grounded.
My parents let me choose what sports I played. I was the most mediocre soccer player the Leawood Parks & Rec Soccer league ever saw and I’m convinced even if I would have injected myself with HGH I still wouldn’t have been a star during my third grade baseball campaign. I ended up quitting those sports, by my own choice, and focused on swimming and basketball.
I swam for seven years and absolutely adored it, and thanks an un-updated record board, I still hold records for the Leawood Lightning swim team (not a big deal). But once high school started I knew I had to pick one of the two: swimming or basketball. By my own choice, I chose basketball since I enjoyed it more, but I cringe thinking about the kids who don’t have a choice like I did.
I agree, kids who have talent and potential should reconsider quitting if they ever have the thought, but parents who control every aspect of their child’s lives irritate me. Sure, sometimes its not that the kids don’t want to play, but the pressure parents can put on their kids to be the best or to succeed on the playing field at a young age, even in high school, is too much for an adolescent. Competitors have pressure from their teammates, their coaches and their friends to be successful: they shouldn’t have to deal with it at home.
I was itching to talk to Trevor after the game that day, and I was lucky enough to bump into him after. He forgot his basketball behind his bench, three feet away from where he did his push ups. I’m sure was too busy thinking about his mistakes than to remember his basketball.
The half-time score of his game was 58-7, and the second half was much of the same story, but as he walked by my partner and I, he had a look of defeat and emptiness. His dad had soured the win. My partner stopped Trevor and informed him he finished the game with 20 points. Immediately, he shined a 100-Watt smile.
“I did?” He said.
“You sure did buddy.”
He quickly shuffled over to his dad and tugged just between the numbers eight and one on his dad’s T.O. jersey.
After giving his son the “one second” finger he finally listened to his son’s news. You could tell Trevor thought his dad would be proud of him, after all, he scored twenty points, a feat that most middle school students never reach. I think Trevor thought maybe, just maybe, he would finally be good enough for his dad. Instead, his dad gave him a look that posed the question: “Why didn’t you score 30?”
I hope Trevor quits basketball. I hope he gets involved in something with his school and is even better at that than he is at basketball. I hope he does something with his life instead of wasting it dealing with his bone-head dad. And I hope when he does make it big, he looks back at his dad, and makes him do push-ups, for holding him back.