Why my Sports Teams are My Team

I was watching the Braves play the Cardinals yesterday and one of the Cardinals announcers said that he had always followed winning teams, so his fandom changed based on who was good. When Lebron signed with the Lakers yesterday I’m sure they picked up new fans who just follow wherever Lebron goes. I think the idea of changing favorite teams is weird. I can see having new interest in a team based on a new player, but not changing teams. Same with a personal move to a new city. I do have an odd collection of favorite teams. Here they are and why I’m a fan:

College Football and Basketball – University of Kentucky Wildcats – I grew up in Kentucky and attended UK for both undergrad and grad school. I watched the basketball games when I was a kid. I attended football and basketball games as a student. As a student. I had multiple classes with players from both teams. They will always be my team no matter where I live.

MLB – Atlanta Braves – I’ve always been a baseball fan. There is no team in Kentucky. I think a lot of people are fans of Cincinnati or St. Louis because they are the closest. I didn’t really have a team until TBS arrived and started airing Braves games. We started watching the Braves because all of the games were on TV. They were really bad, but we watched anyway. I was finally rewarded for my loyalty when they went through a stretch of being one of the best teams in the game. I stuck with them when they got bad again and am now enjoying a season where they are back in first place.

NFL – Baltimore Ravens – I didn’t really get invested in an NFL team as a kid. I don’t even remember watching much football. When we moved to the DC area, nothing about the Redskins made me want to change that. I didn’t start watching the Ravens when they fist came to town. It took a few years for me to start watching and then I was hooked and I’m now a season ticket owner(though I am trying to sell them)

NBA – Washington Wizards – This is the one where I can say I started watching because of a player, but at least they are local. I am a basketball fan, but never really watched the NBA. Since Calipari has been at UK there have been a lot of UK guys in the NBA. One of those is John Wall who was my favorite player on Calipari’s first team. He was drafted y our local team. It still took a while for me to become a fan of the team, but I’m there now. I have no idea if my interest will end when Wall leaves.

NHL – I just can’t get in to hockey. I don’t know why.

Those are my teams. I don’t expect it ti change. If Wall leaves Washington it’s more likely that I will watch less NBA than it is for me to pick a new team.

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Post NBA Draft Thoughts on Coaching

The NBA draft was lat night. Three Kentucky players went in the lottery. Coach Calipari was at the draft and posted pictures with the kids who were drafted. Many of the comments on those pictures are UK fans yelling at him for being more concerned with getting players to the NBA than winning championships. They say that the only thing that matters is winning a championship. These comments made me think about the job of a coach. What is the coach’s job? Is it all about wins and losses and nothing else matters? I can see that argument in professional sports, but not at any other level. Sure, winning games is good and the goal of playing the game should be to win, but that is not the most important thing.

If you are coaching youth sports, even at the all star level, developing the players as both athletes and people should be the main goal. There is no level in youth sports where you stop teaching and start caring only about wins and losses. Unfortunately, I’ve heard coaches as early as 10U opine that since they had a collection of talented players they had to worry less about coaching because the wins would be easy. They have no business coaching kids. The wins over everything else mentality destroys youth sports. We end up with situations where kids are kicked off their local travel teams in favor of kids who live miles away so the coach can notch a couple of extra wins. Instead of working with players and developing their skills, coaches just dump the kids who are in a slump. It’s easier than actually teaching. Isn’t winning all that matters? Who cares if they ever play high school sports as long as I get my trophy.

If you are coaching high school sports you should also be developing the players as both people and athletes. Sure, you have tryouts and you pick the best players.  This is the point where some kids have to hear that they don’t have the skills to play at this level. Once you have a team, though, you have to worry about more than wins and losses You should be making sure your kids are keeping their grades up and helping them develop their skills in the sport. Your job is to get them ready for life after high school. That might mean getting them ready for college sports. It might mean helping them get the grades they need to go to college without sports. It might just mean helping them become better people. Wins are good, but getting them ready for life after high school is more important.

I think the same goes for college. It is a big business and you will be judged on wins and losses. This does not mean that a championship is all that matters. You are still coaching kids and you still have a responsibility to get them ready for the next step in life. For many of the Kentucky players this means the NBA. For some it means getting a degree. If your players are going to class, winning games, having fun and either going pro or graduating from college then you are doing your job. Calipari is excelling at this. The kid good enough to go pro are drafted and are making millions. The kids that aren’t are getting degrees and possibly playing overseas. He’s going to Final Fours and championship games and has won a championship. I think the one and done system is flawed, but that’s the game right now.  Calipari understands that his job is getting the players where they need to be to be successful. He’s doing this and winning games. The people complaining just don’t understand that the players and their futures are more important than the feelings of the fans.

One and dones

I’m tired of reading all of the complaints about the UK players leaving early to go to the NBA. You go to college for one specific reason: to learn what you need to succeed in your chosen profession. Every one of these players came to college with the goal to play in the NBA. In their one(or two) years at UK these players have reached the point where they can succeed in their chosen profession, or at least get payed a lot of money to try. If they are interested in finishing their degree they will have plenty of money and opportunity to do so. If I had been offered millions to quit school and go to work after my freshman hear I would not have hesitated at all in saying yes. I would tell my kid to do the same thing. Their lives are not about entertaining you. It is about what is best for them and their families.

A brief word on the job of a coach: I believe at every level of sports until professional a coaches job is to teach and prepare players for the next level. A coach that wins a lot, but has players who aren’t prepared for the next step in life is a failure. If all of your players are ready to move up or have graduated, you are a success.