If you know me at all, you know I love sports. Hockey is my #1 (Go Flyers Go!!!), but basketball is a very close #2.
I learned to love the game in elementary school, and played all throughout high school. I fell in love with the game, just as Michael Jordan was entering his peak years, and the NBA was filled with superstars, from Magic Johnson with the Lakers, to Larry Bird in Boston. From Patrick Ewing in New York, to Charles Barkley with Philly…Clyde Drexler in Portland and Dominique Wilkins in Atlanta, to David Robinson in San Antonio. It was an amazing time to become a hoops fan.
But, like many kids my age, fell under the spell of Air Jordan, and I remain a Chicago Bulls fan for life, though the Toronto Raptors are a clear #2!
Also, because I was a Jordan fan, I began to cheer for his alma mater, the University of North Carolina, and their storied Tar Heels.
A U.S. college hoops tradition, is that after the final home game of each season, the graduating seniors get a chance to speak to the fans, their teammates and coaches.
The Heels’ point guard, Marcus Paige, took the opportunity to thank everyone, but saved special praise for Carolina head coach Roy Williams, thanking his coach for the impact he has had on him, not only as a player, but as a person.
Seeing Marcus Paige speak to his coach Roy Williams, reminded me of the best coach I ever had (who wasn’t my dad, of course).
Sometimes, we get so caught up in winning or losing, that we forget that the reality is, most of us won’t play our chosen sports at such a high level. Yet, still, we worry so much about winning and losing, that we lose sight of the fact that one of the most important things about sports, is that they help us build character. We learn to work together as a team. We learn how to lead. We learn how to compete with honour. We learn how to form a bond with teammates, and celebrate our victories, yet, we learn to empathize with the defeated.
The importance of a good coach can’t be overstated. Back in Grade Seven, Don Lockhart and his family moved to my hometown of Conquest, and he was a big basketball guy. He’d played and coached for years, and brought his enthusiasm to his new job as teacher and principal of our elementary school.
We played a lot more hoops in school than we ever had before, and through all the free throw contests, 3-on-3 tournaments and coaching tips (“square up, and use the backboard.”), it sparked a love of the game in me that remains strong to this day.
He coached me in summer basketball, he often took our teams to Saskatoon, in his big ol’ van, to catch U of S Huskie basketball, and then I was lucky again to have Don as my coach in Grade 12.
We had a pretty good team, but I never played a whole lot, in Grades 10 and 11. But we had a second team in Grade 12, and I opted to play for the less-competitve “B” team. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Our team was a lot more competitve than most people expected. We won a few tournaments, finished the season with a .500 record, and I had the best season of my high school career, averaging double digits, in both scoring and rebounding. I even knocked down a few three-pointers (which were never my forte)!
He also made me a captain that season, and let me help lead the team, and it made me a better player. Not only that, but it made me far more confident in myself, and I believed in myself a lot more than I ever did before.
That’s the key…
Yeah, it’s great to win, but the great coaches aren’t just about X’s & O’s, and wins and losses. If they do things right, they teach you to become better people. Don Lockhart certainly did that for me. Thanks, Coach.