Pick-Up Basketball Retirement Notice

Effective in 2019, “The Juggernaut” is retiring from all pick up basketball games. In the past year, I discovered the following about myself:

My first step is gone,

My hops are gone,

My muscular stature is now working against me,

My Achilles are tight,

My hamstrings hate me,

Ibuprofen is my friend,

My mind is telling me yes, but my body (my body) is telling me noooooooo,

I am always the oldest guy on the court,

I am still wearing And1’s and partying like it’s 1999,

I regret my decision to play every morning for the next four days afterward,

People now say, “Oh you are still playing, good for you!“

My wife shakes her head in disgust as I can no longer hide my soreness/injury from her.

Streetball has been good to me for the past 38 years. But, year 39 has been hell. So, goodbye old friend. I am letting go and putting myself out to pasture to heal.

The Gift of Failure

“Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.” – J.K. Rowling

2018-04-07 10.48.48

A couple of weeks ago, you tried out for an AAU elite travel team. Now, you already how much I absolutely detest AAU teams – although, I’ll admit, it has allowed me to see some awesome locations, meet wonderful people, and play against some of the most talented basketball players to ever walk on a court. The problem is, I have also witnessed the dark side of elite basketball — but, I won’t get into that now; that is for another time.

Honestly, Honey, as we wait for this letter to come in the mail, I keep hoping we receive bad news.

I honestly hope you don’t make the team.

Bear with me…

Listen, I may be a little biased, but whenever you walk into the gym, you are the best player there. You have the size, you have the speed, you can shoot, you can use your left hand, and you have the drive. But, more than anything, you have fun, you are social, you are humble, and you are smart; and that is what I love (and will continue to love) most about your game. I am proud of you every time you step out on the court because I know your competitiveness will compel you to make the most of your abilities as well as make your teammates better. Yes, I will admit, as your coach, when your team falls short — or when you have a terrible game, I am upset. I am upset until I look over at you, joking and laughing with your teammates as if you guys don’t have a care in the world. Basketball is just a game to you; you know you are good at it, but you are there to have fun and socialize.

That being said…

If you are selected for an elite AAU team, there is a whole new dynamic to consider…

Winning.

Man, o’ man. Little girl, you will be expected to win. Not only will you be expected to show up to a tournament and produce, but, when you do not produce, you will sit the bench until you are able to produce (which could be a while dependent on if your replacement has a hot hand). You will need to practice your craft on your own time — no excuses! It does not matter if you are the best player on any given day; you need to be the best player on that specific day. The expectation is for you to show up to a tournament, hours away from your home, and claw and scratch your way to a championship. Period.

Look, I am not here to bash AAU or crush your dream, but, my job as your father is to protect you. That job requires me to deem what is, and is not, appropriate for you given your age and maturity level, whether that be cell phones, music, movies, boys, and yes, basketball. And frankly, right now, I don’t think you are ready.

Is there a side of me that wants you to make it? Yes! But I have come to realize that it is the part of me that is selfish, self-serving, and competitive. Of course I want to show everybody that I produce the best of the best. But that is not right.

So, here’s to you staying young, having fun, and not making the team.

2018-03-30 20.50.06-2

———————————————————————————————————————————-

For the record:

Weeks later, I found out that you, in fact, did not make it…

“Unfortunately, She was not selected for our 6th grade team.  We had so many girls at that level trying out this year and looked at each one very carefully before making our decision. 

We highly encourage your daughter to try out again next October.

Thank you.”

Okay. Now, let’s make them regret that decision…

Father of the Year Moment #99: I got 99 problems…

“Dad. What is a good number in Basketball?”

“23”

“No. Seriously?”

“23.”

“How about 2?”

“Yup, that’s fine.”

“Well, I picked 99!”

“Wait. Wha?!”

Are you shittin’ me?! 99?! What basketball coach lets a kid pick 99?! What is she — starting at left end now?!

Just imagine:

“Hey, who’s your daughter?”

“Number 99, The one who’s fouling the shit out of everyone.”

He did this on purpose. 😡

10 Things I Learned from Taking My Daughter to a WNBA All-Star Game:

2018-07-28 14.43.00

  1. Get your Merchandise Early: The merchandise shop in the arena is a mad house. I went in for a jersey and ended up partnering with a mom that I had never met before so that we could both walk out of there with our goods and our limbs intact. If you love personal your space, don’t step foot in there.
  2. Be Prepared to Pay for Convenience: If you want a good parking spot, pay for it. If you want to get good seats, pay for it. If you want a hotel closer to the arena so you won’t have to do much walking, pay. Take the dive, don’t complain. The All-Star game is a bucket list experiences; you might as well live it up.
  3. No Cap on Drinks: This may be specific to the Target Center, but when you order a bottled drink at the concession stand, the venders remove the cap before they give it to you. I don’t know why this is, but I think it is so you spill you drink, which will make you pay another six bucks to quench your thirst.
  4. See the Sights: During the NBA All-Star Weekend, there are different venues/events that you can attend when you are not at the practices or the game. The WNBA All-Star weekend does not provide as many opportunities. Make sure you map out what you are going to do on your down time. Minneapolis was awesome! With places such as the Walker Museum, Minneapolis Sculpture Gardens, Target Field, Mall of America (Bloomington), Minnesota Children’s Museum, Como Zoo, and much more; if planned correctly, there is no end to your adventure.
  5. Entertainment: If you ever have the opportunity to see the WNBA All-Star Game, you will not be disappointed. There may not be the flashy dunks that you would see in an NBA All-Star Game, but you will some of the best personalities on the court that you could ever hope for. One of the highlights of the All-Star practice? The team dance off… If you don’t know what I am talking about, you missed out.
  6. Game recognizes game: It is a shame that female athletes do not get the recognition for their talents as their male counterparts; and I am not talking about the business side of things (that is for another point). What I am talking about is an overall lack of respect for the game.

Look, it does not matter who is playing basketball. If the person has game, you respect it. I was shocked at some of the comments on social media regarding the WNBA, its players, and the All-Star game. Some of those comments were from male players, both amateur and professional; and that’s damn shame.

My best friend growing up was a girl who used to run both boys up and down the court. She was the only girl in the city who was allowed to play in the men’s league, averaged 35+ ppg. in high school, was the 22nd best point guard in the country, had multiple college scholarship offers, and played at both Ohio State and the University of Nevada Reno. I never realized the trials and tribulations she had to go through to have men recognize her game. Shame on me for that. I was too ignorant to see it then. Now that I have daughters, I will not let that happen now.

I would love to see the support from more NBA athletes in terms of sporting WNBA jerseys or attending the All-Star game (shout out to those NBA athletes that did make the trek to the game, and to those NBA stars who are supportive).

  1. Game recognizes game (business): As a black man, I have always stressed fully utilizing the power of your dollar. But what I failed to do is utilize it when it comes to other aspects of humanity, including sexual orientation. I looked high and low for a WNBA All-Star jersey only to be disappointed when I was unable to find one. Why is there not a WNBA All-Star Jersey? Because it does not make as much profit as an NBA All-Star Jersey? Come on Nike, shame on you!. The least you can do is make a custom jersey. Hell, charge double for the customization.

For me, this is mostly about the trickle down for my daughters. There is an impact to be made with little boys and girls. There is nothing cooler than walking into a sports outlet and seeing a Maya Moore jersey next to a Kevin Garnett jersey. Game recognizes game. Period.

I have stock in that Nike, I may look at selling. Will it make a difference? Who knows. But a dollar is a dollar.

  1. A Woman— Dunking!: I don’t care what anyone says – you can see it multiple times on television, but to watch, in person, a woman dunking is something out of this world.
  2. Height I could only dream of: The event program lists each of the athlete’s bio, so it should come to no surprise that these athletes are tall. But, it is a totally different thing to actually stand next to them. Excuse my ignorance, but to walk up to a 6’6” (or taller) female to ask for an autograph is pretty daunting. Luckily for me, these athletes are some of the most down-to-earth individuals that you could ever meet.
  3. Once and a lifetime experience: If you ever get the opportunity to see an All-Star Game, do it (especially if you have young children). To see all of the greatest athletes to ever play the game together in one venue is a sight to behold. I am so glad my daughter and I took advantage of the opportunity to attend.

2018-07-28 16.44.55

Father of the Year Moment #584: Pop Quiz.

Name an appropriate time to yell, “Are you F#$@ing kidding me!?”

a) At a Super Bowl party after your favorite team drops a pass in the end zone.

b) Somebody rear-ends you coming out of your parking space at Walmart.

c) Missing the Powerball Jackpot by one digit.

d)Your child does a #2 30-seconds after a change.

e)At an elementary 3-on-3 tournament where most of the participants are under the age of 10.

Apparently, for one parent at the Local 3-on-3 tournament, the answer today was “E”. 🏀🤬🕊️🦏

#Keepitclassy #WTF #cantbethefirsttime #yourecool #hatersgonnahate

Father of the Year Moment #641 – Leadership (I thank God every day for the mentors I had growing up):

Earlier this year, My oldest daughter and I had a conversation about leadership on and off the basketball court. Since her father is very long winded, she got more than she wanted:
Okay. you want to be a leader, then be a leader. But be careful; you will be criticized for your decisions. Everybody wants to take a leadership role until it is time for the criticism. As soon as the criticism comes, they will tuck their tale and hide in the shadows. Don’t hide from it; Learn from it. Use it to make yourself and the people around you better.
If you want to be a leader, then take adversity head on. If you are truly right about something, then you have to fight for it; be smart about how you choose to fight. Choose craftiness over brute force.
If you want to be a leader, then know that there are two things that are extremely dangerous to you, and to your group – sincere ignorance, and conscientious stupidity. Eliminate both.
If you want to be a leader, you need to be dynamic. Know the differing types of leadership and apply the correct type of leadership as situations arise. Find a balance between using data and using your heart in decision making. Too much data, and people will think that you are cold, too much heart, and people will think you are blinding yourself to what is right in front of you.
If you want to be a leader, then represent the whole. Leaders never speak as individuals, they are always representative of the team. Give the team the credit when things go right, take the blame when things go wrong. When they do go wrong, first look at yourself as part of the problem, then assess if there are people who are the problem – deal with them head on. If you have something to say, then say it to their faces. Never hide amongst the faction – that’s cowardice.
If you want to lead, then be quiet and lead by example. Anybody can be loud and demanding to get things done. Leaders themselves do what needs to be done. Leaders influence others without them knowing that they are being lead. They lead because there is a need. When people see you are willing fulfill that need, they will follow. When you choose to speak up, speak up for things that you are passionate about and are willing to sacrifice for – you may be called to do so.
If you want to lead, then don’t expect a leadership title. Leaders don’t need titles. Even if you get a title, nobody gives a damn. Leaders are leaders because they work harder than the rest. Make sure you work hard when people are not looking at you; share your hard work when they are. You do not need a statue to tell you how nice you are. Let others talk about your work ethic; you don’t need to proclaim it. Work behind the scenes.
If you want to be a leader, then expect to sacrifice greatly. You will sacrifice time; you will need it to perfect your craft. You will sacrifice friends; your friends will see the path you’ve chosen and understand. You will sacrifice relationships unless you choose people who are on your path and/or have common interests. It will be trying, but remember – the difference between a moment and a movement is sacrifice.
If you want to lead, then expect the haters. You will have critics everywhere. People will say, “Well, I would’ve done it this way…” But don’t listen – they’ve never done it. When asked to step up, they never will.
If you want to lead, then expect to be alone. Not so much “by yourself” physically (that will also happen), but mentally. You are carving out a path, and that path holds uncertainty. Uncertainty is uncomfortable. Uniformity is comfortable. If you want to lead, always choose uncertainty.

Leadership is not easily attained and is even harder to keep. Leadership isn’t for everyone. So, if you choose to follow, that’s okay. Just choose who you follow wisely. Don’t let someone tell you that they are leading you to the mountain top, only to find yourself in a crevasse.

Something tells me that she will never ask for advice again…

10 Things That I Have Learned From Coaching My Daughter’s Youth Girls’ Basketball Teams

  1. The girls team game seems to be more organized: In between games in any particular tournament, I get to watch some of the youth boys play. My, oh, my – it is impressive how many fouls occur in one half. When a person goes up for a lay-up, it sounds like a round of applause.
  2. Parents will cheer extra loud as a way to intimidate your team: This is extremely annoying. Parents who do this end up with a reputation. As you are reading this, at least two parents came to mind, didn’t they?
  3. You have to be very versatile in your coaching: There is definitely a fine line between pushing your athletes to be better and being overbearing. Some players need to be poked with a stick, while others need constant, polite encouragement. Know the difference! There is nothing worse than a girl crying while she is running up and down the court. Yup, you look like an asshole.
  4. Not everybody follows the tournament rules: If the tournament rules say “no zone defense”, then you probably shouldn’t have your tallest player(s) standing in the paint – that is not the definition of help defense. It is youth basketball. You’re an asshole.
  5. Poor, poor, referees: Although some are terrible (there’s no denying that), it does not give you a reason to yell or belittle them. Look, I was a ref, and I know first-hand that there is no “winning” for them. They go home with minimal pay and no trophy to show for it. There is a reason why there are not enough of them to go around. Either as a parent, or as a coach, try shaking their hand and telling them thank you after every game – no matter the outcome.
  6. Some teams choose not to develop all of their players: In high school constantly played summer high school basketball tournaments against teams who where ranked in the USA Today Top 25 (this was in 1998, before ESPN and MaxPreps showcased all of them). A common theme among a lot of those teams is that some players where way more developed than others, which, to me was sad, because those under-performing players were only glad just to be on a great team. The same happens in youth basketball; just because you have an athlete who is a 5’11” fifth-grade beast in the post now, does not mean that she will be the tallest person on the court when she is in high school. If she stops growing (and has minimal ball-handling skills), backing her opponents down in the post for a layup will not be much of an option.
  7. The most aggressive girls usually win: This does not mean that your girls have to fight, cheat, or be dirty to win. But they do have to have a “never back down,” “never say die attitude.” If you have a group that isn’t afraid to get on the ground and mess up their uniforms, consider yourself extremely fortunate.
  8. Always remember the social aspect: For the most part, it’s true – girls just want to have fun. If they are not having fun, they will usually quit the sport sometime around sixth grade.
  9. Be careful about scheduling games: There are so many tournaments out there (damn near 3 to 5 per week). If you are not careful, you could end up playing in a tournament every week from December until June. And with each tournament having a three-game minimum, you team could end up with a rigid NBA schedule. Yikes!
  10. Go with the hand you are dealt: Sure, you can recruit the best of the best in your neighborhood or city, but there is something about playing with the team you got. You will go through your bumps and bruises, but you will end up with a great return on your investment.

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Bonus – Eater beware: Travel squad itself can be spendy venture,  but the concession stands are enough to break the bank. There are plenty of cheap meal options when you are in a well-populated city, but if the venue is in the middle of nowhere, pack your lunch.

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