A LETTER FROM BILL WALTON
If there is one lesson I tried to impart to my four boys when they were growing up, it was to find something in life that they really loved to do. Chase your dreams, discover what you like doing the most -- because that’s most likely what you’re going to end up doing in life.
For me, when I was growing up, basketball was what I loved the most. Neither one of my parents were especially athletic -- I can’t recall my Dad ever shooting hoops with me -- but he and Mom were extremely supportive of my passion for the game. They knew from early on that playing basketball is where I wanted to be.
With my own kids -- Adam, who played at LSU, Nate, who played at Princeton, Luke, who played at Arizona, and Chris, who played at San Diego State -- I tried very hard to expose them to a number of sports when they were growing up. I can recall them playing youth baseball and soccer, throwing a frisbee around, and even going to the beach and bodysurfing. And all in their own way each came to basketball too.
I made it clear I didn’t want them to play basketball just because their father had. I told them they should play basketball only if it was something they truly enjoyed -- not because they felt I expected them to do, or that I hoped they would.
As it turned out, they all developed their own passion for the game. But I was very careful to be supportive, not to push them. I encouraged them to pursue their dreams in basketball, but I also knew their dreams could not be mine. That’s an important distinction.
If anything, I felt it was important my kids developed a balanced approach to life. Yes, basketball is great fun, but I knew from my own experiences that you never know what might happen tomorrow. I urged my kids to lead a balanced life -- to learn about life and the world outside the gym.
The lessons basketball teaches do prepare kids for life beyond the game. It’s fun to win, but in truth, it’s the adversity in the game that is the real teacher.
For a youngster to learn how to adapt his or her play in a close game, or in a game they’re losing, they’re also learning how to prepare to adapt in life when one’s “game plan” changes suddenly. To me, how your child learns to deal with adversity is the real key to finding out how happy they’ll be in life as they get older.
This parents guide will create a road map for your involvement in your child’s youth basketball experience. Just remember that basketball is a game -- it’s supposed to be fun. If you can always keep that perspective in mind, then everyone will benefit.