As a child, my parents encouraged me to play multiple sports so I could explore and see which ones I liked the best. Like many, I was fortunate enough to have played sports growing up. I am very thankful for the life lessons that I learned in sports not only because they helped me build relationships, but they have been important in other areas of my life. I must say, every lesson I learned was valuable, but my favorites are commitment, accountability, patience, attitude and most importantly, fun.
Being committed to a goal is what drives success. When I was younger, I absolutely HATED going to football practice during my summer break. I felt like it was a waste of time. My dad would always sign my brother and I up for football without telling us and we would be mad at him. He would tell us “you will thank me for this later. You boys need to learn to stick to things.” So we came to a mutual agreement that if we won a league championship, we could quit football if we wanted. After long, hot, dry summer days of practice at Rose Park in Springfield where it seemed like the days never ended and the water breaks were too short, we won a league championship in the 5th grade. Staying committed to football and the process of hard work made me continue to play in middle school and freshman year of high school. I wanted to keep having that feeling of winning. This was an important lesson because now I don’t quit in anything. I want that feeling of finishing and doing well in everything in my life.
Accountability is a big thing for me. I have always been a firm believer that you get what you give in life. This is one of the lessons that did not hit me until later on. My senior year of high school, I was the leading basketball scorer in Clark County, and in the league I was top five in rebounding and blocked shot. I could do no wrong. I would often yell at my teammates or blame them for things that I was doing wrong because I was “on top of the world”, even though our team was not good at all.
As athletes, we all hate to talk to our parents after we have a bad game. I remember having discussions with my dad and he would tell me things to fix about my game, but I thought I knew it all and was flawless. As I have gotten older, we still talk about things to fix and I hold myself accountable for throwing a bad pass or taking a bad shot or half-doing drills. Once I discovered true accountability, things started to flow much more smoothly and freely. Since I have been in college, when professors give me feedback I always look at my work and think, “Okay, so this is the problem. What can I do to fix it?” I never think my work or actions are flawless any more.
Patience is such an aggravating word. Nobody likes to be patient, we want it all right now. Basketball is a sport where you need patience at the offensive end while others move and get to spots, but when you have the ball, it is hard not to rush and take a bad shot or make a bad pass and things go wrong. Can you tell where I learned patience? When things in life aren’t going your way or just moving rapidly, before you make a choice, sometimes you have to step back and “survey the floor,” as we say in basketball and make the best decision. Patience is something that provides us with numerous possibilities if we wait for our chance and choose the path that fits us the best.
If your attitude is bad in doing something you will have a bad experience, no questions asked. It is important to keep an open mind. When I was in high school, I did not start running track until the spring of my sophomore year. I went into track hating it and thinking, “You are only here to condition for basketball season, nothing else.” Once I started to make friends with the other runners on the team and win a few races, I began to fall in love with the idea of running track because I was in love with the idea of winning things; regardless of what it was. I learned from this that your attitude and having an open mind is everything. Once I stopped hating track and having a bad attitude towards it, I had more opportunities; more opportunities to have fun with my friends, more opportunities to win and more opportunities to improve things like my footwork and speed. Once our 4 x 2 team was all on one accord, we broke the school, county and conference record and we were one place away from going to state. My attitude towards track had changed tremendously once I changed my mindset and attitude. Now I go into everything with an open mind whether it be music, movies, or sports. My experience as a track runner is what made me have a more open mind and attitude.
Last but not least, having fun is the most important thing. You sometimes have to step back and laugh at yourself in life. My junior year of high school was full of bloopers during my basketball season. There was the time a ball hit me in the face, the other time I missed a dunk and plenty of other embarrassing moments. Win or lose, all of these moments seem to share a common theme, me laughing on the bus after the game was over. As much as I hated to lose, I always knew how great my life was and how blessed I was to even be able to play a sport. A lot of kids never had this chance and I was so lucky to be around something I loved. I always went into a game or competition knowing it was all for fun and I never took it too seriously. I wanted to have a good time because I knew everything else in my life was great. Having fun is so important in life because it makes the time go by faster and makes memories and relationships easier to make.
Sports have really been a beautiful thing in my life and have shaped me into the person I am today. My goal is to be a coach one day and pass this message down to the next generation of kids. Then they can pass it down so that it can be a chain blueprint for athletes to follow in sports and away from sports to make them into the best and most well-rounded around human beings in the world.