David Owen: Stupid is as stupid does

June 24, 2009

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I read in the Friday, June 19 paper that Coach Stacy Hester is going to appeal the County School Board''s decision to not renew his baseball contract (The headline incorrectly stated: "Hester to appeal firing"--he was not fired). I do not know Coach Hester, but judging from his win-loss record, we are indeed losing a talent. I hope he will chase his dream in the college or professional ranks to do there what he has done for New Hope. 

 

As a forth generation Lowndes Countian, and third generation lawyer, Coach Hester''s decision to appeal is odd at best. Coach Hester was an "at will" employee, or one who works at the will and sufferance of the School Board. Like the Caledonia Coaches whose contracts were not renewed (and may have gone to a lawyer and been told they had no case, I don''t know), Coach Hester simply has no case. At will employees may be non-renewed for good cause, bad cause or no cause at all. 

 

With that said, Coach Hester made mention that he was going to stay at New Hope and drive a bus and teach driver''s education. Again, what a wasted talent. For a coach that wants to "man up," I would think that Coach Hester''s presence at New Hope with a new coach would be disruptive, at best. And also, obviously Coach Hester''s desire is to coach baseball, and boy can he do that. You need simply look at the win-loss record. Phenomenal! 

 

I have conferred, professionally, with some of the people involved in baseball at New Hope who have had kids coached by Coach Hester. One child''s father came to me after Coach Hester had called him "stupid" and "sorry." After counseling, I am happy to report that the dignity lost by this child by Coach Hester''s comments was restored unto him. It took time. That year, New Hope baseball did well. 

 

The reason we have sports in schools is to build the character of our youth. Of course, if the sporting team wins a lot of games, we are all proud of this, but I submit that the best interest of our children should be our polestar concern and the best interest of them is compromised and, indeed, shattered, when their role model calls them "stupid." 

 

Growing up, I had a mentally retarded sister, Judith. I loved her more than life itself. Judith tried to be "normal," but could not be normal. God had chosen to make Judith special, and did a truly remarkable thing with Judith. Judith was too retarded to fully understand it when heartless, insensitive and ignorant people called her "stupid," and a lot of them did. I would try to explain to Judith that that man/woman/child was the "stupid" one, but that offered little solace to my special sister. Imagine how the cutting remark by Coach Hester can impact a child to the point of them seeking psychological counseling. 

 

As one of the youth court public defenders, I sometimes see the crushed egos of children caused by comments by teachers/coaches, such as "stupid." Our educators are there to help build up the confidence of our children, not tear it down.  

 

In the article, Coach Hester mentions "one incident at Hernando or after one incident where I tell a woman to hush (am I fired?)." I think the Hernando incident was when he allegedly physically assaulted a player, putting his forearm on his neck and drawing back. I think the "hush" incident was when the parent asked the coach to quit calling players "stupid," as he had been asked before. 

 

My father, Ben Owen, was the most successful pee-wee football coach in the history of Lowndes County. Now, he was stern. He would threaten to put his boot in a rearward part of one''s anatomy and send them over a pecan tree. Never, never, would he resort to "stupid," or simple assault. I know that pee-wee is a far cry from high stakes High School baseball where we all should be proud of our teams'' win-loss record, particularly Coach Hester''s. I submit, however, that when "stupid" enters the equation, that as parents and protectors of our kids, we owe it to them to build up their psychic well being and not run it into the ground. 

 

The writer is a Columbus attorney. His e-mail address is david@lawyerowen.com.