To Stan Waterman, a basketball isn’t just something that’s used to play a game. In his hands it’s also a tool that can shape the lives of impressionable boys and help turn them into responsible men.
Waterman has won more than 500 games as coach of Sanford School, including six state championships and 23 conference championships. He’s been recognized for that many times, including last year when he was named Delaware Coach of the Year by the Delaware Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association, and was also named as an assistant coach for the U.S. Under-16 team that recently won a Gold medal in the America’s Championships.
Now Waterman is being recognized for his work and leadership off the court as well as on it. On Monday – Martin Luther King Jr. Day – Waterman will be one of four men who will be honored by the One Village Alliance during what they call “Raising Kings Week.”
One Village Alliance is a local group whose goal, according to its website, is “Changing the image and expectations of men and boys of color by elevating the level of positive male engagement in the lives of African-American boys.”
Waterman will be honored at ceremonies at the African-American Heritage Center in Wilmington, along with Dr. Ray Blackwell of Christiana Care, Eugene Young of Network Delaware, and Darrell “Coach D” Andrews.
“I am honored and humbled to receive this recognition,” Waterman said. “To be acknowledged and recognized by this group that does such outstanding work within the community is gratifying. The mission of growing youth into their greatness is something that I am committed to supporting and being a part of.”
Waterman has had such an impact at Sanford that last year the school named its basketball court Stan Waterman Court and, at the same time, announced the endowment of the Stan Waterman Center of Excellence, which rewards high school coaches – who are usually overworked and underpaid – for their contributions to the youth of Delaware.
Waterman said his community involvement is just a matter of following the example of those who came before him, people who were positive role models and gave back to the community and made a difference in the lives of others.
“I was very fortunate as a youngster to have my father, older brothers, coaches, teachers and mentors within the community that I looked up to and emulated,” he said. “They had a very strong impact on me and the decisions I made growing up, and I’ve always felt that it was important for young people to see the success they want to achieve.”
Those life-lessons are at the heart of his basketball program, because Waterman knows that his young players will soon be grown men and what they learn from him and his staff today will influence what kind of husbands and fathers they will be in the future.
“I believe that the most powerful message I deliver to my players is that the passion you have on the basketball court can translate to success in life,” he said. “The same work ethic, discipline, competitive spirit and attitude that is takes to be successful at the game of basketball applies to achieving success in life.”
Waterman, a Wilmington native who was an All-State player at Howard Career Center and then played for the University of Delaware, recently turned 51. He’s been coaching at Sanford for 27 seasons now and, as they tend to do, the times have changed. For one thing, kids have a lot more distractions now – Waterman started at Sanford in 1991, just two years after the World Wide Web was created, and his players didn’t have smart phones and social media and the million other technological toys that are commonplace nowadays.
Of course, styles in music and clothes and just about everything have evolved since 1991, and Waterman said it’s important that a coach evolves with the times – to a point.
“Over the years, the kids have changed and as a coach you have to adapt and modify your approach, while holding on to the core values and principles of teaching and coaching,” Waterman said.
“I think that today’s kids are as responsive as they’ve always been,” he added. “But you have to find different and innovative ways and means of reaching them.”
And Waterman said the way to start that process is really simple.
“They don’t care how much you know,” he said, “until they know how much you care.”
All photos courtesy of Ted Rosenthal/Izmaddy Studios.