What game are you playing?
Two of the best decisions that I ever made in my life were to become a basketball coach and to resign as a basketball coach. As contradictory as it may seem, hopefully it will all make sense in just a short while.
The first decision came after I decided to put my NBA career on hold. I came to realize that a 5-inch vertical (give or take an inch depending up the type of floor), coupled with a 20.6 second 40-meter dash just wasn’t going to cut it. I could score though, however it seemed to come more naturally to me during warm-ups.
I had a dream (as I’m sure some of you had the same dream). I was going to be an NBA star. When I graduated from high school I was given a choice. I could go on and play college basketball or I could become a coach. This is when I decided that my NBA career could be put on hold…hold… and still holding at age 33.
I started my coaching career as I was attending college. I loved coaching. It was a way for me to still be around the game, but also help me make a difference in someone’s life. Little did I know however, I was also making a difference in my life.
You see, Travis Jordan the coach was a much different person than Travis Jordan the individual. As a coach, I was completely consumed with winning. Do whatever it takes to ensure my team scored more points at the end of the night than the opponents. I was vocal. I was intense. I hollered at officials, and hollered at my players. I spent more time hollering than I did coaching. My passion for winning brought about an alter ego in me that I did not like.
After 11 years coaching at one level or another I decided that I did not like Coach Jordan. Instead, I decided that I was going to focus on teaching and obtaining my Masters in Educational Leadership. It is during this time that I realized the world is bigger than basketball. I realized that being a “life coach” and educator was far more important to me than being a basketball coach.
The “Life Coach” in me would like to share with you some ideas for the upcoming sports season. Whether you are a coach, parent, player, or fan I believe we can all live by these. If you become an avid follower of these principles, I believe you will be well on your way to winning “life’s” game and not just a basketball game.
Coaches; it is ok to be demanding without being demeaning. Although you may think winning the game is the most important goal in the moment, winning the game of life is even more important. Look for teachable moments. You may have to sacrifice a win on the court, to emphasize a win elsewhere. What would be better; winning the championship with an undefeated record, or winning the championship with one or two losses? You can answer that question later, but it’s something for you to think about. Sometimes we need to see losses as wins. A failed play at the end of the game is something that occurs in the thousands in a person’s life. Coach the teachable moments and with any luck you will have a winning team on the court, and undoubtedly a winning team off the court.
Parents; let your child play, and your coach…coach. Although we would like to give our children a GPS that will lead them all on paved roads, and heading in the right direction; it might be more beneficial to give them a compass. Let them find their own way, and pave their own roads. Be there as a support if they get knocked off the road. Be the fuel that keeps their engines on the road. Love them when they win, and love them more when they lose. Turn over the sport to your child; it’s his/her rodeo. You have ridden the bull before. The following is a short four-question true/false quiz. If you answer true to any of the questions you need to rethink your involvement in the sport.
1. I critique my child or my child’s coach after the game.
2. I try to solve my child’s problems for them.
3. My child gets mad or embarrassed when he hears me in the stands.
4. I tell my child that he/she should be playing more and the coach does not know what he/she is doing.
Be a support for your child. Pick them up when they fall down. Hug them when they need a hug. Love them unconditionally. Show them that sport can be a great metaphor for life. Wins and losses are a reality. Failure is ok and bouncing back shows and builds character.
Athletes; understand that if you are not coachable, you are not employable. You don’t have to like everyone around you, but you must be adaptable. You must be able to work well with others. You must be able to sacrifice personal gain for team achievement. A good player can score, but a great player can get his/her teammates to score.
Speaking of scoring understand that many life lessons come from sport and they help to shape you as a person. The things you learn on the court such as teamwork, perseverance, preparation, etc. will help you score in life. Embrace every moment and seek out the positive in every situation.
Fans; cheer the youngsters on. Applaud great plays and sympathize on the not so great. Understand that refs do make mistakes. They’re doing their best and it is nearly impossible to have a mistake free game. Don’t holler at the coach. It is impossible to play more than five individuals at a time during a basketball game. This leaves more than five sitting on the bench. It happens. It’s life. Support your team (and the opponents) in a sportsman-like manner at all times.
I may have made the decision to stop coaching basketball, but I will never stop coaching life. Coaches, parents, athletes, fans please never stop coaching life. Our children need and depend on us. As the fall sports season approaches hand over a compass to your child and watch them carve out their own journey. We can all be winners at “life’s” game if we put our minds to it.