Most basketball programs measure their success by wins and losses. Not at Douglass High School.
Keeping the program running is enough for Coach Lynn Allen and Scott Williams.
“Never having to forfeit a game is the biggest thing. There were some years when me and Scotty (Williams) would look at each other and wonder if we’d have a team,” Allen said, noting some years he had only seven players on the team at times.
Just over twelve years ago, Scott Williams knew some of the students at Douglass High School needed an outlet to get away from their hectic lives.
Douglass High School, an alternative school with numerous kids who had previously dropped out, failed out, been suspended, or just needed to switch to a smaller school, finally got a basketball team in 1997.
“With their home life and the rigors of school, basketball is an outlet,” Williams said. “It is very important for them to keep their grades up and stay out of trouble.”
Williams, a home school communicator for the past 20 years at Douglass, decided to get a group of kids together in 1996 to play in an intramural league. Seeing how well the kids behaved on the court towards each other and referees, made it obvious a program could work.
“I saw the interest the kids had,” Williams said.
One obstacle Douglass High School and Williams faced was finding the right coach.
An advertisement was put in the newspaper. After just one interview, Williams knew who that man was: Lynn Allen.
The rest is history.
Allen became the head coach, and Williams, the assistant coach/J.V. coach, and they've been running the program strong for 12 years now.
It hasn't been easy. The duo have the difficult task of getting enough kids to come out for the team, staying eligible, and actually competing with other schools.
“It was difficult at first,” Allen said. “We usually have to compete with teams that have been together since sixth or seventh grade. Here, we probably only have one or two years with the same group. We sometimes have to out-athlete other teams.”
Dealing with student’s grades, behavior, family issues, and many other things is a task these two coaches deal with everyday. When a player misses the bus to school, Allen or Williams are there to take them. If a player doesn’t have a ride home, one of the coaches will give them one. When the players want to go with the coaches to scout an upcoming opponent, they can. Sometimes, the two coaches will even take the players to MU games.
“When I first came to Douglass, my grades weren’t there, so Coach (Allen) let me come on as a manager,” Douglass junior forward Denis Clayborne-Harris said.
Douglass gives many kids a second chance in school, as well as on the basketball court. Suspensions aren’t uncommon for some of Allen’s players, especially this season. However, the coaches aren’t afraid to crack down on the players when necessary.
“Coach is pretty lenient. Some of the guys get second or third chances, but eventually they deserve to be suspended,” Clayborne-Harris said.
Harris said that while some students may get into gangs, he believes basketball gets players away from that sort of activity.
“The way the streets have gotten, I do think it is a good outlet,” Clayborne-Harris said, while also noting the recent "Cut Throat" gang bust in Columbia.
The kids learn the importance of being depended on everyday at practice and in school, Allen said. Basketball gives the kids something to look forward to, when other phases of their lives might not be so great. Giving the kids the incentive to receive good grades in order to stay eligible for basketball is something that can’t be ignored. These things, not the wins and losses, is what is most important to these two coaches.
“I would like to think we’ve affected at least 100 kids (positively),” Williams said. “We enjoy watching the majority of our kids graduate.”