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From the desk of Jim Shinn

August 31, 2001

My Little League baseball coach died recently and I had the privilege to attend the memorial service. I saw some faces from the past, his sons who I had grown up with and many people I didn't know (or if I did know them, I couldn't remember their names!)

As people talked about him at the service, they referred to him as a "man of integrity." I could only agree. It made me think about my life, from age 9 when I first played organized baseball until now. The four years I was able to play under Harold Maddox and Tony Purcella in the Sunbeam Farm and Little Leagues were some of the best years of my life.

This is the impact that "men of integrity" have on children. When this gets printed, I will be 49 years young, even though "young feelings" are fewer and far between. The Lord has blessed me with health and I am still able to play both basketball and softball. Make no mistake, I am slower, more prone to error, and downright lousy more often than not. But I still have to play.


According to a local successful coach and Christian brother, "If God has given you the ability and the health, it is a sin to not play!" So my teammates have to suffer.

Back to "men of integrity". Recently, Ms. Grant wrote about John Wooden, the famous UCLA basketball coach, here in the "reader writes" section (Sat. Aug.18). It was a wonderful essay, with an extremely cool poem about how men are always role models. Brawley Union High School is fortunate to have a basketball coach trained under the tutelage of Mr. Wooden. BUHS has a great basketball program and I had to suffer it for years as a parent of an El Centro basketball player.

I don't know the Brawley coach personally but I have read every one of Wooden's books. Mr. Grant's many championships are evidence he was a good student of "the coach." I suspect he is also a "man of integrity."

There are not a lot of these men around you now. I have played sports since age 8, all the way up to the college level. In most of my venues, I was on winning teams, but rarely can I remember men of integrity at the helm. Maddox and Purcella are my two picks for the "Unpaid Coaches Hall of Fame."

I have worked in education for 15 to 20 years and my graduate work had to do with support systems. A support system is those people or institutions that help you do what you need to do or go where you need to go. I studied what helps you get well when you get sick.

A support system could be dad in the delivery room, an AA meeting, a meal delivered to a homebound senior, or whatever. In sports, your support system, for the most part, is the parents and the coaches. Parents practice with you at home and the coach fine-tunes your skills and helps you become part of the team.

In education, there is an area referred to as "resiliency research." I am a fan of this research because it basically means a child can come from an extremely deprived background (poverty, divorce, abuse, alcoholism, etc.) and still turn out OK. A "resilient" child, defies the odds and overcomes the barriers.

What this research has identified, is that during the child's developmental process, often someone from outside the family, stepped forward and provided a needed relationship, with needed help at the needed time.

I do not want to minimize the importance and roles of parents or single parents (especially moms). Make no mistake … a solid single parent is a critical building block in the construction of a resilient child. Teachers and coaches are two of parents' powerful partners in this process. I am fortunate to work with some outstanding teachers and coaches (both men and women of integrity) at De Anza Junior High and it is wonderful to watch the results of their relationships with kids.

Some of my colleagues are also followers of Coach Wooden. That's the good news. Now the bad news. There are not enough men of integrity these days. The Good Book says: "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few!" The Marines say "We need a few good men!" This year your school and sports' leagues are saying the same thing. Children need more men of integrity to be involved.

I am glad I had those years with Mr. Maddox and Mr. Purcella. When I get to heaven, I look forward to thanking them and playing more ball with them. Take the time to call or personally thank the men of integrity who have touched your life.

If you want to become a man of integrity, there is a training camp in Anaheim on Oct. 19 at The Pond. It's called "Promise Keepers." Call your local church or go to the Web site at for more information. Help save our kids, one relationship at a time.

Jim Shinn is an El Centro resident and a counselor at De Anza Junior High in Calexico.

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