Lasting lessons basketball taught me part one: An introduction

The first principle of my blog is “Creating Ecosystems of Success”. I originally published this series on the Examiner back in 2014, and with ‘March Madness’ upon us yet again I’ve decided to republish it. As a teen I had dreams of being a basketball player just like a lot of kids – a dream one must have lots of ability, drive, and luck to achieve. I didn’t play basketball beyond high school, but the lessons I learned on my high school team – not all of them happy and pleasant, helped me as I progressed into adulthood and into my Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) career. I’m actually working on an ambitious writing project chronicling that journey. The themes of that project are captured in this four-part series.

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Dr. Ken Jones my high school basketball coach was a true student and scholar of the game. In addition to teaching us as much as he could about the fundamentals of basketball, he was also interested in the psychology of sports and wanted to teach life skills to his players. He frequently told us, “As much as I want you guys to become good basketball players, I also want you to become good people.”

Right around the time of tryouts one year, he gave all of us an article from USA Today titled; The joy of victory is why sports exist, by Jeff Riggenbach. While the author argued that the main reason for competition is the thrill of victory, he also stated, “One of the principal reasons we like to see kids get into sports in the first place is what they can learn from the experience right?”

Important lessons they learn include:

• How to set a goal and work toward it
• How to coordinate their own efforts with those of their teammates
• How to achieve and maintain the flexibility to respond to the ever-changing moment
• Making quick alterations in plans, strategies and tactics

He continues, “These are lessons that would benefit anyone, not only on the playing field or court, but also in business, politics and every other sphere of human life. To learn these lessons, you don’t need to win, necessarily. But you do need to want to win, and you do need to try with all of your might to win.”

Though unable to play even pickup basketball these days for medical reasons, the game is still frequently on my mind; the Xs and Os, the strategies, and the longing for that feeling of competition. Most importantly the many lessons the game taught me about life are always fresh on my mind. With March Madness upon us, this next series will discuss the lasting lessons basketball taught me about life, people and success, and how those lessons have translated into the adult world.

Some of the best memories of my life were my years on my high school basketball team at Hutch-Tech High School in Buffalo, NY. Similar to some of my teammates at that time, it was an experience that didn’t go exactly as planned. Even though it had its share of heartbreaks, it was also a molding experience for me and those experiences have continued to play out throughout my life well after high school.

The players and arenas have changed with every new experience, but the themes and lessons have translated into adulthood. Learning about dribbling, hook shots, and proper defensive techniques were fun, but basketball taught me so much more. It taught me about the most important game of all, the game of life.

Even for young people who don’t go on to play big time college sports, participating in high school interscholastic athletics can be a very rewarding experience which can impart important life lessons. Most of these lessons will translate into the adult world, the workforce and interpersonal relationships. This series will therefore be a reflection on the lessons basketball taught me and how they’ve translated into my life, my career and my many relationships with people along the way. The lessons will be broken up into the following categories:

• Life lessons
• People, Teamwork and Leadership
• Success in life

Many of these lessons are universal and could be gleaned for example from the documentary Hoop Dreams, a very moving film for me which tracked the high school basketball careers of Arthur Agee and William Gates in the early 1990s. Though their basketball careers were much more successful than my own, their experiences, trials and tribulations were similar in many ways to my own.

This series will be continued in part two of the Lasting lessons basketball taught me. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you’ve found value here and think it will benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site. Lastly follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.


Author: anwaryusef

Anwar Y. Dunbar is a Regulatory Scientist. Being a naturally curious person, he is also a student of all things. He earned his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Michigan and his Bachelor’s Degree in General Biology from Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU). Prior to starting the Big Words Blog Site, Anwar published and contributed to numerous research articles in competitive scientific journals reporting on his research from graduate school and postdoctoral years. After falling in love with writing, he contributed to the now defunct, and the Edvocate where he regularly wrote about: Education-related stories/topics, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Financial Literacy; as well as conducted interviews with notable individuals such as actor and author Hill Harper. Having many influences, one of his most notable heroes is author, intellectual and speaker, Malcolm Gladwell, author of books including Outliers and David and Goliath. Anwar has his hands in many, many activities. In addition to writing, Anwar actively mentors youth, works to spread awareness of STEM careers, serves on the Board of Directors of the Friends of the David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium, serves as Treasurer for the JCSU Washington, DC Alumni Chapter, and is active in the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace Ministry at the Alfred Street Baptist Church. He also tutors in the subjects of biology, chemistry and physics. Along with his multi-talented older brother Amahl Dunbar (designer of the Big Words logos, inventor and a plethora of other things), Anwar is a “Fanboy” and really enjoys Science-Fiction and Superhero movies including but not restricted to Captain America Civil War, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Prometheus. He is a proud native of Buffalo, NY.

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