I have been blessed and honored to call basketball coaching my livelihood for more than twenty years. Although the majority of my salary has come from being an outstanding physical educator, the schools that have employed me (Conway, Willard, and Glendale) have hired me as basketball coach. I learned a long time ago from my coaching mentors (the late Ruben Berry, football coach, and current College of the Ozarks women’s coach, George Wilson) that my success as a coach would not be measured by the wins and losses or the numbers on the scoreboard at the end of a game. My success would be measured by the life lessons that I teach through the game of basketball and the relationships that would be made along the way.
At the youth and high school level, sports are an outstanding opportunity to teach life lessons to student athletes. Take basketball as an example: it is life in a protective capsule called a game. The game can be played fast and furiously, conservatively, with surprise and change, or with simplicity and execution. Life is no different. The key is to find the right style to provide for happiness and success. Basketball is played with rules, regulations, team rules and policies. Life has the laws of the land, work policies and procedures that have to be known and respected.
Basketball is filled with highs and lows, the times when all the three pointers go in and the times when the free throws bounce out. Life is filled with sunny, seventy-five degree days, pay raises, flat tires and house payments. Handling the good and the bad are lessons that can be taught through the game of basketball. Basketball teaches hard work, persistence, communication, teamwork and respect for authority.
I know as you read this article you can think of a thousand basketball situations that can be directly compared to life without the reality that adults have to deal with. Basketball is my tool to help teach life lessons to young people, as well as develop a relationship that can last a lifetime.
My challenge and encouragement for coaches, at all levels, is to use the game of basketball as a tool to teach young people the lessons that can prepare them to be successful in their personal lives and productive members of our society. The 2010-11 basketball season will be a great journey filled with fantastic games, great plays, competition, and champions. I only hope that we remember the true measure of success will be the life lessons learned in the process.
Good luck to everyone this season and God Bless.
Originally published in the December 2010 issue of Ozark Preps Illustrated.