A big part of what we do here at Sport Changes Life as Victory Scholars is inspire young people through sports. I think it’s safe to say that all of us here have had someone we could look up to throughout our athletic careers that have helped us get to where we are today. For me, this person has always been my dad. My dad was one of my first basketball coaches as a kid and I was lucky enough to have him as one of my coaches up until high school. He helped show me how fun basketball could be, while also teaching my friends and I the important fundamentals of the game.
Not only did he teach me how to play, but he was the first to introduce me to some of the life lessons basketball teaches as well. For example, he taught me the importance of dependability, commitment and patience. He also taught me the importance of being on time; if we weren’t at least ten minutes early to when we said we’d be somewhere then we might as well have been late.While he taught me all those things in a basketball setting through help defense, the importance of practice, etc., these lessons have stuck with me through my every day life. When I was a kid, I didn’t always understand the bigger picture of basketball. It was always just my favorite sport to play and something fun I got to do with my dad. Now that I’m older, I see all the time he put into coaching and every thing he taught me and I am so thankful for those years he was my coach.
Even after the days of him being my head coach were over, he never stopped helping me improve my game. He would continue to give me advice and help me with skills when I asked (and sometimes when I didn’t). When he became a fan (my biggest, I should add), he never missed a game. He continued to teach me the importance of dependability and commitment. I could always count on him to be in the bleachers, cheering me on and helping me stay calm when I needed to. I will never forget my Junior year of college when he had gotten double knee replacement surgery. He was in the hospital recovering not even a week after, and I had expected him to not make my game on Saturday as he was unable to walk. The doctor recommended that he stayed through the weekend for monitoring and other medical reasons. My dad, with two brand new knees, told him that he was either going to be discharged or come back later Saturday night because he had somewhere he needed to be Saturday afternoon. I could not believe it when I saw him hobble through the double doors of the gym. But he was there, and that’s what mattered.
I think the biggest part of being a mentor is showing up. The kids I work with depend on me as their coach, and I am committed to giving them the best of me with my short time with them. While my dad was very knowledgable with the game of basketball, his knowledge wasn’t the most important part of being a great mentor. It was the fact that every day we were in the gym, he gave it his all to make sure we were having fun, could go to him if we needed to, and believed in every single one of us beyond the game of basketball. Coaching young children is not always the easiest, and sometimes I find myself frustrated trying to communicate something they don’t quite understand. Whenever I find myself in this position, I remember the patience my dad had with me and try to refocus the explanation from a different angle. Having my dad as a mentor growing up has helped show me who I want to be as a mentor to the youth I am working with here in Athlone, as well as those who I hope to work with in my future plans. If I could be half the mentor/coach my dad was to me, I know I’m doing something right.