There’s a young lady I teach at Eggers Middle School. Her name is not the most important thing right now.
It’s what she chose to do that I hope you all think on right now. It’s extremely important. A life-changer. A game-changer. She is in one of my afternoon writing classes. Her attitude about learning is at the top, a tireless worker trying to better herself every day. She follows the rules inside the classroom without complaining or coming up with pointless excuses.
Which is what kind of shocked me several weeks ago when I spoke to her the day after the Knights first girls basketball games. She didn’t play a second in the opener. She was frustrated. A little angry. Questioning why she was doing what she did.
“I think I’m going to quit,” she told me. “I didn’t get to play.”
In my former career I had close contact with some of the greatest coaches in Region history. Hobart’s Don Howell. Gary Roosevelt’s Ron Heflin. Andrean’s Dave Pishkur. Lowell’s and Crown Point’s Pete Iussig. These are but a few of the greats I had the honor of working with over the years. They, I’m sure, had to deal with student-athletes trying to understand why they were not playing very much and/or what they need to do to get back on the floor, the gridiron or the diamonds. Interacting when them for so many years helped me say a few words to this student.
“Work hard every day. Show what you can do in practice,” I told her. “Eventually, the coaching staff will see your worth and give you an opportunity. Don’t quit. Please. That is never the answer.”
I have two daughters who are athletes. One a softballer and part-time hoopster. The other plays soccer, basketball and throws in the spring. More than once through the years, they spent time on the bench more than they wanted. It isn’t very much fun, I know. I told them in those tears-in-the-eyes chats the same thing I told my student.
“Work hard every day, show what you can do in practice,. Eventually, the coaching staff will see your worth and give you an opportunity. Don’t quit. Please. That is never the answer.”
Such wisdom always works out. It may happen in different degrees, but giving it all you have helps you win in alternative ways. The biggest thing is teaching yourself to never quit no matter how difficult the situation may be.
Last Friday, I went to the Hammond City Championships for girls basketball. The young lady I opened this blog talking about played terrific. She hit a three, a nice turnaround jumper in the lane, and ended up being Eggers’ leading scorer in the game. Well done, young lady. Very well done.
Gavit won the 6th and 7th grade championships over Eggers in very tight contests, while Eggers’ 8th grade team ran away with the title in a blowout. There was a lot of talent in all three games. The best part about middle school hoops is there is still time for everyone to put the work in to get better and see where your efforts will take you.
I hope my student feels the victory of how her season went, from sitting on the sad bench to playing big-time in the most crucial contest of the game. I think she did. When I gave her a congratulatory high-five on Monday for playing so well, her smile could’ve lit up all of Hammond for an hour or two.
I hope this small story lifts your heart and helps you in your games or your childrens' games. In this age where everyone gets a trophy, which isn’t true in real life, sitting or losing often does teach much. Especially when dad starts another team down the block where you never come off the court.
This Daddy Ball can of worms has hurt a lot of student athletes over the last 15 or so years. Take a lesson from my student. Work hard. Every day. Especially in practice and the classroom. Get better. And see where this will take you.