I Used to Love Him: From a Player’s to a Coach’s Perspective Part II
Around the same time Hart made her exit, we also lost one of our role players, Elle. She played volleyball and decided to give basketball a try. She wasn’t a bad player but she dealt with behavioral issues as well. She was actually suspended twice. The first time was for flipping over a desk after she received a grade that wasn’t to her liking. After the first offense, I spoke with her mom and we agreed that she shouldn’t be removed from the team. Her mom would handle her at home and K and I would discipline her at practice once she returned from her suspension.
Well, her first day back, she was suspended again for “inappropriate” behavior, to my understanding. Although Coach K and I hadn’t known her that long, it hurt our hearts to know that one of our players was participating in extracurricular activities (other than sports) and doing it at school. Let’s be real, when I was in middle school, some of my peers were doing the same things in school too. This generation is no different. It’s sad, but true.
With preparation for the season being rushed, K and I didn’t have a chance to have a girl talk. Better yet, we didn’t have a chance to have a Truth talk. Most kids that age participate in sexual activity to fit in or because they’re lacking something at home and they try to fill a void that leaves them even more empty. Only Christ can make us whole and complete. Once I looked back on it, looking for love and trying to fit in was the case for Elle because apparently this behavior had been going on for quite some time. The sad part was that we had to hear it from our own players.
So, we used that as a small teaching moment to let the girls know that wasn’t the lifestyle Christ wanted for them and to stay focused on Him, school and basketball. We encouraged the girls to grow in their relationship with Christ by making them take turns praying after practices and games and explaining to them why we did so. Maybe it would’ve made a difference for Elle if we had the conversation sooner. I called her mom to get to the bottom of the situation but she didn’t answer or call back, of course. Yet again, another player’s career ended before it could begin.
These were blows K and I took personally because we felt like we were doing something wrong. I’d be at work thinking about what I could do better. Plus, it was unfortunate that we weren’t able to be around the girls more throughout the school day since we weren’t teachers. If we were there, most of these incidents wouldn’t have happened. Due to the circumstances, this was out of our control too.
Although K and I weren’t at school during the day, It still upsets me that the athletic director – who is also the assistant principal – didn’t let K and myself know what was going on. He did a terrible job of communicating with us and trying to help us considering we were coaching on a volunteer basis after T left so close to the start of the season. Instead of teachers calling me while I was at work, it should’ve been him calling.
After losing players and having subpar practices over Thanksgiving break (only a few girls showed up and most of them left their effort at home), our first game of December was at Evans. Due to K and I being stuck in traffic, we were both late to the game. Our work schedules didn’t allow us to ride the bus, so when this happened, we would text the boys’ coach (Coach P) to let him know just in case he needed to get the girls started until we got there. We would also text or call DG and NP to let them know so they could be ready to play as well.
Aside from being late, I had to make sure I showed up with a good attitude. I didn’t know how the girls were going to perform due to the subpar practices and I knew I was going to be ticked because the girls who didn’t show up for practice over the break would show up for the game (if K and I rode the bus, those M.I.A. players wouldn’t have stepped foot on it). But since we had players not wanting to hurt their friend’s feelings, they politely let them get on the bus. If I’m the captain of my team – DG and NP – there’s no way I’m slaving at practice and allowing someone who hasn’t grinded with me to ride the bus to the game like everything is cool, especially after my coaches instructed me to let them know that… just soft!
As I predicted, the three role players who hadn’t been there – DJ, TT and Jamie – were dressed and ready to go. I was boiling and laughing on the inside. K and I had a parent meeting at the beginning of the season where we handed out practice and game schedules for the entire season, with the exception of the championship tourney because it was to be announced. I also communicated with the parents via group texts. I expressed to them if they had planned to go out of town over the break to just let either K or myself know. We didn’t hear from DJ, TT or Jamie’s parents.
Even though none of these girls’ parents came to the parent meeting, I made sure their daughters had the practice and game schedules. DJ’s mom was an inconsistent parent, I saw TT’s mom at a game or two but never officially met her and Jamie’s parents never came to a game, never picked her up or dropped her off at practice… they did absolutely nothing. Consequently, Jamie rarely came to practice, but she managed to show up for all the games. She even tried to come to a game when she was suspended. Lol. Yes, she stayed in trouble too.
Unlike Hart and Elle, her parents didn’t care enough to pull her off the team. They didn’t even care how Jamie and her brother got home either. K and I always took them home. They only lived a few blocks from the school, but it would be too dark after practice to let them walk. Her folks didn’t pay the $152 for her spirit pack, but she always managed to have a new pair of shoes. Smh. Too often, parents invest ON their kids instead of investing IN them. Rewarding bad behavior only enables kids to continue to behave in that manner. For these reasons, I knew she needed some guidance, so I decided to keep her around.
This being said, I still found myself calling the girls to find out why they weren’t at practice since no one told me they were going to be out of town. Over the break, I wasn’t able to reach Jamie or DJ – go figure – and when I did talk to TT over the phone, I expressed that her reason for missing practice was inexcusable and she hung up in my face… so disrespectful! I was heated the rest of the day! Lol. K and I planned to make her pay for that at the next practice. She showed up, but I missed it because I had to work late. K didn’t punish her because she wanted me to do the honors. Well, we had the game against Evans before we had another practice. So when I walked into the locker room before the game and saw those three, especially TT, you know why I was boiling and laughing on the inside. I started to go off right then and there, but the rest of the team seemed to be in a good mood so I chilled.
To add to my frustration, some of the girls didn’t have their shoes on and they were talking about things that weren’t pertaining to the game. I was upset with NP and DG because they knew better, or at least I thought they did. Whenever we were too serious, we always played bad, so I figured if they had fun before the game they would play well. K arrived right before game time, the girls were excited, so I felt that we would come out ready to play. Man, was I wrong! We played like straight BFI and waste management the first half. We were moving in slow motion, looked sluggish, not playing defense, turning the ball over, etc. DG irked me because she was our best player but was playing lazy on defense, turning the ball over and wasn’t leading the way she needed to.
I said something to her during halftime and she gave me attitude. In return, I benched her to start the second half. I wanted to bench her the rest of the game, but we only had six players because Jamie, TT and DJ weren’t touching the floor! But, watching the other girls play so terribly was frustrating. I thought NP or SP would’ve been able to pick up the slack but they weren’t producing either. Regrettably, I put DG back in the game. I didn’t know how badly that decision would come back and bite me in the butt. Although we won the game 40-12, it was closer than the score displays.
After the game I gave the girls a mouthful (no, I didn’t curse them out). But, I did tell them they were disrespectful, ungrateful and undisciplined (I learned a long time ago that when you’re a respectful and disciplined player, you’re a pleasure to coach). K wanted to wait to handle them at practice the next day, but I wasn’t having that! Of course I keyed in on DG and TT… and Jamie and Arie since they thought it was funny. They were playing and acting like their stuff didn’t stink but in reality, they were foul. I don’t know who told them they were good. True enough, DG carried us every game, but we always reminded her that it’s thousands of her across the country all competing for the same thing. She and the rest of her teammates needed a slice of humble pie. They were reaping the benefits of what the girls before them had started. The audacity of them to walk around like they earned anything… child please!
I got on to TT for hanging up in my face. She had no right to be so rude – mainly because I was the adult and she was the child – when I was telling her something to benefit her. She was one of those players who still didn’t know the difference between offense and defense, and she hung up on me for saying she needed to be at practice. Ha! Arie rarely gave us anything and Jamie didn’t have a clue. So for them to laugh was appalling to me. And, DG had so many people in her ear telling her she was good to the point where it became dreadful to coach her. I felt like Devin the Dude because it became clear to me “What A Job” it was. Lol.
K and I made the next practice devastating. We made them do wall sits, unity, and ran the disrespect and funky attitudes out of them! NP and DG caught their typical attitudes, mumbled under their breaths, sucked their teeth, etc. That negative energy festered from player to player. It’s like, once you fix the kitchen sink, then the toilet starts leaking. Smh. But, through the whole process, K-Mc and Faye were the most humble, hard working and respectful, so we promoted them to captain. It was something K and I had discussed for a while and that practice was the last straw.
Later that night, I received a call from DG’s mom (I didn’t want to answer because I had just gotten home and I really didn’t feel like being bothered, but I had to deal with it). She was upset that DG was demoted from captain saying DG was the best player and she was basically carrying the team and her child wasn’t disrespectful. First of all, she was in denial about her child’s attitude which was a huge part of DG’s problem; second of all, I explained to her that just because she was the most talented player didn’t make her a leader, nor did it make her a captain. DG and NP were the captains by default, but K-Mc and Faye earned it. DG expressed to the coaches that she wanted to play college ball, but I told her mom no matter how good she is no one is going to deal with her attitude. Honestly, no one is going to want to deal with DG or her mom’s attitude.
DG was hot and cold the next few practices and games, and then NP went into her stank mode. You would have thought DG and NP were Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd because they were always “Trading Places.” Every time we played Prairie Cove, NP’s dad would always act out. He coaches AAU and some of his girls played for PC, so I guess he needed to make his presence felt. When we played PC at its home, I arrived at the game with a couple of minutes left to play. I was running late from work, of course. We were down by six, but we battled back to win by one, 37-36 (remember this game and final score). After the game, K told me that NP’s dad stepped on her toes because he was standing up talking to the players during the game. I checked in with my mom for updates while I was driving to the game. We trailed for most of it and NP was in foul trouble, which is probably why NP’s dad acted the way he did. The parents weren’t used to being down or losing, and they felt just as entitled as the girls did.
After the game, he saw K talking to me and he knew it was about him. He went crazy and started swearing and talking out loud. It was unnecessary. He helped us out a lot: getting snacks for the girls, washing their uniforms, making sure they had water just in case we played an opponent that didn’t provide it, etc. At the beginning, he also helped out with practice and kept the books before K and I got everything figured out with our schedules. However, after seeing how it affected NP’s play to have him keeping the books and helping out in practice, we knew it was best if he was just a parent. If he wanted to do for the girls, fine. But, anything else was out of the question once he showed K and I his true colors. Those colors shined bright the second time we played PC. We were closing out a tough game at home when NP and I had a dispute. Since she was strong and a good rebounder, she often played the post. However, she was our second best ball handler, so in close games, she still was supposed to help with the ball if teams applied pressure.
It was about two minutes left and we were up by about eight. DG got a five second violation because everyone left the ball. Yes, Faye and K-Mc were at fault for leaving the ball but I was mainly upset at NP because she was a returner and no matter what position she was playing, getting the ball in bounds was the first priority. During a time out, I went straight at NP and she replied, “you the one who got me playing the post; you need to tell the guards to help with the ball.” The fact that she yelled and her hand gestures were out of line, before I knew it, I grabbed her to pull her over to the side. We were wasting a time out going back and forth. She continued to get smart during the timeout, so K and I took her out the game. Then, we noticed her dad was standing up and yelling. I thought he was fussing at her for acting out so I gestured for him to sit down. Then, I heard him yelling, “You shouldn’t have touched my baby!” So, I asked K did it look bad when I grabbed NP and she said she didn’t see it.
He had to be escorted out of the game and officials ran the clock to end it quicker. In the process, we made a couple more trips to the free throw line and we won the game, 29-18. PC’s coach wasn’t happy about them running the clock and neither was I. Because NP’s dad had already been escorted out, we could’ve finished the game normally. I didn’t want anybody feeling cheated. Once, the game was over, we shook hands with the other team, NP was still flipping off at the mouth and I was headed for the locker room until the assistant principal pulled me off to the side to discuss what happened. In the midst of this, one of NP’s family members said something and I replied, “I wasn’t grabbing her like that,” and she said, “Well, that’s not what it looked like.” NP’s mom was standing there but she just looked at me and didn’t say anything. I told the AP what happened and he tried to get myself and NP’s parents in the room to talk but NP’s dad was still flipping out, so I went to the locker room. Although NP was disrespectful, I apologized for grabbing her because I didn’t mean her any harm. She accepted my apology, but the damage was already done. After we prayed, I left and went home because NP’s dad made it clear he didn’t want to talk and I was drained from work and coaching.
I remember speaking to Coach T and other people I consider mentors about the situation because I didn’t understand how we had gotten to that point. I would never intentionally harm a child, but I was being made the villain. K’Mc’s mom called me later that night to check on me and explained how bad it looked from the stands. But, she also expressed that she knew it didn’t come from a bad place and if it were her child, she would have told her to shut her mouth and stay in a child’s place. Well, not all parents see it that way. When I played, my teammates and I experienced much worse, but players and parents today are of a different breed. I admit, I was wrong for grabbing her, but I was hurt about the whole situation.
All of the sacrifices K and I made to give back and coach those girls, buying them snacks to eat before games, using basketball to minister to and love on them, giving them rides to and from practice, making sacrifices to get to games, not getting paid to do any of it and for NP’s parents to react that way blew my mind. One minute you’re grateful women who are relatable and played college ball are coaching your daughter and the next minute you’re showing your butt?
But, I realized the root of the problem when I spoke with NP’s mother the following day after things had cooled down. K and I hadn’t built a relationship with the parents the way T did, so she felt neglected and thought we had a problem with her and her husband. We did have a problem with her husband’s behavior, but the mom was pretty quiet and chill so there was no beef there. She felt like we didn’t make it an obligation to speak and all these other things. Plus, she felt even if her husband didn’t want to talk after the incident, I should’ve acknowledged her. I agreed with her on this point, but we both also agreed that it probably was best that we allowed the situation to die down. All of these things were a build up of why they reacted the way they did when I grabbed NP. Plus, I don’t have to have a child of my own to understand parents not wanting someone else touching their kids, so I get it.
K and I would be rushing to get to practices and games so we didn’t have time to find parents and speak to them. If we saw them at practice and games, we spoke; but, we were focused on the girls. The parents we interacted with the most knew we were good people and they understood us, our coaching styles and our personalities. But, it wasn’t fair for NP’s mom to compare K and I to Coach T because she was three years in before she left and she was a teacher so she was around 24/7. K and I felt like it would have been nice if more parents besides Faye and K-Mc’s parents asked us how we were doing. Nobody wanted to put themselves in our shoes and be sympathetic of what we had to go through. But, I did my best to walk in love, be respectful and professional and I hashed things out with NP and her parents so we all could move forward. I continued to coach NP the same way I did before the incident happened, but things just weren’t the same for me overall…”When someone reveals him or herself to you, believe them the first time.” Maya Angelou
My situation-ship with The Game was like most of these real-life relationships… it was admirable from the outside looking in – the social media posts of us winning together and having an “unblemished” season – but behind closed doors we were drowning in problems; we were “In Too Deep” like LL Cool J. The Game let outsiders in our huddle and locker room, allowed his daughters to disrespect me in public and was ungrateful and unappreciative of the love I was giving. Being the girlfriend or even the stepmother is no fun, because I could hear them saying in their minds, “you aint my momma.” However, as badly as The Game’s daughters treated me, I still loved them.
Although having a relationship with your partner’s kids is important, if you’re relying on this to keep the love going, it will never work…
- Common – “I Used to Love Her”
- Devin the Dude – “What A Job”
- “Trading Places” – film starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd
- “In Too Deep” – film starring Omar Epps and LL Cool J
- Quote from the legendary, late Maya Angelou