#9

“I think the most important thing of all for any team is a winning attitude. The coaches must have it. The players must have it. The student body must have it. If you have dedicated players who believe in themselves, you don’t need a lot of talent.” -Bear Bryant

Two old ball coaches were sitting in a bar talking a great deal of shit. Mostly they were making fun of each other’s beers, Lite for one, snooty oak barrel nectar for the other. All the trash talking was in good nature and neither ever took anything personally. Somewhere after the third or fourth beer, the conversation changed.

“Why don’t we try each others’ beer? The next round, you go Lite and I’ll go snooty,” said the more experienced of the two coaches.

“How come?” asked the older but more inexperienced coach.

“Well, I think it’s good to have a different perspective. Figuring out what we’re all about is the way to get better.”

“That’s the kind of thinking that allows you to hang out with me,” said the snooty beer drinking and less experienced coach. “I’ll buy.”

“And that’s why I keep you around.”

The beers came and each tasted their new brew with a cautious hesitation. The beers were different but inviting. Both were cold, the Lite beer was crisp and the snooty beer was sweet but the new beers were good for both.

“I heard the Dali Llama said it doesn’t matter what you drink since it all comes out the same way,” said the original snooty beer drinking coach.

“My kind of conduit to the cosmos,” said the other coach.

The funny thing about these two was that they could not be more alike in their different approaches to life. Practical, theoretical, wide open, seriously reserved, a fast-moving storm, a brooding grudge carrying addict…

Yet, with all of that, they understood a few things in the same way.

Coaches prepare players to find success.

Players play.

The games are about learning how to succeed, not winning or losing.

Parents can be a little much.

About the time that the beers were running low a man and his wife walked into the bar. They started walking towards the two old ball coaches and the tension for the original snooty beer drinking coach rose as these parents were a little too much for him.

“Would you?” asked the original Lite beer drinking coach.

“I’d rather drink Budweiser.”

Enough said.

#8

“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.