Saturday, January 19, 2013

Basketball Nepal and Life’s Lessons

While living in New Delhi from March 2009-February 2012, every Saturday night from 6-7:30 PM, I coached basketball at the YMCA. I made this connection before I came to India, as I knew that I had to have basketball in my life in order to be happy, no matter where I was living.  The group would be between 15-30 people from 8-35 years of age.  It was always fun and I thoroughly enjoyed spending my Saturday evenings with whomever had signed up for coaching. 

Since being in Nepal in June 2012, I’ve met a number of basketball players and coaches, have played, coached a Gay Basketball team, that didn’t score a point no matter how much I encouraged them, as part of the first South Asian Gay Sports Tournament, become part of a new school basketball programme, am coaching an Army wheelchair basketball team and for the first time conducted a clinic for 40 children ranging in age from 9-17 at Mt. Kailash Boarding School in Kopan. 

As I approached the basketball court I saw a number of children milling around and five fat puppies and their mother.  The basketball court, like most that I’ve seen and played on wasn’t great.  The cement was chipped away in a number of places and one of the backboards and hoops was not attached to the pole as it was being repaired.  But we were able to locate a few brooms, swept the court and off we went for a three hour session.

As I found in India, the children were very enthusiastic as we talked and ran through some exercises and drills.  One of the puppies attempted to join in as we were warming up, trying to jog with the children in his fat little black body with stubby legs, and the mother decided to lay on the court as we were conducting a passing drill.  We were able to practice the “triple threat” dribbling, shooting and passing and exercise our bodies and think about how basketball is more than a game, i.e. a chosen lifestyle. 

In my blogs in India these are some of the statements that I wrote: “ Is it possible to "love" something other than a person so much, that one just cannot wait to be doing it? It is and it has happened for me with basketball in every aspect of the game. It just so happens that this "love affair" with basketball has blossomed, in of all places, New Delhi, India. It started with a connection to the American Embassy School and the YMCA, both in New Delhi, and has grown by leaps and bounds into a full-fledged "love affair". The feeling that I get from b-ball is pure joy, at all times, nothing less, total focus on the beauty of the game, and therefore there is nothing else, when I'm involved with it.”

“Basketball is more than a game as it requires, as does life, being part of a team, sharing experiences, joy, sorrow, anger, tears with others, communication, tolerance, discipline and being in good health and eating right. Basketball is a chosen life-style by those who proactively choose to truly take part. Like life, basketball has its ups and downs. I’ve gone through many ups and downs in life, the things that we all go through, because we are human beings. We have all been gifted with different skills and as in basketball it is about what we do with those skills and talents that makes life worth living.”

“I’m not sure which sport I would truly love if there was no basketball.  I do like baseball and American football, but somehow they just don’t measure up to the excitement of life brought about by basketball.  One day, as my body ages, I may have to retire from playing.  I will continue though, to live life as being part of basketball, eating well, exercising, living in community, coaching, etc.  Maybe, I’ll turn to that sport that many people retire to, golf, but I cannot imagine playing golf after a life of basketball.  Most likely, however, I will continue to live basketball until I take my last breath, until I’m again on the court in a younger person’s body.  My love for the game will never cease.”

Bill Bradley a former New York Knicks player and US Senator from New Jersey wrote a book called, The Values of the Game in which he discusses the following values: Passion, Discipline, Selflessness, Respect, Perspective, Courage, Leadership, Responsibility, Resilience, and Imagination. All of these values can be taken to heart in how one plays basketball and lives the game of life.

John Robert Wooden was an American basketball player and coach. Nicknamed the "Wizard of Westwood", he won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period—seven in a row—as head coach at UCLA, an unprecedented feat.  Having grown up in Los Angeles during the Wooden era I was a huge UCLA fan and still follow the Bruins.

Coach Wooden developed a pyramid of success which includes 15 building blocks-industriousness, friendship, loyalty, cooperation, enthusiasm, self-control, alertness, initiative, intentness, condition, skill, team, poise, confidence, competitive greatness.  Coach Wooden also includes 12 lessons in leadership. 

This is it for me, whether from Bill Bradley or John Wooden or my experiences.  Basketball has taught me so much about life.  As I coached the children at Mount Kailash, these pearls of wisdom were integrated into running up and down the court and learning how to be a good teammate.  Basketball is about life’s lessons.

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