The Heart of a Champion

I coach my 10 year old son’s basketball team.   It’s a great group of 9 and 10 year olds.   Yesterday, we lost in the championship game of the season.   It was a tough, close game.  We had some chances, but we couldn’t pull it off.    Our team played incredibly hard, never gave up, and it was really symbolic of our season in general.   We had a lot of highs and some lows, but the kids always played hard and never gave up in any game.

After the game, about half the kids on our team were happy go lucky and didn’t seem to be affected by the loss.   The other half were in various stages of tearing up, crying, and sobbing.   I struggled with the right thing to say to not only console them, but to also let them know that what they were feeling was okay.   In the end, I told them that it was okay for it to hurt, that it’s supposed to hurt for a little while.    I also said that this loss shouldn’t ruin their lives, but at the same time I wanted to validate that when you play that hard, and give that much, losing is painful.  If you care at all, losing hurts.   And, I told them to remember this feeling whenever they play in the future as a way of motivating themselves to play even harder.   At the end, though, I still felt a little inadequate in what I said and the way I said it.   Not to mention, I was hurting from the loss also.   Who was going to console me?  🙂

Andre McCarter played college basketball at UCLA for John Wooden, and was the point guard on Wooden’s final championship team in 1975.   He played in the NBA for three years as well.  McCarter also currently coaches kids here in the West End of the San Fernando Valley, and he has a sort of clinic that he runs every Saturday at a local park.   For two hours or so, he leads whichever kids show up that week through his unique blend of drills and exercises.   He’s also coached one of the boys on my team for the last couple years, and my son worked with him for a couple weeks last year as well.

He attended our game yesterday.

Last night, he sent an email to the boy that he’s been coaching for the last couple years.  Here’s what it said:

Hello Jacob, 

Congratulations on your team’s championship run! You get to be sad for a few days but keep the memory of losing that game every time you are tired while practicing. Use the loss to motivate you to work harder so the next time you make it to a championship you will be more ready. It took Michael Jordan 5 years and Lebron James 7 years before they won an NBA championship so do not feel so bad. Charles Barkley has no championships, so not every good player wins a championship and Barkley is a Hall of Fame level player.  

Both teams played hard, it was fun watching. Your team never gave up, you never quit. You fought to the end! That is what champions do.  

Keep working hard.  See you when you come back to workouts.

Coach McCarter

Can you imagine being a 10 year old and receiving this email or this kind of email from a person like this?   Who he is, what he wrote, and the way he wrote it are so compelling and inspiring.    I wish we could all get emails like this when we’re young or not so young, whether it has to do with basketball or just a bad day at work.    I’m sure this email made Jacob want to get up, start practicing right away, and run through a wall for Coach McCarter.

And then this…last night he also sent an email to me:

Hello Coach Faye & The Assistant Coach, 

Congratulations on your team’s run to the championship. Great coaching job! Both teams played hard, it was fun watching. # 24 was the difference in the game. 

Your team never gave up and that is a victory of its own. 

Continued Success,

Coach McCarter

The type of person who would send this email is the type of person we should all strive to be.  I guess there was someone to console me afterall.     Only one problem…I now need a wall to run through.