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Comment: Keep classism off the court

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After reading Anuja Rajendra’s “Mom” column in the June edition of The Ann about racial divisions at local youth basketball games, I started jotting down notes in the margin of the magazine because her column spurred my “maternal instincts,” as well.

My 15-year-old son has played on at least two travel basketball teams. My husband and I have been to countless games and tournaments. My son has played on teams with a diverse group of players. He has also played on a predominantly African-American team. Our son, most of his teammates and their parents realize that making it to the NBA is equivalent to hitting the lottery – the odds are slim to none. Yes, we want our kids to win. And yes, like most parents, we’re quite passionate about this when we’re yelling in the stands. But I can assure you that we understand this is just a game.

Anuja, the “vigor and passion” that you see from the opposing team’s parents is the same vigor and passion that you have in your heart for your own child to win. Perhaps we express it differently, but we’re really no different than you. We’re savvy enough to understand that this is just a game. Our sons’ futures don’t rest on the outcome of a basketball game, as you suggest in your column. As a matter of fact, some of the players are honor roll students who are looking forward to going to college. Some are playing on the team so they can add this to a growing list of activities for their college applications. Some players have dreams of becoming engineers, astrophysicists, a lawyer, an entrepreneur or some other profession besides a basketball player.

The next time you’re wondering what fuels our passion at the games, why not take a few minutes to come on over and talk to some of the “urban” parents on the opposing team. There’s a very good chance you may find yourself talking with a writer, an editor, a teacher, a doctor, a professor, a police officer or a mom who has chosen to stay home to raise a family. Regardless, our professions really shouldn’t matter. What matters is that we love our young players just as much as you love yours. We have lofty educational goals and dreams for our sons as well.

I think some “financially gifted parents” – as you referred to yourself in your column – may find a small sense of comfort in knowing that if players from an “urban area” clobber their son’s team today, their kid still wins in the end because, as you stated in your column, “their educational opportunities will likely create a runway to help them soar.” If we really want to be on the same team, then we need to learn how to leave the “elite” security blankets and false assumptions about the other team and their parents at the door. Why spend so much time and energy focusing on our differences (private/elite schoolchildren vs. urban) instead of our commonalities? We have more in common than you think. We love and want the best for our sons, just like you. That’s a great start right there.

When our kids are playing a game of basketball, we would all like to think that they’re playing on a level field. Where you go to school and what mom and dad make should have no value on the basketball court. It should be all about our sons’ skills, perseverance and sportsmanship. May the best man win. Yet your column seems to imply that it’s some sort of class struggle – the elite vs. urban. Remember, it’s just a game.

In the case of the mom who couldn’t afford gas money so her child could have a playdate with a friend, I would like to note that parents are not looking for a handout or sympathy. A bit of understanding sprinkled with some ingenuity would be helpful. I’m assuming this mom really wanted her daughter to play with her kindergarten friend “from a different socioeconomic group.” If this is indeed the case, then that playdate will happen. Just getting these children together is the important piece. If we truly want our children to play together, then we’ll figure it out. 

And yes, I agree we’re all on the same team. In order to be successful as teammates, there must be a certain level of respect – free of assumptions  – that comes from each player and each parent on both sides of the court.

Glynda T. Wilks

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