In a little more than a month, the basketball season will start. Up to this point through what we call “Tech Talks” we have covered multiple topics that I feel our players should know about. We’ve touched on a lot of topics such as investing in yourself, money management, how difficult it is to get drafted in the NBA, and how and why we think a certain way. I wanted to hone in on things I believe in, things I feel that they as young men should know more about. Showing up and playing ball for four years at Virginia Tech isn’t enough in our program. These talks fuel a deep burning desire within me. They are something that I am deeply passionate about and take great pride in. I wanted to share this with the team. I waited until we were away at training camp to discuss this month’s topic, our national anthem. How many times do we stand up and just go through the national anthem and don’t pay it any real attention? We stand, we sing, we sit, we watch, we play.
I wanted the players to understand how fortunate they were to be able to play this great game, to earn a scholarship, and to have people pay money to watch them play. Everything comes at a cost and each and every one of us is fortunate that someone else, in someway, is sacrificing something so we can go about our every day lives. We wake up everyday, fortunate enough to drive to work, fortunate enough to call our family anytime we want, fortunate enough to go grab lunch and a cup of coffee, all the while someone else is protecting our freedom. Even if things aren’t going our way, we are still lucky enough to have the opportunity to bounce back. Somewhere else in the world, there is a soldier not able to do the same things that we so casually take for granted. With that said, after warm ups, we stand in a straight line, put our hand over our heart, sing our national anthem, and then toss the ball up and play. During this time, do we ever really listen to the words of our anthem or are we tuning it out in anticipation of the start of the game? “Coach it’s just the anthem, they play it every game…”
Do you know how many times our national anthem was played in the 4 major sports leagues last year?
Total regular season games:
NFL – 256
NBA – 1,230
NHL – 1,230
MLB – 2,430
That’s over 5,000 times it is sung, just at the professional level at regular season games…forget minor leagues…forget college…forget all the high schools across the country. But do we know WHY we sing it? Do we know WHY it is important? Do we know WHY there are over 1.4 million active members of the military protecting us on the frontline? Do we know how much was done for us so we can be in a gym, playing a game in front of thousands of people, with even thousands more…. sometimes millions more watching us —- do we know WHY?
The average age of a newly enlisted soldier in the army is around 20.9 years old. That is the age of our sophomore/junior players in our program. I want my players to know that someone their age is actively fighting for them so they can pursue their dreams…so I can be here doing what I love…and so my children are able to go to school and follow their dreams. So for two minutes, while we honor those that are far away from their families to fight for us and protect everything that our country is built upon, we are able to recognize them and thank them for everything they have done. It is more than just knowing the lyrics. Our players take great pride in wearing a Virginia Tech uniform, what it stands for, and what our motto here at the University is, “Ut Prosim,” which translates to “That I may serve.” They know somewhere out there, someone their age is wearing a different type of uniform, but following the same motto to protect our great country.
So at training camp, we printed out the lyrics to The Star Spangled Banner. We put together this video with arguably one of the best live performances in the history of this song and added scenes that we all could emotionally connect with. Together we read it aloud over and over until everyone could recite it. Every time I hear this song I get choked up. I think to myself about how a country boy from a rural, American town in Texas gets paid to coach college basketball, and just how lucky I am. Every facet of my life has changed because of this game. Every game day when they play our national anthem, I stand up, I look up to the flag, put my hand over my heart and sing because to me, it is more than just lyrics.