“I say it takes a tribe to raise a child, you have to have people who are interacting with each other to raise a child, people who are connected to that child” -Colin Powell
This quote was taken from a “A Hand to Guide Me” by Denzel Washington. Reading biographies of impactful people is always on my to-do list, although I don’t often get around to it. I saw this book at the library. Denzel had done all the work for me. Each person of note tells a story of someone who influenced them in about 3 pages. To some degree it is Boys’ and Girls’ Club propaganda. They initiated this book, and many of the stories mention Boys and Girls Clubs. Despite a little bias and the cliché nature at times, there are many good nuggets. Colin Powell’s story was my favorite as he describes a connected network of people and those who brought new challenges as he progressed into his young adult years.
‘Belief’ is the one theme that jumped out to me. A number of storytellers noted the impact of being told what they could be or accomplish. “You can go to college”; “You can be a leader”; “You can be great”. These affirmations took on many forms.
The main subject of this blog is a tension that I think about often.
Many of the authors cited a community anchor. Someone who is there year after year. They know everyone’s family. When you walk into their center, it is not long before they point to a child whose parent they knew as a child. They are trusted by the parents, youth, school staff, police, local politicians and everyone else.
Others focused on expert teachers and coaches. The drills the eight year-olds are doing are preparing them for the big game they will play when they are eighteen. They have well-rehearsed ways they teach every skill and concept. They have unwavering standards for what it takes to be on the team. They observe an athlete of any age and ability, and immediately know what to focus on next. The sport or activity is built into who they are and it seamlessly flows from them. Learning to play a sport well, or any activity, can have a massive impact on a young person’s trajectory, both in opening doors to opportunity and personal development through the challenge.
Many sport leader positions are generalists. Schools have PE teachers. Rec Centers, YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs have a center director. There is likely another coach or two on staff. Between the staff, maybe they are strong in 2-3 activities. Maybe their strength is as a caretaker, not in any specific activity. Often, the expert coaches are with high-cost sport organizations, which are not structured for the coaches to be a consistent and long-term presence. Not to mention cost as a barrier to participation.
What type of system and structures lends itself to youth having access to both type of people?
The list below identifies the role of the person of influence in each story. A greater number of the authors cited a community anchor. Some did identify an activity expert. And of course, many chose a family member.
Below is the complete list, please excuse the brevity in descriptions. If there is not a description next to the name, I know who they are, so I assume you know who they are.
Yogi Berra- His catcher coach when he started with the Yankees, great teacher and knew the position extremely well.
Dominique Dawes- Expert coach who operated a gym near her home
Omar Gooding (Actor)- Teacher who could teach in-depth understanding and acting
Phil Jackson- Red Holzman, support and mentor at the beginning of his NBA career
Anna Kournikova- Expert tennis coach, made training and playing fun
Mario Lopez- Multiple coaches throughout his developing years.
Leonard Nimoy- Knowledgeable and passionate theater director when he was 17
Stan Smith (Tennis Player)- Expert and committed tennis coaches
Kerri Washington (Actress)- College professor, talented, helped her blend art and intellect to solidify career path
Denzel Washington- A Boys and Girls Club staff member, someone who everyone looked up to and wanted to be around
Walter Anderson (Editor In Chief of Parade Magazine)- Neighbor, consistently demonstrated care and supported academics, would not give up on him no matter how many mistakes.
Eddie Armstrong (Won Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year, most recently an Arkansas State Representative)- Regional Executive Director who supported many youth to become Youth of the Year, identified, believed and supported him every step.
Swin Cash- Area basketball league coordinator, connected the dots, made sure she had what she needed, advisor and confidant.
General Wesley Clark (Former Supreme Commander of NATO)- Two people, a director and a coach at the Boys and Girls Club, challenge, high standards and accountability.
Socrates De La Cruz (Prominent defense attorney, former BGC Youth of the Year)- Basketball coach at the Boys and Girls Club, taught him to set goals, adviser and mentor.
Danny Glover- 2nd grade teacher, noticed he struggled with reading, helped him navigate dyslexia.
Patrick Kelly (NYU Neurosurgery Chair)- Boys and Girls Club Director, no nonsense but showed compassion.
Rev. Edward Malloy- Elementary school teacher who provided increased challenge
Willie McGinest- High school and college football coaches, teaching and belief
Bill Perocchi (CEO Pebble Beach Resorts)- Long-time Boys and Girls Club coach, consistent presence, mentor
Colin Powell- Network of support, relatives, neighbors, local business
Ahmad Rashad- Coach who was a barrier in a bad way, learned to overcome obstacles through persistence
Alex Rodriguez- Boys and Girls Club baseball coach, consistent presence and good teacher
Juan Benoit Samuelson (Olympic Marathon Runner)- Gave her a chance to be on the track team when female athletes were normally not included.
Ron Sargent (CEO, Staples) Teacher and neighbor who planted the seed that he should go to college
Courtney Vance (Actor)- High school teacher and coach, belief, high expectations and timely words
Michael Vick- Boys and Girls Club Director, consistent presence and accountability
Manny Villafana (Codeveloper of heart valve)- Boys and Girls Club director, compassion and accountability
Bob Woodward (Journalist)- Employer, never give up
David Wolper (TV/Movie Producer)- High School teacher, sparked his mind through passion and teaching of poetry
Hank Aaron- Uncle who had played in the Negro Leagues
John Antioco- Father who was a milkman, work ethic, attention to detail and fiscal responsibility.
Notah Begay III (Professional Golfer)- Father, coached he and his friends in multiple sports, gave them chance to play, held them to high standards.
Chick Big Crow (Executive Director of SuAnne Big Crow Boys and Girls Club)- Her daughter, for whom the club is named, died in a car accident at 17. Extremely talented athlete with an infectious personality, very ambitious growing up on a reservation where many saw little reason to be hopeful. Her dream was to open a youth center for her community, her mother did it in her memory.
George Bodenheimer (President, ESPN and ABC Sports)- Father, taught him respect through modeling, always supportive, good advice.
David Boies (Prominent Attorney)- Father, model of hard work, seeking new challenges, respect everyone
Bill Clinton- Great Uncle, toughness, intelligence, and treat everybody you meet well.
Johnny Damon- Older brother, toughness, support and challenge
Whoopi Goldberg- Mother teaching her a lesson about treating people well after she excluded a friend to be with popular kids.
Tony Gonzalez- Older Brother, challenge and encouragement
Glenda Hatchett (Judge, TV Personality)- Father, support with space to make her own decisions
Chamique Holdsclaw- Grandmother, support, helped her navigate difficult family circumstances, mend family relationships.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee- Older brother, challenge and support.
John Kasich- Father, earn it for yourself
Kelly Lane Zimmerman (Former BGC Youth of the Year, BGC employee)- Mother and Grandmother, rocks through difficult circumstances.
Tara Lapinski- Mother, support and advocate
Joe Morgan- Father, values, take responsibility
Toni Morrison- Father, do high quality work, your best is the standard
Holly Robinson Peete (Actress)- Father, forgiveness
Bonnie Raitt- Parents, love of music, values, treat people well
Cal Ripken Jr.- Father, model and mentor
John Schuerholz (MLB General Manager)- Father, standards, values
Bud Selig- Parents, passion and high standards
John Singleton (Director, screenwriter)- Father, growth, determination and always learning
Roxanne Spillett (President, Boys and Girls Club)- Mother, high expectations
George Steinbrenner (New York Yankees Owner)- Parents, sense of worth and self-esteem
Ruben Studdard- Mother, high expectations, good education
Antonio Villaraigosa (Former L.A. Mayor)- Mother, extremely talented, belief and support
Dick Vitale- Parents, belief and encouragement
John Wooden- Father, work ethic, values and gentleness
James Worthy- Parents, high expectations and accountability
Muhamed Ali- Nelson Mandel as an example of great sacrifice for others and the greater good.
Debbie Allen (Professional Dancer/Choreographer)- Alvin Ailey- Seeing a performance, being inspired, then joining the company
Jamie Farr (Actor)- Red Skelton, provided a job, mentor
Daryl Mitchell (Actor)- Christopher Reeve after he was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident
Bernard Shaw (Journalist)- Edward Murrow and Walter Cronkite, inspiration and later mentorship
Gloria Steinem- Louisa May Alcott, Alice Walker and authors with dynamic women characters.