With the two-week celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. coming to a close Thursday night, USF students got a taste of high-octane motivational speaking from Coach Ken Carter. Carter has been prominent in the public spotlight of late, with his biopic reaching No. 1 at the box office for the weekend of Jan. 14.
Carter, who gained national notoriety for his disciplinary action toward his players who weren’t making passing grades, focused the majority of his speech on setting high goals and achieving them through hard work. He stressed working hard in the classroom because, as he said, in every facet of life we are part of a team.
“You cannot be passive in life,” Carter said.
A video montage screened at the beginning of the event showed Carter as he made news throughout his career as a coach. After the secretary of education did not return letters written about the lack of supplies at Richmond High, he rode a scooter from Richmond, in Northern California, all the way to Sacramento to see the secretary.
“I wrote letters to the secretary of education and never received a response,” Carter said. “By the time I got there I had every news channel in the state behind me. Do you think I got my meeting then?”
This is an example of the drastic measures Carter has taken over the course of his life to accomplish his goals. Carter migrated to Richmond from small-town McComb, Miss. From the start, Carter said he wanted to be successful in everything he attempted. He went on to become a two-sport All-American at Richmond High School.
After becoming a successful entrepreneur, he returned to Richmond High to coach. He found his school in shambles.
Carter turned the program around by making his players accountable for their actions and involving them with school before sports. He created a contract that every player had to sign. Within the contract was a requirement to have a 2.3 GPA; the standard was a 2.0. The players were required to dedicate two hours to study hall a day and could not attend practice until all their homework was completed, according to Carter.
“The way you do one thing is the way you do all things,” Carter said. “Players should be held accountable for their actions.”
He locked his players out of the gym until their grades improved, causing them to forfeit games and ruin the potential for an undefeated season. His extreme measures paid off in the end, with the players improving their GPAs in order to play again.
“I took the ball out of the kids’ hands and forced them to go to class,” Carter said.
Every senior that Carter has ever coached has eventually gone on to college with a scholarship, something Carter boasts.
“I told my seniors: If you don’t get a scholarship then I will pay for your education,” Carter said. “I have yet to write one check.”
Carter said that an education is a sure back-up plan for those who don’t eventually go pro. There are less than 5,000 professional athletic jobs in the country encompassing all sports. Not every athlete is going to be in the NBA.
“My undefeated team had 45 players on it,” Carter said “Three of them went pro, but 42 of them went pro in life and I’m just as proud of them as I am of the others.”
Carter ended his speech with a quote from Dr. King: “Not everyone can become famous, but all of us can become great because anyone can serve.” The men’s basketball team presented Carter with a team-autographed ball commemorating his visit to USF.