As some of you may have seen on my Twitter feed Saturday, my son Tucker and his teammates at SportsU won the Under Armour Association 16-U championship in Atlanta this weekend. It’s an elite team in an elite program playing an elite schedule, and I’ve never seen better basketball at the high school level than this spring and summer. (We’re on to Las Vegas this week for the last tournament of the season.)
I’ve been struck by all of the things that Tucker has learned in this experience, things that will serve him his entire life. Let me just say that while he is a very good basketball player, this team that he joined up with this year for the first time is just amazing. The starting five (who have been together for five years now) will almost certainly all be Division 1 players in college, and one is unquestionably an NBA prospect. Suffice to say, this was a real step up for him to play with these kids.
But he did well, was sixth or seventh man in most games, usually got a good amount of playing time against the highest competition, and had varying levels of success on the court. But it’s off the court that I just want to briefly focus on. Here’s his basketball “education” so far this year:
He took a risk. He could have played for any number of AAU teams, but given the chance to be on the best team and play at a higher level of competition, he took it.
He overcame adversity. There were moments this season that he had to prove himself, when things didn’t go as planned. He kept his head up always.
He showed resiliency. In those few really bad moments that almost every player experiences during a season, his reaction was “I gotta work harder.”
He assimilated to a new team and culture. Like I said, this team had been together for a while, and earlier in the season one of the other parents told me that they had been tough over the years on “new kids” joining the team. But she immediately said “They like Tucker, though.”
He gained confidence. Even though there were moments that I knew he wanted to play better, there were very few moments (if any) where he looked like he didn’t belong at that level. He’s much more in tune with his potentials now.
He deepened his passion. There’s no doubt any more what he’s working toward: a Division 1 offer. He loves to play.
He learned to honestly assess his abilities. Sure, he got feedback from his coach and teammates. But mostly, he did a lot of reflection on what he needs to improve at.
He worked hard on something that matters. I’ll be very happy when he gets his license in about a month because as much as we don’t mind driving him to practices and gyms and games and everything else, he’ll have the freedom to set more of his own workout schedule. Regardless, he’s learning how much hard work it takes to succeed at this level.
And there’s more…lots more. But that’s a start.
And you know what I’m going to say, right? Why can’t he get all of those things and more from his time in school? All that stuff above, that is the stuff that matters in life, the stuff that he’s actually going to need to flourish, yet that’s too often absent with the work he’s being asked to do in the classroom. Please don’t tell me they’re mutually exclusive; they’re not. And don’t tell me it’s not possible in schools; I’ve seen it. It’s just rare.
Look at how kids learn when they are engaged in things that matter to them. Isn’t that what school ought to be?
Regardless, I’m so thankful that my son has a deep love of the game. I wish all kids could experience that level of passion for something in their lives.