January 6, 2011

Basketball revisited - UGH

I feel the *itch in me returning….and I thought I was doing so well. I had such high hopes for 2011 being the year of "life is great with Alex". As they say it basketball I was hoping for a slam dunk this season. Wrong!

Once again Alex's participation on the girl's basketball team has been compromised. Alex attends every practice and participates to the best of her abilities. The coaches and I agreed that if Alex is having trouble keeping up with the girls physically she could opt to work-out on the stationary bicycle or treadmill, Additionally the head of the athlete department as well as the principal supported Alex and her desire to play on the team. I thought the coaches did but they do not; I have heard the following from them:

"Sometimes I feel like I am babysitting Alex"

My response to this is and has been, please talk to her teacher and/or her aide, if you are not comfortable interacting with Alex there is a whole team in place at the school that can assist you (and I mean EDUCATE you). Yes, you are not her babysitter, but you are a force in Alex's life and as an employee of our school district you are responsible for ensuring all the athletes you work with are included, learn good sportsmanship and teamwork.

"We treat her just like the other girls; if she does not practice her hardest she will not play in the games".

My not yet vocalized response to this is and has been, do you really treat her like the other girls? Do you make sure she is included in team dinners, or communications? Does the philosophy of teamwork which you are responsible for teaching really reach the other girls? Do they ask Alex to sit with them at lunch, or invite her to their parties? You absolutely do not treat her like the other girls, nor should you. Sports teams should be an example of inclusiveness and welcoming, yours is not.

Recently Alex has a conflict about sports. Her Special Olympic ski team will be practicing on Saturdays. This means she will miss all away Saturday basketball games. The basketball coaches' philosophy is that all athletes must play in every game and attend every practice or they are not eligible to play on the team. We went back and forth with the coaches and the school and I thought we had come to an agreement based on the very supportive principal's e-mail:

Alex can and should do both. Weekends and days where she can represent us, our High School with the Special Olympics, should take her priority. I think Alex has it figured out that sometimes she will get alot of playing time and other times not so much on our team. I don't want her to be penalized on the school team as she represents us through the Special Olympics teams.

Silly me, I thought this was clear enough. Apparently the coach does not read the e-mails, as Alex did not play in the next game. My angry, yet in my mind justified, response is below:

Thanks so much for this support. I would also like to add my two cents, as I would like to reinforce what I hope the principal meant. Alex WILL play in every game, sometimes for only a few minutes, sometimes more.I understand and appreciate this, and believe it is fair. However, I also know Alex did NOT play in this evening's game; this is not fair and is completely unacceptable.

Alex's aunt and uncle from out of town, as well as her sister from college, and dad went to the game. Alex was excited to have so many fans, and looked forward to showing her basketball skills to her family. Instead, Alex sat on the bench the entire time, and according to her, was the only one that did not play. Not only was Alex upset she did not play, she was humiliated in front of her friends and family. We ask Alex to work hard at basketball and participate to the best of her abilities, and then you punish her, not to mention compromise the self confidence that is an integral part of her IEP goals.

Very simply put, this is not the example of good sportsmanship that our High School stands for, quite the opposite, it shows a complete lack of good sportsmanship, as well as team play. Winning is not the lesson JV players should learn, good sportsmanship is.. It seems to me the example these athletes are being exposed to includes learning to be exclusionary and winning at any cost. Please do not teach these lessons to 15 year old girls.

I attended a meeting in early November about the winter sports teams. The Director of Athletics clearly stated that all athletes who participated on sub varsity sports WILL get playing time in every game, assuming they have gone to the previous practices. So far I have sat through two games where Alex did not play at all, including a C team game. This should not happen once, let alone three plus times.

I certainly hope Alex did not miss practices over break, as she was not made aware of them. To me this would be the ONLY reason to not play Alex tonight. I checked with the coach early during the break and she mentioned there were Varsity practices, but she did not know about JV. I assume Alex was not excluded from any communication about practices.

I'd appreciate a response as soon as possible to confirm this will NOT happen again, I also believe Alex is owed an apology.

Instead of an apology Alex was asked to meet with the basketball coaches before the next practice. It was suggested that perhaps she "wanted" to be the team Manager and provide her support to the team that way. She called me right after the meeting and told me that Coaches thought she would be a great Manager and what did I think. I asked her what she wanted and she told me she wanted to play. What I really thought was this is manipulation at its finest and it needs to be stopped right now!

Sorry, I just do not get it…..how anyone can even think this is today's supposed enlightened world is beyond me. Okay I know I am being factious, but what the heck are you all thinking, that manipulation is the answer to this. Give me a break.

I believe that one of my responsibilities of parenting this extraordinary girl is making sure our world, even just our little community, becomes more enlightened as we pass through it. We will succeed and the light will shine far and wide. As they say in basketball, go get 'em!

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