SAL-VA-TION: by grace

E-LEV-EN: children from 1984 to 2006

HOME-SCHOOL-ING: since 1990

DOWN-SYN-DROME: susie and gabe

GRAND-CHILD-REN: since 2010

FAITH-FUL-NESS: my steadfast rock, my biggest supporter, my leader, my friend, my love, my husband

Friday, March 11, 2016

My Favorite Sports Story Ever

In light of the negative attention that last week's basketball game received, and in honor of Gabe turning 10-years-old this week, I thought I would relive this great memory from football season 2014.

I am not so naive as to think that this is how athletic competitions should end all the time, that it never matters if you win or lose, and that we just need to make everyone feel good.  But I sure am glad that this select group of people on this one particular day came together to make Gabe's day, and in the process, left smiles on the faces of millions of people around the world.  The video shows Gabe (a then 8-year-old, being guided by his older brother, Owen (who was also on the court during the stall game last week) and then chased down by a great group of opposing players (from Mosinee) who just make this the best high school touchdown ever.

Happy Birthday Gabe!!

(I wish I could get the NFL video with commentator breakdown to show up as a full video, but I can't, so here is the link to their piece:

Or, you can see the original footage here:

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Basketball or "Stall Ball"?

March 5, 2016

To:  Wisconsin State Basketball Coaches and the WIAA
Re:  Basketball or “Stall Ball”?

Dear Coaches and Board Members,

I sat through a painful 36-minute “stall ball” game last night.  Even before the end of the blisteringly boring excuse for a game (and while we led by 4 points) I was drafting this letter in my head.  The nauseated feeling that began in the first five minutes of play never went away.  For me, this isn’t about winning and losing.  For the coaches, apparently, that is all it is about.

As for basketball, I am not new to the game.  I played high school basketball in MN, played on a European women’s team while I was an exchange student, and played one year of division 2 college basketball before transferring to a division 1 school where I knew I could not (and did not care to try to) compete.  I stayed involved in athletics by officiating intramural games; and I married an athlete who played high school football, basketball, and baseball and has officiated at upper levels of competition.  We have eleven children; and, our ninth child and seventh son is a now high school athlete.  I have been watching my kids play baseball, soccer, softball, football, and basketball for twenty-two years.  Besides all of the regular season games, I’ve watched them play in all-star games, AAU games, state east-west games,a MN-WI border battle, state tournaments, college football games, and college basketball games.  I estimate that I have sat through at least 1600 games.

In twenty-two years and 1600+ games I have seen only ONE team end the season with a win.  Only ONE team made it to the final championship game and took home the trophy.  That’s only one in almost 200 teams’ seasons, less than 0.5% success.  Learn a lesson coaches, it isn’t just about winning.  If it is, you are a collective group of ultimate failures. 

I haven’t encouraged my kids to play sports so they can “win”.  I’ve encouraged them to play because they enjoy it and to learn very valuable life lessons.  I believe kids should walk away from an athletic experience knowing more about hard work, cooperation, teamwork, handling pressure, submitting to leadership, letting others down, and knowing how to deal with those who’ve let them down.  I believe they should learn the benefits of dedication, giving it everything they have, improving their work ethic, and doing all they can as a team to do to those things together.  I believe these lessons take them into job situations, marriages, families, and community positions better equipped to be leaders. 

I want my kids to be leaders, but not without integrity.  Leadership without integrity is what most people call “politics”.  What we all despise about “politics” is the blatant maneuvering to position oneself for personal gain and victory.  We link it with a lack of integrity.
That’s what I feel is happening with high school basketball.  We were witness to this kind of basketball three times this season.  Sitting and watching a team hold the ball for 7 straight minutes is not a game.  Watching a team dribble in circles and pass for minutes on end, waiting to draw a foul, is frustratingly pointless for players and fans alike.  But the fact that it’s frustrating for the fans is not a reason to change strategies.  Three real reasons to stop engaging in the “stall ball” stategy are:  1) it violates the integrity of the game,  2) it undermines real sportmanship, and  3) the reason for competing in a team sport in the first place is seriously violated by such behavior.  This kind of basketball is the making of a sports blooper segment, not an athletic event.

Coaches, when it comes to your “stall ball”, even the players hate it.  They want to play.  They joined the team because they like to play.  I hear first hand what is said by our team’s players and by the opposition.  They hate it.  We’ve taught them too well to respect authority and do what you tell them to do.  They do it because you make them do it; but, THEY HATE IT.  Ask them, I’m sure you’ll find that the vast majority don’t mind losing as much as they  mind not playing

As a parent, one of the most frustrating things I’ve had to do is create what seem like obvious rules.  (I’m guessing that the WIAA committees feel the same way.) I wrongly thought that basic, overriding principles of life would be enough to direct my children.   Then they got old enough to bend the rules, push the boundaries, and come to me saying, “But you didn’t say not to…”  And so the need for specific rules and precise language arose.  I would prefer that my kids exercise personal discretion and integrity to do what is right.  As much as possible, I still challenge them to make mature and honest choices without a defined list of rules.  When it comes to basketball we’ve had sons share with us how, in games, they tried to ‘get into players heads’ to mess them up, “accidentally” tap a ball away before inbounding to take time off the clock, or quietly taunt someone to anger them and get them to retaliate and foul.  We have heartily denounced those behaviors.  Whether they’re legal or just something they can get away with doesn’t matter, it’s bad sportsmanship and lacks integrity.

We want this generation to grow up and make society better, not more self-serving.  While “stall ball” is within the rules of Wisconsin high school basketball, everyone who has had to pay $4, maybe drive 1-2 hours (or more) and then sit through what doesn’t even resemble the game that drives the kids to want to play in the first place, knows first hand that the integrity of the game, and high school athletcs, has been violated. 

It’s true, “No one said you can’t do that.” But they should. Shame on all of you.  (After some consideration, I feel that this was in inappropriate comment.  I apologize.)


Cindy White

Added Note:
Please understand, this is not simply about one game, one team, or one coach.  I wrote most of this letter a month ago following another frustrating stall ball game.  I wish we had stalled and lost so that you would know this is not sour grapes!

Here is an excerpt from a comment that may help express the purpose of this letter:
The debate about this is not new, a shot clock was first implemented in professional basketball in 1954 and the NCAA came on board in the mid 1980s. Everyone understands that 36 minutes of stalling is not basketball. The high schools have been reluctant to go to the shot clock because of the costs, training, and management and because it could potentially hurt younger players who need more time to implement the basic fundamentals of the game. 

The National Federation of High School Association, on its website states, "Currently, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Washington, New York, California, North Dakota and South Dakota utilize the shot clock for either boys or girls or both. Since there currently is no allowance for a shot clock under NFHS rules, these states forfeit opportunity for service on the Basketball Rules Committee."

Unless the NFHS changes the rules, I believe its time for Wisconsin to join those eight states and use the shot clock. You can have your 1980s basketball. I"m ready to move forward.