Lessons from a 17-year-old basketball player

Holli's (left) defense was a force to be reckoned with

Kids are supposed to learn from parents all the time, aren’t they? After all, we’re the smart ones, the ones with more life experience–at least that’s what I always tell my kids.

But sometimes, our kids surprise us. Their lives teach us lessons, if we are humble enough to learn.

And that’s what my “little” Holli did for me. In her last varsity basketball season ever–she graduates high school in June–she reminded me of some simple sports parenting lessons that I already knew, but in the competitive heat of youth sports, I seem to have forgotten.

Keep working, even when things get tough

She got frustrated many times. She almost quit in the first month. She almost left early and missed playoffs to go on her college trip. She was not having a lot of fun.

But she stuck with it.  Did she become the star of the team? No. Did the team have a winning season? No.

But in sticking with it, she reminded me of how much stronger we become as people when we  persist in difficult times.

Treat your leader with respect even when you don’t agree with him

High blood pressure. Moaning. Extreme agitation. These are signs of sports parenting frustration. Her dad and I often felt these symptoms sitting in the bleachers.

But Holli kept her attitude up, respecting the coach even though she didn’t agree with many of the coach’s decisions. She didn’t argue, complain, or give the coach an attitude.

Fight your own battles, earn your time

Not once did we go and complain to the coach. No nasty emails, no visits to the principal’s office. We joked with her about doing it, but wisely she said, “No, I want to earn my time, not get it because my parents complained.”

And that’s just what she did. Every minute she was on the court, she worked hard. Every practice, she worked hard. She fought, and she may not have earned the team MVP, but she sure learned how to fight.

Keep a balance because there’s more to life than basketball

Even though she experienced frustrations, she didn’t let basketball ruin her life. She hung out with friends, went on weekend youth retreats and to youth group when she could, and enjoyed her family. Those other activities helped her keep a positive attitude that showed when she was around her teammates.

People are counting on you

She almost quit. She almost left for a week to visit colleges during the season. But one of the things that kept her from going was that she would be letting her teammates down. As the official team pray-er, she wondered, “If I go, who will pray with the team?”

Encourage others even when you don’t feel like it

Holli built up her team mates, giving them pats and low-fives, and encouraging them, whether she was on the court or on the bench. I know she didn’t always feel like it. But she ignored her frustration and looked to help her team instead.

There’s always a bigger purpose

Although Holli worked her butt off and was a defensive force on the team, she didn’t get her name in the paper, she didn’t score a lot, and in many games, she didn’t play as much as she would have liked.

But in the end, that was okay with her. She knew she was not on the team to be a star. She felt a “higher calling”–to show God’s love and encourage her team.

And you know, that’s the way sports should be. Even in the NBA.

Last night I heard Dwyane Wade say that he and his teammates wanted to use their positions in pro basketball to give back to the community. That’s what I’m talking about.

Whether you’re making big money in pro sports or playing pee-wee league, there’s always a bigger purpose than points on the board and winning records.

But sometimes, the pros forget that.  And so do sports parents.

Until a 17-year-old basketball player reminds us.

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  1. says

    A great list! Everything we need to know about life we learn in kindergarten and forget by the time we’re 30…but if we pay attention to those younger ones closer to their honesty and lessons…we remember. And sports is a beautiful place to see it.

    • Janis says

      Pamela, it is humbling to let my kids show me things that I already should know! Lol, and if we forget them by 30, imagine what happens by 50 (like me!) Thanks for taking time to stop by.

  2. says

    okay, i just tweeted something about my daughter’s spring tryouts and then i got your tweet.. almost in tears…I have always told my kids “we learn more when we lose than when we win.” more life lessons are learned on the courts (clay) and on the fields (lax). thanks for the great post

    • Janis says

      Laura, what happened with your daughter’s tryouts? Sounds like it was a tough one to handle. Hoping for the best for you and your daughter!

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