The following article was featured in the newsmagazine Endless Possibilities, July 2001
Imagine for a moment that you are a 15-year-old high school basketball player. It is a cold and dreary January morning, but you can hardly wait to get to school. It is not classroom studies to which you are looking forward, however. You are excited because your varsity basketball team is undefeated for the season, with a 13-0 record. You are anxiously looking forward to practicing with your teammates in preparation for the upcoming game against a rival Fremont High School team. Imagine now that you arrive at the gym to find the doors chained and padlocked, and there is a note on the door from your coach, which reads, “NO PRACTICE TODAY — All basketball players are to report to the library.” That is exactly what happened to 45 surprised and confused boys who were part of the school’s basketball program (freshman, junior varsity and varsity).
On January 4, 1999, Richmond High School’s head basket-ball coach, Ken Carter, exercised his authority when he made a controversial decision to lock out all players, including his undefeated varsity team.
15 of the 45 Richmond Oilers players were not living up to the terms and conditions they agreed to meet in contracts they had signed earlier in the semester. The terms of which were to participate in class discussions, to sit in the front of the class, do complete and turn in homework timely and to maintain a 2.0 GPA. Because these conditions were not being met, Carter chose to have the players spend their game and practice time studying, rather than on the court. “These young men will play basketball maybe, if they’re lucky, another two or three years,” Carter said. “But if they don’t get a decent education, it’s a lifelong thing. We’re going to have some problems.”
Though upset at first, the coach’s son, Damien – who has maintained a 3.7 GPA throughoutGov. Gray Davis quote high school – agreed with his father when he confessed, “Education comes first, and we haven’t been handling our business in the classroom.” The coach forfeited two games, and was prepared to cancel the entire season program in order to send his message to the players. This action would also serve to motivate them to improve their grades. Coach Carter held fast until the basketball players demonstrated classroom and academic improvement.
When Carter allowed them to resume basketball activities, player Courtney Anderson said, “It is good to be back on the court, and it feels good that everyone is supporting what our coach did.” In support of Carter’s efforts, Governor Gray Davis paid a visit to RHS and attended the opening game.
The Governor is quoted as saying; “Coach Carter has done more in one week than I could do in four yeas as governor to get the message out about education. He is a hero.”
The Proof is in the Pudding
This year, all of the players from that infamous “lockout’ varsity team graduated and some earned scholarships. The scholarship recipients are Marvin Miranda, who has been accepted at UC Berkeley; Wayne Oliver, who will attend Cameron University, Oklahoma; Courtney Anderson, going to UNLV; and the coach’s son, Damien Carter, who will be entering West Point Military Academy.
Coach Rewards the Players
On Monday, June 11, 2001 – just two days before Richmond High School’s graduation ceremonies – Carter, accompanied by two of the players, was invited to appear for a live interview with Ross McGowan on Fox 2 Mornings On 2. Like a proud parent, it was time Coach and studentCarter to show off his students, their accomplishments and the benefits inherent in sacrifice, hard work and discipline. Later the same day, Coach Carter hosted a scholarship reception in their honor to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of these, as well as the other graduating players. The reception included a discussion on education by a panel of educators and community leaders and a surprise presentation of Certificates and Proclamations from the offices of Senator Don Perata, Congressman George Miller, and Mayor Willie Brown. Coach Carter gave an emotional presentation to the honorees expressing his pride in their accomplishments. To the impressively large audience of students, parents, faculty, press, and community, political and spiritual leaders, Carter stressed the need for everyone to intensify their levels of support, acts of discipline, and demonstrations of love for our children.
About the Coach
Ken Carter, who was named among the “Ten Most Influential African Americans in the Bay Area” this year by CityFlight Newsmagazine, is the recipient of numerous honors and recognitions for his unwavering demonstration of dedication to improving and maintaining our youth’s attitudes and practices in academics, athletics and citizenship.
Carter is also remembered for his October 2000 trip from Richmond, California to the California State Capital in Sacramento, using only a push scooter. The three-day effort was put on to bring public and political attention to the deteriorating state of inner-city schools and the need for students, parents, teachers and school board officials to commit to making a difference. His efforts proved successful, and subsequently Richmond High received building enhancements and computers from California’s Office of the Secretary of Education as directed by California Governor Gray Davis.
Our society needs more individuals like Ken Carter. I believe that if our community had a few more parents, teachers and community leaders like Carter, our children would be one step closer to being healthier in mind, body and spirit. The benefits and rewards of his dose of “tough love” is measurable, and attainable with proper guidance and direction. His practices should serve as a model for struggling, as well as successful youth organizations.
His advice. Remember, your team will go wherever their attention is! And, if you are unsuccessful in instituting a measure for a key area, say, specified study hours each week, poor performance in that area may be overlooked. Always check that your specific measurable results are taking you where you want to go. Ownership and Accountability are also very important. Make sure your students understand and own that they are accountable for the consequences of their actions.