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Recently I had the opportunity to watch the true life story of Coach Joe Carter who returned to his high school alma matter in Richmond Virginia to try and coach a group of young black men from the 'hood.

The school is set in the inner city where there are lots of opportunities to get into trouble with the law. Fathers are in short supply and it is left to the mothers to try and guide their teenagers along the right path. For too many African American men the moment of inception is the end of all parenting obligations.

Joe was one of the few talented athletes who with some decent marks who was able to attend university on an athletic scholarship. The majority of his former classmates never graduated, some went to prison and too many died on the streets trying to protect their turf.

He dressed impeccably referring to his players as "Sir". To be eligible to play for the team he set high standards for attendance and achievement that were contracted by the parents and the students. Richmond High School had a horrible history of students dropping out and only one in six went off to college. One out of three ended up before the courts and 83% of Richmond residents found themselves in prison. You had a better chance of being killed then being able to attend college.

Boys they say can be boys and the young men sure tested their coach, cutting classes along with poor academic performances. Hell, even the teachers, parents and principal went along with the mantra that the boys were there to play basketball. Academic success was secondary.

Joe barred the players from the gym until they took their studies seriously and even though the boys tried to fight the rules in the end they realized that their coach had their best interest at heart. He even promised them that he would work very hard to secure for them athletic college scholarships upon graduation.

The boys went to the finals but they lost by one basket. In his after-game talk to his athletes Joe spoke of his pride of their accomplishments. The boys had turned into young men with a sense of pride along with a earned sense of self-respect. They broke the pattern of the athletes that sports is in of itself is the formula to success.

Hooping the ball to please the fans in the stands is but a fleeting fun game but too soon reality sets in. Injuries takes their toll on all athletes and there is always another aspiring athlete who is eager to take your place.

Coach Carter fulfilled his promise to his athletes who went on to play College ball. One even was accepted at the prestigious West Point Military Academy.

There is a lesson to be learned from the movie. Parents and their aspiring athletic young sons should look at sports as a short term gig with a very short best-before best time limit and then it expires. The owners do very well and the players are played by the allure of the applause with very few prospects for their long term future.

Seeing the London Lightening players at the Y each day I hope they read the writing on the wall. I hope that they take the time to look at their long term futures. Players over the years have been traded, sent home, to improve the lot of the team. Two players this year Zane & Stephen experienced injuries and were unfortunately cut by the coach. Although they both were crowd pleasers the Lightening is a business where winning is the raison dí etre.

$1,500 is the starting salary per player along with room and board with no guarantees is like unto being an indentured servant with very poor remuneration and no long term contracts.

I enjoy seeing the players in the locker room before their practice, They are very polite young men and yet they are part of a pyramid scam called sports where a few at the top ( NBA) do very well and the rest waste their time trying to live the allusive dreams.

Hopefully the players will have a sense of direction before the final whistle blows at the end of the season.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com