I just read an article by Stephen Lewis titled “Post Coach Returns from Africa Trip Grateful for What He Has.” It reminded me how spoiled we get, or at least I did, the higher you move up the coaching ladder. It is easy to get used to bigger budgets with fancier gear, better hotels, charter flights, and police escorts. Contrast that mentality with the article about Post University Men’s Basketball Coach Al Sokaitis discussing his time in Tanzania in East Africa. Sokaitis heads up Tanzania’s men’s and women’s national basketball teams and conducts clinics and camps in the country.
Lewis quotes Sokaits as saying,
“The trip gave me great perspective about my life. Seeing how tough life can be over there made me feel lucky and blessed, and ever since I have not recognized difficulties in my life to be that bad.”
Sokaits noted the severe lack of equipment and facilities and continued,
“Probably the biggest eye-opener was when I was about to throw out a pair of old, beat-up shoes that I had worn on the concrete, and they were all worn down,” said Sokaitis. “They were smelly and ripped, and as I was about to dump them, a guy came running up to me and said, ‘Wait, Coach, those are still in pretty good shape.’ What I thought was garbage, he thought was useful.”
This blog post is not meant to reinforce the typical American stereotype of Africa as reflected in the 1988 comedy Coming to America that plays off of those stereotypes for laughs. For example, in one scene, the ignorant character Darryl sarcastically says to an African played by Eddie Murphy, “So, what do you people play in Africa? Chase the monkey?” Little does Darryl know that Murphy’s character is a prince; wealthy beyond measure and possessing the cultural refinements that would make an English butler blush. However, there is no doubt that in general, the average American basketball teams have more resources than the average team in Tanzania.
The funny thing is that when you get a group of coaches together you’ll often hear them say that the best times of their career were when they had little or nothing!
Maybe they were sharing an apartment, maybe living in a dorm, or coaching at a low-profile, low-pay place but they were happy. It is the love of the game that draws most, if not all of us in. Let’s all take a moment to reflect on how blessed we are to be involved with this great game and be thankful whatever resources we may have, no matter how meager. For someone, somewhere, has it much worse that we do. The funny thing is they probably have a bigger smile.
Until next time, Coach ’em up!
About the author: After coaching and working with basketball teams at the college, high school, and youth level in a variety of roles for 18 years, I have returned to finish my Ph.D. in Kinesiology & Sport Studies. This www.CoachingBasketballWisely.com website is a way to share the coaching tips, strategies, and techniques gathered in a career in coaching. See more info on me here.