Star guard speaks out against bullying
In bullying the last person typically figured to get picked on is an athlete.
This was the case with the Highland boys’ basketball senior guard Chris Ford.That treatment ultimately led Ford to transfer from the Lone Tree program to Highland last fall.
What may be even more surprising about how he handles the situation is he doesn’t shy away from opening up to people about the topic.
“A lot of kids ask me why I came over, and I told them,” Ford said. “They were really shocked to hear it and had no idea. They said, ‘We are sorry for it, but that is not happening here.’”
Ford said that most of the bullying was verbal abuse at Lone Tree, though there were instances such as being pushed against lockers or being whipped with a wet towel in the locker room.
“I was a little bit afraid and worried sometimes,” Ford said. “I felt scared playing.”
None of this sparked Ford to retaliate, but he did seek out teachers and higher-ups at the school, but his case fell on deaf ears.
“You got to get it out there,” Ford said. “You got to let parents and teachers know. You got to constantly be after it. We just tried to hide it. After awhile it would get heavy.”
At Lone Tree he played junior varsity for his first two years.
“Everybody thinks they should play,” Ford said. “I wanted to play, but I needed the time to learn. You got to walk before you can run.”
Then last year he had to sit out Highland’s varsity squad due to transfer stipulations after leaving Lone Tree Oct. 12, 2012. Otherwise he would have played varsity.
Last season he faced Lone Tree for the first time since his departure. He said he didn’t have the best of games — as he played angry.
“I felt better getting out,” Ford said. “I was looking to play sports, but I was mainly looking to get out of the school system.”
He said his anger is no longer directed toward Lone Tree.This year has been another story.
He has really jelled and fit in with Highland, which is 5-1. This season Ford is the second leading scorer for the Huskies with 16.3 points per game, shooting 80 percent from the free-throw line and 57.8 percent from the field.
His rise to stardom was a three-year wait for Ford.
“It was a different mentality here,” Ford said. “I didn’t know anyone, but I didn’t have any trouble fitting in. I have no problem working and playing with these guys. They joke and play around outside of the game.”
Ford has moved on from a dark part in his life to thrive at Highland. He goes about his business living in the present instead of being haunted by the past.
“I have had a lot of fun,” Ford said. “It is one of the high points in my life.”
He will play his first varsity game at Lone Tree, Friday, Jan. 10 and then will host the Lions in the season finale Tuesday, Feb. 11.
“They are just another stop on the schedule,” Ford said. “If we can get past them — they are a good team … they have only lost one game too.”
He holds no grudges and has moved on from Lone Tree, but knows that bullying is more prevalent in school and even sports than people realize.
“No kid expects it to happen to them,” Ford said. “It happened a little bit in middle school. In high school I would try to go to people, but nothing would happen.”
A prime example of people being picked on at the professional level is the bullying issues the Miami Dolphins are dealing with in the NFL.
Offensive lineman Rich Incognito used racist and vulgar language toward teammate and lineman Jonathan Martin. Incognito was suspended indefinitely and Martin left the team in November.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Ford said. “It happens everywhere. It happens at people’s jobs and in the NFL.”
His plans after high school are to study criminal justice or get a teaching degree. He plans on playing either basketball or running track. He has been in touch with the University of Dubuque basketball coach and Grandview’s track coach.
“School is a priority first,” he said. “I got to get a good education. Basketball comes second.”
Ford focuses on the future as gets over the hardships in the past that have built up his character.