True Inspiration: Larry Sanders

True Inspiration: Larry Sanders

There is more than what meets the eye.
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Sometimes there is more to life than what meets the eye. We often have to look past what we view individuals on the outside and search for who they are on the inside. Occasionally our sense of vision beholds us with something that is larger than life. At six feet eleven inches, two hundred and thirty-five pounds, it would be hard to not be in awe of a man by the name of Larry Sanders. Larry Sanders is most notably known as a professional basketball player for the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA. He has played center for them since 2010 when the club drafted him 15th overall out of Virginia Commonwealth University. Milwaukee needed a big man for their franchise and Sanders looked as if he was going to stand and deliver as blocking shots was his specialty. In 2012 he finished second in blocks per game in the league and also was close to winning the Most Improved Player award for that year. After this, Sanders was rewarded handsomely, signing a four year extension with the Bucks that was worth forty-four million dollars. Unfortunately for Sanders this success was short lived. The next season the Florida native was sidelined a majority of games due to injury with a string of bad luck. Fans were looking for a comeback year for the Bucks and their big man, but Sanders would have the final say.

Effective February 2015, Larry Sanders is no longer a current NBA player. Citing anxiety and depression disorders, the twenty-six year old has stepped away from the game and agreed to a contract buyout from the Milwaukee Bucks. This has left many fans in outrage and easy to slander the former Center, but what should be said instead is praise and encouragement for Sanders.

Before his contract buyout Sanders was admitted into a hospital to seek help for the daily strains and anxieties that he was living with. During this time is when he realized what is important to him and what life is really all about. This is where he made the decision to walk away from his career that secured him with fame and fortune. To him this fame and fortune was not worth the price of his basketball talents and he would rather explore different avenues in this journey of life. He is not just a larger than life man that plays basketball, instead he is much more than that. In an interview Sanders says that he is “a father, a writer, and a painter”, among other things, but what he fails to mention is that he is an inspiration.

Often in sports we visualize greats who can run at amazing speeds, or throw a ball a country mile. Sometimes we see individuals push themselves to the physical brink with no regard for human life. Rarely do we see people like Larry Sanders, those who the average public viewers can relate to and be vulnerable with. I for one am someone who relates to Larry Sanders. Majority of the days I wake up I have anxious thoughts. It’s been that way since I was a child and I’ve learned how to cope with it, while playing to my strengths. However, not every day is sunshine and happiness, as mental health is a serious issue. Living with anxiety and depression is not an easy task as both of those things are a daily reality. Embarrassment can come when you know you should be happy when you’re really not. Society tells you a handful of things and it usually follows under the concepts of “get over it” or “you’re really messed up”. So most of the time I smile and wave as I put on an act to seem like everything is okay while secretly feeling ashamed. Thanks to people like Sanders, I don’t feel ashamed to admit this anymore.

It takes a lot for an individual to admit there is something wrong and especially so being a public figure. Maybe it’s out of pride or maybe it is out of the pressure that comes with that admittance. For the man who wore number eight for the Milwaukee Bucks, that admittance must feel good right about now. Sanders should be applauded for his decision of walking away from the pressure that being a top paid athlete in the ever demanding world of professional sports burdens players with. He is a man who may impact many more with his words in this decision than he may have ever impacted while on the basketball court. He let people know that it’s alright to choose what you love over what others have chosen you to do.

In one of his latest interviews Sanders says he does love playing basketball, but that there is more to life than that grueling lifestyle in the NBA. That is something that can be applicable to all our lives. Higher education, a well-paying job, or lavish homes are all things that look to be desirable, but at what expense? This is why he chose to get help and looked for a way out of something that was no longer intriguing. This is the inspiration. A person who has publicly shown that it is alright to seek the help of others and try to live a happier and healthier lifestyle rather than toil in society under even more scrutiny.

Many will say Larry Sanders was a waste of a talent. Those who say that will be sadly mistaken. It could be true that Sanders best days of basketball will not be seen in arenas of thousands. He may never have the opportunity to play at such a high level again in his life. However, the talent that Sanders possesses is far beyond the basketball court. His decision and his actions are commendable to say the least and speak volumes to the man that he is. He stood and delivered blocking shots for the Milwaukee Bucks during his short career. Now he blocks out the negativity that comes with this world in the solace of his own home. We can look at Larry Sanders and understand that he is more than just a good basketball player, and that he is an even better human. 

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Behind Closed Doors: Abuse In Northern Kentucky University Women's Basketball Program

The emotional abuse by current head coach has lasting effects on its players. But, it ends here.

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There is a deep, dark, hidden secret that lies within the women's basketball program at Northern Kentucky University which has been swept under the rug by the athletic department for three years.

"The mission of NKU Athletics is to advance the University's vision while focusing on the wellbeing of our student-athletes as we prepare and empower each of them for academic and competitive success at NKU and beyond." This is quoted right from the NKU Athletic Department's Mission Statement, but apparently, this doesn't apply to the student athlete's mental well-being.

Emotional abuse is defined as any abusive behavior that isn't physical, which may include verbal aggression, intimidation, manipulation, and humiliation, which most often unfolds as a pattern of behavior over time that aims to diminish another person's identity, dignity, and self-worth, and which often results in anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts or behaviors (Crisistextline.org).

Northern Kentucky University's athletic department seems to be willing to do anything to silence the multiple emotional abuse allegations against current women's basketball coach, Camryn Whitaker.

Now let me be clear: There is a difference between yelling and degrading.

Every student-athlete has been yelled at. That is not the issue here. The issue is that this coach is making it personal by bullying and emotionally abusing some of her players behind closed doors. This does not apply to all of the players on the team. She certainly has her favorites, but a few of the others seem to be "chosen" to be her emotional "punching bags" each year, and I have been one of them from the first day Camryn Whitaker stepped onto the court for our first practice in June 2016.

Intimidation. A lot of coaches at the college level are intimidating.

There is a level of power that coaches possess that makes them intimidating to players on some scale, but this coach is different. For three years, a few of my teammates and I were so afraid of her to the point where practice was dreaded. We didn't know what mood she was going to be in. We didn't want to be in the same room alone with her for fear that she would degrade us, as she normally would:

"You're sucking the life out of me!"

"You're selfish!"

"You're a poor captain!"

"Do you even have a brain?"

"I don't have a place for you on this team!"

"You're lazy!"

"You have no idea what 'mean' looks like! I can show you mean!"

"You think you're smarter than me!"

"The only reason your parents are yelling in the stands is because you are telling them something."

"I am the boss and there is nothing you can do about it!"

"I can take your scholarship away!"

And the list goes on. These verbal attacks were mostly behind closed doors, in her office, on what she liked to call the "crying couch" where it was your word against hers. Where she could get you alone and tear you apart. These meetings were mostly done weekly and before games, so you were so messed up from your beat-up-session that you couldn't possibly play well by game time.

Personal attacks on your family, personality, work ethic, and body physique were also not uncommon.

Questioning my own self-worth became a huge struggle for me.

This woman is telling me that I am basically nothing: that I am lazy, not a good leader, that I suck the life out of people — maybe I was?

It became hard to sleep. I would cry a lot, sometimes for no reason. I was anxious all the time and it increased significantly if I was in the same building as Coach Whitaker. What used to be joy and passion quickly became fear and numbness as I stepped into practice. Basketball became something that I no longer loved but associated with being emotionally abused.

Coach Whitaker wanted it to be known that she was in charge. She required that players AND the assistant coaches called her "ma'am." Responses like "yes ma'am" or "no ma'am" were required. This included over text messages as well.

Those of us who didn't get as much playing time as the favorite players were told, "Some of you have shorter leashes than the others. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is!" What she meant by this, is that we were not allowed to make a mistake out on the court, and if we did, we would be pulled out of the game immediately.

She stole our confidence by doing this. Aren't coaches supposed to encourage their players?

How are we supposed to develop into better players if we're not allowed to make mistakes and learn to work through them? Those with the "longer leashes" were allowed to have multiple turnovers and missed shots and still stay in the game. And the "leash" reference makes us sound like we were animals that she could control.

Manipulation. Coach Whitaker would do anything to make you feel isolated from the rest of the team.

On multiple occasions she would warn players not to hang out with other players, calling those players "negative" or saying that "they weren't in a good place." These players were the ones that were not shy about their dislike of Coach Whitaker.

One example was Reece Munger, who refused to meet with Coach Whitaker without her parents present because the subject being talked about was a serious one (this was also after multiple one-on-one meetings that had not gone well, refer back to Intimidation).

This infuriated Coach Whitaker, and since this happened on game day, she forbid Reece from coming to shoot around before the game, the game itself, and in the locker room and proceeded to tell the other players that Reece was a "f****** bad friend and teammate."

Another example, on multiple occasions, former player Kasey Uetrecht, who was a junior at the time, was told not to associate with fellow teammate Shar'rae Davis because "misery loves company." When Kasey and Shar'rae were spotted sitting next to each other on the bus in the middle of a four-game road trip, Kasey was again reprimanded and played only a few minutes in the game.

Shar'rae did not play at all and was forced to sit alone at the end of the bench. Word quickly spread that if you associated with Shar'rae, then your playing time would diminish and you would face the wrath of Coach Whitaker. Shar'rae sat alone on the bus, in the restaurant, and was even moved into her own hotel room when everyone else had a roommate.

She was completely isolated from the team. Coach Whitaker told one teammate, "I would rather lose than play Shar'rae." When we got to the next hotel, Coach Whitaker was harassing Kasey about comforting Shar'rae after the last game, she had finally had enough and called her parents to come and pick her up from the team's hotel in Michigan and take her home.

She said, "I felt like I was out of options. It no longer was about basketball, but it was personal. I just didn't have any fight left. I don't know how else to describe it other than being toxic." In order to keep this player from going to the media, the athletic department gave her a full scholarship for her senior year even though she would never step foot on the court again.

Coach Whitaker would also punish us for something our parents did or said during a game. If she looked up into the stands and made eye contact with a parent and that parent was staring back at her with a look that she took as negative, she'd call us into the office and ask us what was going on with our parents.

She told us that we shouldn't talk to our parents during the season. She told a former player that she wasn't playing because of her dad. Another player was told, "If your parents don't get on board with what I'm doing, then you don't have a place on this team next year."

Since when were parents such a vital part of a collegiate basketball team? Trying to find the balance between my relationship with my parents and with Coach Whitaker was made extremely difficult.

Humiliation. Making you feel small and insignificant is how she gained control over some of her players.

One example was during a practice in 2016. One of my former teammates, who has Crohn's disease, on many occasions would have to leave practice to use the bathroom.

This would make Coach Whitaker become extremely irritated, and she would roll her eyes or make a rude comment.

On this particular day, this player fled to the bathroom during practice and Coach Whitaker immediately blew her whistle and demanded that we all get on the line. While yelling into the hallway where the restrooms were, she informed the team and the player in the restroom that the rest of the team was going to run sprints until she returned back onto the floor.

And boy, did we ever! Coach Whitaker would also consistently comment to this player, in front of her teammates, that her eating habits were the cause of these flare-ups.

Humiliation and degradation.

Another example of the humiliation Coach Whitaker loved to dish out happened just last summer when we were moving the freshmen into the dorm for summer workouts. I was standing outside the dorm talking to the freshmen and their parents when all of a sudden Coach Whitaker came up behind me and kicked my knees out from under me, knocking me to the ground.

I was in shock and searched for an explanation for this behavior, but all she did was laugh and walk away. She did this knowing that I have a spine condition that kept me out of my first year of basketball at NKU, but that didn't stop her from knocking me to the ground, risking an injury and humiliating me in front of everyone.

Many players have felt powerless while under Coach Whitaker. Complaints have fallen on deaf ears when multiple players have approached the athletic director about the coach's behavior. A few have even met with the school's Title IX director after meeting with the athletic director produced no results. Nothing changed in the coach's behavior, so everything seemed to be swept under the rug to protect the coach and the university.

Clearly, they know this kind of behavior is bad, so why do they continue to protect her and even extend her contract? Well, is she winning? No. If you know anything about NKU Women's basketball, you would know that the women's program had not had a losing season since the 1982-1983 season until Camryn Whitaker took over the program.

Even in our transition from Division II to Division I, we still had winning records. Let me throw some numbers at you: in three years Coach Whitaker has compiled a 29-62 record, the worst in program history. Eight players have either quit or transferred and two coaches have left the program. She treats players as if they are disposable.

To Coach Whitaker, I was disposable.

I ended my basketball career a year early at NKU, but it wasn't my idea. The week after spring break last year, Coach Whitaker called me into a meeting with her and the academic advisor. She informed me that she doesn't think she would honor my fifth year of eligibility. She told me that whether she honored it or not depended on the coming season and how things went.

This put me in a terrible place because if she did not honor my fifth year at the end of the season, I would be forced to take off a whole year before I would apply for graduate school because those applications are due in December of that year. I had no choice but to play my last year and start quickly applying to graduate school in order to get the applications in on time. I was forced to change my minor to a minor that I could complete by the end of the year instead of the minor that would help me in graduate school.

My heart was broken, and my time was cut short with some of my best friends I have ever had.

I would not wish my experience on anyone. I now understand why college athletes commit suicide. Between the anxiety and lack of sleep and appetite from the constant attacks on my character and family, I felt like I couldn't take it anymore. Thankfully, with the support of my family and teammates, I am in a better place and I am free. I am free from her oppression. I am free from the horrible thoughts she made me believe about myself. I am free from the fear and anxiety.

I am free because she no longer controls me. That is why I am speaking out.

I hope people see that behind the sweet southern drawl and enticing smile is a woman that emotionally abuses her players by manipulation and bullying. You may be wondering why I stayed at NKU rather than transfer out of this toxic environment, and the reason is that I love my professors and I love this university. Getting my degree was the most important thing to me because psychology is my future, not basketball.

My family, my professors, teammates, and friends helped me get through these last three years.

There is a problem at NKU that only the victims and their parents were aware of until now. It's a problem that the athletic director refuses to acknowledge or do anything about. I fear for the recruits coming in that will fall for the same lies that we had fallen for. I know I would NEVER let anyone I loved or cared about play for this woman.

For three years, the victims of Coach Whitaker's emotional abuse have remained quiet, but here we are, and we are speaking up. This coach needs to be exposed for what she really is.

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The 1500 Is The Best Running Event In Track And Field

Arguing the merits of middle distance's crown jewel, the 1500m

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This past weekend, at the Emory Invitational outdoor track meet, I had the opportunity to run the 1500m. About a minute after finishing, I had already decided that it was the best running event in track and field.

Given the oddity of running 3.75 laps on a 400m track, it might not have seemed the most "clean" event, but the 1500 truly takes the gold.

The 1500 is the metric race equivalent of a mile. The mile, something we're all used to running in elementary school on up, is a perfect (almost) 4 laps on an outdoor track. But as we compete in metric distances, the 1500 is the standard middle distance, mile-like event on the track. And honestly, it is a great substitution.

The mile is an extremely physical event. It balances our bodies' systems of aerobic and anaerobic respiration in a harmonious ratio. It requires both strength and speed. And it always ends in a battle of wit and will.

But the 1500 has all of these things too, and more.

During my race, I was definitely going lactic sprinting down the homestretch. I was certainly relying on my aerobic base and my ability to kick down the competition. And I also used some, albeit weak, tactics to spin around other runners in the field.

The great difference is in the mental advantage.

3.75 laps is entirely different than 4. Starting on the backstretch and relying on pure adrenaline for that first 300m makes the last 1200 seem extremely manageable. The race flies by, and there is never a point where you are mentally straining, searching for that end in the midst of all those laps. By the time you start to really hurt, you have such a small distance left to run, and you can easily be carried through that with the excitement of the final kick.

Not to speak of the prestige. The crowd still roars at a good 1500m. All the teams cheer on the middle distance display at hand. It's the perfect distance at which the spectators are interested for the whole race. A great 1500 captivates the crowd and draws everybody to wait with suspense for the final kick. Who will prevail in such a test of tenacity and performance? A question like that can only be answered with a ferocious spirit that lies in the hearts of all the hungry middle distance racers.

The 1500 draws out the best in everyone at the stadium. The athletes racing it draw on a varied toolkit of both talents and strategies to outlast their competitors. The spectators, understanding the effort required, are drawn to the whole race. And the energy of the whole affair is electric.

At the end of the day, there are many track events which draw their own superstars. The sprints are crazy fast, and the long distance races boast incredible endurance. But if you're looking for one that's just plain exciting, look for the 1500m. You won't be disappointed.

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