Kids and what is expected

Two really good college basketball coaches talked within the past week of kids, adults and parents.

Pretty enlightening stuff.

Geno Auriemma has been the head coach of the UConn women’s basketball program since 1985.

The Huskies have 11 national championships and are going for their fifth in a row this year.

They are 151-1 since the start of the 2013-14 season. The last time UConn did not make the Final Four was the 2006-07 season.

Auriemma is 990-134, an .881 winning percentage.

Yes, he’s good.

He was in a press conference recently talking about recruiting.

“Recruiting enthusiastic kids is harder than it’s ever been because every kid watches TV and they watch the NBA, or they watch Major League Baseball, or they watch the NFL,” he said. “Whatever sport they watch — the WNBA — it doesn’t matter. What they see is people just being really cool. So they think, that’s how they’re gonna act.

“They haven’t even figured out which foot to use as a pivot foot and they’re gonna act like they’re really good players.

“You see it all the time. You see it at every AAU tournament. You see it at every high school game.

“So, recruiting kids that are really upbeat and loving life and love the game, have this tremendous appreciation for when their teammates do something well — that’s hard. It’s really hard.

“So, on our team, we — me, my coaching staff — put a huge premium on body language. And, if your body language is bad, you will never get in the game.

“Ever. I don’t care how good you are.

“If somebody says, ‘Well, you just benched Stewie (former standout Brenna Stewart) for 35 minutes in the Memphis game a couple of years ago.’

“Yeah. I did.

“‘Oh, that was to motivate her for the South Carolina game the following Monday.’

“No it wasn’t. Stewie was acting like a 12-year-old, so I put her on the bench and said ‘sit there.’

“It doesn’t matter on our team.

“Other coaches might say, ‘Well, you can do that because you have three other All-Americans.’

“I get that. I understand that.

“But, I’d rather lose than watch kids play the way some kids play. I’d rather lose.

“And they’re allowed to get away with just whatever. And they’re always thinking about themselves.

“Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. ‘I didn’t score, so why should I be happy? I’m not getting enough minutes. Why should I be happy?’

“That’s the world that we live in today, unfortunately. Kids check the scoreboard sometimes because they’re going to get yelled at by their parents if they don’t score enough points.

“Don’t get me started.

“So, when I look at my team — they know this — when I watch game film, I’m checking what’s going on the bench and if somebody’s asleep over there, somebody doesn’t care, somebody’s not engaged in the game, they will never get in the game.

“Ever.

“They know that. They know I’m not kidding.”

Ah, the teammate thing.

UConn had one winning season in its history before Auriemma became head coach.

It’s had one losing season — his first — since he stepped into Storrs, Conn.

Of his 134 career losses, 56 have come since the 1993-94 season.

The Huskies lost 78 games in his first eight years.

“Kids, inherently, want to be good teammates,” he said in another press conference. “I really believe that with all my heart.

“Most kids, when they’re on a team — I guarantee you go watch any 7-year-olds or 8-year-olds — they want to be good teammates.

“You watch them play.

“When they get a little bit older and they start having a little more success, and the parents get involved, they become not-so-great teammates because they’re told a lot of times that ‘You’re not going to get anywhere unless you shine.’

“Back in the day we had AAU tournaments. You had to win x-number of games to qualify for the national championship. You played on your team. You had to live in your state, or your area, to play.

“You played and if you lose, you went home. It was devastating.”

Auriemma then named former UConn players — who were multiple-time All-Americans — who came up that way through AAU.

“Well, that’s changed,” he said. “Now, when kids go to these tournaments, they’re not going to win games. They’re going there so that the coach can see them exhibit their skills.

“So, this idea of winning for the weekend doesn’t exist anymore.

“It’s not their fault. That’s just the way it is.

“I try, when we go recruiting, to identify those kids who still have a tremendous interest in being great teammates.

“I’m not always successful. Believe me, I’ve had my share of guys who were really hard to coach for that reason.

“And you can trace it back generally to the parents.

“Without question, you can trace it back to the parents.”

Ah, the parents thing.

South Carolina men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin, who has an amazing story, chimed in.

“You know what makes me sick to my stomach? When I hear grown people say that kids have changed. Kids haven’t changed. Kids don’t know anything about anything.

“We’ve changed as adults. We demand less of kids. We expect less of kids. We make their lives easier instead of preparing them for what life is truly about. We’re the ones that have changed. To blame kids is a cop out.”

Martin has his Gamecocks in the Final Four for the first time in school history. He is in his fifth season after coming over from Kansas State, where he replaced Bob Huggins after being on his staff.

¯ One thing I do not understand is the lack of numbers on track and field teams.

It is a great sport, whether you are an elite runner or someone who is out for the first time.

There is so much to learn from the sport, whether you sprint, run distances, hurdle, jump or throw.

It is a sport where there is measurable growth, daily, weekly and throughout a season.

Track and field gives a place for a kid to be a 22-foot shot putter, a 4-foot high jumper or a three-minute 800 runner at the beginning of the season and possibly see those numbers go to 30-feet, 5-feet and 2:15 by mid-May.

It is hard?

Yes.

And…

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. He can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com and followed on Twitter @HSDTsports)

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