-by Aaron Rigdon, Therapeutic Child Specialist Supervisor
March, in like a lion, out like a lamb. The month of fair weather, Spring Break, and every college basketball fan’s favorite time of the year: March Madness!!! It’s nearly impossible to mention March without someone referencing this hugely popular annual tournament. It’s not only incredibly entertaining, but it’s an opportunity for every player and team to showcase what they’ve worked so hard to accomplish, what they’ve lived and breathed all year long. But they don’t do it alone. Every bit of hard work and determination is a team effort. Being a lifelong basketball enthusiast, I’ve concluded that basketball, like so many sports, is a microcosm of life. Every lesson I’ve learned through basketball, be it playing or coaching, can be applied to everyday situations and they are lessons I strive to pass down to my children as well as the youth I work with in this community. For a person to be successful in life, they must be determined, hard-working, and focused on an end goal. They also need to be adept at communication and working well with others, as almost nothing we do in our lives is a solitary endeavor. Basketball is no different. Teamwork, determination, and good communication are imperative to the success of not only each individual player, but the team as a whole. These principles can be applied in almost every situation you may find yourself in, in every office building in the world, in every relationship you will ever have regardless of the type.
A team is defined as a group of people working together to achieve a common objective. In my work with at-risk youth I use basketball as a teaching tool to encourage team building. A main component in team building is trust. Trust for the person beside you, but also trust in you as well. As part of a team, every person is responsible for their role, whether large or small, in accomplishing a shared goal. A lot of the kids I come across in my line of work have severe trust issues. Trust isn’t something you can hand out freely, it’s something that must be earned over time. I’ve noticed when assembling groups of kids that it usually starts out disorganized and chaotic with plenty of arguing tossed into the mix. With a little time and communication however, things begin to take shape naturally. Leaders emerge, hard workers become evident, ideas start to flow freely. Ironically, as soon as these natural leaders step forward and begin delegating tasks, everything just seems to fall effortlessly into place. Why is this? It’s because there is now a collective focus on a mutual goal. Everyone knows their job and they trust the people around them to do their part. Toward the end of a basketball season, the team morphs into family and the kids that started out a little ambivalent have realized just how rewarding it is to become a part of something bigger than themselves. In teaching the same principles to at-risk youth, they too learn how to integrate such lessons into everyday life. They learn not only to trust others, but more importantly how to become trustworthy. They learn responsibility and accountability. They learn how to effectively communicate, as well as how to give and receive constructive criticism without offense. This teamwork mentality, the skills I myself learned growing up playing basketball, have served me very well in my lifetime. I believe teambuilding to be the cornerstone of a successful life. You’d be hard pressed to find a thoroughly accomplished person who hasn’t surrounded themselves with a fantastic team, or support system. Who would have thought that the soccer team you played on as a kid, the little league team you were a part of, or the volleyball team you joined in high school would set you up with the skills you’d need for the rest of your life?
So as March Madness comes and goes this year, let’s revel in every win, shed a tear or two over every defeat, and vow never to forget all the hours of hard work, all the strength and determination, all the self-sacrifice made for the good of the team. Regardless of who goes home with the title, it’s not about who wins or loses, it’s about the bond you’ve forged, it’s about the family you’ve made, and it’s about the lessons you’ve learned that will serve you long past the clock runs out.