Posts Tagged ‘ Detroit ’

Thoughts After The Last Dance

Watching the last 2 episodes (7 & 8) of The Last Dance this evening touched me in a way I didn’t expect.  These episodes partly focused on how intense Michael Jordan was with the methods that he used to motivate others… It made me reflect on certain times in my life where I was similar.  Sometimes people can misunderstand that intensity.  When it comes to getting results, I have a more, “let’s get straight to the point” mentality.

The first memory I was visited with:  I previously was part of the coaching staff at a school in Detroit, MI called Burton International. I coached there for eight years total and coached both, girls & boys that were 7th & 8th graders (4 Division Championships, BTW). I had this one student during that time named, DC that came to me crying once. She said that she needed to talk to me and the first thing that she asked was why I was so hard on her. It seemed to her I was harder on her than anyone else.  The truth is, I didn’t know exactly why I was so hard on her at the time.  All that I knew is that I saw massive potential in her and I was trying to force that potential to the surface.  Luckily at the time, one of the senior coaches, Rev. JW, who always knows what to say, told her that I wouldn’t focus that type of energy on her if I didn’t really care… if I didn’t care about her and her being successful.

This has been a common theme with me that started with my younger brothers when the three of us were younger.  I was especially hard on my brother that is closest in age to me.  We didn’t grow up in the most favorable environment.  In that environment, I lived with a certain fear of not making it.  My fear wasn’t really of me leaving this earth… it was more, if I were to leave here, who would be here to protect my brothers?  So, in my mind, it was my job as the big brother to toughen them up enough where I knew they could protect themselves, each other and that they could also stand strong independently as individuals.  Mental and physical toughness was needed.  I’ve had the same best friend since I was in high school (CA).  If you were to ask him, he’d tell you, that’s the only thing that I worried about at that time.  There are no two people that I have talked about more than my two brothers.  The day that I knew that they would be OK is when we were out in the back having an intense game of basketball and I was being a little rough.  That game ended in my brother closest in age using a fighting move that I taught him and striking me above my right eye in retaliation for my roughness.  I was standing there leaking blood and needed to go to the hospital to get stitches. My brother thought I was going to kill him (figuratively). I’ll admit, I was more than a little angry that he used that move on me, but I was more proud than anything.  That’s when I knew.

I moved away from Detroit in 2005.  I ended up taking a job in Cincinnati, OH.  I actually had no intentions on coaching anymore and certainly didn’t think about mentoring, however, it fell in my lap anyway.  As I got to know people in the area from frequenting basketball courts, people started to ask me to work with high school kids in the area. I was very reluctant to do so since I had spent the previous eight years coaching at Burton International.  During that time, I felt that I needed to focus on me.  That never really happened.  I met a former Xavier University basketball star, BM, that was then studying to be a pastor and he asked me to check out this kid, GW, at a local high school, Roger Bacon.  BM and I went to a game to see this kid play; he then asked me to train, GW.  I initially said no. BM asked me to join him at a Men’s Night at his church and we really got to know each other, dropping the surface level pleasantries.  We had more in common than basketball. After BM heard my story, he stressed the importance of people like me wearing the mantle of a mentor. I told him, I only know how to do it one way… I push and push and push and then I push some more.

I started out Mentoring and training only GW.  Then his teammate, WF, became part of our group.  Shortly after that, a kid from Burton International that I had coached before, BJ, now in high school, called me up and said that Detroit was no longer the place for him and since we were from similar types of neighborhoods, I would be able to understand him, deal with him, and get him on a better path.  During the conversation with BJ’s parents, I was asked what my plan was to get him on the right track if he were to move in with me. I told them that I plan to treat him as he is one of my younger brothers and all that entails.  His parents didn’t necessarily completely understand what that meant, but BJ did.  To me, that’s all that mattered.  BJ knew that I would do everything in my power to make him a better person, whether he liked the method or not.  And just like that I had three teenagers that I accepted responsibility for.

I’ve had talks with all three of my Cincinnati guys as we grew to become a family. I’m sure though, if you were to talk to GW or WF initially, they would have sworn that I was a maniac.  BJ already knew how I operated from our time in Detroit together. He knew it was nothing but tough love.  He knew that I used my personal experiences and focused them into methods of motivation.  I was even trying to push them along in case I was no longer able to be there for them.  Not in the same manner I was worried about previously with my brothers as far as leaving this earth, it was more so just knowing that life happens… and if something happened where I could no longer mentor or coach, they would have gotten the best they could have gotten from me in the time that we shared.

Although my intensity has worked well in the mentoring arena.  I’ve also struck out with it at times.  Another memory that comes to mind is when I had been dating someone and she essentially told me that my tactics to motivate are very effective but sometimes not pleasing at all.  I can’t really disagree with her.  I am the type of person that will say what people are afraid to say and I’ll say exactly what you don’t want to hear if I think that will be what it takes to help you move in a better direction.  I am mostly like that with people I care about most.  Yes, it is something that I can work on.  It’s probably something that I should work on.  However, at the same time though, it’s hard to argue with results.

And I’m definitely known for getting results.  I am good at it.  I’m just not good at being soft about it.

We Rise

While looking to the sky

Yesterday,

We let baloons fly at Belle Isle Park

Symbolizing your new freedom…

We embraced each other

Wiped our teary eyes

Held hands in Prayer

Asking God

To welcome you into His Kingdom…

Although not exactly positive of

His reasons

In Faith we all must continue to

Believe Him

In obedience,

Continue trying to please Him…

You will never be far from us

When we sit and think back to where we originated,

We know it wasn’t by chance how you became

Part of us

Detroit’s Bates Academy wasn’t only a place for

The intellectually,

Artistically  and

Musically

Gifted and Talented children

It was a learning atmosphere

With a greenhouse effect instilled in

We were seeds

And you…

You were our nurturers

You fed us knowledge

You fed us inspiration

You fed us love

Filled our hearts with your same steadfast dedication

You helped us develop the roots for the trees

We perceive as being our lives…

You believed in us

Before we believed in us

Kept feeding us and breeding us

Until we believed in us…

Healthy we became

Enabling us to be

Omniferous,

Fruitful in the world’s eyes

Collectively and individually

We thank you

Because of you,

We rise!

***I was going through some of my things and found this poem that I originally wrote in 2001 following the loss of two of the best and strongest women/teachers/mentors/role models that I have ever met.  Too many times as clay, we forget how we were shaped.  This is for them, in remembrance.

AILMENT

Thoughts of you are so painful to me

They are causing debilitating headaches

And my nose to bleed

As if I had suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury

From not wearing a seatbelt and experiencing the force felt

Of being in a collision with

A Detroit city bus (16 Dexter)

You are like this discomforting feeling…

A misplaced vertebrae in my spine

Constantly reminding me

Is the pain that is shot from my behind

Into the core of my mind

Framed to be somethin’ I ain’t no more

Physically,

No longer am I inclined

To dunk from the dotted arc

Or shoot from 3 point lines…

Before you grabbed ahold of me

I used to be able to leap into new heights

Fly high like childhood kites at the beach

Bitch!

Why you tryin’ to ground me!?

Pulling me down

Puppeting me around

Tugging at my strings

You’re inhibiting me

Like a lingering ACL injury

Leaving me wondering

Will I ever be what I used to be

Cutting into me painfully

Like reconstructive surgery

Succeeded in damaging the last of the vast nerves in me

Recently it has occurred to me

You are nothing but an ailment

I’ve got to let you go

This shit is hurting me

The Appointment (16 DEXTER)

It was January 13th, 1997 when

You made me acknowledge You

We met for the first time

Face to face

You sent a city bus for me,

Detroit’s route 16

Better known as,

The Dexter

You wouldn’t have me be late for our appointment…

At first I thought,

“This must be a mistake…”

That I lay there in such pain

With my mouth bleeding

And my face planted into the steering wheel

Of my 1982 Chrysler

In half of an instant,

My world came to a screeching halt

Mangled by the impact of steel crushing steel

My car was twisted like a pretzel

I’d never been hit like this before

I should have had my seatbelt on

But would it matter?

My vertebrae became misplaced in my spine

Will need physical therapy

There goes basketball and my dreams of becoming a pro…

Suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury

Will need neuro and occupational therapy too…

“What’s your name?”

I was asked

I couldn’t remember…

Only the first two letters came to mind

Where am I?

This intense light is hurting my eyes…

I stood before You and heard Your voice

Listening to what I did not yet know were my new instructions

After the light that flashed before me had fizzled

I began regaining conciousness…

I realized I was still alive

Amnesia had started to set in though

I heard someone on the phone say,

“There has been a bad accident on

Woodward at Grand River”

Looking at what my car used to be

A ball of confusion surrounds me

What just happened to me?

Why did this happen to me?

After 4 years I knew Your lesson…

You passed it on through Pastor Marvin Winans

At Perfecting Church…

“When you’re not on the path that He sees fit, God has the ability to break you down beyond human understanding and, like with clay, shape you into what He wants you to be.”

That day in January,

The day I used to look back on and say,

This is the day I lost everything…

On that day,

I now realize

Is when You made me the mighty man I am today

Joe Louis

I did say that I loved my city...