“I came to coach basketball players, and you became students. l came to teach boys, and you became men.” – Coach Ken Carter
In every environment that involves groups of people interacting with one another, several traits about these people become visibly important to have in order to have a successful and healthy environment. For example, at school, a teacher needs to have a commanding presence, the students need to be well behaved and the parents need to be invested in their kids’ education. In a sports team, the coach needs to be respected, the players need to be disciplined and the executives of the team need to be diligent. In a compony, the head of the team needs to have leadership skills, the employees should want to learn and the CEO needs to have a vision for the company.
In all of these examples, there’s one main common thread that is repeated; character.
A person’s character is without a shadow of a doubt, the most important asset they can have across every aspect of their lives. It might sound obvious to say so, but we don’t always act like we know this information by heart.
A commonly repeated scenario where a highly skilled individual is unable to succeed at his or her chosen career due to major character issues. This is so well known and each of us while reading this probably already has a person or two in mind that fit this description.
Another scenario albeit less common, is someone who is skilled but their character harnesses these skills for all the wrong reasons. Many successful villains and criminals display this concept quite clearly.
This is where the importance of a figure like Coach Carter comes in.
Ken Carter grew up in Richmond, California. A city that is plagued with poverty and crime and where kids aged 18-24 were 80% more likely to go to jail than to college.
When offered the chance to coach at the high school where he was successful, he took the opportunity in order to try and affect change in the community he lives in.
Most people who have worked with teenagers and young people know how hard it can be to earn their respect and even harder to be able to influence them positively.
So, this was a daunting task indeed. The movie is very accurate in its portrayal of his character and you can judge for yourself just how much of a commanding and influential presence Coach Carter has.
When first meeting with the team, he instills in them the idea that they must respect themselves and those around them by calling them Sirs, and expecting them to the same. He begins a strict conditioning system that imposes self-discipline on them in their workouts and showing up on time.
Most importantly, he invests time in their academic life. He didn’t want to just be a successful basketball coach, he wanted to help change their lives.
How? By investing in their character.
Through his rules and mantras, he wanted to instill in them a desire to change their perspective on what “winning” means. By having class, respect to other teams, being on time and tidy, working hard in their classes and going to college; these were not simply small achievements, they were an illustration of what it means to be interested in your inner well-being, your inner self. They were all extremely talented basketball players, but they lacked the discipline and respect that could enable them to achieve success. And even when they started to succeed, they abused it by being disrespectful to their opponents and sneaking out to parties.
Without the proper character, there is no good use to any success no matter how it comes.
What stops us from investing in out characters, is that it is much harder than investing in our skills. To face your character, is to face your failures, your flaws and doubts. It’s to acknowledge your limitations and be open to criticism, all of which are terrifying. We don’t want to know if we’re inadequate or not, because if we are, we wouldn’t be able to handle it.
The best thing you can do to help yourself, is work on your “self”. Understand that the best and worst things that can happen to you, are not constrained by circumstances and luck, but instead it is within your reach and your grasp to enact those things.
The problem is whether you can work on your character or not, and that is a personal choice you need to make every single day. It’s a decision you make, by yourself, to yourself, every day.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”