Four tickets to a Harlem Globetrotters game: $175. Arena parking: $15. Snacks and souvenirs: $70. Hearing my boys belly-laugh as a player performing a layup is stripped, not just of the ball, but of his uniform: Priceless. Having them learn a valuable life lesson at the same time: Even more priceless.
Ok, so the lesson wasn’t exactly learned during the layup stripping (although having your shorts tied tight enough so they can’t be pulled down is a good life lesson), but it was realized at the Harlem Globetrotters game this past weekend. Amidst the flurry of corny jokes and childish gags, and in between the fancy ball-handling and trick shots, was the not-so-subtle message that if you dream big and work hard — despite your circumstances — you can achieve your goals. Just ask Kevin Grow, the Pennsylvania teenager with Down Syndrome who suited up and played with the team on Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
I was prepared for the night’s expected fanfare of smelly armpits, noisy gas and silly dances (hmmm … this sounds a bit like our house on a Saturday night), but I wasn’t anticipating the inspirational message about overcoming adversity. It got me thinking … what other positive life lessons can a simple game of basketball teach kids?
Not wanting to miss a teaching moment (heaven forbid!), I asked the boys yesterday on the way to practice what they thought basketball teaches them. My youngest is only 7 and quite literal, so his initial responses included, “Keep your hands straight up on defense” and “You can’t pick up your dribble.” Both true, but not what I was looking for (A+ for effort, though, buddy!). After further explanation, a little prodding and even some leading, this is eventually what they came up with …
The five (5) life lessons that basketball teaches, as told by my sons:
- Basketball is a team sport and there’s no “i” in team – Translation: Learn to work as a team and be interdependent, not independent. Selfishness never wins (just like cheaters never win and winners never cheat).
- Sometimes calls don’t go your way – Translation: Life can be tough; if you get knocked down, get up, dust yourself off and keep going. You don’t always get your way (you get what you get and you don’t get upset).
- You win or lose on the foul line – Translation: Be prepared by practicing (or studying). Learn from your mistakes and improve upon your performance yesterday.
- Keep playing until the whistle blows – Translation: Never give up. Do your best, give 110% and work hard to achieve your goals (it’s not over until the fat lady sings).
- It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play that game – Translation: Always display good sportsmanship. Play competitively, but fairly. Be a good loser and a gracious winner.
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! Winner, winner, chicken dinner! If my boys practice these five teachings as much as they practice their crossover dribble, reverse layup and fade-away jumper, they will be victorious on and off the court. I may not be raising the next Michael Jordan or LeBron James, but I am raising the next generation of men, so it’s important that I get it right.
Will my sons continue to play basketball? Will they make the high school basketball team? Play in college? Be drafted into the NBA? It’s much too early to tell, and the odds are not in their favor, with just over 1% of college players making it to the pros. But little boys will dream, and if they work hard enough, you never know … just ask Kevin Grow.
P.S. If style counts for anything, my boys — with their throwback headbands, big hair and high socks mixed with the current-day trends of oversized shorts, armbands and shooting sleeves — are already on their way.