Michigan State basketball head coach Tom Izzo recently added five new players to his team for the 2019-20 season. They stand 6'9", 6'8", 6'7", 6'2" and ... 5'8". This, of course, begs the question: What makes a 5'8" player compelling for Izzo, a Hall of Fame coach who has led eight teams to the Final Four? The answer is simple; the 5'8" player is his son, Steven.
According to an article in the Detroit Free Press published earlier this week and a WXYZ Sports video clip, Coach Izzo told Steven that if he made his private high school's basketball team during his senior year, there'd be a spot for him on the MSU basketball team as a walk-on. Steven earned a spot on the Lansing Catholic High School team last year, so Dad Izzo, true to his word, made room for him on the MSU team this year.
As you might imagine, Izzo's decision to add his son to the MSU team has generated a lot of chatter. And his response may resonate with many working parents; “I’ve given up 18 years of my life [working at MSU] and he’s given up 18 years of his life [not seeing much of his dad in the winter]" The Free Press article continues, "Izzo wanted to be clear this isn’t simply about time. By taking his son as a walk-on, he’ll get to teach and mentor his son the way he does his players."
Many working parents would probably appreciate the opportunity to bring their kids to work more often. Many of us would like to be able to spend more time showing our kids what we do everyday in the office, in the field, or wherever our work is done. Few of us have that opportunity, even though we also make sacrifices by putting in long hours, participating in late-night phone calls with colleagues living on the other side of the world, and sometimes traveling to locations that take us away from our kids for days or weeks on end. And most of us do it for a lot less than the $4M per year that Izzo is earning.
Maybe a job where you can favor your children is something to aspire to. Maybe Izzo has earned the right to show some favoritism and reap this personal reward because of the results he's achieved. Maybe he'll be able to teach his son more on the court than is possible at the kitchen table. Maybe children of successful parents deserve special preferences. And maybe the other players will benefit from Steven's participation on the team.
Or maybe the lessons we take away from this story are as old as time: Family connections can make or break opportunies, it's often difficult to speak truth to power, and when coaches win, oversight weakens.
What do you think? What can working parents learn from this story?
Hello ... It's 2019
It's 2019. As you know :) This fact is asserted because it's important to the story.
I'm on the planning committee for a small event. The committee is comprised of over ten people; all of us are women except one. We're all in our late 50s, and most of us have, or had, careers. We're professionals. We do a lot of our collaboration via email.
So it caught me off-guard when one person, the only man on the committee, made an out-of-the-blue reference to a woman's physical appearance, not one of our committee members, in one of his "reports" (sent via email). It was presented as a joke, but didn't seem funny. And ... it's 2019. Has he been following the news? What would it take for him to understand that women dislike these kinds of comments within this context? This guy has a spouse and kids. Would he have made the comment if his spouse or kids were on the committee? I doubt it.
Often the first to speak up, I've decided to hang back to see how others (who know him better) respond. To date, it's been nothing but crickets.
To the few people who haven't seen the memo: It's 2019, and when people are working together to accomplish a task, irrelevant comments about physical appearance aren't appreciated by most - at least among the people I know. It creates an awkward situation. And it leaves people with the impression that you're totally out of touch.
Is this a really big deal? No. Is this really surprising? Yes (at least for me). Having spent 32 years working in high tech, I'm happy to report that I didn't encounter many who seemed so out of touch with current expectations regarding respect.
If we want our daughters and sons to be treated fairly, and respected for their ideas, we need to model the behavior we hope they'll experience. Let's start doing that right now.
Review of the Netflix Limited Series
Some previous Working Parent Stories (like Heard, Seen, Validated, Believed and Kate's Doctors) have highlighted employees who do a great job, at least in part, because of something that has occurred in their personal lives. Sometimes that something is being a parent and sometimes that something aligns with a different personal experience.
The Netflix limited series Unbelievable is one of these stories. (It's based on a true story previously published in ProPublica.) While the first episode of the series is difficult to watch, the next episodes provide a bit of a respite for viewers so that we can focus less on the crimes and more on the investigations. And very quickly we're led to believe, probably not surprisingly, that different detectives attempt to solve crimes using different skills sets and different styles. The big question that looms while watching this series is whether or not there are consistently significant differences between the way men and women strive to solve sexual assault crimes against women.
Additionally, and maybe more importantly, the series leaves many of us asking ourselves some questions about our own attitudes toward the victims of sexual assault as well as those that perpetrate the crimes against them.
At Working Parent Stories, we talk a lot about why we think it's important for women to pursue careers with the same intensity as men. This series helps make that case.
Editor's note: When we started watching the series we assumed we'd complete the eight-episode series in about eight days. But it's pretty compelling, and we're struggling not to watch "just one more" each evening. Prepare to binge.