Brandon Ecoffey: Our reservation basketball coaches deserve better

The Little Wound Lady Mustangs at a game in January 2016. Photo from Facebook

Our Coaches Deserve Better
A note from the editor's desk
By Brandon Ecoffey

When writing about community news it gets very difficult to not be affected by the stories we are sometimes to forced to cover.

For me the one constant that has prevented me from getting burnt out is the opportunity to cover high school basketball during the winter months. Although the coming of the basketball season does not always signal a change in circumstances for many of our people, it does provide us with a temporary escape from our everyday struggles.

Growing up in Pine Ridge the community events that would bring the people together during the winter time usually involved a death or a basketball game. For people who have not grown up on the Rez this may seem a bit odd, but what else is there for people to do when it's cold and road conditions are shaky. Maybe these simple reasons are why our people love the game. I tend to think that the passion our people display at high school basketball games is a product of the support and love we have for our student athletes.

I think that part of the appeal of high school hoops is that we get to watch our young people perform at such high levels. Coaches on the Rez have always amazed me with their ability to get kids to tap into their full potential as athletes.

I have had the pleasure of coaching our youth. It is an awarding experience. It also comes with an ugly reality that these positions are highly political within our community and are thus accompanied by criticism. It comes with the territory. Those of us who played the game know that, and so do the coaches.

Does it have to be this way? As I have gotten older I have learned to look beyond the product that is displayed on the court as a measuring stick for our coaches' success. Are our kids going on to college? Are they required to stay eligible throughout the season? What is their behavior like on the court? All these things matter as our coaches first duty is to help make our youth better people.

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I attended well over fifty high school games last year and I was often angered by parents who felt the need to berate coaches during games. I remember watching one game where one of our local schools was giving a top-5 ranked team all they wanted. Sadly, all the momentum our team had built was taken away by a parent who wished to make a scene by yelling at a coach about his substitution patterns. The action was embarrassing and it took away from what the team was accomplishing on the court.

Our coaches have a job that requires them to sacrifice of themselves so that our youth will develop into functioning contributing members of society. I hope we can all recognize and appreciate what our coaches are doing for the youth this winter.

(Brandon Ecoffey is the editor of the Lakota Country Times and is an award winning journalist who was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He can be reached at

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