Basketball is a popular sport that has drawn the attention of millions of people across the world. It has the ability to connect people of all different backgrounds and unite them over a common love for the sport. If you were to drive by your local park, chances are you would see people of all different ages and backgrounds enthusiastically playing this game. If you were to turn on your TV, chances are you might come upon a basketball game with tens of thousands of fans packed together cheering on their favorite team. However, the power of this sport to build character and bring people together can go unrecognized at first. Some people may view basketball as “just a game,” but to avid players like me, it is much more than that, as it is a worldwide platform that can unite diverse populations and teach many life lessons.
Basketball has been an important aspect of my life from a young age. I have fond memories of my family and I sitting on the couch watching Laker games together since I was three years old. I idolized many of the players that I watched, and I would try to imitate their play on the mini-hoop in my backyard. Eventually, I built up the confidence to play this sport in an organized and competitive setting, and to this day, I still spend my summer nights playing basketball games in a league. To some, basketball can be considered a bunch of teenagers throwing a ball in a hoop, but to me, it is so much more. Throughout my time as a basketball player, I have learned valuable skills that have helped me tremendously in school and in the real world. Knowing how to dribble a ball won’t be something I will use too much in my future, but the teamwork, leadership skills, work ethic, decision-making and perseverance that playing basketball has taught me will stay with me for the rest of my life, as will the countless friends and memories that I have made so far playing this game.
In a game, every member of the team is expected to contribute for the team to be competitively successful. On any team, if only one or two players touch the ball and make all the plays, not only is it unlikely that the team will win, but the sport also becomes less enjoyable for the other players. When a team has a common goal that everyone is working towards achieving, everyone can pitch in and the game itself becomes more enjoyable. There is a special bond that is formed between teammates when the team is winning and having fun. Along with this camaraderie, comes communication and social skills that build up individually, and are useful and applicable in the real world.
In addition to the character-building and teamwork side, there is still a major competitive aspect of the game. No team enters a game with the intention to lose. Teams may get themselves into large deficits, but a game is never over until the final buzzer sounds. An important lesson I have learned is to never give up when there is still time left on the clock. If a team’s goal really is to win, they would persevere through adversity, come together, and put forth their best effort in order to do so while time is still on the clock. In life, we may come across difficult situations where we feel that nothing is going right for us, but this sport has taught me that if you give it your all while you still can, there is a chance that things can turn around in your favor.
Basketball has also had a significant impact on my work ethic. In games, I always want to put the best version of myself on the floor for my team to succeed. This requires spending hours of my free time, repetitively practicing shots, and doing tedious drills over and over again. Although these practices can be strenuous, I enjoy seeing my efforts pay off in games. In a game just this winter, I remember missing four free throws in a row, which ultimately led to my team losing a playoff game. The next day, I spent hours at my local park practicing free throws in the rain, and I didn’t leave until I was able to make fifteen in a row. I haven’t missed a free throw in a game since that day, and that experience is a significant reason why. I learned that if I set an achievable goal for myself, and worked towards it, I could become a better player.
Another side of the game that motivates me to become a better player is competing against friends in organized games. Off the court, we may be close acquaintances, but for the 48 minutes after tip-off, we are competitive foes, engaging in aggressive, yet playful banter and trash-talk. Watching my friends compete against me motivates me to perform better than them and win with my team. Practicing alone to improve your skills and get better than your rivals can be just as meaningful as playing with them for fun.
Some may still look at my basketball games, and see them as sweaty teenagers running around with a brown ball, but this sport can be so much more than that. Basketball can be played for fun, or for physical activity, but in a competitive setting, it has the ability to teach players valuable life lessons and skills. My character and work ethic has significantly improved from my years of experience playing this great sport.