Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Basketball Life Lessons

Basketball is the game that involves two teams of five people each, competing to have as many buckets scored on opponent’s goal as possible, while also limiting your opponents to fewer buckets in your goal as possible. The size of the court is 437 sqm (28 by 15), which is big enough to allow interaction of 10 folks in a competitive way and small enough to expose the weak link in each team. I have been playing basketball continuously for the last 20 years, mostly varsity play. The peak of my career was a Dar es Salaam Secondary Schools Basketball League.  Since then I am hooping for leisure, relaxation and superstitious reasons. I have always thought that Basketball teaches her players relevant lessons that can be applied in real life. The fundamentals that guarantee you a victory in a basketball court, will also guarantee you victory in your day to day struggles. In the remaining passages of this essay, I will attempt to draw lessons from basketball that can improve your odds of surviving out there in the wild.

To be successful in a basketball court, you have to be a team player. You only have four team mates that need to cover every inch of that 437 sqm—defending and attacking as a unit is the only way to guarantee a victory. Some players have exceptional skills and might take the bulk of team’s shots, It does not mean they are selfish, rather, that is the particular role of that player and each shot is being taken per game plan agreed by the entire team. Selfish players usually cost the team victories and trophies. Success in real life requires one to work within the context of the team and adhehere to the principles of being a team player.

A basketball team must have at least five people to compete, each of those players have to know their roles. This means when assembling a team each member should excel exceptionally well at one skill, with little or no overlapping of superior skill between players. This is important; the team need a ball handler, a rebounder, a shut-down defender, or a shooter. Once each member has identified their role, then discipline is required to operate within their roles. It is not expected for a rebounder to operate on top of the key and jacking three pointers on each possession. The roles are designed to complete a team. In a successful ball club each player understands and focuses on executing their roles to perfection. For every Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Lebron James there is Robert Horry, Dennis Rodman, or Udonis Haslem . To be successful in your hustle it is important to find out your gift or passion and build a career around it. Understand and accept your role in any situation and maintain the discipline to focus on executing it.

To win in a basketball court you definitely need talent, but importantly you have to put in work. You have to work hard in practice (individually and as a team) and on game day. During game time you need to have the conditioning to run your motor for 40 minutes, and enough mental strength not be distracted from the game plan when things are not going your way. These attributes can only be achieved by working hard to perfect them. Work ethic of individual player and a team might be the sole predictor of the success of the ball club. Out there in the wild, you also have to work to earn your stripes—people who aspire to have success in life have to accept the fact that they will need to put in serious work.

Basketball is a game of runs. An opponent can score on a fast break, followed by a wide open three and a lazy foul to put them on a free throw line. Just like that, it is a 7 point run. If you had a 5 point lead, it has evaporated. Mental strength is important; you cannot give up, and start judging your capabilities during these runs. Believing in you, the team, and trusting the game plan is critical at this moment. At times during the game, you might get few harsh calls from the referees, get booed by the fans, or an opponent trash-talking that gets under your skin. These are moments when you need to develop thick skin, and tune out the noises—mental strength is crucial to achieve success in basketball court and in real life as well.

Do not ever blow a layup, a dunk or easy buckets for that matter. In a basketball court, a team runs different plays in order to get an easy shot; you have to make your easy buckets. There are fewer greater sins in basketball than blowing an easy chance. In your daily struggle, do not blow an easy opportunity that fall into your lap. These opportunities are rare, do not waste them. But if you ever blow a layup, do not spend a second thinking about it.

At this point a reader might ask how this is different from football. Well, in basketball the number of teammates is only 4, the pitch is smaller, individual weakness can easily be spotted and exploited. In football, one can slack and go unnoticed and unpunished. Basketball demand more self discipline and unity than football.  There are plenty of other basketball life lessons, knowing when to be aggressive and not to be aggressive is the skill that can be learnt in a basketball court. There are times when you can smell blood, and as a team you go for the jugular—when an opponent is already deflated. In real life it is important to know these moments and seize them in order to achieve your goals.

At the end, best teams and best ball players always shine at the biggest stage. You are almost preserving the best when the lights are the brightest. During these moments you need to shine. You cannot shrink at moments that count the most. You cannot miss a free throw that will win you the championship. You have to come through at the biggest stage. The same goes in your daily hustle, you have to come through on your biggest meeting or biggest presentation.

© Thuwein Y.Makamba

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