Monday, February 27, 2012
4 Life Lessons Coaching Girl’s Basketball Taught Me
This past October, I took on the task of coaching a girl’s 7th and 8th grade basketball team with a close friend and fellow former athlete. I was a basketball player and distance runner my entire life until I was diagnosed with a “progressive and incurable” neurological disease (RSD/CRPS), so I expected to enjoy the process of feeling closely connected to sports once again. What I did not expect was to grow as an individual, personally and spiritually develop, learn important life lessons, be touched so deeply by the bonds I formed with the individual girls, and have my life enriched in ways that I could have never imagined. The beauty in the experience had nothing to do with the game of basketball, although that aspect of coaching was thrilling for me, too, and it had everything to do with the lessons learned through the beautiful and unique interpersonal relationships that developed between us as coaches and our players. My girls made such a positive impact on my life in a few short months, and I can say with certainty that I will always remember the feelings of joy and pure bliss that they gave me as I rode the wave of my own health crisis and needed to be uplifted the most. From the bottom of my heart, I thank them.
Below are four life lessons coaching girl’s basketball taught me.
Laughter is the best medicine – This is something that living with constant, burning neurological pain taught me years ago, but my girls really hit this lesson home for me over the last four months. They are hilarious, and getting to know each one and laughing with them individually took me to a divine place of joy at each and every practice, pasta party, and game. To me, laughter is the closest you can get to heaven. I am so immersed in joy and in the present moment when I am laughing that it is impossible to worry about the future or mull over the past when I’m giggling so hard my face starts hurting. Humor is infectious, and when it is shared, it creates bonds and intimacy in relationships. Humor relieves stress, strengthens the immune system, relaxes the body, connects you to others, and relieves pain by releasing endorphins, your body’s feel-good chemicals. Best of all, it’s free!
Winning isn’t everything – Life is about the process and not the end result. Often, we get so caught up in our goals that we miss the sacred moments that can be found in the hard work that is between them. Every situation we encounter in our lives is an assignment that is meant to teach us more about ourselves so that we may continue to grow and personally develop into the divine souls God intended us to be. While we didn’t have a winning season, it was important to articulate to the girls that the scores did not matter. What did matter was the progress that was made and that they felt good about what their efforts produced.
There is a place for everyone – While every girl on the team could not be the star point guard, or the take-charge leader on the floor, or the low post player whose consistent efforts changed the game, each girl had a place on the team, and more importantly a place in my heart. It’s difficult to articulate this point to teenage girls when playing time seems to deem to them whether or not they feel they are important members of the group. Skill levels can always increase with time and effort but understanding that you are an integral part of the whole that makes up any team is an important lesson to learn at an early age. As long as you play your part to the best of your abilities and as if your job is the most important in the world, you will always bring your best self forward and your efforts will be recognized by those around you.
Play with heart and work with passion – Passion is the key ingredient to team and individual successes. Growing up playing sports, I noticed that not everyone had a passion for the sport they were playing. Some played to get physical exercise, some because they enjoyed the sport, some to stay out of trouble, and some because the important people in their lives expected or forced them to play. For any aspect of life, having a passion for what you do and a sense of purpose will dictate how successful you will be and whether or not you will reach your full potential. Passion creates the heart and motivation to get through the difficult times and will allow you to withstand any pressures or stresses that come up in work and play.
I'm off to watch some college basketball.