Some insight into that guy thing |

Some insight into that guy thing

Barry Smith

It was a guy thing.

Last week, a bunch of guys (with a girl or two in the audience) got together to talk about guy stuff.

Such as:

– What do you do when challenged to a fight?

– Is it ever OK to hit a woman?

– How do you handle stress?

– Who can help when Dad isn’t exactly the best role model?

This particular guy gathering was organized by “Hola, Carson City,” Victory 2000 and the Carson Juvenile Probation Department. It was live on Carson Access Television and taped for showing to school classes and other places where boys are trying to figure out how to grow up to be men.

I hope a lot of boys get to see it, because there were some powerful messages from the panelists. I didn’t have anything particularly insightful to say, but at least I don’t think I sounded utterly clueless.

Ian Curley, a Carson City juvenile probation officer, put the thing together. Adolfo Segura, producer of “Hola, Carson City,” acted as moderator and asked us some tough questions.

The panel consisted of social worker Matt Williams, who used to play basketball for the University of Nevada, Reno; Jason Doescher, counselor and Christian youth leader; Ray Gonzalez, a financial adviser; Uri Chartarifsky, actor and television field producer; Mark Correia, who teaches criminal justice at UNR; and JoJo Townsell, a motivational speaker and former NFL player.

With a couple of highly successful athletes on the panel, the discussion turned to male competitiveness.

Almost everybody on the panel, it turns out, was rather active in athletics in high school. The playing fields definitely are a training ground for boys on their way to being men. Coaches influence hundreds, sometimes thousands, of young people.

The coaches who made the biggest impression on me were tough, disciplined men who tolerated no scoffing at their rules. They were patient with the boys who didn’t have much talent, as long as they tried, and they held their tempers when we did the inevitably dumb things.

I don’t remember ever getting chewed out for something I did on the basketball court or the baseball diamond, but I distinctly recall getting a stern reprimand for sitting in the back of the bus and making up dirty lyrics to popular songs.

At last week’s discussion, as panel members talked about similar lessons from coaches, I wondered how many of the 75 or so boys in the audience had never had much interest in athletics or the opportunity to participate in team sports.

The discussion moved on to other topics, but I kept thinking about the young people who don’t get a chance at sports. I wished I’d said something at the time, but now is my chance to pass along a bit of advice.

Yes, I got an opportunity to play sports in high school for two years. Then, however, my school consolidated with several others between my sophomore and junior years.

Suddenly, I was a very small fish in a big pond. I thought I was a jock, but as I tried out for the basketball team and the track squad I discovered that I wasn’t nearly the jock that some of these bigger, faster, stronger guys were.

Overnight, I went from jock to nerd. I joined the speech team. I joined the school newspaper. I volunteered to paint flats for the drama club.

Of course, I didn’t think I was a nerd. Well, I take that back. When I stood up and recited poetry in front of a roomful of girls and female teachers at a speech contest, I admit feeling pretty nerdish. I quickly realized, however, there were benefits to being the only male in the room.

I also came to realize, as I moved in different high-school circles and made new friends, there are role models who aren’t males in crewcuts with whistles around their necks. There are English teachers and play directors and band leaders.

They’d been there all along. They just hadn’t seemed as important. Now they were everything.

They had to get results just like the coaches, but the 5-foot-3, 110-pound drama teacher couldn’t exactly threaten to kick somebody’s butt to get it done. She used more subtle methods.

The students had just as much pride in their accomplishments and camaraderie with their peers as the baseball team ever had. As soon as I figured out I probably wasn’t going to play second base for the St. Louis Cardinals, I started thinking about a career that didn’t involve any heavy lifting. The student newspaper gave me that option.

The most important thing anyone ever told me was, “You can be anything you want to be.”

For some reason, I believed it. Young people must realize they are making their own choices.

“You have 25 years to prepare yourself or not prepare yourself for life, and 50 years to either reap the rewards or suffer the consequences,” said one of the panelists, quoting someone wiser than me.

That’s not just a guy thing, either.