Dear Son –
I often spend my evenings writing. Well, while writing, I found myself thinking about your first game experience with the JV team tonight. One of the strongest mental qualities anyone can cultivate is learning how to turn a disappointment into an advantage. It’s part of what I call resilience – resilience meaning the ability to recover quickly after difficult circumstances. If fed and nurtured it will take you far in life.
I know those feelings of heartbreak, anger and embarrassment when you sit the bench the entire game. It’s a good thing to let yourself feel those feelings. Don’t block them out. Use their burn to feed that hunger you have to be out there on that court. Playing hungry motivates, encourages risk, boldness, and strength of spirit.
Hungry players make things happen for themselves and their teammates. Harry Sheehy — the once basketball coach and now athletic director of Williams College — wrote that every player should have the experience of working their tails off for a whole season while having to sit the bench. It creates mental toughness, a strong work ethic, along with humility and respect for the game.
Those who are given their chances easily, without having to work hard for them, are those who will have a harder time later in life when facing challenges, obstacles and setbacks that require hard work and perseverance. You’re learning what it is to bust your butt with no guarantee of succeeding, but are choosing to do it anyway. It’s a quality to admire and that will take you far.
Watch Mugsy Bogues, 5’3″ NBA player (warning: uncensored strong language)
It’s no lie, as a small guard you will have to work three times harder, play three times smarter, and be three times tougher than everyone else out there. So be it! Keep at it, challenge yourself, challenge your teammates, hone every aspect of your game in the secret of the practice court — away from the fans, your friends, and the public eye. When your opportunity comes you will be ready. (And it will come. It’s only the first game of a very long season.)
There have been many times in life I’ve had my back against the wall, or I’ve faced setback, embarrassment, or disappointment. It’s the lessons I’d learned facing these moments in my sports life from which I’ve drawn to pull me through.
Phil Jackson, the former coach of the Bulls, and now coach of the Lakers once said, “There’s more to life than basketball, and there’s more to basketball than basketball.” If you never a play a minute the whole season (which won’t happen), yet keep pushing yourself just the same, you’ll learn life lessons that will take you far beyond the high school basketball court.
He Got Game, Public Enemy