Last week, I coached at the Carlos Boozer Jr. Foundation Basketball Camp here in Juneau.
Kids from 4 to 18 participated in the five-day skills camp. Our smallest camper, Micah, age 4, stands a whopping 3 feet, 6 inches; Taylor, our tallest camper, measured in at 6 feet, 9 inches. Needless to say, we had all skill levels and abilities.
From what I observed when I wasn't tending to my 9-and-under group, the campers had a great time learning baskedball skills and more importantly learning life skills that, if applied, will make them the kind of people Juneau can be proud of.
It was a great week. Carlos and his camp directors, Jackson Beltran, Bennie and LIz, did a great job organizing the camp. They went to great lengths to emphasize to the kids that the skills you learn in basketball camp - hard work, teamwork, dedication, sportsmanship, humility, perseverance and respect - are the skills that will make you successful in life. Gov. Sean Parnell helped Carlos explain the skills they learn in basketball camp are the same skills that will enable them to be successful in life.
A huge thank you goes to Mr. and Mrs. Carlos Boozer Sr. Their son is doing "it" the right way. I've known Carlos since he was 12 years old. My daughter played basketball at Juneau-Douglas High School from 1995-1999, as did Carlos. I spent a lot of time in a lot of different gyms in a lot of different towns and cities during that period of time. I observed a young Carlos grow from a gangly 6-foot, 4-inch freshman with a funky haircut to a 6-foot, 9-inch manchlid.
But more to the point, I observed a young person who treated his parents, teachers, coaches, teammates and siblings with respect. He was humble despite his athletic accomplishments and always exhibited outstanding sportsmanship, even in defeat, which was extremely rare in Carlos' prep career. I have followed Carlos' basketball career as a fan, but I had not seen Carlos for several years until last week. But he approached me with the same respect and humility, calling me "Mr. Lindley" as he did as a youngster.
I've observed a lot of athetes in my years as a fan, father, referee, youth coach and assistant coach for 10 years at JDHS, most recently with Lesslie Knight's very successful program. Many of our youth have grown up or will grow up without the benefit of having parents like Mr. and Mrs. Carlos Boozer Sr. They have not been taught the values the Boozers taught young Carlos. Nor have many of our youth seen these values modeled for them by their parents, coaches, teachers, legislators or other members in this community.
Why? Because athletes are often put on an imaginary pedestal by their parents, coaches, teachers, classmates and members of the community. In Juneau, like other small communities, high school athletes are almost worshipped in some strange way just because they can score a basket, catch a football or hit home runs. This community is willing to support them based solely upon their athletic prowess. They develop a sense of entitlement; they are above the rules and values that others are expected to live by, often including the law. They are disrespectful or their parents, coaches, teachers, classmates, girlfriend or boyfriend, the clerk at the grocery store, community property and community members. I've seen the scenario repeated over and over again in this town.
Whose fault is it? Ultimately, it is the kids' fault and eventually they will pay for it as adults, when bad behavior or lawlessness can no longer be ignored. But each and every one of us must share the blame - although parents must bear the major responsibillity. But foster parents, organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, teachers and administrators, coaches and community members all must share some level of responsibility.
Juneau, we are failing at this important job. Respect, humility, hard work, and perseverance are just words to many of our kids, especially those on top of the imaginary pedestal we have put them on. Some have never experienced what those words mean - nobody is modeling those behaviors around them or in the home. Or they've seen "it" - it has been modeled for them - but they are on the pedestal and pedestal kids don't have to be respectful, humble, honest or lawful.
Carlos got "it" at a young age because he had the benefit of good parents. He's doing "it" the right way and is now giving back to a community he genuinely cares about. He wants to encourage kids to have fun, improve their basketball skills and learn life skills that will help them be successful in life regardless of what they choose to do. After all, there aren't many that will be blessed with a six-foot, nine-inch frame, great athleticism and the opportunities those attributes can present.
C'mon, Juneau, step up to the plate - it takes a community to raise a child and we've got a lot of work to do!
Kerry Lindley, a 23-year resident of Juneau, is a father of four, grandfather of seven and a former assistant basketball coace at Juneau-Douglas High School. These comments are not meant to be a condemnation of all Juneau's youth; we have some very fine young folks that we are and should be very proud of. They are doing "it" the right way, too.