basketball-boy-layup-featured-w480x300For nine years my son has practiced basketball for six to nine months out of every year. Usually at the end of the season we, as a family, wonder why we allowed him to do it! All those long days at school for practice time. All those even longer days of C team, JV team and then Varsity games. All those driving hours back and forth. All those fast food meals. And all of that effort for only a miniscule amount of playing time in the real games.

For a couple of years I, as a mom, spent the game time trying to mentally encourage the coaches to let my son play. But then I decided to relax. There is more to this than playing time. I hope my son will remember, and take away, a much bigger picture from all these thousands of hours dedicated to basketball!

Here’s what I hope he’ll take away from this important chapter in his life. Perhaps it will also give clarity to others.

To Peter,

Being on a “team” means working together and sacrificing. The real model for teams is “family.” Sometimes you have to accept the decisions and wisdom of the ones in charge. You may have a different idea. The coach (or parent) is not always right. But respect and obedience are crucial to the functioning of a team. Everyone has a part to play, even if it’s being a back-up, mostly benchwarmer.

In all these years, the kids worked hard, ran hard and practiced hard. That has value in itself. It has taught self discipline, perseverance and courage. It has helped your body become strong and has kept your mind alert. These things are priceless.

Sticking it out through the good times and the frequent hard times…that’s a powerful thing. Again, perseverance builds character.

Very, very few kids will go on to play basketball at a higher level. But lots of the kids on these teams will go on to share their love of the game with others. I can see you playing intramural basketball in college and coaching elementary or high school kids later in life. It’s a gift to know that the game is fun and it can be shared so that new generations will learn the value of self control and team spirit.

I remember Jose Munoz, who had a brief time of high glory as an NFL player before he was injured. He told your middle school class, “It’s not about making a career in sports because that’s probably not going to happen. It’s about become stronger mentally and physically so that, whatever you do in life, you can do it well—you can give it all you have.”

Basketball is, after all, just a game. It is recreation. It is about putting a ball in a basket. But the inventor of basketball, James Naismith, wanted the team experience to help young people become better people—people who lift up the one who fell down and know how control their desires, recognizing that there is a higher purpose in life. Physical training is compared to spiritual training in the Bible! Both have value although the second is more important.

One of the blessings and messages from the last Varsity District Home Game is this: a couple of people in the audience started calling out your name, Peter. They wanted to see ALL the seniors, during this Senior Recognition Night, have a chance to play. Gently they began. Then this chanting started to spread. During the last three minutes of the game there was a roar of chanting….it brought tears to my eyes. For you, Peter, it probably felt like pressure and made you self conscious.

But the message was—we live in a community and people really care! You are loved and noticed way beyond what you realize! What a neat thing it is, to be in a special moment like that and to be made aware that people notice. When you thought no one knew or cared, they really did!

These are some of the comments on Facebook about YOU:

“Peter deserves to be out there playing on every game …”

“My husband kept yelling “Peter” over and over. ..”

“It was the last home game…play the SENIOR please!”

Again, it’s back to family. We have our family here at home but there is also the team family and the community family! What a gift that is to have a larger family!

Remember these things. The inconvenience of hours spent sitting on the bench is really minor compared to the gifts you have received. Take with you these lessons from sports to carry with you wherever you go!!

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