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FOLLOW THE WILDCATS: Lace Up Your Sneakers!

The journey of a Connecticut inner-city boys' high school basketball team whose toughest opponents are the daily struggles of each of its players.

         The following blog post was taken from its original location, found here 

Welcome toFollow the Wildcats.” This recent basketball season I did my best to keep an accurate journal of the center-city high school basketball team for which I was the first-year head coach. “Follow the Wildcats” is a compilation of many stories, told through the lens of the Wildcats’ lives. Names and identities of people and places have been changed in deference to the people involved. But everything happened. Boy, did it ever.

Last August, I moved from Florida to a town — let’s call it Langdon — to pursue a career in education. I wanted to work in an impoverished area where traditional approaches to education were being tested and/or replaced with innovative, out-of-the-box methods.

I had just earned my Master’s in Education, and I really wanted to dive head first into a challenging situation. I am an avid youth worker, you could say, and I love exploring how different programs can be created to help youth who can’t make it in traditional settings.

Charternet, a charter school in Langdon, which is part of a larger network of schools across the country, hired me as a Teaching Fellow. Basically I’m a liaison between the administration, the school’s social workers and its teachers. I handle small tasks like getting a student a locker, and larger ones, like assessing attendance rates throughout the school year.

During my interview, the principal, a Mr. Sampson, told me Charternet took in kids who had failed out of or been failed by their local schools. Some of them had been kicked out for a variety of reasons, though it usually came down to having had a run-in with the law. They come from all over, these kids, from places like Shortbridge, Middleton, and Langdon. Tough, blue-collar cities with large minority communities, often as not surrounded by extremely wealthy suburbs at the other end of the economic spectrum, places like Winnette and Clinton.

What got my blood pumping, though, was another of Mr. Sampson’s offers: the position of Head Boys’ Basketball Coach for the school’s Varsity team, the Wildcats.

I’d been playing basketball my entire life. High school, Division III college ball, and then a couple of years overseas. I loved the game, being part of a team, practice, everything. I pounced on the opportunity like I was jumping on a loose ball.

At one point, Mr. Sampson mentioned that last season the team had lost every game and that the final five games had to be canceled when everyone on the team quit. I heard him, but I was too excited to listen.

There would plenty of times once the season got going when I wished I had.

Check back soon for more from “Follow the Wildcats!”

NEXT UP: A First Look

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Leslie Yager July 12, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Can't wait for the next installment of "Follow the Wildcats"!

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