Dynasty, Thomas deserve respect

Published 3:59 pm Friday, June 12, 2009

My son turned 14 years old June 9. Like so many others, he has a dream. His dream is to one day play in the NBA. He may never “live” his dream; however, my money is on him. At a young age, he has already met many obstacles in his path. Some he brought on himself—some have directly come from our community and educational system. Most folks don’t encounter these obstacles until much later in life, but at 13 years old, he tried to shoulder them alone. In my opinion, he came out the “winner” because character was born and fear died.

This year, he finally said out loud which sport he plans to dominate—it’s basketball!

As mentioned earlier, he has encountered many obstacles. He has been told, “Basketball is a black man’s sport.” He has been called “a quitter.” He has had basketball held over his head at every turn. Many other things transpired this year as well, yet he still came through—he “bent, but he didn’t break.”

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In the past, at this time of year, my son would be playing baseball, but instead he is “conditioning” for basketball. When I say, “conditioning,” I mean that in every sense of the word. My son was fortunate enough to meet Coach Lee Thomas. Thomas works with my son and many other boys and girls of Decatur County. He doesn’t get paid a dime for his time, because as he puts it, he is “just giving back to the community,” and according to Thomas, the rewards are great—greater than money or any material possessions.

Coach Thomas conditions the boys and girls at Cheney Griffin Park four days a week. It is rigorous training, too. Some boys and girls don’t come back after their first day of training with Thomas. The boys and girls who do persevere and stay do not have a court to practice on; therefore Thomas takes them to St. Paul Church on Highway 84 on Tuesday evenings to play ball, and yes, to continue to condition.

All the gyms we have in Decatur County, and these boys and girls do not have one they can play ball in—why? That is a superb question. One in which I hope that you the reader and our community can help me solve, especially when BYFL and YMCA have use of football fields and school sites.

Steven Dupree, the principal at West Bainbridge Middle School, was kind enough to let us utilize their gym on Friday’s and Saturday’s for the fee of $30, which went to pay an employee at the school to open and close the doors. That, however, was put to a complete halt when Ed Pilcher, athletic director, “got wind” of it. Why?

The Bainbridge Dynasty, which is what these dedicated boys and girls call themselves, entered a request to Decatur County Board of Education on March 23 that proposed to lease West Bainbridge Middle School gym for a reasonable fee. This gym would no longer be in use after this year with all the changes. The request was delivered in person by me with a folder containing the proposal for each board member, as well as a folder for School Superintendent Ralph Jones.

The next board meeting was to be held on April 16, which Jones was well aware that Bainbridge Dynasty team players, coaches and volunteers would be attending. The first thing I noticed was that Bainbridge Dynasty Basketball was not on the agenda. Why? Jones had the proposal since March 23—three and a half weeks before the schedule meeting. However, when the chairperson, Sidney Cochran, asked if anyone was attending who had a matter to address, Coach Thomas stood before the board to ask the decision and status of the proposal the team sent in the previous month.

Any reasonable on-looker with a pinch of common sense could quickly observe that the board’s chairperson had no idea what proposal Thomas was inquiring about. As a matter of fact, it appeared that none of the six board members had a clue. Yet, no need to fear because Jones was near, and he assured Thomas that the proposal had been delivered to his chosen two—Tommie Howell and Pilcher.

Bainbridge Dynasty received the first reply by mail signed by Pilcher, dated April 20, which stated, “First our main concern is what is best for our athletes and Bainbridge High School. … We are not interested in servicing other athletes from surrounding counties with whom we compete.”

That is exactly how Bainbridge Dynasty feels—”our main concern is what is best for our athletes,” especially in the summer months when Decatur County has no programs to offer middle and high school youth.

With a lot of time on their hands and no organized program, our community is asking our youth to find trouble. As far as Pilcher’s comment, “We are not interested in servicing athletes from surrounding counties with whom we compete”—neither is Bainbridge Dynasty. We want to enhance our athletes’ abilities.

Of course, some of our community’s athletes do participate in other basketball organizations out of town during the summer. Why? The answer is obvious; our community doesn’t offer the opportunity for them to play ball in their own “backyard.” The irony of that is, Bainbridge Dynasty receives blame for our youth leaving town to play basketball, and all we are attempting to do is offer such a program in our very own community for our very own athletes so that they do not have to leave their own hometown. …

Dynasty knows what we are fighting for—a gym to play ball in—but what are we fighting against?

There is “talk” about Coach Thomas, but let me give you the flip side and a comparison. Once again, Thomas doesn’t get a dime. Thomas does use four letter words, but coach’s four letter words usually consist of combined four letter words such as, “team work, push hard, play ball, well done, good shot, jump high, don’t quit.” But what appears to be his favorite word of all, even though it does not consist of four letters, is the word “beautiful!”

Thomas does not put up with disrespect or a vulgar mouth. If such words do escape a team member’s mouth, Thomas gives those push-ups or whatever he considers appropriate. Thomas instills morals, values and character in each player; he doesn’t cuss them, kick them or gamble.

Thomas gives Dynasty’s players hope, a vision and a dream.

Whatever, the school system or the community has against Coach Thomas—get over it—his good far outweighs any “rumored” bad. That should be apparent to the readers of The Post-Searchlight and our community. In the last month, Thomas has been asked by four of Bainbridge High School players to stand by their side as they sign on for a college scholarship as they move forward in their life. One player signed with a football scholarship, yet he wanted Thomas, a community-volunteer basketball coach, to stand by his side. Why? That question I can answer for you—it’s called respect. The players respect Thomas—my son respects Coach.

When I think of the Board of Education and just how Pilcher handled Bainbridge Dynasty’s proposal, I can’t help but think of the 1958 rhythm and blues hit by The Coasters—”Yackety Yak,” because, you see, they pretty much told Bainbridge Dynasty to “Just put on your coat and hat” and “don’t talk back.”

It’s time to talk back. These paid leaders are supposed to be trusted servants for our community, and yet I can’t help but believe that they think they are the community. Let us not forget, we are the community and our youth belongs to us, and our youth are looking to us for direction. Whose best interest is Pilcher and the others really looking out for? From where I am sitting, it “ain’t” our youth.

Thank you for your time.

Mae Hayes Arsenault