Americans are increasingly busy. Or so we are lead to believe, anyway. I’m sure our predecessors who worked on farms or in factories during the 19th century would beg to differ. The leisurely, simpler times of yesteryear are more myth than reality. Maybe we are busier today but the pertinent question is: busy doing what?
As we have ratcheted up our lives to a near frenzy, so have the athletic pursuits of our youth kept pace. For many players and their doting parents, basketball season doesn’t stop with the final buzzer which concludes the annual high school tournaments. Oh no. Many weekends are spent criss-crossing the state, region, and perhaps the nation. Teams such as elite this and select that permeate the landscape when in stark reality many of the participants are neither.
It’s during this time I’m reminded of sage advice by late UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. I remember hearing the announcement of his passing while watching a Dodgers baseball game with legendary broadcaster Vin Sully on the call. Not many broadcasters can seamlessly mix in a reference to William Shakespeare in telling the listening audience about such an event. “And as usual when it comes down to it Shakespeare said it best, “his life was gentle and the elements so mixed in him, that nature might stand up and say to ALL THE WORLD, this was a man.””
Yes John Wooden’s UCLA clubs won a lot of basketball games. More importantly, Wooden’s legacy is defined by the principles he taught and modeled in his own life. His Pyramid of Success speaks of such timeless values of industriousness, loyalty, enthusiasm, and cooperation, just to scratch the surface. He also offered this nugget of wisdom “Don’t mistake activity for achievement”.
In the hustle and bustle of travelling to this event and that showcase, perhaps we should ask ourselves, is what I’m doing making myself a better player? Would the time spent be better invested in the driveway, park, or playground working on individual skills? Think of the number of shots you could be shooting in the time spent riding in the car to the other end of the state.
There is no question a number of players will in fact get better throughout the spring club season. How much better will be the question. Don’t misunderstand: I am not anti-club or AAU. For the truly upper-echelon players in our state these programs have provided avenues to compete against better players and to showcase their talents. These players stand the most to gain. For the merely good players are they running on the proverbial treadmill on the race to nowhere?
We have now experienced a generation in which “skills” for the most part have not been honed on the playground but through travel leagues, elite clubs, and the like. I’ll let you be the judge as to whether or not our game has progressed or regressed because of it. In the words of the late Coach Wooden, “Don’t mistake activity for achievement.”
Two weeks ago I wrote a piece extolling the virtues of the UConn women’s basketball team. Late late night, or early this morning depending on which time zone you are reading this, “the streak” came to a conclusion. Morgan William’s fifteen foot buzzer beater from the right wing in overtime advanced Mississippi State into tomorrow night’s national championship game. After 111 straight wins, UConn felt what all of their opponents experienced over the last 111 games: loss.
In that piece two weeks ago I lauded UConn coach Geno Auriemma for his leadership and the culture he has established within his program. As much respect as I had for Coach Auriemma, if it’s possible I gained even more for him after last night’s loss. He couldn’t have handled the situation with more class and graciousness. It was a shining example of how all of us should act, win or lose.