Coach Carter in a Nightlife Exclusive: Providing the Essential Steps for Success in Life
What: Coach Ken Carter’s Twelve Essential Steps for Success in Life (lecture and film screening)
Anyone can be a coach, but it takes a real hero to be a leader. Ken Carter is not only a great sports coach, but also a role model and mentor. The Student Programming Council will bring him to speak Wednesday, March 8 in the SIU Student Center’s Ballroom D. Carter’s lecture is free and open to the public.
Just about everyone has seen the movie about his life, Coach Carter, starring Samuel L. Jackson. The films shows Carter as he takes forty-five different people with forty-five different personalities and turns them into a team, turns them into men.
Some based-on-a-true-story movies become exaggerations and lies, but Coach Carter actually portrays his story accurately, from the portrayals of other real-life people to the lockouts to the ending of the movie.
“I was on the set every single day while they were shooting the movie,” explains Carter in an exclusive Nightlife interview. “I spent a lot of time with all of the cast members. I spent a lot of time with Samuel L. Jackson, and I called him Mister, because in four months of shooting the movie Coach Carter, he never stumbled on one single line, and not only did he know his lines, he knew everyone else’s line. The first meeting, we were at a basketball game. Within the first couple minutes of us talking I saw him become me, with his hand movements, rhythm, speech pattern, it was absolutely remarkable— a true professional.”
Carter was born in Mississippi and partially raised in California. As a teen, he played basketball at Richmond High School in California and set records in scoring, assists, and steals that were not broken until twenty-three years later by his son, Damien.
One of his goals was to return to Richmond and make an impact close to home.
“I always thought I would come back and coach there, and I got the opportunity when my son started high school,” Carter says.
“I think that next to parenting, teaching and coaching is one of the most important professions in the world,” Carter adds. “We spend more time with the kids than the parents do, so we try to be a positive role model.”
In 1999, controversy broke out because of Carter’s decision to bench all forty-five players on all of Richmond’s basketball teams because of poor academic performance. Though the team was undefeated, Carter was disappointed in his players’ lack of care and value for education. The members of the basketball team had all signed contracts to maintain a 2.3 grade-point average and wear suits and ties on game days. One-third of them didn’t honor the contracts they signed. When some of the team members failed to keep up their end of the contracts, Carter was outraged.
Since when do sports come before education? Carter struck a clear balance between basketball and school. Without the grades, there simply wouldn’t be any basketball played in Richmond’s gym, from the varsity level on down. Carter put the gym on lockdown and made players report to study hall. If one team member failed, they all failed.
This decision received national attention as well as a backlash from students, parents, and locals.
“It was a very difficult decision,” Carter says. “But the lockout—.”
Carter pauses a moment before continuing. “Basketball was just a hoop,” he says. “Education was my goal. I know our kids can go pro in life instead of just professional. I knew it was the right thing to do.”
Sticking to his decision, Carter’s lockdown worked. Every one of his players graduated from 1997 to 2002, and a large number of them went on to college with scholarships. Not only did he teach them to show strength and discipline, he also taught them the importance of professionalism and academic excellence.
Not only did he coach, but Carter was also an entrepreneur, simultaneously owning a sporting-goods store, a barbershop, a hair salon, and a T-shirt company. Even though he sold those businesses, he continues to keep the productivity running through motivational speeches, writing books, coaching the L.A. Rumble, and founding the Coach Carter Foundation, a not-for-profit mentoring program for minority youths. Always expanding, Carter plans to release a new movie next November about three young performers in a singing contest called The Next Big Thing.
“There are four main keys to success in life,” Carter tells Nightlife, “accountability, integrity, you have to be able to be a great follower before you are able to be a great leader, and be a part of a family or team.”
Carter plans to share his life story, his struggle, and the steps he took to be successful with SIU students.
“I want to always be a role model to the young people and be able to add value my family name,” Carter says. “If anybody I come in touch with asks me for help, I try to give it to them the best I can. Not all of us can become famous, but all of can become great.”
For information, visit <http://CoachCarter.com>.
who: Student Programming Council
what: Coach Ken Carter’s Twelve Essential Steps for Success in Life (lecture and film screening)
where: Student Center Ballroom D
when: Wednesday, March 8