“Sports is such a great teacher. I think of everything they’ve taught me: camaraderie, humility, how to resolve differences.” Kobe Bryant

An early morning shootaround with a first time father leading his second-grade son into the gym held much more excitement than the downpour outside. The son, all three feet of him dribbled a basketball with a confidence that was just what his father dictated. Dad, all six feet four inches of him, walked with the strut of a former basketball player, the arrogance beguiling his sense of failure for never made to the next level.

They shot for a few minutes. The father coached his son.

“Square up, come on this is basic stuff.”

“Don’t fade away, you’ll never be a good shooter if you fade away all the time.”

“You think you can play high school with that dribbling?”

The son took the coaching like a puppy getting yelled at for peeing on the floor. His head dropped. He moved to the edges of the court. He left the hope of fun he had when his father asked him to go shoot hoops at the Y.

For his part, the father thought he was doing the right thing.

Fast forward thirty or forty years. The son is grown. The father is getting weaker. The son towers over his slumping father as they walk onto a basketball court. The father is dribbling with a slapping motion, more like an elementary aged kid that a former low-level college hoops star. Dad takes his shots. They have a hard time getting to the rack. His motion is disjointed from years of servitude to the couch, the atrophying of muscles, and the mental slippage due to loss of brain mass.

The son totally accepted his father’s lead. He never made much of himself as a basketball player. He did, however, make the most of his father’s parenting example.

“You think you can play in heaven with a shot like that?”

“Come on, get down when you dribble. They’ll steal the ball without any trouble.”

“Do some push-ups, you can’t even get the ball to the rim.”

Sports teach life lessons.