There’s No Crying in Bas(k)e(t)ball: Lessons I learned from being an athlete

“Sports do not build character, they reveal it.”- Heywood Broun

**Shout out Coach Evans for providing the world with the single greatest Tom Hanks line in one of the greatest movies, no one will convince me that this didn’t actually happen**

Anywho, hey. Welcome back. Today I write about something that I feel deep within my soul; that being an athlete means that you can be successful in anything that you could possibly hope to do in your life. Here’s a few reasons why.

  1. Learning never ends: I started basketball when I was in 6th grade and 13+ years later, I am still learning new things about the game and how to be better (Pat if you’re reading this, I still got it and never should you ever ask me again if I want two shots to one #aroundtheworld). Being an athlete taught me that there is always room for improvement, and that learning in a never ending process to do better than you did yesterday. Being an athlete made me a forever student. I may not currently be enrolled in school, but I am always looking to further my knowledge whether it’s by reading articles, talking with other professionals, or engaging in new experiences. Remembering that knowledge never ends helps me to stay humble and ensure that I do not take on the role of the professional-a key skill in social work.
  2. Being Coachable (aka taking constructive criticism): Hearing others tell you what you did wrong is never an easy feat. However, it is an important one. In line with the above lesson; being coachable allows us to further ourselves far more than we’d be able to on our own. Being coachable means that you are able to separate your feelings and not take things personally when others are trying to help you improve. Being coachable means that you are able to actively listen and take advice. Being coachable means that you are able to put your trust into those you are working with and working under to not lead you astray. Being coachable means that you are able to acknowledge that you don’t know it all, and work with your teammates, coaches, bosses, coworkers, friends to teach each other and make each other more well rounded individuals. (On the other hand, live by the rule that you sandwich in constructive criticisms between two compliments if you are the one giving it out)
  3. Teamwork (because duh): This is one of the most important things that being an athlete taught me. I have been on a heck of a lot of teams, and being an athlete has prepared me to better be able to navigate this. I learned that in order to be a successful team, you have to leave all personal opinions, negative feelings, and differences off the court (or at the door). I definitely did not like or get along with everyone I’ve been on a team with; but I did respect everyone. I trusted everyone. I worked with them toward a common goal. I put aside differences so that we could function as a unit. And I went to battle for them on the court (playing field, office, whatever it may be).  I learned that being a team is pretty dang close to being a family, and treated it as such.
  4. Leadership: Not all athletes have leadership skills, but the others learn how to accept leadership from others (most of the time). I have always been a leader in all things that I have ever done. I have never been a very outwardly loud or vocal leader; in fact I recall my coach spending a good 10 minutes making me shout random things in the middle of practice until I said them loud enough (if you thought I easily embarrass now, oh boy was 16 year old Maegan even more of a tomato that day). However, I am someone that puts the team ahead of myself, leads by example, gains the trust of my team members, gives advices, takes action and makes decisions, doesn’t let my ego get in the way (this one’s hard, Leo probs), and am insightful and analytical and steadfast in my convictions.  I learned that each person plays an important role on the team, and the team cannot function without everyone. I quickly learned that being a leader means that you aren’t always liked, and that’s okay. I am able to look at the bigger picture and how each of these roles can fit together, and empower those around me to play their roles to the best of their abilities (well I try to at least).
  5. Strength and perseverance: Sophomore year of basketball was by far the hardest thing that I have ever experienced (even harder than college basketball). Whether it was 3 hour long Saturday practices, minute runs, one minute layups, cut throat, or endless ladders because someone (cough* KATE * cough) was late to practice (I love you Kate), our limits were tested.  However, nothing to this day has felt better than the feeling of accomplishment after we did all of those things successfully. I learned that the hard work is well worth the reward. I learned that I will never improve if I don’t push myself past where I think my limit is  (please see this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sUKoKQlEC4  No, I’m not crying, you’re crying). I learned that some things take several tries, but if you keep at it, you’ll get there eventually and it will be amazing.
  6. Life is a game of inches: This lesson is two fold. The first way it can be taken is perfectly described by the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (which I am currently binge watching). In the show, Kimmy tells us that you can do anything for 10 seconds. If you string together these 10 seconds, you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to.  You just have to take things one inch at a time. The second piece of this lesson is that games are won and lost by inches; by being one inch ahead of your opponent to the basket, jumping one inch higher to get the rebound, shooting one inch higher to make the shot.  The point of this is that details matter, small steps and actions matter, putting in your full effort in every second of every day matters; because if you don’t, the next person might and they will feel miles ahead of you.
  7. Learn from the losses: Everyone is going to fail over and over again. The important thing is to get back up and keep on keeping on. Learn from your losses, learn from your mistakes, and work to improve each and every time you try.  You will get there eventually.
  8. Read the defense and scout the competition: Basketball taught me that you have to read the defense, aka take what  you are given and make it work for you. It taught me that every action has a counteraction. It taught me that thinking ahead of the competition will get you where you need to be. It taught me that there is always a way to be successful if you are paying attention.
  9. Free throws and bunnies win games: Free throws and bunnies (layups) are the easiest shots in the game of basketball. However, and trust me I am speaking from experience, they are SO easily missed in games when they matter most.  When you do things like lose focus or get too cocky or not practice the little things, you end up messing up the easy stuff. Don’t lose sight and take the easy stuff for granted. It is probably THE important and will help to ensure that you are successful. Dot your I’s and cross your T’s. Be meticulous. Don’t get caught up in doing flashy things or trying to impress others; do solid and efficient and effective work. Get the results without making it harder on  yourself.
  10. Hustle, and if you need to rest, do it on offense: I know there is a good life lesson in this one, but I keep using it to describe itself and thinking in circles-so hopefully you guys just get this one on it’s own.
  11. When all else fails, put on the full court press: Sometimes you put up a good fight and things just aren’t falling into place. Don’t give up. Pull out all the stops and give it your all until you have nothing left to give. Sure you may still end up losing, but at least you’ll know that you did everything you could. Sometimes that is enough.
  12. Love what you do: Do what you love for as long as you love it, and when you no longer love it, move on. It is important to be passionate about the work that you do. It makes sure that you aren’t being burnt out, aren’t living life going through the motions, aren’t missing out on other experiences that could be better. Loving what you do allows you to live a happier and more fulfilled life. You don’t owe anyone any favors to stick around. “Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.

I’m sure there are countless other lessons, and probably different ones for each sport, but these are the ones that have really been sticking out to me lately. Boy was I fortunate enough to be an athlete for so many years and have amazing role models and coaches that helped to shape me into the person that I am today. We use to joke that being a member of our high school basketball team was like being in a cult; but I honestly can attribute most of who I am and my successes to the lessons that I learned from my four years on that team. I hope that I can give back and be that role model and teacher to others someday, even if that means implementing Lombardi time and minute runs and day after Thanksgiving practices that we SWEAR were made to be the worst practices of the year. Or the equivalent of these things in whatever field I am in and future I may have. Here’s some pictures of the good ol’ times to really express how much joy and fun I felt being an athlete, even when there were days where I thought that I wanted it all to be over as soon as possible.

 

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