Thinking back to my time playing college basketball (one year at Northwood, three at Calvin), I've come up with 5 things playing hoops has taught me about life...
1) A strong work ethic, hustle, and the intangibles Matter
I was a smart and understood it would be a waste of time to sit back and pray I would grow taller :)
Instead, I committed every day to being the hardest worker on the court, hustle every play, and demonstrate every intangible possible.
This strategy allowed me the opportunity to play at the next level, but it also allowed me the opportunity to actually play at the next level. My first year at Northwood I started 9 games as a freshman. Then at Calvin, I worked my way to being the starting point guard as well as a two-year team co-captain.
I wasn't an all-star by any means, but being the hardest working guy on the court, hustling every play, and being coachable, a good teammate, etc., played a major role in my opportunity to play at that level as well as my playing time each game.
I've since carried over these three traits into my professional career.
I may not be the smartest physio or strength coach, but I know I'm going to work hard to earn my keep wherever I go and demonstrate qualities that allow me opportunities I otherwise wouldn't have.
2) How to handle adversity in stressful situations
Being in a leadership position, both as a point guard and captain, during my final two years of hoops, I was put in many situations that one would consider "stressful." Overtime games, one possession games, conference championship games, etc. Over time, these stressful situations although stressful, felt much easier to handle than before. This is why coach KVS would have us go through these "last second" situations in practice; so that the next time we faced adversity or stress in a game, we could think back to practice and relax knowing that "we've been here before."
In life, there isn't a week that goes by without having to face some sort of adversity. And although life adversity may be different than the adversity faced when down by one point with 10 seconds left, the qualities developed to handle these situations remain the same. Staying calm under pressure in stressful situations is important; I'm thankful to have developed this during my time as a point guard.
3) Emotional intelligence
"...the capacity of individuals to recognize their own, and other people's emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior."
Although I didn't realize it at the time, throughout my college hoops career I was developing my emotional intelligence every time I stepped foot on the court. Looking back, I credit my ability to lead to having emotional intelligence-- I was aware of the emotions in each situation, which allowed me to better understand my teammates, and ultimately empathize with and lead them.
In my career today, having emotional intelligence allows me to become aware of my emotions in each situation, and harness these emotions to make a better informed decision followed by taking appropriate action. Additionally, my career involves interacting and helping people 90% of the time. Having emotional intelligence enables me to better understand and empathize with each patient or client I work with. Being able to discern the feelings of others, understand their emotions, then utilize this understanding to better relate helps foster incredible relationships.
Once again, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care...
4) How to take ownership in my decisions
All of these things weren't anyone else's fault but my own.
Rather than looking at the ref and pleading I was fouled, or making an excuse that I heard my coach yell shoot, I quickly learned that taking ownership in these mistakes (then busting my butt to make up for them) was an approach I wanted to adopt.
There are too many people in this world that play the "victim" card; not taking responsibility for their actions, blaming their lack of career advancement on others, holding grudges, demonstrating "learned helplessness" in every facet of their life, etc.
Hoops taught me to take ownership in the decisions or actions which maybe weren't quite the "right" ones to make. I do know one thing though, hustling to make a play after making a mistake is the best remedy- just like taking ownership in a poor decision or action in life; what you do next after this decision/action is just as important.
5) Humility and Grit
1) As a freshman at Northwood, I was considered a "preferred walk-on," meaning I didn't receive any athletic scholarship money to help pay for my education. During my freshman season, I worked my way into quite a bit of playing time, and even started at the point guard position in 9 games. This excited me because in conversations with the head coach toward the end of the year, I had demonstrated my ability to contribute to the team, and was therefore going to be rewarded with an athletic scholarship during my sophomore season...or so I thought. Unfortunately, I didn't end up getting this scholarship last-minute, for reasons that probably shouldn't be discussed in public. Talk about devastating after working my tail off all year and then being told I would be rewarded! I was extremely humbled by this experience; so much that I decided not to play my sophomore year as I didn't think I was "good enough." A dark time in my life, for sure!
I wasn't going to give up on my passion and dream to play college basketball despite this setback, and ended up transferring to Calvin College. Which looking back, was exactly what was supposed to happen, as I now had the opportunity to play for a head coach who cared about my well being, inside a brand new arena, and in front of more fans than I would have played in front of during any division II game.
2) My first year playing at Calvin, I worked my way in the pre-season to a starting point guard role to start the year. The first half of the season didn't quite go the way I had hoped, which ultimately led to me becoming a back-up point guard for the rest of the year.
While this wasn't an ideal situation at the time, by reflecting on this experience today I now understand why I feel I have a strong sense of humility to my life.
Once again, enter GRIT.
Rather than blaming my benching on the coach, other players, etc., I committed to be the best teammate possible the remainder of that year, despite whether I was starting or not. In addition, I also committed to once again being the hardest working player on the team the remainder of the year as well as the years to follow.
That commitment, that grit, paid off as the next two years at Calvin I was fortunate enough to work my way back into the starting position and was voted co-captain both my junior and senior year.
I share these stories not to sound egotistical, but to rather share how tough situations can result in positive subsequent events so that humility and grit are demonstrated.
I strongly believe having a sense of humility, yet displaying courage and resolve to life's challenging situations, are two of the most important characteristics in life.