A Guest Speaker (Or and now a word from my husband)

February 19, 2007

Shooting Baskets in the Snow ...    

I just love this picture.

It’s cold. It’s snowing. The driveway is full of slush and ice. Mom and Dad demand the use of a coat, gloves, and boots, and a hat. There’s snow sticking to the basketball. There is, in fact, some ice stuck to the net from the ice storm earlier in the week. If you look closely you’ll see snow on the back of the rim, right up next to the backboard. Inside the house, there await Nintendo, books, board games, a brother and sister to play with, a box full of cookies in easy reach on the table, and hot cocoa. The wind is stiff enough to redden his cheeks and ears within moments of stepping outside. The basket is eight feet up in the air, and he’s only about 4 feet tall.

Despite all those reasons he’s outside in un-playground-like weather, working on his shooting. He’s on a team right now in a local church league, see, and he wants to score more baskets.

To help his team.

He wants to shoot like coach showed him, so he has his knees bent, the way he learned during practice three weeks ago. He’s using his left hand to steady the ball while shooting with his right hand, just like coach showed him two weeks ago. He’s getting better every day: in a game this weekend, he tried a little pump fake and got a defender to jump too early. He liked this move so much he used it for the remainder of the game. He used that move against some phantom defender during his practice today. He wants to get better, and no pile of lame excuses is going to prevent him from putting on his boots and mittens and heavy coat to go shoot baskets, wind chill be damned. He spent about 30 minutes doing this today. I know. I watched it.

Me? I’m his dad. I find it hard to get myself out of bed in time for exercise in the morning. I don’t make the time I should to do the things I should to get better over time: I don’t exercise enough, I don’t pray or read the Bible enough, I don’t devote enough time to research and professional reading, I don’t practice my music enough, I don’t do any number of things that I could to get better, stronger, more capable at things that I claim are important to me. I don’t do things that I know, as a matter of empirical fact, would make me improve in any number of dimensions as a father, a professional, a Christian, a husband, as a friend. There is always some excuse. Not enough time, too many other obligations, don’t have the right X to handle the Y, can’t do Z because of yet another damned excuse.

Meanwhile, a kindergartener somewhere is shooting baskets in the snow.

Maybe it’s just middle-aged melancholy, but I find this picture captivating. It affirms things I profess to believe, but don’t always act on. It shows that, despite the hypocrisy of parents everywhere (despite my hypocrisy here, at least), sometimes our kids learn the things they need to. Sometimes they seem to know these things instinctively, without being told. Games are won and lost during practice. Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Just do it. Things that are worthwhile are hard. Learning any complicated thing takes time, and some of that time is kind of boring. Be tough in the face of adversity. Don’t say “I can’t”, or it will be a self fulfilling prophecy. Do it for your team, sacrifice for your team. It’s not all about you. Be tenacious. Be tough. Be dedicated. Don’t quit.

We (well, I) believe these things when we coach little league, but don’t act on them in our day-to-day lives. We utter them, thinking them platitudes, until one day some 6-year-old takes us at our word.

He gets his basketball, and straps on his boots, and finds his gloves, and puts on his hat and coat, and slips out on to the icy driveway to shoot baskets despite the wind chill, so he can get better.

What’s keeping me from doing the same thing? I could list a page full of reasons why it’s more complicated, more difficult, why adulthood is full of myriad reasons why I, as a grown-up, cannot possibly do X right now because, well, because I can’t. Well, not “can’t”, really, when you get down to it, but “won’t” because I have other pressing reasons for not doing X at this minute. Or even once this week, come to think of it.

Meanwhile, somewhere, some little kid is shooting more baskets in the snow. Dribbling in the slush, too, if you must know, because he was told that he needs to dribble left handed and right handed. Mostly, though, just trying to do the things his coach told him, because he believes what coach told him, and he wants to get better to help out his team.

Do I believe what my coaches have told me? Do I want to get better for my team?

How I love this picture. My essay can’t do it justice. My son said everything that needs to be said on this topic during 30 minutes in our driveway this afternoon, shooting baskets in the snow.


3 Responses to “A Guest Speaker (Or and now a word from my husband)”

  1. Dave Webster said

    I stumbled upon this post from Jeff Cannells blog. I don’t think I know you, I just wanted to say, I loved this post. It has given a fat 41 year old a lot to think about. I have a 10 month old son. What examples will I set for him???
    Dave Webster

  2. Tim said

    I don’t believe we’ve met, Dave (Jeff’s our pastor, BTW). This is my wife’s blog: I’m just putting this here since she gets traffic, and I don’t. I’m glad you loved it. I loved writing it.

    It’s so easy, especially as a Dad, to profess a thing to our kids that we ourselves give intellectual assent to, but don’t act on. I was encouraged in this case that, *despite* my lousy examples in so many areas, my son still believes that practicing something is the way to improve, and that practice demands a degree of self-sacrifice. Pretty profound for a 6 year old, I think. Pretty profound, really, for me at 40, too.

  3. Dave Webster said

    Shoot me an email if you get a minute I have a question for you.
    Dave Webster

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