March 29, 2008

Sweet Sixteen and Man-Making

With the NCAA, Sweet Sixteen Basketball tournament building up to an exciting conclusion, I’m reminded about how powerfully team membership and the direction of a solid coach can positively shape boys into good men.

Seeing these young men playing their hearts out and knowing that behind each kid is a story of personal triumph reminds me of the film Coach Carter. In the film, coach Carter is played by Samuel L. Jackson who does a great job of portraying the fierce high school basketball coach who requires his players sign written contracts in order to play. The guys have to agree to respectful behavior, a dress code, and maintaining good grades to stay on the team. When the team’s grades dropped below the contract level, he benches the whole undefeated team, locking up the gym and even missing critical games. In the face of an angry mob of parents and school officials, he stands his ground and holds on to his values about the importance of education for his players.

Coach Carter and many films like it point us all to a powerful lesson about men being man-makers of boys that is still very relevant today. The film is based on the true story of Ken Carter who, in 1999, was a sporting goods store owner that took on the job of basketball coach for his old high school in a poor area of Richmond, CA.

Have you had an experience like that on a team? What lessons did you learn?

Do you have a favorite film about how being on a team with a good coach can turn young males into young men with self-respect and strong and positive values?

I have listed some films for young guys on the resources page of the Man-Making website, but I’d like to hear about your favorites. You can post them in the comments section of this post or send them to me and I’ll add them to the blog and website.

March 24, 2008

The Guy's Hikes - Tucson

In the Man-Making book I write about a form of involvement with men and boys that is built out of a man’s interests and unique experience. I call it Create-Your-Own Man-Making. In that section of the book I profile a number of men who have found a way to include men and boys with their passion for activities like building computers, wood-working and boat building, reading, sports, and even sports car driving. These are a form of “if you build it they will come” and it really does work.

I love hiking and, as you might guess, I love seeing a line of guys snaking up a trail and heading out on an adventure. It’s something males have done for eons, and it feels “right” to me deep in my male bones. So this March, for the fifth year in a row, I ran up a flag for men and boys interested in hiking. I've been calling it the Tucson Guy’s Hike.

This year we had enough boys, dads, “uncles,” neighbors, and over all interest to do two hikes, three weeks apart. We did one mostly fun and playful hike as a warm up and for the younger guys. A few weeks later we did a much bigger hike in 85 degree weather on a seriously butt kicking trail. On each hike about fifteen males showed up, headed out, reached the summit, and returned victorious.

In each case, there was sufficient physical challenge, camaraderie, natural beauty, dangers (the remote possibility of mountain lions and rattle snakes), learning about the desert, hiking, geology, gear, and traveling as a male tribe, supporting each other along the way.

The victory photos alone tell the story. The award ceremony and the honoring of the boys by the men at the hikes finish really ramped up the impact of the experience for everyone involved. Here is a link to the photos from the more difficult hike.

I’m telling you this first of all because I’m still glowing. As I’ve said before, these experiences always melt, reform, and grow my masculine heart. But more importantly, I'm sharing this story because I am absolutely certain that you too have gifts to share with men and boys. I'll bet that you have a skill, hobby, interest, passion, or special knowledge . . . something around which you could gather a small tribe of males if you were willing to start small and take the risk. My first hike was three boys and four men.

At the end of the last hike, during the check-out circle, each male was asked to name a feeling and the best part of the hike. Most named fatigue in some form. What I loved the most was when the boys expressed feelings of pride (earned), strength, happiness, awe at their accomplishment, gratitude for the opportunity . . . and when they excitedly asked, as they always do, When can we do this again?

Do you know a man that has created something like this for men and boys?

What similar experiences have you had and what was the impact on you?

Please share those stories in the comments to this post or send them to me and I’ll post them.

Then, take a moment to consider what you might create.

March 17, 2008

Boys and Basketball and Heart

I have a small mountain of posts I could put up today, but this video, sent along by Steve S., so warmed my heart, I chose it immediately.

As a writer, I'm ususally trying to make a point. With this post, I'm not at all sure about the point the video makes . . . or that it even needs to make a point. When I talk about being involved in boys and men activities, I say that my heart is regularly melted and reformed. That's the feeling I get when watching this clip.

If you don't see the image, go to this link:

What's your response?

March 7, 2008

A Boy's First Shave

This link about a boy's first shave was sent to me by a contributor because it reminded him of an important rite of passage in his (or any boy's) life.

Sitting here, I can remember the feeling and fragrance of mountains of creamy smooth menthol foam shave cream on my face and the glow it left when I was done. It may have actually been more about those sensations than removing the fuzz I was considering a beard in those days. But I was shaving, taking part in a masculine ritual, and definitely feeling more manly.

The article actually has some great advice and information I wish I knew when I was first starting to shave. That I didn't get that transmission of important male knowledge (and a lot other information) is more testimony to how absent the men in my male tribe were. I'm sad about that today.

It's also somehow strange and a little embarrassing that this important information is located on the Woman Republic website.

When you were on the brink of manhood, who taught you to shave and other important and practical guy skills?