Did you notice the Miami Herald’s high school basketball preview on Nov 25th? You might have easily missed it, it was on the last page of the last section [8D] of the paper that Tuesday. Roughly 40 teams were covered and on average about 4 players were mentioned from each team. In between extended family and friends–let’s say 20 persons per each of the 160 kids–that’s about 3,200 intensely interested people checking out the last page of the Sports section that day. [I would have happily linked it, but none was available-JC]
The front page of the Sports section that day was dominated by a picture of Joey Porter of the Dolphins and a column by Armando Salguero about his conduct. In other words, regrettable attention was given to a forgettable player on a day when the back page was full of success stories and dreams in various stages of fulfillment. Too bad for us readers. Remember that the next time you read an article about how newspapers are going broke. But I digress.
Do you know how hard it is to play a major ‘6A’ high school sport in Miami-Dade county. It is extremely difficult. You either bring a unique blend of size and talent or you have to outwork about 10 other similarly skilled wannabes. In cases where both size and talent are present, full college scholarships can be the rewards. For a rarefied few [Udonis Haslem], earning a living as a professional is an option. But my interest is in those for whom high school will be the culmination of their athletic careers, which is to say the over-whelming majority of the 160 kids mentioned.
It is an achievement that will likely resonate with their family and friends as long as they can reminisce. Many of them have been so enamored and dedicated to their sport, that their school grades have either recently suffered or always been average or below. In fact, they may have come to believe that they lack the smarts to do well in high school, let alone college. It’s understandable of course, the differentiation between jocks and brains in high school is the stuff of legend and many a crappy movie.
Too bad. Here is what those who believe that are missing. Before they were out of their teens, they had set a tough goal for themselves and succeeded. In effect, they reached the upper echelon of their profession. In doing so they displayed an ability to work with others, discipline and mental toughness. Exactly the type of skills which will be asked of them when they move on to other professions. The technical knowledge most jobs require are very teachable. How you handle high school [went to class, socially active, avoid drugs], is a better indicator of your future prospects than what you specifically learned there.
I know one of the kids on the list. I got to watch him grow up. He had the tremendous advantage of dedicated, albeit nonathletic, parents, and an extended family support system–difficult to be a slacker when your 90-ish grandfather, one of 17 kids, has been up at dawn since the early 1940’s. He has worked hard and made himself a key player on the 2nd ranked 6A team in Miami-Dade county. That is already an achievement. But then again, since I have the advantage of knowing this young man, I am not surprised that he achieved success, but rather that it came so soon and in this area, given the odds. God willing, future successes will compliment this early one.
So here’s my advice to Joseph and the other 159 kids as they consider their future job competitors:
What they know, you can still learn.
What you’ve already accomplished,
they can [and will] only dream of.
Post-post – Nov 29– The problem with sending a blogger to do a journalist’s job is that mistakes can happen:
- Turns out the Grandfather Garcia began rising at sunrise in 1926, not the 1940’s.
- Mom Garica, far from being nonathletic, was a budding track star until she ruptured both Achilles heels during a rescue of orphans from a burning building.
- Dad Garcia – Alas, the nonathletic description stays. In the vernacular of our old neighborhood, while a great guy don’t get me wrong, athletically he is ‘un cero a la izquierda’ [worth equivalent to the value of a zero to the left of an integer–trust me, it’s quite offensive in Spanish]. As common insults go, its only peer is ‘si se cae come yerba’ [if he fell down, he would just eat the grass].