Friday, February 19, 2010

Daily Journal Article on Campbell's Youth Basketball Program

See HERE for an article on Campbell's youth basketball program (by Lisa Kestenbaum). It's good to see Campbell's youth basketball program get some well-deserved recognition.

Below are some of the comments I submitted to the writer:

I’ve been coaching basketball for about seven years. A Campbell Community staff member, Terry Alexander, saw me playing basketball and asked me to referee some games. The next year, he asked me to coach, and I’ve been involved in the Campbell Community Center’s program ever since. After dealing with adults and their problems all week, there’s nothing more gratifying than coaching kids, especially kids in grades 2nd to 5th. These kids just want to move around and play, and when you have a great program and staff like Campbell does, it makes it easy to teach the kids.

I’ve traveled all over the world, and I’ve run my own solo practice since 2004, but my biggest lessons in life came from coaching kids. At some point, for example, you realize that every single kid on your team looks up to you. I started coaching when I was about 25 years old, and it was stunning to think that anyone actually looked up to me. At first, it’s the most frightening feeling in the world. I joke that coaching kids is my own personal version of Orwell’s 1984, because the kids are always watching you and trying to see how much they can get away with, how much you care about them, and how dedicated you are.

You worry that your own personality issues–the same impatience and hyper-competitiveness that drive many lawyers–will negatively affect the kids. Over time, though, you realize that your responsibility to the kids trumps everything else. And that’s the lesson: when you’re around kids, everything else must fade away, and you must learn to be calm and collected with them no matter what.

Campbell’s program is unique because of its diversity. I’ve coached in several different programs, but Campbell attracts kids from all over. This year, my team has kids with backgrounds from Japan, China, Mexico, Africa, the Middle East, and Ireland. Later on, these kids will probably go to different high schools and separate based on income or education status. Right now, however, they have the opportunity to play together and become friends.

People talk about achieving a world where race won’t matter, but such a post-racial world already exists in Campbell’s youth sports programs. To me, diversity is important because it proves that America works. For instance, when I call some of the kids’ houses to notify them about practice times, a grandparent will pick up the phone. Oftentimes, he or she doesn’t speak any English. Later, I meet the parents. They sometimes speak English with an accent, and they might hold onto the old culture because it’s familiar to them. The kids, however, speak perfect English and will identify primarily as American. That’s the beauty of America–no matter where you come from, by the third generation, we produce Americans who speak and act virtually the same. This isn’t necessarily true in France, other parts of Europe, or Japan, and I think sports programs, especially youth sports programs, are a large part of why America has successfully assimilated people from all over the world. After all, it’s hard to think someone’s different from you because of the color of his skin or his mom’s accent when you play sports with him over the course of several months.

Coaching sports also helps generate interesting conversation topics. Non-lawyers don’t want to hear about your latest CCP 998 offer, but everyone loves a good story about the kid who shot from halfcourt, made it, and did a funny little dance. Recently, during settlement discussions, I discovered opposing counsel also coaches youth sports. We spent about two minutes chatting about our coaching experiences. Even the case doesn’t settle and moves to litigation, it’s going to be much harder to treat each other without civility now that we have something in common.

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