Rumble Coach Ken Carter: An Impact Deeper Than Just SlamBall

By James Anderson
June 10, 2003

Coach Ken Carter gained national recognition as he locked out his undefeated Richmond High School basketball out of the gym because his players were not proving as adept in the classroom as they were on the basketball court. This was shocking news at the time because in a community like Richmond, California, sports is a way out of the ghetto for its members and serves as an identity for the community. Coach Carter wasn’t hearing it and the nation took notice of a coach caring enough about his players to make them perform at their peak in all areas of life. This guy is truly a master motivator and I saw it up close and personal at the LA tryouts as he tried pumping a guy up to get him ready for the final tryouts on the trampolines.

I could sit here and rattle off all of his accomplishments in a story by itself, but I want to bring Coach Carter in now to let him discuss the Rumble, his days at Richmond High School and all of the other projects he’s involved in.

Welcome Coach Carter; it’s a pleasure to be speaking with you.

JGA: Coach, the draft is done and now you’re team is set. Do you feel you addressed your team’s needs and are the Rumble set now with players that will fill their roles like last year’s team did?

KC: Thank you too Mr. Anderson, I’m happy we finally got an opportunity to speak. Well Sir, as I see it, the needs of the Rumble were met in the inaugural season as evidenced by our capture of the title. With this new season the Rumble is set to buckle down and take the season one game at a time. As a coach I want to make sure the new guys totally understand the game and learn how to work together as a team. It is my goal to make certain each and every player understands the importance of teamwork and unity. The Rumble must remember that no one is greater than the team and the team must play together working toward the same goal if we are to be successful in making a run for the championship. It is my job to make sure that the Rumble understands that “we” as a team, has to work hard and stay focused with everyone giving 100% each and every time we step onto the court whether in practice, scrimmage, or league play.

JGA: What do you think of the talent in the league this year and do you see it improving even further in the future?

KC: The talent is great this year! It is evidenced by the large numbers of young men that came out to the training camp to the try-outs for the teams that the sport has great appeal. SlamBall is definitely catching on in the public and lots of young men think they can play the sport. The try-outs brought out lots of young guys with high energy and skills in all sports, basketball, football, and hockey many of them feeling that their dominate skills on the basketball court will sustain them on the SlamBall court. Truth is, they have to be well rounded with stamina to guarantee staying power on the SlamBall court. The trampolines are no joke! They look like lots of fun (and they are) but they can take a lot out of your legs. The guys this year seem ready to take on the challenge of SlamBall. Now it is up to the coaches and veterans to shape this raw talent and harness that energy to create a great SlamBaller. Many of these guys thought the sport was easier that it actually is; that’s because we had excellent guys playing SlamBall last year and they made it look simple. We are ready to see what the new guys have to offer.

JGA: I had a player tell me that “no matter what kind of talent you have in the league, the game is set up in such a way that only four guys or so can truly star in any given game.” Would you say that’s possibly a true statement and if yes, is that caused by the shortness of the games? Is it up to the players to go out and do what it takes to win rather than just worrying about who the star of the team is?

KC: First of all, being the star is not and should never be the focus of any player. If you are truly a player the team is the focus and the team is the star. When you give your best effort for your team and play together as a team your strengths and contributions will definitely shine. While it is true that there are only four guys on the floor at one time and the length of the game is short, but it is not necessarily that only four guys can star. Oftentimes in a team sport, your starring role is to be a supporting cast member. It is not always being the one to make the winning shot, or the highest number of points, but by assisting your team to facilitate a team member to score that winning shot oftentimes shines so much brighter and for a long time. If being a star is the only focus it will be a short-lived career. You play for the thrill, the excitement of the game. You play to win the game as a team. You strive for your personal best each time you go out on the court and if you keep your head down and stay focused on those points, being a star will come. I don’t want anyone on my team focusing on making the highlight reel.

JGA: What philosophy do you possess that makes you such a master motivator to players and how are you able to do it so much better than other people?

KC: You know, I don’t know that I do it “better” than other people but I take my role as a “Coach” seriously. It is a coach’s job to be a motivator. I should be able to look inside a player, see the potential, and work to bring that to the forefront. It is my job to make sure a player understands his strengths and weaknesses and then use each to make it work with the team all the while making sure he improves the weak points. Above all is giving respect. If you respect a man and see him for who he has the potential to become, he will aspire to reach that level and in return you have earned his trust and gained his respect.

JGA: What made you decide that SlamBall was a sport you wanted to coach in?

KC: Once I saw the game being played I was hooked! Man, I said to myself, this is awesome. I was really taken by the way the guys could get up so high over the basket and make such spectacular dunks! Once I saw it I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I could see kids all around the country getting very excited about it. Look that is happening now. Not to mention that I also had to get out there on the court myself and give it a shot. It was truly no question from that point. I wanted to be a part of what was happening.

JGA: What do you prefer to focus on as a team strategy, offense or defense?

KC: You can’t win games without both! You can score all day long but if you have no defense the other team is scoring right along with you. The same goes for defense; if you block all the shots but have no offense the game goes nowhere. It is important to focus on each equally and develop strategies, which dictate when and where one is needed more. Knowing how to balance the two is the key to a successful team strategy. Knowing the strengths of each player and working to further develop those skills and work on the weak points to balance that player’s individual game. Putting the right players on the floor at the right time in the most effective position for his talents (both offensively and defensively) wins.

JGA: You’re a legend in the Richmond, California area. What message were you trying to send to your team when you locked them out of the gym and what do you feel your greatest impact has been on that community?

KC: Actually Sir, my message was simple. The players had given their word and made a commitment that they were not living up to. All the players in the program were required to sign a contract agreeing to certain provisions in order to be able to play ball. One of those provisions included that they went to class, sat in the front of the class, completed all class and home work assignments and maintained a 2.3 Grade Point Average (GPA) or better. I cared about my players and I cared about their future. The reality of the situation was that everyone on the team was not going to be offered an NBA contract. Not everyone was going to be offered a basketball scholarship (full ride). I wanted to impress upon them that they had to make things happen for themselves and that would not get them into any UC or Cal State schools. Many of my players did not understand that if they didn’t earn a 2.3 GPA or better, they would not even get the opportunity to possibly be seen by a scout.

Additionally, I wanted them to understand the message that they could create options for themselves. If they did not want to continue in the lifestyle they were in and if they wanted to accomplish moving to the next level, they would have to make their main focus their studies. One thing I knew they were not going to lose was their basketball ability; therefore locking them out of the gym would do nothing more than improve their abilities on and off the court. The best thing was the end of the “Lockout” when the entire basketball program managed to improve their GPA. We had seniors in the program that year that had not previously considered going to college get accepted and are on the road to obtaining their degree. I have also developed a study guide, which incorporates the principles of the contract entitled “101 Ways To earn A Higher GPA”. The study guide includes a booklet and CD-Rom. It is available at Barnes and Noble bookstores and online at www.CoachCarter.com.

I will mention that Coach Carter presented me with one of those guides and hopefully it will work for my kids. I have to thank him also for giving me a Rumble Championship hat.

JGA: What was that I read about you going to Sacramento on a kick scooter?

KC: On November 1, 2000, I decided to do something that would make people stand up and take notice to the plight of our educational system. I wanted to not only get the attention of the students and teachers, but the parents, neighbors, relatives and lawmakers. My charge for the past couple of years had been “Be A Part of the Solution”. Complaining about the state of education was not working and I felt that if everyone stood up and did a part, we would finally be able to provide the education and resources our students need to succeed. It was under that premise I came up with the idea of “Scooting for Schools and Education”. I figured if people saw a grown man on a kick-scooter willing to scoot from Richmond High School to the steps of the California State Capitol in Sacramento to take that message that more people would take notice and do their part. “Scooting for Schools and Education” was not a fundraiser. The purpose of this project was more important than raising money. It was to raise awareness to our troubled schools not only in Richmond, California, but nationwide. I was scooting for better quality education for all children, challenging our students to obtain the tools they need to become a success in life. i offered solutions and challenges to make things happen. The challenges addressed were:

Students, to improve their reading and math scores, increase their grade point average (GPA), and assist their teachers in offering them a better education by taking an active role in learning. This will give both the students and their teachers a boost by raising the standards of campus life showing and giving respect to teachers, staff, and fellow students.

Parents, to make a special sacrifice and take a more active role in mentoring and volunteering.

The Community, for more school involvement through public service, i.e. mentoring, tutoring, beautification, and contributions.

School Boards, to work harder at making sure teachers receive the salary increases they deserve for assuring our students become the doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, policemen, congressmen, school board officials, etc. In addition, the School Board and lawmakers were challenged to reduce class sizes.

JGA: What was it like being selected to carry the Olympic torch in 2002?

KC: There are clearly no words to describe what I felt. With the exception of the birth of my son and him getting accepted to West Point, (of course coaching SlamBall!), being selected to carry the Olympic torch during the torch relay for the Winter Olympics was one of the most exciting things to happen to me. It was a privilege and an honor, especially since the only way to participate in this event was to have been nominated and voted for by others that felt your contributions to the community were as noteworthy as the Olympics itself. That day was totally indescribable. The entire City of Richmond came out in support of the event and it turned out to be one of the largest events the city had seen for many years. All I could see was a sea of people waving, cheering, and calling my name. It felt especially good because it was an event that was shared by families, friends, neighbors, relatives, and total strangers. I learned later that there were people in the crowd that had traveled miles to see the torch relay and even those that had traveled just to see me. This was truly a humbling experience!

JGA: I hear a movie is being done on your life history, is that correct? Who will we see playing you and is there a title yet for the movie?

KC: Actually, the movie will be based on the Lockout and include some portions of my life. Now, as far as the actors being sought to play the role of Coach Carter, I can’t say definitely, we’ll have to just wait and see when it is released. However, I can tell you this; there are some heavyweight names in the running! At this point the working title of the movie is “Old School: the Coach Ken Carter Story”. Additionally, I am writing a book about my life, the influences of a strong family, which really contributed to me coaching at Richmond High School, the “Lockout”, the development of a movie, becoming a SlamBall Coach, and the person I am today. Look for it in bookstores soon.

JGA: You’re helping to move this sport in the right direction, how long can we expect to see you in SlamBall and will you follow a team to another city when it expands out across the country?

KC: SlamBall and the Rumble are stuck with me for a long time to come. Seriously, that is a difficult question to answer. There is so much potential and growth with SlamBall. I am willing to do whatever it takes to assist in taking SlamBall to the next level. I sincerely hope I can be around for as long as they will have me and as long as I continue to rise to new heights. I sincerely hope I will be there to rise along with it.

JGA: It’s a new season, so what do you feel the Rumble needs to do to make another run for a second title

KC: Although the title is the end result and the reward for being the best in the league it is not what you play for on a game-to-game basis. What the Rumble will do is play each game to the best of our ability and stride to surpass our own individual personal best; the ultimate reward will be the second title.

JGA: Let’s finish this up with you telling us what you see for the future of the sport and your words to the fans.

KC: Honestly Sir, I see SlamBall getting bigger and better as the years progress. The sport is here to stay. It has earned a place in the major sporting arena. I want to say thank you to the fans for all their support for the sport of SlamBall and especially the support of The Rumble fans. It was a great season last year. The Rumble is excited and can’t wait to get the next season started. We are in training camp right now working on improving our game and giving the fans more excitement and thrills for the coming season. Look for the Rumble!

I want to thank Coach Carter again for giving us some of his time back during the tryout days when everyone had dreams of putting a title team together and sharing his thoughts on SlamBall and his life with us. If everyone involved in the game works as hard and with a purpose as Coach Carter, this game is in good hands.

Slam Higher… Slam Harder

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