Thursday, October 15, 2015

Feedback about my "truth about you hoop dreams" post

I asked some of my favorite people for feedback about my "Truth about your hoop dreams" post. Here I'll include some of that feedback and more thoughts of my own.

Regarding the facts about how difficult it is to get paid to play basketball or earn a scholarship to a four year college, former Augusta University and Richmond Academy basketball standout, Keenan Mann, responded with this:
Keenan Mann

The truth is the truth, and it should always be told by those who know it.... Some kids with those dreams finish playing and don't know what happened. Some know what happened but don't know why. What you wrote could be instructive for both.  - Keenan Mann

The "don't know what happened" part of Keenan's response made me picture the young guy who graduates from high school with no clear path forward to college basketball. Like most of the other guys who excelled in high school and played on the travels teams in the "exposure events" throughout childhood, the numbers caught up to him and he wasn't the one in each ten "stars" who everyone expected to earn a scholarship, but didn't. He knows he didn't earn a scholarship, and there is no shame there. But what he does not know is that this scenario was the most likely all along. He doesn't know that he should have been preparing for this possibility, gaining knowledge in school and maybe getting practical adult experiences working. He has never really known that the right thing to do wasn't to "get his books" or to "watch what he says on social media" so the scholarship offers would flow. The right thing to do was to learn and excel in school and in work opportunities so he is fully living life and not at the mercy of the odds or the whims of college basketball coaches.

The "don't know why" part of Keenan's response made me picture the guy whose hoops playing dreams are not fulfilled who blames the circumstances: the coach, the lack of exposure, etc. He doesn't realize that the numbers dictate that many many expert level players don't make the transition from being a star in high school to a college scholarship caliber player. If he knew why he didn't achieve this particular dream he could more easily learn from the experience and plot his next move. And back to my response to Keenan's "doesn't know what happened" line, it's best if at this point the youngster had been preparing for this day all along.

The point is not to "crush dreams." I noted in the original post the difficulty in not being the cynical old man when trying to explain the odds of achieving these hoop dreams. Dennis McBride, Alleluia's head coach, helped clarify these thoughts by pointing out the invaluable experience of pursuing a goal that is so difficult to achieve:

As a coach, I always have more success when I have players who are highly, and I mean highly, motivated to be the best that they can be. You don't get those players very often, and whether or not they play in college is really not the issue. It's a life changing event for a kid to put such effort into something.  - Dennis McBride

The "life changing event" is real for all the players, those who earn the scholarship AND those who don't. This is where the math isn't cruel. Being an excellent high school basketball player is grasping an exceptional level of skill and accomplishment. Such a player should celebrate and know that he has many more decades of impressive accomplishments ahead of him. He should be emboldened to conquer all the obstacles life places in his path because he has the model for success: try hard and move forward in the face of adversity. And do those things more, and with more enthusiasm, than your competitors!

But back to my response to Keenan's "doesn't know what happened" line, it will help if the youngster prepares along the way for the mathematically likely event that the ball will suddenly stop bouncing, often before his plans dictate.

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