Under The Bar

Many things have changed since I wrote the book Under the Bar. Looking back, it seems like forever since I sat down to write it. I also know, looking back over the years since this book was published, I’ve had every value covered in the book tested at max capacity and know for a fact that I’m much strong(er) today because of it.

I just finished writing the second Angry Birds post and just happened to find this old Under the Bar article and felt it would be very cool to repost this on the same day as the other one. This will also provide some of my background with “special needs.”  It will also demonstrate the power we all have as parents, coaches, teachers, and humans.

After the book was first published, I sent a box home for my family. As any good mother would do, she read the book. It must have struck her because of the email I just received.


Here is a quick history for those who have not read the book. I will keep this short and to the point. The topic deals with children with learning disabilities and the labels that get attached to them. I am very proud to say I was one of those labeled children. While I was in grade school, I remember having special classes I had to attend each day. It was hard to forget because I had a big-ass picture of a clock taped to my desk to remind me of the time I was to leave the room. It seems that this was a much deeper situation than I was aware of. I can only guess of the conversations that transpired between my parents and the school principle.

The Letter

Okay, enough of the past. I will sum up my point after you read the letter. I have taken the principal’s name out of the article, as it does not matter who he was or what his name is. What does matter is that there are many of them out there and we all, as parents, need to be aware of who they are.

Dear XXXX,

Time has a way of passing, memories fade and we all grow older. However, sometimes forgotten memories have a way of coming back to haunt us.

The memory we refer to is of two little boys at Wilson Vance Grade School. They were but two of the students you chose to label as learning disabled.

To refresh your memory, their names were David & Phillip Tate. Now, I am sure to you they were just those boys born to the “older parents” (as you chose to refer to us) who at that time had the audacity to challenge your decisions regarding their son’s education.

The details are of little importance now except for the fact that we adamantly disagreed on what children were capable of accomplishing. You chose to put a limit on ability and we stated that desire overpowers all.

One never knows whose life may be affected by our actions or words. Your profession allowed you to mold the futures of the children entrusted to you. Because of your desire to have a “learning disabled”-free grade school, you had the clocks placed on the desks, labeled the children and moved on to receive your accolades. I’m sure you can relate many examples of the successful children who passed through the doors of your classroom; however, I doubt if you ever wondered what happened to the many you had labeled a failure and destined to a life of what you termed their limited ability!

The enclosed book was written by one of those students. He learned how to endure and, with the other positive factors in his life, became the man at 37 that some live a lifetime and never achieve.

It seemed only fitting to share this book with you as you were a prominent character in shaping David’s future.

Page 66: “I Remember” vividly describes the thoughts and feelings of the little boy you so arrogantly dismissed as incapable.

Page 68: “Coach Shoop” shows how a few well-chosen words from a caring teacher erased the label you had placed many years before. The years between was time spent preparing him to understand those words, move on and become the successful young man that he is today. DESIRE DOES PREVAIL.

As for the other little boy, fortunately we moved him into a school where children were not labeled; he also graduated from college, is a wonderful husband and father and is the owner of a successful business.

To put a “finale” on those memories a “thank you” now seems quite appropriate.

Thank you.

How would you feel?

When I first read this, I felt like these were very strong words to be said more than 30 years after the fact. Then again, if it was my kids or your kids, how would you feel?

How would you feel to be told your 7-year-old son does not stand a chance in life and had limited abilities? How would you feel to be told your child needed to be removed from the school because they did not like to have those kinds of kids there? How would you feel if you were that kid? Fortunately for me, I really did not know everything that was happening until years later. I did, however, know that I was not treated the same as others and that I was what they called “slow.”

The labels that you develop get passed on from year to year. Each year I grew, the more I began to understand that all my friends were in different classes than I was. This went all the way through high school. Yes, I could write an entire book about the experience I went through and how tracking methods can sometimes be wrong.


This is not about what went wrong but more about what went right. The summer after flunking out of my third semester of college, I found myself in my old high school parking lot speaking with an old coach of mine about training. In time, the conversation changed to my education. Basically, he gave me a wake up call and reminded me that I was not disabled as everyone has been telling me over the years. He laid it on the line and told me my biggest program was I was lazy. Yes, lazy! While the system may have tracked me in a slow category, I was the one who decided to believe it and because of this I became lazy and never took the time to figure out how to work. It was pointed out to me that the same skills I was using with my training were the very same ones needed to excel in whatever I wanted to do.  I had the ability and just needed to use it.

Did this have an effect on me?

I guess this is up for me to decide. I did finish college with a 3.7 GPA, started my own business and still have much more to offer. I would say being “slow” has been the best thing that ever happened to me.

The point of this article is very simple.

Watch what you say. Your words can make a difference. On one side of the spectrum, a few simple words labeled a child as slow and disabled, setting up a life of inadequacy.

One the other side, a few simple words of encouragement (harsh words at that) changed a life of inadequacy to prosperity.

Are you words building up or bringing down?

We all have the ABILITY to live, learn and Pass on.

2011 elitefts™ Author of the Year

If any of you have your own "Coach Shoop" Stories or have someone you would like to acknowledge or thank for helping you become a better person I would love to read them.  Your stories may inspire and help others to see the only difference between disability and ability are three letters when put together mean absolutely NOTHING.  - Dave Tate