It is with great aggravation that I write this piece today. I spent the end of May bragging about how much my boys had turned the corner individually and as a team. Perhaps even more importantly, as a group I would now call “men.” I also cautioned the group that they would have to earn and live up to that title throughout the course of time. June is a month of slack as a general practice in AAU ball. There are no tournaments and thus many teams separate for its entirety. Not the U17 MML squad of 2013 though and we started strong with our entire group minus 2 at the first June practice. At that practice, the team made a committment to me as the coach, to the team, and to themselves to do whatever it took in June to have success in July. They sealed that committment by writing a plan inside a book that I wrote and had published under a poem called “What is Success?”
Unbeknownst to me, that would be the team highlight of June. Slowly members’ attendance dwindled at practices. Those who did attend will attest that they were some of the best and hardest practices we had all in an effort to improve. 10 players turned to 5, which turned to 3, and even 2. At the last practice, I had more new players that wanted to join the team come (3) as those who were on the team (2). It was at that point I began to re-evaluate the merits of our July schedule that was planned. A trip to Indianapolis, a trip to Grand rapids, Fort Wayne or maybe even Chicago had to be considered, then reconsidered again. I had to look at the players that fell bu the wayside without as much as a text to the one coach that gave them a legitimate shot in AAU to play and IMPROVE. I really don’t care about kids that quit; frankly, I only ever want players that want to be Lakers to be there. However, the excuses for missing began to mount; excuses that I know would not be given to a high school coach that likely has not invested nearly the finances in them as MML did. MML is and will continue to be built on everything opposite of what opponents of travel ball complain about. We honor God, we work hard, we have respect for ourselves, the game, and each other, and we do not circumvent the rules. I was forced to examine if this team in particular had lost sight of those ideals.
Consequently, I did everything I could to avoid the fate that I have to present today. As a unit, we did not take care of our fiduciary responsibility, nor our responsibility as a team or band of brothers. We showed that we were not ready to carry the mantle as men though a few may have been. For the first time in MML history, I have decided to cancel the entire month of July’s schedule. For those who may not know, college coaches will tell you that July is the most important recruiting month on the calendar bar none. That means that I had to choose to eliminate that time for MML that could literally change the futures of the players involved. That was not an easy choice, but one that had to be made. After years of unity and operating at a level of excellence, the responsibility placed on this group this year was too much to bear for them.
I honestly feel terribly bad. Nothing about me wants to give up on any group of young men. The reason why I have done this for so many years is the potential impact it can have on ushering necessary changes in players’ lives. But I cannot look at myself in the mirror if I give to the group what was not earned. Somehow we have gotten the idea that someone owes us something and become an entitled group. Well, it is my responsibility to burst the bubble of that false sense of reality. I post this in the hope that those that read it on this team will wake up and also as a point of consideration for those coming up through the program. This team was given custom uniforms, custom socks, time in two gyms for free, and a plethora of time from leadership. In return, they gave excuses, reasons, elite attitude, and lack of appreciation. That is not nor will it ever be acceptable for the Mid Michigan Lakers, period. Not now, not ever. Unfortunately, the lesson had to be learned the hard way this time.