“Lessons Learned” in Sports: Basketball

In my first semester, I am taking a class where we explore Black, College of Charleston (CofC) trailblazers since 1967. Recently, we hosted the second Black player to integrate the CofC men’s basketball team as our guest speaker. While he shared many recollections of his life worthy to be remembered forever, one thing he said really stood out to me: “The athletic department is a champion of diversity.”

This quote REALLY resonated with me. I was one of two Black girls on an all-white basketball team at one point in my life. From that experience, I realized not only do sports promote diversity by offering camaraderie and sportsmanship, sports also provide invaluable lessons learned for the athletes participating in the sport.

I participated in three competitive, high school sports—track & field, soccer, and basketball—throughout my seventh through sophomore years. The sport I enjoyed most, and had the most success with, was basketball. Basketball provided me with the most growth and taught me many lessons in practice and in the locker room.

Practice

Imagine being so tired that you can’t feel your legs, your arms, your feet, or any part of your body. Then you’re told to make a full-court sprint in 11 seconds. You don’t think you can make it because you can feel the oxygen, or lack thereof, flowing through your body, but somehow you make it back to the baseline before the buzzer sounds. Why? How?

The idea of winning, that’s why.

I can vividly recall practices that pushed me to my absolute limit, but for some reason, I kept going. When I think about it now, I realize it was the prospect of preparing for those moments in the game where I needed to gain a second, third, fourth, and fifth wind to continue to compete at my best level.

Any winter-sport athlete will tell you the most brutal practices come in the summertime during conditioning. You go hard in the weight room doing box jumps, squats, curls, and more before practice where you typically do drills that include nothing but sprinting. It’s hard, and, at times,  I thought it was pointless. Looking back, I discovered all that work made me a better player.

I learned self-motivation in the weight room: I was my own competition in there. It was just me, the dumbbells, the incline bench machine, the leg press machine, and all of the machines I’d use for that day. Once I realized lifting weights was directly related to being a better player, I was inspired to constantly push myself to become stronger. I made sure to include 2-3 extra reps in my workout, increase my weight by five pounds for a set, or just simply improve my form. It was really “Me vs. Me,” and I don’t think I truly appreciated that until I stopped playing.

“Offense sells tickets, defense wins games, and rebounds win championships.”

In the locker room, I remember MANY, many, MANY things both intense and lighthearted, but this quote from my assistant basketball coach preached day in and day out is one I remember the most. It wasn’t until I was no longer playing that I truly began to understand the significance of these words.

“Offense sells tickets…”

Your successes and accomplishments draw people to you. Every positive step you take to accomplish your goals, more people become inspired

“…defense wins games…”

Some missteps will happen. Some weapons may look like they’re going to prosper, but the ability to dodge them, redirect yourself, and continue on with life is key.

“…rebounds win championships.”

Rebounds can be both offensive and defensive. Defensive rebounds are opportunities permitting you to turn a mishap or a misstep into something productive. An offensive rebound is redemption, a chance to “get it right” by adjusting and reconfiguring your methods.

So while I’m in the process of still learning to live away from home and starting a new life as a college student, I’m clinging to my basketball memories that have taught me invaluable lessons on the court and in life.

“Alexa, play “Lesson Learned” by Alicia Keys. Thanks GWORL.”

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