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Issue 459 - "Change what you cannot accept." (John McClendon Part Two)

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 10 Issue 459
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login

 

"CHANGE WHAT YOU CANNOT ACCEPT." (JOHN MCCLENDON PART TWO)

 
 
Before John McClendon became the first college basketball coach ever to win three consecutive national titles, the First African American head coach of a professional sports team, the First African American head coach of a predominantly white university or the First person to be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as both coach and contributor, he had established that he would: "change what he could not  accept."
 
In 1933 John McLendon became the first African American physical education student enrolled at the University of Kansas. The head of the department was Dr. James Naismith, the legendary inventor of basketball, who would become his mentor, friend, teacher, and partner in breaking racial barriers at the university.
 
They started with the swimming pool. Although the university was integrated, the pool at Robinson Gymnasium was not. Although swimming was a degree requirement, McClendon was advised he would not need to use the pool.
 
Black students were usually given an automatic A in swimming, but McClendon would not accept the grade without doing the work. Going to take the swimming test one day, he found the pool empty and was told it was being drained. When he asked the attendant for details, he was told, "We drain the pool every Wednesday." But McLendon knew better. He told the attendant that "he was going to have a big water bill because I was going swimming every day." McLendon came back the next day, and the pool was drained again. He was told not to return.
 
Word quickly spread that a student in the Athletic Department was trying to start "mixed swimming." Several of McLendon's friends on the basketball and football teams openly supported his efforts. A few joined him in the pool. Dr. Naismith sent his two biggest football players to stand guard while McLendon swam, but the tension remained. Signs showed up on campus with racial slurs condemning "mixed swimming". McLendon immediately gathered the signs up and gave them to Dr. Naismith who then took them to the chancellor and the school's president, telling them that if he ever saw another such sign he would resign and go to another university. The pool was integrated.
 
McClendon then became the first black student to serve on the student council where he got rid of other discriminatory practices at the university, such as black students paying extracurricular fees to the university like everyone else but being denied equal access to facilities and events in the student union.
 
Coach McClendon had started changing what he could not accept, and the segregated world of college and professional basketball would be two more things he would change forever.
 
What will you change?
 
 
 

Yours in Coaching,
 
 
Craig Impelman
 
 
 
 


 

 

 

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Application Exercise

COACH'S FAVORITE POETRY AND PROSE

 

The Way To Make Friends

The way to make friends is as easy
As breathing the fresh morning air;
It isn't an art to be studied
Alone by the men who can spare
The time from their everyday labors,
To ponder on classical lore,
It never is taught in a college
And it isn't a trick or a chore.

The way to make friends is to be one,
To smile at the stranger you meet,
To think cheerful thoughts and to speak them
Aloud to the people you greet.
To hold your hand out to a brother,
And cheerfully say: 'Howdy-do,'
In a way that he'll know that you mean it,
That's all that's expected of you.

Be honest in all of your dealings,
Be true to your word and your home,
And you will make friends, never doubt it,
Wherever you happen to roam.
Condemn not the brother who falters,
Nor fawn on the rich and the great.
Speak kindly to all who approach you,
And give up all whining at fate.

Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959)

 

 

 

 

 

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