March Madness: 5 Life Lessons From Basketball

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Basketball. It's on everyone's mind right now. Whether you like to play it, watch it, or just endlessly fill in and refill in brackets; basketball is the sport of the moment.

It's also my favorite sport?I've played since I was old enough (and far enough away from the ground) to start dribbling. I can still hear my dad: "Take the ball with you to the post office and dribble the whole way. You'll never get better if you don't practice, practice, practice?and don't just use your right hand either!" So I would put my right hand behind my back and make myself dribble with only my left hand all the way to the post office and back (using my right hand to carry the mail on the way home).

Challenging myself to grow in weak areas wasn't the only life lesson I took away from my years of basketball?here are four more ? random, unrelated, and in no particular order:

Assists Are as Valuable as Points

Though basketball is my favorite sport to play, I have a very hard time watching it. Now, I'll admit that part of this is because I'm jealous. I want to be the one playing. But it's more than that. When I watch professional basketball ? and, yes, even college basketball ? I get frustrated with the apparent egos on the court. Everyone is shooting all the time! It never seems like they set up a play, strategically pass the ball, or even get in position for a decent shot. Now, I know that many NCAA fans are groaning right now, asserting that this is most certainly not the case. And it's probably not always, but in general that's what I see?and hear. I mean, when was the last time you heard which player had the top assists in a game? You always hear who scored the most points, but you rarely hear mention of who made the perfect pass that allowed the basket. There's no glory in it. So I suppose it's no wonder everyone wants to shoot and score, and no one seems to want to set up a play or pass the ball.

Learning to take satisfaction from an assist is a hard lesson in humility, but it's an important lesson ? especially for leaders. As leaders, we're often used to getting accolades. We work hard, we accept and ask for lots of responsibility, and many of us "earned" our positions as leaders based on past accomplishments and success. And (those of you like me) we are often motivated by praise. So to be the one behind the scenes ? the one setting up the play and making the perfect pass for someone else to score ? well, it's not always our strong suit. But a good leader is a good teammate, building others up, strategically helping her teammates score, and being excited for them when they do. A strong leader recognizes that the assist played an important part in the score, but needs no recognition for it.

March28, 2008 at 5:48 PM

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