Last night was my sixth grader’s last basketball game of the season. He played with many of the same gang of boyhood friends he has known since kindergarten. This year, however, they were introduced to a traveling team, older players, and much stiffer competition than they had encountered in the past. They stood the test and played their little boy hearts out. I am proud of my son, his team, his coaches, and all the familiar faces we came to know in the Greenwood Laboratory School cheering section each week, sometimes two to three times in one week!
Here’s to a season well played, room for improvement, precious memories, and friendships to last a lifetime.
As I lay in bed, late last night, a bittersweet feeling overtook my momma bear heart. Never again will he experience his first school basketball team. Never again will he be integrated with all older players, working toward the same goal. As tired as I became of the weekly travel, my heart lived for those few minutes he played on that court. Seeing him do what he loves to do and has perfected over the past six years of his young life.
As proud as I am of my son for playing this great sport, I feel there are far more life lessons learned from sports at these tender ages than we tend to realize.
Here are 10 lessons I hope he learned and will continue to perfect throughout his life, both on and off that shiny wooden basketball court.
1. Do not argue with the ref.
He may be right. He may be wrong. Life isn’t always fair. Best to go with the call and move forward.
2. Look ahead.
You can be so focused on your current surroundings that you fail to see a teammate just down the court with a perfectly open shot to score for the team.
3. Pass the ball.
No one likes a ball hog. Give your teammates a chance. Work more on team plays to win the game, than individual plays to stand out. A team is much more enjoyable to watch than a single showboat.
4. Help the other team up.
Whether it was a foul or a run-in with a member of the other team, always help a fellow baller off the floor, whether he is on your team or not.
5. Shake it off.
Some shots are crappy. Some plays are ridiculous. Don’t get so caught up in chastising yourself that you fail to move forward and learn from those random inevitable mistakes.
6. Listen to the coach.
He knows his team. He knows their strengths and weaknesses. His plays are not simply advice, they are the green light to a beautiful victory when all teammates listen and abide by his well-planned and perfectly-timed calls.
7. Cheer for your team.
Whether from the bench or on the court, when a fellow player makes a grand play, be happy and cheer them on. They will return the favor when it’s your turn. And, it will be your turn.
8. Don’t make excuses.
When you are on the bench more than you’re on the court, use that time to study the plays, watch your teammates’ moves closely and try to emulate their grace and precision on the court. The coach won’t play a whiner. But he will notice you stepping up in practice and supporting your teammates from the sidelines.
9. Always show humility after a victory and grace after a bitter defeat.
Make friends with the other team’s players. Be kind. Be humble. Be a good sport. This will always get you further in life than being a cocky winner or a sore loser.
10. Be grateful for those who cheer from the stands.
Your parents, your grandparents, your siblings, your teammates’ parents, your coaches, and even the referees. It is not always easy to make all the games, particularly the far-away, late-night games. Be grateful for. those who loyally show up to encourage you. Not all kids have a cheering section. If they don’t, be that for them. It will not hurt you, and may just be the difference between them continuing the sport or choosing a less productive path.