By Matt Forck
The gymnasium was packed. There was a buzz of excitement in the air. The undefeated Richmond (Calif.) High School basketball team was getting ready to take the floor. But where were they? The opposing team was almost finished with their pre-game warm-ups, and the Richmond squad had yet to run onto the court. The home crowd was standing nervously, ready to cheer them on. The three-minute buzzer sounded, signaling the game would begin in three minutes. The 60-second horn buzzed, and there was no Richmond squad. The crowd grew restless–had someone been injured in the locker room? Should someone find Coach Ken Carter and tell him the game was about to start?
About that time, Coach Carter appeared. The crowed began to cheer, anticipating the team would follow. The clapping turned to grumbling as the coach stepped up to the referees, said a few words, waved to the crowd and returned to the locker room.
The officials went to the scorer's table and then to the opposing coach. Moments later the public address announcer said, "Tonight's game is cancelled. Richmond will not be playing."
Coach Carter left the locker room and went upstairs to the school's library. There, all of his 45 freshman, junior varsity and varsity players were spending what would have been game time studying. None of the players was below the district's required 2.0 grade point average, but some were below the team's contracted 2.3 grade point average. There were also a few instances when players had been showing up late for class.
Not everyone was happy with Coach Carter's expectations of classroom and on-court performance. Richmond is a community that struggles with gang violence and a $9.3 million school deficit. Most thought the basketball team's success was a rare bright spot, one that shouldn't be blurred. There were an angry few who egged Coach Carter's car. Most, however, realized this was a life lesson–the teaching of a value. It is the books long term, and not the game of basketball short term, that will carry these players through life.
The varsity team forfeited two games before each player's grade point average was above 2.3. The team finished the season with a 19-5 record, losing in the second round of the district playoffs. That's not really the end. The end is not yet here for those players, many of whom have gone on to study cardiology, optometry or sociology. They learned the real lesson, that a value is a value is a value no matter what. Education was Coach Carter's value, and his 45 players, a community and a country are better for his example.
Is safety a value? For Coach Carter's team, it was the books long term, and not the game of basketball short term, that will carry these players through life. For us, it's safety long term and not shortcuts or other distractions short term that will carry us through a career. What's your value? Be safe.
About the author:
Matt Forck, CSP & JLW, is a leading voice in safety. Matt keynotes conferences and consults industry on safety's most urgent topics such as safety awareness, employee engagement and motivation, cultural alignment, accountability and leadership. To learn more about Matt, book a presentation or download free safety tools, go to www.thesafetysoul.org.