5 Life Lessons My 8-Year-Old Taught Me!


My son's winter basketball team was made up of 3rd graders but was placed in the most competitive division with 4th graders. I never fathomed the transformative, rich lessons that I would get from their team but most importantly, from my son. Jalen was one of the youngest players on the team—rather tall for his age, close to 5’; weighed close to 100 pounds; solid build. He played center.

As I watched the 3-month season unfold, here are the top 5 lessons that Jalen solidified for me. Read and watch the video at the end.

#1 - Do It For Something Bigger Than You

Jalen did not enter this season with basketball as his favorite thing. But with his coaches (mentors) and teammates (colleagues), his passion grew with every practice and game. I found it interesting that he always talked to me about “Us” and “We” and what he needed to do to support “his team”. He saw the value of the team…the “collective us” in achieving the goals set forth by his coaches.

#2 - Life is About Rebounding

As the center on the team, Jalen played as a BIG. He played down low where all the collisions and physical play happens. I watched and cheered as he competed for every single rebound. Every play was predicated on the ability to secure a rebound whether on the offensive or defensive end. In the midst of the cheers, I realized, through his play, that sometimes in life, we make the shot. But how prepared are we to deal with a miss? How ready are we to keep our hands high (focus) and go right back up (persistence) in the face of adversity? Our ability to rebound assures us second chances at scoring and denies our obstacles the opportunity to take us completely out of the game.

#3 - Relentlessly Work Your Craft

There is a popular idea that it requires in excess of 10,000 hours to become excellent at anything. Whenever there was free time this season, Jalen said “Dad, let’s shoot hoops!” And for the most part, we did just that. I witnessed with admiration as he, on his own, practiced the things coaches were asking of him during training…over and over and over again. He consulted the coaches for extra guidance! He worked his pivot…right and left! He worked his 8-foot bank shot! He worked his layup! He worked his follow through! He worked his pump fake! He repeatedly practiced the things he was good at AND the things he knew he needed work on as well. Outside of his required practice, when no one was watching there were hundreds if not thousands of shots, rebounds, put-backs and layups. I was awed by his unwavering persistence.

#4 - Retain Your Competitive Edge

Said differently “A little nasty in your game goes a long way”. Barring very few occasions, my son out-worked, out-muscled, out-ran, out-scrambled, out-hustled, out-jumped and out-smarted his opponent on every single play. He refused to be beat to a loose ball. It was not out of bounds until the whistle blew! Every spectator, coach and teammate knew EXACTLY what they were going to get from him each and every game. They could not necessarily anticipate consistent results (as in every shot going in), but they could rely on him consistently bringing a winning attitude, relentless effort and steady work ethic.

#5 - Accept & Respect Your Assignment

A couple times early in the season, Jalen questioned the importance of the “bigs” versus the guards. He thought the guards were the “better players”. Despite this, he and his fellow centers on the team worked—cleared the lane, boxed out, bodied up opponents, rebounded and did a lot of the “dirty work” to get the guards open looks and easy shots. He quickly realized the importance of his role to the entire unit and took it seriously. His job was not a behind the back, through the leg dribble. Nor was it a sexy, finessed jump shot. His job was to BANG…to play tough and physical—and he accepted that and did it well!

I was on business travel when my son played in the final game of the season. Unable to attend, I received a play by play commentary from Mom via text. I was overcome with excitement when I saw a text written by Jalen saying “Dad I hit the game winning shots!” I could tell he was proud. I then received the video of him draining 2 clutch free throws in the waning seconds of the game to put his team up by 1. They won!

It was such sweet poetic justice to witness how the hopeful apprehension he had at the beginning of the season, and the focused intensity of his work outside of regular practice culminated with game winning shots for his team under pressure! I could not have scripted a better life lesson for him! I could not have explained this with more clarity than this experience provided. It validated his commitment to his game, his team’s game and his coaches’ vision. It was a timely, steadying life lesson for me as I faced my own adversity! I never anticipated it would come through my son and a single basketball season. Well DONE, Son! You have taught me a lot!

#Parenting #Fatherhood #Sports #LifeLessons #Youth #Youthsports #coaching

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