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  • Writer's pictureJohn Saintignon

If Only This Rock Could Talk

As a coach, I always start with my infamous 12-week pre-season conditioning program.

Part of the program includes guest speakers who I believe provide my players, parents (for my high school teams) and us coaching staff with inspiration through another great person for us to meet. 

One particular day, I got into my mind that I personally wanted to meet a Holocaust Survivor.

I visited the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust with one of my teams from Bonita Vista High School when we played in a tournament in Los Angeles and it had a profound affect on us all.

Therefore, I wanted to see if I could find someone personally to talk to us. 

After much research I was able to get in contact with a gentleman who was willing to come and speak with us, Mr. Sol Rosner although he was unsure when he first arrived as to why I wanted him to talk.

I shared with him I wanted him to share his story and to share what happened to him at a young age.  

While he was hesitant at first in the beginning of his speech, he transformed as he was sharing his remarkable and unforgettable story.  

He shared his story as a Jewish kid and how the Nazi’s came into power through the rise of Nazi propaganda.

Quite the contrary to popular belief, he also disclosed how many truly disregarded the propaganda because it didn’t really affect them.  

The Jewish Community was certainly a target, but many forget the many groups who were also targeted because no one really stood up and said much.

As he explained it under this connotation:

“First they came for the Communists.

And I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Socialists.

And I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists.

And I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews.

And I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me.

And there was no one left to speak out for me.”

His story was powerful.

It taught us as an organization and in individual teams about the power of communication - to speak up for one another, the power of teamwork and why silence can be the detriment to true victory on and off the court.

His story left us moved and motivated for the season ahead, but most of all it moved me to one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my life about the human experience.

A Moment of Intersection to True Friendship

From that moment on, we became such great friends.  

My family and I spent Thanksgiving at his family’s home.  

He would come to our games and cheer on the team.  

And as my coaching career progressed

and moved me around to many places and spaces, we remained in constant contact.

One day I received a call from Mr. Rosner asking if I could stop by his house and visit.  

As always we had a wonderful time; but I before I left, he let me know that he was dying soon.

He wanted to make sure that he saw me in person.  

And with a mix of emotions on the news (I was floored, honored, and devastated that I was losing someone who I loved), I am grateful that I had a chance to see him one last time.

He did end up passing shortly thereafter and I made sure that I was in touch with his wife as well as his son who ended up teaching at Oregon State University - a place I had been a coach at (now that is a small world isn’t it).

New Intersections With an Old Friend In Remembrance

Fast forward years later, I received an invitation to scout and offer a clinic in Poland with one of my coaching colleagues, Dawid Mazur.

While in Poland, I made it my intention I would take one entire day to visit the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, the place where Mr. Sol Rosner was sent to during WWII. 

The visit was everything that I could expect.  

I was in silence out of respect for those that were here before me and what they went through.  

I could not imagine.  

There is so much to talk about here, but no way, could I do it justice.  

I was just so shocked mainly and overwhelmed at times at what another human could do to another.  

After my visit at Auschwitz I went to the another concentration camp Birkenau; where upon arrival, the prisoners would be escorted, divided and separated from one another by who would live or be sent to the gas chambers. 

I decided that I would take a rock for each of my boys, directly from the train tracks just inside the camp where it would have stopped to begin this selection of life or death.  

All of this drove me back to the memories and life story of my good friend Sol, who survived the atrocities of hate, annihilation and degradation of WWII by the Nazi Germany.

If This Rock Could Talk?

As I thought of my friend, I also envisioned the rock as a symbol.  

A symbol of many human stories,

stories of Sol, stories of my own and stories each of us hold uniquely.

And most specifically, if that rock could talk what stories it would share?  

How long had it been there?

Could it tell the stories of triumph or despair?

Was this rock there by force of wind or by the settling of the ground?

I wanted my boys to look at these rocks with a sense of strength and humility.

I wanted the rock to symbolize the unique sense of humanity we should have toward one another as if this rock could talk and share its own story, what would it say? 

What Should Rocks Say Today?

If we consider the uniqueness of every rock, every human, I believe we can understand the unique diversity of each person’s story.

And most of all, by sharing our human atrocities that we are reminded of why countering hate is the only hope we have so they would never reappear again.

I hope we can come from a place of understanding with one another and treat each other with respect, regardless of color, ethnicity, religious beliefs, political beliefs and income status.  

In doing so, we cultivate a world, a place,

a singular team of humanity that always wins and come in first place.

So to my friend, to his story and to the rock he implanted in my life, I am forever grateful to the lesson he taught me that only helped me be a better basketball coach and leader; but most of all, a better human being.

For Sol Rosner’s Full Story Here.

Check out my new book, “Take Your Shot, Make Your Play,” where I highlight 9 keys to finding true success on and off the court.

About Me, John Saintignon

Thank you for reading my story!

My passion for basketball has led me to being one of the leading figures in the sport for a long time.

I played college ball at the University of California, Santa Cruz where I am the All-Time Leading Scorer in University history and led the entire United States NCAA college basketball with a Scoring title, leading the nation in scoring in 1985-86 averaging 31.2 points per game. I am still the University of California-Santa Cruz's all time leading scorer.

But my passion didn’t end there, I have spent years as a professional FIBA coach coaching professional teams all around the world and even be a scout for the NBA.

Passion can take you far, for me it took me all over the world. I share my journey so it can be a light to yours to take your shot in life and make your play!

Now its time to write your story: take your shot and make your play!

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