He had always wanted to coach division one basketball but he encountered some problems early on after taking the job. Being a poor university, Texas Western could not afford a lot of money to recruit players, as basketball was not even the priority sport. Determined to win, Don Haskins did what had never happened in the history of college basketball. He recruited seven black players to add to the five white players the team already had. His recruiting quote that he used to persuade the players was, “I do not see color, I just see talent and that is what I put on the court.
” He successfully applied it to get the black players as the good white players never wanted to play for Texas Western and even the other schools did not want the black players as they used to bench them.
That was just the start of the hardships that Don Haskins was to face. The other conflict was between teammates who were being forced to work together.
The white players did not welcome the black players and some had never seen a black man before. His first task was to unite the players not just for the white players and black players but also among the fellow black players as they had come from different parts of the country. More so the administrators were not happy with the coach for recruiting so many black players.
After weeks of hard training and learning fundamental basics of basketball and discipline, the team starts the season with a bang winning all their games. After many undefeated games, their popularity grew but it also gained many enemies who did not look kindly at black players taking over their sport. The team members were victims of hate crimes fueled by the ignorance that face and the population in general felt against black people. One player was attacked and beaten up, their hotel rooms were also broken into and words in blood were written all over their rooms forcing Haskins to acknowledge the racism. That became uncomfortable for the players and they lost the concentration and hence lost their next game. They also blamed their white teammates for being part of the threats and attacks. But this was the start of the strong unity. The coach told them that nobody could take away anything from them that they did not give and that, if they quit now they would have given them what they want thus they would have won. So he advised them to shake off the hate and shut them up.
After that incident the team recovers and makes it to the final. Following a conversation Don Haskins over heard, he decided to play only the seven black players for the NCAA championship final something that had never happened in the history of college basketball. However the black players defied all odds and went on to win the NCAA championship to set a new trend in college basketball.
That year’s NCAA championship is important because of who played in it. It is hard to believe looking at today’s college teams that back in 1966 black players did not play college basketball. Coach Haskins decided to change that. There is a bit of contradiction and hypocrisy portrayed in the movie. At some point regarding coach Don Haskins recruitment of seven black players, it was said that black players do not respond well under pressure, that they are not calm enough or intelligent enough to play without white direction. However regarding the college rules, a team could play three black players if the team is losing. What does this mean? Could it be that the black players were recognized as very good players that you only need them when a team is losing so that the team can recover and win some games? Or that black players were only featured in losing teams?
The movie also shows a team of players whose desire and passion to succeed supersedes some of the most grueling and difficult challenges during a period of massive cultural and racial turmoil in the history of the country. The coach always had the desire to win but the last game was more of a social statement than anything else. He wanted to make things right hence he played only the black players.
This game was broadcasted on television and it gained a lot of popularity because of the entire road that the players and the coach from Texas Western University had to go through in order to get to the finals. After winning the final game, they gained more than a national title; they won respect and were able to pave the road for future generations regarding the use of black players in a league that was thought to be mainly for white people.
We found it incredible to think that so many years after slavery was abolished in the United States, there were still many people that thought of black people as being inferior and were not given their right place in a society. We also liked how this small group of men was able to change the way of thinking of many others and their contribution to our modern society should not be forgotten.
The movie is the perfect example of how sports can be very helpful in some ways and detrimental in others. The detrimental part was the violence experienced by the Texas Western players and coach plus his family. They were a target to violence, discrimination, verbal abuse, death threats and more. Basketball was in a way, promoting this against them. If they had not played basketball they would not have experienced that abuse, at least not at that level. It is also important to note that this violence could have escalated even more if other externalities would have been present. Thankfully this was not the case though, the players came out alive and victorious. The beauty of the sport prevailed, and talent and logic excelled.
In this particular case, basketball was helpful as it revolutionized an entire society. This team and the coach, as Coubertin said, “became an instrument to transform economy and politics, and this society as a whole.” We can think that the incorporation of African Americans to basketball seems only obvious because of their physical characteristics, but back in those years it was not logical at all. They were considered not smart enough, lacking leadership and being weak-willed.
It is important to denote that coach Haskins was not trying to change the world or create a revolution, he only wanted to play division basketball against the best teams. Given that, he was left with little or no resources. He went for what was available: raw talent. He was smart by acknowledging that no matter the color of their skins as long as they were good, he could use them. He did the evident and played with the best. A man with no prejudices decided he did not care about what the other people thought, if it was legal he could do it. Sports can do that, bring the best out of people, in this case it did for Don Haskins. The passion for basketball gave him the courage to play with five blacks in the final game. The love for the sport also inspired the players to continue playing and not give up. This is the positive side of sports and if the right conditions are met, sports move, inspire and change the world.
In the end of the movie we see how because of that game, Adolph Rupp the coach of the University of Kentucky recruited his first black player in history before stepping down. This shows how even someone so reluctant to the idea of black players, changed his mind. Universities all across the states realized that there was nothing wrong with recruiting black players, and that if any, they were really talented and could help them win championships. As it states in the movie, in 1997 the University of Kentucky hired Tubby Smith, the school’s first black head coach who lead them to a National Title the first year. This also proves how the former stereotypes of blacks not being able to lead was completely wrong. Again, basketball helped everybody realize this. As colleges continue recruiting black players, the NBA was able to spot better players and ultimately the entire history of basketball was modified. Society changed, it started accepting and even embracing the idea of watching mixed games. The economy changed, by black players being offered more scholarships and even NBA contracts, that social group started acquiring more power. Moreover the outcome became a very strong ground that changed the basketball dynamics in the United States. Prejudices were broken in a great way because of that one game called the most important game in college history, all for this sport.
In a way, the final game can be seen as the game against racism. It was subconsciously a game to prove a point. Black players can also play, they can lead, they can think, and they can do every single thing white players could; and they proved it in that game. If Texas Western had lost, we do not know how many years or how much time would have needed to pass for society and rules to change. But they did win, so the game, and the world changed for good and forever. Nowadays basketball is a sport that is predominately played professionally by black players. It is more than ‘normal” now to see black players in the NBA, we could not have guessed that before Texas Western and Don Haskins this was not a reality. Talent does not differentiate between race, color, sex or age and at least in this movie and in real life sports contribute to the betterment of the world and the promotion of peace.
What is even more impressive is that even today there are still many people that think in a similar way, racial discrimination is a serious problem in many societies. But we were able to appreciate through this film and the re-enactment of the team members, basketball was used as a tool for social change. Different sports can also be used in order to achieve similar changes in the way people think a society. It does not have to necessarily aim at racial discrimination, it can also help to end gang violence, social re-integration in a post conflict zone, or even empowering women. The concept of competitiveness that is inherent in almost every sport draws people together and this gathering of people can be very helpful if correct combinations of strategies are used to achieve the specific goals.
We believe that using sports as a tool for peace building can be very effective if used in the correct way. This movie uses breakthrough methods that shook the very foundations of a sport that was overrun by a majority of white players. In situations were the social foundations are so embedded in the people’s mind that revolutionary methods served better to achieve the goal. Using a similar approach, sport can be used, with the aid of different projects, to engage is social turmoils. From gang wars, to nation building in post conflict areas. Direct interaction between opposing party members can create a process of humanization and ultimately decrease tension amongst them.
These techniques have already been used in post conflict zones like Rwanda, were UNICEF organized an initiative in the country to introduce sport as a reunification tool in school as a way to recover from the genocide. A similar strategy was used in Colombia, were soccer was used as a way to increase gender equality in the country. Co-ed teams of children were created and no goals would count unless a girl was involved in the play that lead to the goal.
Glory Road showed that enough exposure and bonding can defeat racism. A team formed out of nothing stood against all challenges and triumphed. The self- discipline and importance of hard work and team work imposed on the team by coach Haskins was portrayed. This marked the beginning of new things to come in the history of USA college basketball. Many doubted, others ridiculed and laughed at the team and coach but i guess you could say they had the last laugh.