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More than a Coach, More than a Student-Athlete

More than a Coach, More than a Student-Athlete

Martin Bahar is not naïve. As a San Diego assistant men's basketball coach about to begin his 15th season in the college business, Bahar knows there are two primary reasons coaches are pulled into the game.

"I got into coaching because to me it was a great opportunity to mentor young men and help them in their overall development as a person," said Bahar.

Then there's the basketball component, the competitiveness that translates into winning games. "Obviously," said the 35-year-old Bahar, who joined Sam Scholl's staff last December, "I had the passion for basketball to go with that."

Bahar is adamant that the two goals – caring about athletes and winning games - need not be mutually exclusive. In fact, he feels there's a strong correlation between the two.

"If you show the appropriate love and attention, show that you genuinely care about a scholar-athlete's life," said Bahar, "I truly believe it will show itself in terms of basketball-related results."

As part of his effort to develop a well-rounded USD scholar-athlete, Bahar has joined Coaches 4 Change (C4C), an organization founded this summer by college men's basketball coaches dedicated to helping their student-athletes, campuses and communities. Coaches 4 Change's mission is to provide a platform that engages, educates, empowers and evolves the scholar-athlete on issues of social justice, systemic racism and the power of voting, all in the pursuit of equality.

Since its inception, women's basketball coaches, plus strength and conditioning coaches, have joined Coaches 4 Change.

One of the organization's primary objectives is to emphasize to players how important it is to vote. When the program launched earlier this month, four of USD's 13 American players were registered to vote. Eight of the U.S. players have since registered to vote with the ninth in the process of doing so.

Rising redshirt junior guard Joey Calcaterra said he has been registered to vote since he was 18.

"It's just a small step, something small that I can do to impact change in our world, much-needed change we need right now," said Calcaterra. "It's that simple. It's a small thing I can do to help."

Bahar said that Scholl was pushing players to register to vote before Coaches 4 Change was formed.

"The older I get I realize every vote is going to count," said Josh Parrish, a graduate transfer from Rice who is expected to start for the Toreros next season. "If I can make a difference in any way I will strive to do so."

The Coaches 4 Change website is an interactive site that serves as an educational tool, informing users about social injustice that has taken place.

There's information about the Tulsa race massacre, also known as the Black Wall Street Massacre. On May 31 and June 1, 1921 in Tulsa, Okla., mobs of White residents attacked Black residents and businesses. Considered the single worst incident of racial violence in American history, the attack was carried out on the ground and by private aircraft. It destroyed more than 35 blocks of what was known as Black Wall Street, at the time the wealthiest Black community in the United States.

More than 800 people were admitted to hospitals and as many as 6,000 Blacks were confined at large facilities, many for several days. A 2001 state commission examination confirmed 36 people dead, 26 Black and 10 White. The statistics were based on contemporary autopsy reports and death certifications.

But the commission estimated the deaths to be far higher, ranging from 75 to 300.

The incident was sparked when Dick Rowland, a 19-year-old Black shoeshiner, was accused of assaulting Sarah Page, a 17-year-old White elevator operator. Prosecutors eventually dropped all charges against Rowland, purportedly, according to the Tulsa-World newspaper, at the written request of Page.
 
Reaching back to the 1930s, Blacks were segregated from buying homes in some suburbs by a policy known as "redlining."
 
In 1934, according to author Richard Rothstein, the newly created Federal Housing Administration furthered segregation efforts by refusing to insure mortgages in and near African-American neighborhoods. Simultaneously, the FHA was subsidizing builders who were mass-producing subdivisions for Whites, with the requirement that none of the homes be sold to African-Americans.
 
Nearly, a century later social injustice still takes place.
 
"It's just not acceptable, whether it's redlining or voter suppression that occurs in society," said Bahar. "There's so many examples. We try to educate (the players) on those things."
 
Bahar has had Zoom meetings with athletes, talking about what Coaches 4 Change is trying to accomplish.
 
"We're all on board with him and what he's doing," said Calcaterra. "We appreciate him for what he's doing."
 
"In my opinion it all starts with education," said Parrish. "I don't believe people just do racist things out of their hearts. It's what your parents teach you. For an organization to come in, to try to educate you on social injustice and systemic racism is a sign we're in the right direction. This is a great start."
 
Bahar said it's paramount that coaches take the time to learn about their athletes. Not just their strengths and weaknesses on the basketball floor but to engage in meaningful conversations, to get to know the athletes and understand their backgrounds.
 
"A coach can't keep a student-athlete at a distance," said Bahar. "We need to take them under our arms, understand that their experiences are so different, especially if they're White coaches."
 
Calcaterra said he's moved by the Coaches 4 Change's fight for equality.
 
"Getting justice for all the lives that were lost, that's the most important part of all this," said Calcaterra. "We've got people from all different places in the world on our team. We're all on the court, we're all going to the same school. Why these people are getting treated differently, it doesn't make sense."
 
Bahar said he thinks players understand the urgency to vote and educate themselves on social issues.
 
"And we, as coaches, have to understand and empathize with our student-athletes," said Bahar. "I can't just come to work, watch film, recruit, watch practice and go home. It's got to be more 24/7, making it more caring about our student-athletes."

— USD Athletics

Assistant men's basketball coach Martin Bahar discusses a point with Marion Humphrey. Bahar is a member of Coaches 4 Change, a program to empower student-athletes.Assistant men's basketball coach Martin Bahar discusses a point with Marion Humphrey. Bahar is a member of Coaches 4 Change, a program to empower student-athletes.

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Chris Kutz, Associate Athletics Director, Strategic Communications
ckutz@sandiego.edu
(619) 260-7930

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