Dear Coach Adams
You said I would never amount to anything. You called me a loser. I hope this letter finds you.
I was a junior in high school and had played basketball every year since fifth grade. I wasn’t great, but I made the team each year. I loved basketball and I still do, but I loved a lot of other things as well. I was smart enough to realize that basketball wasn’t going to be my ticket to college, and unless the NBA was recruiting weak skinny white dudes with mediocre ball handling skills, I would most likely acquire a non-athletic profession.
During try-outs that year, I balled. I played out of my mind, and you didn’t even notice. I was two for two from beyond the arc in my few minutes of scrimmage time. I took our best varsity player to the rack and Jordan air-reversed him, it was gorgeous. You didn’t see because you were chatting with the first string players on the sideline. You didn’t care because your mind had already been made up.
Based on my tryout, I thought I had an outside chance of getting called up to the varsity team. That didn’t happen, but that was ok, I was just happy another basketball season was upon us.
As the season approached, you required us to show up before school, during 4th period, and after school to practice. You also required us to run 5 miles daily. Each morning we had to report if we ran 5 miles the day before. I appreciated, and still appreciate, that hard work is the key to success, but you made it so basketball consumed my life.
After thinking long and hard about it, I decided that basketball was not important enough to me to consume all my free time. It wasn’t an easy decision but I had to start thinking about college and how I wanted to spend my last two years in high school. My intuition told me I should quit and my deliberation over the facts concurred, so I quit.
I asked to talk to you before practice. I sat in your office and explained myself. You didn’t say anything. You stared at me, holding your clipboard. You just sat there. After an uncomfortable minute, you asked me to follow you to the court where my friends and teammates were warming up. You asked me to sit against the wall. You assembled the team and addressed them.
You told them I was a quitter. You told them I couldn’t handle the heat. You told them I was a loser. You told them I would never amount to anything. You told them I would never amount to anything.
My last two years of high school were amazing. I spent quality time with my friends. I took college-level AP classes and earned college credits. I served in a community service organization. I helped build orphanages in Mexico. I played street ball almost everyday, which you forbade. I made new friends. I met my wife.
I’ll never forget your public shaming. I’ll never forget the way you made me feel. I’ll never forget my back against that wall. I’ll never forget trying to hold back the tears.
I want you to know that I’m happy with what I’m amounting to. I want you to know that you were a horrible coach. I want you to know that I hope you found peace and happiness in your life. I want you to know that shaming well-balanced kids was, and is, wrong. I want you to know that having a realistic perspective on one’s future is healthy and should be encouraged. I want you to know that I hated you, but I want you to know that I forgive you.
I want you to know that proving you wrong was important to me but it isn’t anymore. Maybe you were a genius and intentionally gave me the fire I needed to succeed, but I doubt it. I think you were an insecure bully who shamed me to feel better about yourself. I hope it worked. I hope this letter finds you and makes you feel like Shawn Bradley getting posterized by T-Mac.