A Little Perspective

My son’s high school basketball team placed 3rd in the WA State 2A B-Ball Tournament.  I was inspired to write this commentary which was published in our local paper.

imageOk, I’ll admit it; it has been almost a week and I’m going through basketball withdrawal.  Over the course of the last three weeks I’ve felt physically sick, euphoric, anxious, frustrated and that’s just on the way to the games.  Does this mean I’m hooked? The whirlwind ending of high school basketball culminating in the State tournament is an unforgettable experience.  There is a level of intimacy and immediacy in the confines of the basketball court that’s electrifying. You can’t help but become involved in the game when you can almost reach out and touch the players, see the sweat, hear the hard foul, hum along with timeless fight songs and cheers, and feel the excitement of the crowd in the ebb and flow of the game.  As a parent you’re helpless, there is nothing you can do but be a spectator and go along for the wild ride, one game after another.  The farther they go, the more nerve-wracking it becomes as the possibility of going all the way comes into view.  Of course, there is always plenty of opportunity to vent anxiety and frustration by second guessing the referees, coaches or players’ actions; it is all part of the experience.

Like many parents these days I’ve hauled my three children to practices, stood on muddy sidelines in horrible weather, coached the seemingly uncoachable,  waited in endless ferry lines , and been to every out-of-the way field, gym ,Taco Bell and Subway in the Puget Sound region.  I have to be honest; I haven’t always been a good sport about it.  On many an occasion I found myself thinking, “Why am I doing this?”, “What are we doing here?”, or worse “why doesn’t that idiot with the big mouth shut up”.  Yet, a comment by a longtime VHS basketball fan at the end of the last game at State brought the past 20 years or so into perspective; with tears welling up in his eyes he said “It doesn’t get any better than this… this is what its all about”.

By all counts this is perhaps the best basketball team in school history.  Certainly there have been other good teams and great individual players, but collectively this is an extraordinary group of young men not simply because they were winners but because they were a TEAM.  In all my years of participating in and watching sports I have never seen a group so collectively committed to the true spirit of team play.

Watching this group in action I am reminded of the bigger picture, the part of the sports experience that is not about winning but about deeper lessons of life… no, not just life lessons for our kids, lessons for us parents as well.  Although we immerse ourselves and our families in all kinds of activities for the good of our kids there is a part of us that hopes that through our efforts they will excel, be on a winning team, maybe even be a standout, a star with a chance to earn recognition or even a scholarship.  Don’t get me wrong, winning is great, but winning is the easy part.  Putting team ahead of self, that’s the challenge.  Somehow this group got that message, took it to heart and lived it.

One of the most memorable moments in my own son’s play came in a mid-season game.  Driving full speed toward the basket on a 2-on-1 fast break, the obvious choice was to take the shot himself, yet he chose to draw out the lone defender and make a short pass to an open teammate.  A split second decision in the heat of a game, a profound reflection on who he is as a person and teammate.  Of all the other great plays he has made in the many sports he has played over the years (he has been to a State tournament 5 times in 3 sports and placed 1st twice) I’ll never forget that moment…  I could not have been more proud. 

You are right Terry; it doesn’t get any better than that… that is what it is all about.

Watch a 5 minute movie with audio of still images of the tournament