A game featuring two equally matched teams of kids, roughly between the ages of 8 and 17 (none taller than 5’9”), was nearing its end when I reached the basketball court yesterday evening.
Sitting on one sideline, a group of teenage girls giggled, sent text messages and discussed ”important” things like the upcoming Justin Bieber concert and Chris Brown’s U.K. legal woes. On the opposite sideline I watched players showcase their affinity for shooting and dribbling while displaying obvious disdain for anything remotely resembling defense, as evidenced by a lead that changed with every possession.
The absence of any real competition forced me to shift my focus from “winning” to “breaking a pretty good sweat.” However, when the game finished, the high school guys decided they didn’t want to take the chance on possibly being embarrassed by a taller, older guy who was the only person on the court who could dunk. The younger kids followed suit and soon I was on the court shooting by myself. That is, until a tiny neighborhood kid named Evan walked up to me and said, “Do you want to play one-on-one?”
At first, I thought he was joking and wondered if he had taken the time to assess the impossible mission he was about to undertake. (I’m 6’3” 180 lbs. and according to Evan, his doctor measured him at 3’5 and 64.5 lbs.) Then he stuck out his small, pale hands and gave me quick nod, nonchalantly asking for the basketball as if I was one of his fellow third graders. Remarkably polite, he said “thank you “each and every time I rebounded one of his misses and passed the ball back to him… every single time!
As Evan warmed up, struggling to keep his glasses from sliding down his suddenly sweaty nose, I made the decision to take it easy on him. Shortly thereafter, I realized that was a mistake. After scoring the first basket of the game with relative ease and virtually non-existent defense on my part, the diminutive young towhead made it exceedingly clear he was not accepting any charity.
“C’mon, stop taking it easy on me and play hard,” Evan said. “It’s the only way I will get better. “
The game was filled with the obligatory traveling, carrying and double dribbling associated with playing an 8-year- old, but there was a sense of determination and self-confidence that I had never seen in a child this young, especially facing such insurmountable odds. It was quite a refreshing change. And, when Evan missed a shot or made a mistake, he didn’t complain or make excuses; he just hustled to get his own rebound and actually beat me to a couple of loose balls.
Our rubber match game of “Sweet 16” was cut short by Evan’s mom, who shouted from across the park that it was time to go home just as I was about to hit the game-winning shot. So, he technically won with 15 points to my 14 and interestingly, he taught me a lesson or two. Actually, five is more accurate and here they are:
Five Things I Learned from Evan:
1. Situations are truly what you make of them.
2. Losing now can provide an opportunity for winning later.
3. Always give your best, even when it seems like it won’t be enough.
4. Expect those around you to give their best, even if they are “better.”
5. Politeness is an asset, especially during adversity.
So, when I start to feel a situation is too much for me to handle, I will think of Evan and his can-do attitude. If he can do it, so can I... and so can you. It's simply the power of perspective. Click HERE for a funny video relating to the power of perspective.