Sometimes we wait for things to come to us…and sometimes we just have to go and get it.
Several years ago, actually more like three decades ago, I was a forward for the junior varsity high school basketball team during my freshman year at D. D. Eisenhower High School in Blue Island, IL. (Go Cardinals!) I could shoot long, had a good layup, and was pretty tall and coordinated. But, I did not have what you would call, that special hunger for playing the game.
You may ask, what makes me think that I did not have that ‘hunger’ for the game. Well, let me explain.
I enjoyed the game very much. I liked to practice because the rest of the group would come up with all of these wild cheers while we were doing layups or running short sprints. We would clap rhythmically in between passes and the criss-cross movements in order to mix up the approach to the basket. I could hear the sounds echo in the large gymnasium where the girls’ teams practiced next to the guys’ varsity team.
“Hey, you! Hey, Hey, Hey you and your mama, too!” We’d do roll call (Roll Call, Boom, Boom, Boom Sha Boom). Don’t ask me what any of it meant, it just sounded good.
I don’t know why I remember these ones in particular, but I think it illustrates how much I was ‘into it’. We ordered shirts with our astrology signs on the back (something that I would not do now), and made up some really outrageous chants to keep us moving. Some of these girls would have made great cheerleaders. As for me, I had rhythm but would end up in traction for six months if I even tried to do a cartwheel.
I was having fun but being a freshman, I was not getting much play time. That was ok. We all have to earn our bones. One day though, I got called off the bench. I was excited and really ready to play. Or, at least, I thought that I was ready to play. However, it was on that day that I knew that basketball, no matter how fun it was, was not my game.
I checked in for the exchange and the referee handed me the ball from the sideline. Though I don’t remember exactly how it happened, there were a few passes and my teammates and I headed down toward our basket. Somewhere along the way, the ball got loose and it was heading towards me. I thought I had plenty of time, so I waited for it to come to me. As it turns out, that was the pivotal point in my decision to end my basketball aspirations.
I had been so focused on the ball heading towards me, that I did not head towards it. I also did not notice an opposing player heading for it either. In the process, she reached down and snatched the ball up about three feet before it got to me. I had waited for the basketball to come to me when if I really had the heart for the game, I would have pursued it and stayed in the game. But, as it was, I focused on track and field during the following years in the spring, summer, and winter and played volleyball in the fall. I admit though, I still like to shoot hoops when I get the chance.
In retrospect, I could have instead opted to stay in the game and learn to go after that basketball. I realized that it was not what I really wanted. Instead I learned that if your gut isn’t leading you to reach out for what is heading towards you, then may-be you are not in the right game. It is analogous to “choosing your battles’.
I think back on all those crazy cheers, the whooping and hollering over all the cute guys on the varsity team and I have to admit the lesson was valuable. I have used the premise many times when making decisions about my future in the midst of several things coming towards me. Some decisions I am proud to say worked out. Others, not so much. But, at least they were made with a realization that opportunities hold different possibilities for each of us. Some of us will reach out for them; some of us will let them go. Either way, somehow there still seems to be enough opportunity even when one ball gets scooped up by an opponent. Even after all these years later, I am alright with that.