It seems as if a large majority of my life these days is revolving around basketball. My two oldest daughters are playing for a local private Christian school and practicing three nights a week (unless one of those nights is a game night, in which case they are, obviously, playing a game), and my oldest son just started playing his first season of Upward Basketball, which consists of one night of practice a week and one game every Saturday. These two factors combined mean our family could potentially be involved in some type of basketball-related activity five days a week, every week.
The irony of this is that, at one point in my life, basketball nearly destroyed me. The elementary school and little league years were enjoyable enough, but pretty much from the seventh grade on it was a near torturous experience every year. Just so I don’t have to recount the whole saga again, just go read this earlier post. I was (and still am) severely apprehensive about letting my children play any type of sports, mainly from the fear they will have an experience similar to mine.
I feel so foolish for still flashing back to those days and letting them having any type of hold over me, but all this basketball lately has caused me to dredge them up again. This time, though, instead of feeling silly for recalling them, I’ve begun to see that they really do still have a hold on me. This isn’t some tale of an old guy lamenting his lack of glory days as a jock, though. This is the story of how perceptions formed as a teenager or adolescent can follow someone into their adult life and cause them all kinds of problems along the way.
My oldest daughter, in my opinion, has the potential to be a very good basketball player. She has a good skill set, a rapidly developing shot, decent speed, and enough size to get by. The only thing I’ve seen that is holding her back right now is she is not aggressive enough. Some people might even say she’s not mean enough. She doesn’t look for her own shot. She prefers to pass off to the older, more experienced players. She shies away from physical contact, which limits her on defense and rebounding. I feel as if she is right on the cusp of becoming someone who could get more minutes on the floor, if she only assert herself a little more.
I am absolutely terrified to tell her this, though.
Why would a father be afraid to dispense some potentially helpful advice like this on to his child? Because that is the same thing he was told when he played – over and over and over again. I cannot recall how many times I was told I did not want “it” bad enough. “It” could mean a number of different things back then. “It” could mean more playing time. “It” could mean a rebound or a loose ball. “It” could mean simply that my attitude didn’t seem up to par that day. “It” basically became everything I couldn’t – or, in the eyes of my coaches, wouldn’t – accomplish.
Now, I am not going to lie and say I have never missed out an opportunity because I didn’t try hard enough. Everyone has had to learn that life lesson at one point or another. What I heard from all those admonishments from coaches, however, eventually translated into this for me: You do not have it in you to accomplish what you want. I never realized until recently how I took this line and ran with it. I’ve backed away from opportunities for years, always thinking the reason I missed out was because I just didn’t want “it” bad enough. In reality, though, I was simply going along with what I was told; I didn’t have it in me to succeed. I wasn’t aggressive enough or talented enough to achieve anything.
As a result, I’ve lived a life of “almost” successes. I’ve been pretty good at a lot of things, but never great at any of them, mainly because I never believed I could be anything above average. Most days, I still feel that way. How, then, can I look at one of my kids and tell them, “You’re pretty talented, but you just need to try harder”? Sometimes that’s necessary, but not when they are giving something all they’ve got, like my daughter is doing with basketball right now. She needs to have a chance to figure this out on her own, not be endlessly told how she’s “just not getting it.” Because if you’re told that long enough, you start believing it.
Do I “get it” today? I don’t know. Most days, I don’t feel as if I’m trying hard enough, that the majority of my failures come from a basic flaw in my personality that can’t be overcome. I don’t believe I have what it takes to succeed. I have let a decades-old opinion of me dominate a large majority of my life. Can I break that pattern now?
Depends on how bad I want it, I guess.