Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day 66 - Referees officiate, Coaches coach, Sometimes

The smart coaches in the world know that the only place that they don't have any say is on the court during a game.  It must be hard after hearing all week long, Coach, when is practice, Coach, do you want me to do the laundry for the away game, Coach what defense do we play on this team, Coach what time should we be here to catch the bus, etc. etc. and then during a game a coach doesn't have control. In fact sometimes on the court, they are in a position of being told what or what not to do by a referee.  It's hard for those few moments in time and as an official I get that.  But like I said it's the smart coaches who get it too. The right thing to do in these circumstances is to respect the hierarchy of authority.  The smart coaches also know the game is not always about winning.

I wanted to still be a part of the game. So I started out coaching. I was blessed the first year as a YMCA coach with an 0-10 team.  That's right, my coaching skills were so good in fact that I didn't win a single game.  Yup and I'm proud of it because I won something bigger than that.  God gave me a twelve year old girl who had a condition called Fragile-X.  She was mentally slow and her joints didn't work like ours.  For example if she went to catch a ball, her wrists wouldn't stay in position so she may muffle the ball and her wrists would bend in a manner that we wouldn't be comfortable watching.  The parents and girls cried our last game because our Fragile-X girl had gotten fouled at the end of our last game.  She was standing on the free throw line and was bounced the ball by the referee.  I turned to make sure that her mother was watching and I heard everyone go crazy!  She made it!  I missed it but I will never forget the moment.  What was more important was that her mother saw her do it. Coaching is hard work and I respect coaches.

That being said, there is one coach that has been a part of my career from the beginning.  One of my  first high school games, a partner referee actually grabbed me so hard on the court that I have photos of my black and blue mark on my arm.  The crowd gave a collective gasp as they saw this unfold.  I didn't know what to do as I never thought I should have to worry about my partner being my enemy on the court.  The coach was giving my partner a hard time and quite frankly my partner was a hard ass and wanted me to take his "side."  This coach ended up getting ejected from the game but due to my own issues with my partner I actually thought the coach had some valid points about his ejection.  This was Coach Bannister and how our relationship started.  With an ejection. Now knowing Coach Bannister, I will preface this story by saying I think he comes across as a "nice person" off the court and I respect how his program secures Division 1 scholarships for his girls.

He coached his daughter's AAU team during the summer also.  On the way to an out of town tournament, I recognized him and his car along the side of the road with about five other cars.  I stopped to see if he needed help.  He said he was going to a local tournament and didn't know how to get there.  I asked where he was going and as it happens I was going to the same venue and would be officiating his game.  He and his carpool could just follow me.  This was the girls first game ever in a tournament and they not only won that game, they won the entire tournament!

The following year I was sent to Minnesota for the 13 and under National AAU tournament as a National AAU official.  I was surprised to see Coach Bannister's team had made it to the national tournament.  He was a coach that was notorious for being hard to manage but if you stuck to your guns and treated him with respect, you could usually keep him in the game.  My partner came in to the locker room after officiating his last game of that tournament and told us why he had ejected Coach Bannister.  Coach Bannister accused him of being racist while officiating the game!  Flagrant Technical, automatic ejection for egregious unsportsmanlike conduct. So the history of ejections was started.

Coach ended up getting ejected from two more of my games.  He rebelled and now that he had five AAU teams, he threatened to boycott local AAU tournaments if I officiated his games.  As a result I lost the ability to officiate in some tournaments and he taught the girls that when things don't go your way, instead of changing your behavior to show good sportsmanship and showing accountability, get revenge on the referees.  Other officials continued to let him get away with his antics on the court, rather than hold up to the oath we take as officials not to let a game become a travesty.

He moved to the Jacksonville's Potter House (a Christian School) and coached his girls to the FHSAA championships.  The FHSAA found out that he had held illegal practices, one of which they showed up to witness themselves and sanctioned him along with erasing the girls record of 22-0.  Another game was ended after the parents and fans were asked to vacate the bleachers between the Potters House team and another christian school. This week at the NCSAA (National Christian Championship for High School) championship game, the game was called a travesty and halted.  The teams got into a brawl as did the fans.  Girls were taunting the opponents benches. So this coach was in the middle of another heated game. No surprise there.  Just that in a different state, those officials weren't ready for him.

So at what point do we hold coaches accountable?  If the NCSAA really cared about the Christian values of sports, they would disbar Coach Bannister for a lifetime.  He has had more than ample chances to change his behavior.  If somebody would just take a coach such as this coach and take him off the court, then and only then, will he start to change.  He has manipulated the system for years and slipped through the cracks continuing to teach young girls that if you don't like something in life, seek revenge to seek the ultimate goal of winning. This year they traveled around the USA competing and winning most of the fifty games they played...one question...how did they have time to study?

As I said, I know coaching is hard.  The minutes are long and the sacrifices large.  But in the end there are great rewards that you get from knowing you are being a positive influence in a young person's life.  But there is an even greater reward for showing your team that coaches respect officials and authority. It is the right thing to do. Ultimately the officials will respect these kind of coaches too. The ones with wisdom for accepting the things they can't (or shouldn't be able to) change.

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