I was working with a participant whom I had never bet before. To be quite honest, I was not sure what kind of coaching approach to take – all drills, all games, get–to–know–you activities? Subconsciously, one thought continued to resonate – how can I, a sixteen-year-old, set my basketball program apart from all the local powerhouses? I was lost, so I resorted to what I knew best – rebounding and small talk.
The participant and I shot around for the first 15 minutes of the lesson and I slowly noticed the energy was dissipating. Now, what? – I thought.
We sat down on one of the surrounding benches and began to talk – conversation ranging from pastimes, to school, to future goals. Despite my interest in the conversation, I worried that the parents would be angry – after all, they signed up for basketball lessons, not someone to be social, hang out, and talk.
Well, wow, how wrong was I.
Over the past year of working with Easy Hoops, I have come to realize our true purpose.
We are not basketball coaches.
Yes, after all, there are still hoops, still participants, and it is still basketball, DUH! However, Easy Hoops is much more than basketball. Easy Hoops is a program focused on more things than baskets made or consecutive dribbles through–the–legs. Easy Hoops emphasizes the importance of developing character in addition to basketball skills and how to “Shoot for Your Best Self.” In our iBook, Easy Hoops: How to Make a Difference, Easy Hoops explains how and why we emphasize these virtues in our program. Check out the free iBook here: https://apple.co/2NZOFNB
For now, I want to share how coaching has exposed to me such passionate and caring individuals, each living unique lives. This exposure has allowed me to grow as both a coach and a person.
A few months back, I started lessons with a new family. I remember first speaking with the mother. She told me that her younger son was diagnosed with cancer a few years prior. Thankfully, now, he is healthy, high-spirited, and excited to start up with basketball lessons.
During my first lesson with him, we used these get-to-know-you icebreakers. I asked him what I thought to be a very vague, simple question, “What makes you happy?” I expected a response along the lines of, “Candy, Video games, TV!” However, I was surely wrong: He immediately responded, “my treatment and getting better.” I was at a loss for words. This seven-year-old boy had such a profound understanding on what is truly important to him. A moment like this stuck with me far after the lesson ended and allowed me to develop a better outlook on life. This participant inspired me.
Another example of this lasting impact was this past Friday. Easy Hoops was working with another nonprofit organization, Our Place of New Trier – a social program for neuro-diverse individuals. As we got going, I asked a participant of the program if she wanted to shoot some hoops. She immediately responded, “¡Sí!” I was beyond excited – I loved her Spanish and enthusiasm. Though she later responded to my question, “¿Hablas Español?”, do you speak Spanish?, with “solo un poquito”, only a little, we continued the clinic in solely Spanish, getting to know each other, cracking jokes, and having fun. By the end, I was getting schooled in a 1v1 game. Not only was this participant so enthusiastic, but she had an awesome jump shot.
I share these moments because I believe I have learned more about life from the individuals with whom I work than I could ever teach them through basketball.
Though I did not know enough to understand this at first, Easy Hoops is much more than basketball. It is a community full of individuals with “ganas de vivir,” a desire and will to live with the utmost optimism. Easy Hoops is a community for individuals to connect, learn from each other, and truly, “shoot for their best self”. For more information about Easy Hoops, please visit EasyHoops.net, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram!