Basketball has played a major role in shaping the person I am today. While most people generally believe that sports only teach you how to win games or be physically strong, I believe sports have a far greater impact on your life. They help you develop real-world skills that can be applied to all areas of your life.
I have listed some of the most important life lessons basketball has taught me. Although I’m sure that these life lessons can be acquired through any sport, in fact, through whatever passion you may choose to pursue, I have related these skills to basketball, as it is the sport I play. They are not in the order of importance as I feel each one is as crucial in life as the other.
- There is no substitute for hard work
If you really want to excel at something, hard work is the only way. When I want to perfect my jump shot or make more free throws, the only way I can do it is by practice. It is also essential to practice the right way. I remember my coach once told me, “Don’t practice till you get it right, practice till you can’t get it wrong.”
It is the same with any other field in life. If you want to get better at school or get a raise at your workplace, the only way you can do it is by hard work. There are no shortcuts to this. We are always taught to dream big but what we don’t realize most often is that our dreams don’t work unless we do. There is no substitute to hard work, ever.
- Believe in yourself
In the sport of basketball, you cannot succeed unless you believe in yourself and your teammates. It is this belief that gives you confidence. You must believe you will make that crucial free throw or make the buzzer-beater, which will win you the game. That is the first step to move forward.
Similarly in life, you must believe in yourself. You must have faith in your abilities. Without this belief and faith in your capabilities, you cannot be successful or happy.
- Be unselfish and be a team player
Basketball is a team sport and unless each player plays his/her role and contributes for the benefit of the team as a whole, it is not possible to win. Coordination and teamwork is an essential part of any team.
Similarly in life, we only grow if we are willing to contribute, share and cooperate.
As the adage goes, “If you play your heart out for what your jersey says on the front, people will remember what it says on the back.”
- Overcoming adversity and obstacles
Sports teach you to overcome adversity. What might, in your opinion, be a wrong call by the referee may cost you a game or your key players might injure themselves before an important game and upset your game plan. In such situations you learn to overcome adversity and temporary failures.
Life too isn’t fair and much of it involves overcoming setbacks. You develop the mentality to overcome adversity through sport.
“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” –Michael Jordan
- The importance of discipline
For a sportsperson, discipline is essential. Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. Even at this level, the current NBA MVP (Most Valuable Player), Stephen Curry, has to pay 100 dollars for every turnover (after three turnovers in a game) to his mother. His mother came up with this idea because of one recurring weakness: his high turnover numbers.
Learning discipline will help throughout your life, whether it’s studying every day for a test or doing your work ahead of time. To be extraordinary all you need is discipline. Excuses don’t work (no matter how ‘valid’ they are).
- Making sacrifices and time management
In order to balance sports and other activities, you have to make certain sacrifices. This, for me, would mean cutting down on leisure so that I can balance studies and sport. A lot of time management is involved here too.
In life too, nothing worth having comes easy. Sacrifices need to be made at every step in order to achieve what you aspire to. Through sports you learn how to do this and how to utilize your time for your greater good.
- Dealing with success and failure
Playing a sport involves both wins and losses. You learn to be proud of your success without demeaning your opponents. You learn to accept failures with grace and come back stronger next time. With time you realize it’s not really the win or loss that makes a difference. If you give it everything you’ve got, no matter what the outcome, you can walk away with your head held high.
In life too, everything does not always go your way. There are highs and lows but if you continue to give whatever you do your very best you will ultimately emerge triumphant.
- Learning to never give up
In basketball, you are taught to never give up. A few minutes can change the game. Even on days when your shots just don’t go in you have to keep trying and helping your team in other areas. You need to contribute in the defense, go after loose balls, make good passes and help in any way you can. You can never give up – not on the game, not on your team, not on yourself. You keep trying till the very last second.
Even injury should not be a reason you give up. I can tell from personal experience that injuries have made me stronger.
In life too, there will be a million occasions where you will want to take the easy way out and give up. But you need to hold on and brave the storm. This is what we learn from sports – to never give up.
- Taking charge
In basketball sometimes you have to step up, you have to take the decision to make the game-winning shot in a close game. You have to take charge of the situation. You have to take responsibility to stop that shot to avoid overtime in the final seconds of the game.
In life too, you have to take charge for your own actions. You need to be responsible for your own dealings. Sports make you better equipped to handle your problems and take charge.
- Respecting others
Through sports you learn to respect – your coach, your teammates, the referee and even your opponents. You learn to acknowledge that sometimes your opponent might be better. You learn that without respect winning doesn’t mean anything. You learn to never put another player down.
In life, without respecting others you cannot get anywhere. Strong people never put others down; they lift them up. Sports teach you just that.
In basketball, much like life, there are ups and downs, success and failure, endless challenges and obstacles. Through basketball and all other sports, you learn to tackle similar situations that you have to face in life.