Copyright © 1997, Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.
Date: Tue, 1 Apr 1997 08:18:45 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Random Thought: Road To The Final Four
I was a bit bleary-eyed as I walked the dark streets of Valdosta
this morning. Staying up late watching the overtime victory of Arizona
over Kentucky for college basketball's NCAA national championship will do
that. It was a bit of a consolation that eased my mourning--admittedly not
much though--over the Saturday defeat my team, UNC, by Arizona. It was
some road to college basketball's Final Four. It was a cinderella story.
As I listened to the chirping birds harkening the coming of
another day, I was also thinking about another road to the Final Four. It
was not taken by a team, but by a single player. It, too, was a
cinderella story. It's the story of Ed Cota of UNC, who without the help
of a teacher would now be a high school dropout instead of a first year
student at one of the top universities in the country, who would be on the
road to ruin in the dark alleys of New York instead of being on the Road
to the Final Four in Indianoplis' RCA Dome, and would now be a "loser"
instead of being a champion riding the crest as a play-maker on one of the
Final Four teams.
A solid B student and basketball player talented enough to be a
McDonald's High School All-American, Ed Cota had been devastated by a
family tragedy that nearly killed his mother and put his father in a
wheelchair for life, started skipping school, finally dropped out, and
took to the streets. It was a teacher who cared enough to reach out to
pull this down and out teenager up out of the streets. It was this
teacher who said to him, "If you want to play, you have to go to class and
get your grades." It was this teacher who, when Cota did not respond,
hooked up with him and hooked him up with a caring clinical psychologist
who was anything but clinical. It was this teacher who sent Ed Cota to a
prep school. It was this teacher who taught Cota to open up and love
himself. It was this teacher who used basketball as one of the means for
the young man to regain his sense of self-worth and self-respect. It was
this teacher who admired him enough that he urged Cota to go to UNC to get
an education and learn how to play basketball rather than hot dog it as a
star at some other school which was not as committed to educating and
graduating its players.
It's the stuff of make-believe, to be sure. Did I say Cota was
helped by a teacher? Did you think I was talking about his English or
math teacher or some other classroom teacher. How silly of me. It was
really his high school basketball coach.
What's in a name. A person, any person--be he or she titled
teacher, professor, councilor, coach, adviser, RA, chaplin, maintenance
person--who forges a bond with a student, helps a student find a deeper
capability, convinces him of his or her worth, engages in the process that
will lead a student to believe in and love him/herself, helps a student to
find a way to use his or her special talents and to learn, helps a student
build a bridge to find a way to him/herself is in truth a teacher in my
book. And, the helping a student find his or way is sometimes called