What playing the game of basketball has taught me about the game of life.
Through my storied organized basketball career that stretched from kindergarten through my junior year of high school, the main aspect that stands out to me now is the wide variety of coaching styles I experienced — from “rah rah” to quietly introspective.
The best coach I’ve ever played for was my first league coach, who I stuck with for 12 years. He started as a scream-until-you’re-blue-in-the-face type of guy as our team struggled — I kid you not, we endured a five-year drought period in which we never won a single tournament. He then morphed into a composed, strategic mastermind as we began racking up wins, notching regular first-place finishes.
He never got paid for his duties, but he served as a true teacher for the eight of us on the team. He taught us to always thank the referees after games, he did not tolerate cussing on the court nor did he allow any trash talking.
It’s important to emphasize that our team was nothing special. Sure, we had a couple girls who went on to play college ball, but for the most part, we were ridiculously scrappy. What we did have, however, was a common goal and an astronomically high team chemistry that not even Walter White and his drug empire could’ve brought down.
While other teams in the league disbanded and reassembled, we maintained a core roster of six players through all 12 years.
I think it’s fair to say that most of what I’ve achieved in life thus far can be attributed to what I learned during my time on that team. Foremost, it ingrained in me the gravity of teamwork. If you play selfish ball, no one wins. Or if your leader has a separate agenda and goes behind people’s backs, at the end of the day, you’ll fail.
I was never the star player. I don’t have major hops or quick feet, yet no one ever gave up on me. Because of that, I was able to have my moments hitting crucial jumpers and free throws. As teammates, we encouraged each other and pushed each other to be better, as did our coach.
Additionally, playing basketball shaped my sense of integrity. I’ll admit I was no model citizen. I occasionally yelled at the refs, threw a few elbows and gave opposing coaches dirty glares. But doing those things taught me something: When you leave the court, no one will remember finite details such as how many points you made in the Memorial Day tournament. What they will remember is how you carried yourself and whether or not you shook hands with them at the end of it.
Teamwork and integrity are two values that I hope to uphold in everything I do. Life can be a challenging game, and as much as the typical mindset is to tear everyone down in order to reach success, basketball has enlightened me to the fact that having a team of people on board with you as you succeed is significantly more fulfilling.