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.
Andrew McCutcheon says
Thanks for sharing your son’s learning experiences through basketball. I have seen you speak in person, watched your Ted Talks, follow you on twitter and have been reading many of your blog posts (no I am not a stalker). I have to admit, this has been my favorite “Will Richardson” moment to date. Perhaps because I too am a sports nut, as I teach and coach at a sports school in Markham, Ontario, but probably more importantly because you have hit the nail on the head with this one. Why can your son be inspired to learn so much while playing, watching or reading about basketball, but fails to have his curiosity (about anything) ignited in a classroom? I would like to share many points about how this gap may be closed, but I will start with only two.
Passion – For a student to feel any sort of inspiration to learn in a classroom they must first see it in their teacher. If a teacher can demonstrate that they are passionate about learning, students will most likely follow suit. If Will’s son’s basketball coach showed up to practice without passion for the game, his son would probably find another team to play on, or would quickly lose his love for ball. Students cannot simply pick their teachers and therefore it becomes imperative that we show up every day demonstrating passion for learning.
Relationships – Through my experiences playing and coaching a number of sports, I would imagine that Will’s son loves being around his teammates and coaches. He is willing to listen to not only what his coaches have to say, but I am sure some of those starting players as well. This happens because the sporting environment (especially team sports) believe that success is only possible if the relationships of every team member are strong. Many teams (especially professional) will attend pre-season team building camps with the goal of ensuring they know one another as best as they can. Once this occurs, the sky’s the limit as to how hard members of the team will work and push one another to be successful. Students rarely experience this level of relationship building in a classroom and therefore their commitment to potential success is never reached. I understand that is very unlikely for teachers to take their classes on overnight team building camps in the first week of school; however relationship building must occur. Meet the students at the door every day, take the first 5 minutes of class to speak one on one with students, ask them about their day, their part time jobs, their interests, their dreams, share with them your story, who you are, open up. If students see a genuine teacher who cares about having positive relationships with their students, success in the classroom will occur.
Thanks for reading!
Will.. Congrats to your son .. Sounds like he is doing well.
I’m surprised you omitted all the false hopes which AAU broadcasts to players and families. It is a seedy business.. Yes it’s a business..where parents cough up lots of funds which otherwise would be better spent. It has been the leader in privatizing sports, taking away from public schools.
And yes .. I’m a coach and father of a basketball player
George Couros says
The interesting thing about your post is that I did get all of those things from school…by playing basketball. Congrats to Tucker and team.
Rich Ten Eyck says
I continue to find professional inspiration and challenge in your thinking and writing. But this time you inspired and challenged me not only as an educator but, perhaps more importantly, as a father and grandfather. Thank you.
Rich Ten Eyck says
You continue to inspire and challenge me professionally with your thinking and writing. But this time you inspired and challenged me not just professionally, but perhaps more impiratntly, as a father and grandfather.
Rich Ten Eyck says