The Difference Between Winning & Losing

June 8, 2016 at 9:00 am (News) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Growing up in Southern Indiana you’re bound to know, play against, or run into someone, that at one time or another was, or is on their way to becoming a basketball legend.  From 1976-1995 I grew up in Mitchell, In, home of astronaut Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom.   Yet being an astronaut ranked third on the list of things little Jason wanted to be, right behind Superman and (yep) a basketball player.  After all, during the 80’s I watched the greatest man I’ve ever known step onto a court, usually on a week night, making no look behind the back passes and fake up and under lay-ups.  My dad.  When he wasn’t playing he had the tube tuned in on the weekend to watch one of the greatest basketball players that has ever come from my part of the world.  Larry Bird.

Springs Valley Hawks

#42 Uncle Doug & that Larry Bird kid holding the ball

Many a trip was made to French Lick (West Baden aka Springs Valley) from my driveway 19 miles away to either visit the Conrad’s (second cousins) or to play against Valley in junior high and high school games.  Travel 15 miles north and you could watch Damon Bailey (1986-1990) tear up every high school squad in the state.

bnl

Then during the summers as a kid you were kicked to some basketball camp.  It’s Indiana, so toss a coin on the map and that’s the camp you went to.  I spent at least one week a summer for three to four summers 160 miles north east of home at Taylor University.  Taylor’s a private Christian college in Upland, Indiana that has as of late been getting alot of press time each year on ESPN because of their “Silent Night” game.

I was sent to Taylor, not so much for the school’s religious practices or the camp’s reputation but more because my Aunt Jane was a professor there and could/would keep an eye on me, making sure I didn’t destroy the place.  Looking back – I realize now not comprehending the enormity of Rick Mount pulling me to the side for one on one shooting technique.  That’s not an everyday occurrence.  Although at that point in my life I really didn’t grasp the significance of who Mount was. It would be like J.J. Redick stopping by to shoot hoops with your kids.

Rick Mount Lebannon, Indiana - The Brightest Star of High School BasketBall<br /> February 14, 1966<br /> X 11361<br /> credit: Robert Huntzinger - assign

Rick Mount The Rocket

Research him if you’re scratching your head.  The Rocket dropped 61 points on Iowa.

Like I said, you’re bound to run into someone basketball related.  Which brings me 160 miles out of the way to the point of this post.  Coach John Wooden.  A man I knew little about other than he was the coach at UCLA when they won 10,000 national titles.  Not until I was out of college did I become more familiar with him, not from the stand point of basketball, but more so with his philosophy and outlook on life.  I was drawn to it as a moth is to flame.  It resonated with me because it was familiar upbringing that I had heard and watched as a kid from those near and dear.  I later pieced together the similar paths, both born and raised in southern Indiana – obvious.  We both played basketball at Purdue (he representing the college, I the intramural leagues).  He taught while coaching at Indiana State University, while I transferred there to earn my degree in education.  The interest in poetry and writing.

I reference basketball in part because of the role it played in my life and view of this topic of success.  The love and despair the sport brought me.  The hard work and dedication pouring into a goal that was all for not in some eyes.  I know what it is to fail at something you love, or at the very most, the perception of failure as it was at the time.

Here’s some context for the readers: (feel free to skip this bio to the last paragraph)

I was a B-squad player from 6th-8th grade.  In fact I was cut by my 7th grade coach, but he allowed me back on the team after the high school coach (friend of my dad) asked him to keep me around and work with me.  I rode pine every season, but managed a few minutes here and there.  I made the most of the time given by doing the dirty work, chasing and diving for loose balls, playing defense, and grabbing boards (rebounds).   I became a decent defensive player making my mark stealing and deflecting passes.

I worked on my overall game the day after the last game of every season ended.  I played pick up games against older guys at every park in our town and the surrounding towns I could bike and eventually drive to.  Summers were dedicated to a.m. weight training and agility drills, afternoons to shooting, evenings to open gym, nights to more pick up games.  I ate, breathed, slept, and defecated basketball.

Freshmen year provided a break out opportunity.  Many of the guys who played before me were cut and two of the best players were moved up to junior varsity.  A door opens, but with a price.  My father was the coach (which is a whole post in itself).  Let’s just say that year made me stronger mentally and forced me to develop an offense.  I took the criticism from others, “You’re only on the team because of your dad.  You’re only playing or starting because your dad is the coach.”  When truly all his talent had been picked, and the guys that used to play . . .

a.) weren’t that good and were cut.

b.) were five foot three because they hit their growth spurt in 6th grade.

c.) he didn’t have any other options.

I also took on the role as player and not son.  I received his criticism more than others and I understood why and never referred to him as anything other than coach.  He had to prove there wasn’t favoritism and I wanted to show I belonged.  Some nights were just silent rides home after a game or practice.  Silence, that’s how you know he was upset.  We didn’t speak when we got home, and regrettably we didn’t speak much until I was out of high school.  His disappointment in the play of the team stewed in me and escalted my own disappointment. I’m looking at the situation as one proving himself among peers, coach, and dad.  My dad was incredible on the court, and I don’t say that because he is my dad, but because I saw what he could do against others on the court.  Frustration arose from multiple facets.  Being 14-15 years old and working on coordination, applying new skills in games, trying to become someone that could lead a team, and taking coach’s criticism no matter how positive it might have been, I wasn’t hearing it.  Just seeing red.  A whole post in itself.  I learned from that year, became stronger, more developed, relied on my defense, and lived in the gym working on offense.  I made gains,had incredible leap for someone my height (which I was truly proud of), and developed a shot, and  surpassed many ahead of me.  By the end of it all, there were four of us seniors that made it through 1st grade to twelfth playing every year, with one crawling up from zero talent to a respected level.

So you get your moment after making gains and then this.  During my junior year I broke left ankle the day before the sectional game playing pick-up games at the park. My senior year I broke my right ankle in practice on my coaches foot the day before the sectional game.  Two sectionals passed me by.  I’m not going to tell you I was the savior of the team.  Not so.  I do, however know I could and would have contributed to the win.  The game itself was everything.  I was left as a bystander sitting front row only watch as we lost in the first round each year and not a thing you can do but weep when that fluttering dream floats away like ash from a fire.  The last memory of the last game ends with my face buried in a towel when the dwindling few seconds ran off the clock.  I remained buried in that towel until the stands were empty and my teammates were leaving the locker room to board the bus.  That memory will always haunt me.

A younger me had tunnel vision, thinking success meant making it to play at a collegiate level.  Chasing after some ghost.  You can give your life to something, put hours in the gym doing drills, lifting weights, and playing against stronger and taller competition, but life (and injury) have a way of humbling you.  Playing for a college wasn’t in the tarot reading.  We may not always reach our true potential or the goals we set for ourselves. Does that mean we are unsuccessful?  That perception of failure from the one and first true thing I devoted myself to, metastasized within me.  It helped me learn to cope with disappointment.  It guides my focus in other avenues of my life and the drive to reach them.  It pushes me to get back up when I fall.

Coach Wooden’s ideology applies on many levels.  I hope you enjoy listening to his calm demeanor in this TED presentation.  I buy-in to it, at least a few groups of ten views belonging to my IP address.  I thought this post and his presentation would give readers a better understanding of my mindset of where success lies, the way I value determination as well as education, and a microscopic view of how I live my life.  What is success and how do we measure it?  Maybe we share some commonalities here, then again perhaps not.

Permalink Leave a Comment