At the gym, this boy came up to me while I was practicing free throws. He asked, “Wanna play me 1-on-1.” I nodded my head and said, “Sure.”

As I walked over to his court, thoughts flooded my head. His father was sitting on the bench and I had noticed earlier they were practicing. I let the boy take the ball out first and the game was on.

We both missed our first few shots. Then I drove to the basket with ease and finished a lay up. He put up a 10 footer and sank it. We went back and forth a bit. He drove to the basket for a lay up and I blocked him. Another time, he drove and I blocked him again. I stood at least 6 inches taller than him but this boy had game.

Let’s back track and relate to life a bit. We all know you never want to be the smartest person in the room. If you are, find a different room. The same for a room goes for the basketball court. You never want to be the best player on the court, if you are find better competition. In this case, this wasn’t about me. This was about this boy, John. John was his name.

The first game ended. I played hard, hustled after loose balls, and played to win. The boy started walking back to the bench where his dad was “coaching” from the side the entire game. On his way back, his dad said, “Did you say good game?” The boy turned around and said, “Good game.” I nodded my head and said, “Good work.”

We sat down on the bench. The boy on one end, his father in the middle, and me off to the far side. The dad made a few remarks. The boy bickered back and they were in a “hussy-fit” together about his play. I sat quietly and listened.

The dad said, “You only got blocked twice. Drive to the basket, no funny business, one move and go.” The boy shook his head and they were talking about his play. The dad said, “I shot with you long enough my back hurts. Practice or ask him to play again.”

There was some shuffling of feet and whispers I couldn’t hear. So I got up and went and shot around on the court. The boy got up and went to the drinking fountain. I shot and the boy got back to the bench. Him and his dad chatted but I couldn’t hear it. Shortly, the boy said, “You want to play me 1-on-1 again?” I said, “Sure, let’s go.”

He walked over with his ball and started to walk towards the 3 point line while I was standing near the free throw line practicing shots still. He bounced his ball in my direction as he continued to walk towards the three point line as if he was going to take the ball out first again. His dad very loudly and sternly yelled, “He won! It’s his ball first!” Tension was rising a bit and I stood their very calmly waiting for his dad to coach.

We played and I didn’t say much but my actions spoke louder than words. This second game was a learning lesson for him. We played and I turned up the hustle more. I noticed after a few drives he had no left. I started to guard him on defense favoring his right side. I was forcing him to use his left. He liked to shoot three’s (thanks Curry) so I forced him to drive by locking up his three. I continued to swat him when he drove but by no means he could play. He played well. His dad continued to coach the entire time we played. The second game was over.

We sat on the bench, just as before. The boy said, “Good game.” Respectfully, I replied, “Good game.” His dad continued coaching about his shot, practicing, and driving to the hoop. Afterwards, I packed up my things and went over to John. I looked him in the eyes and extended my hand for a shake.

I said, “I’m 28.” And then I paused. He added, “I’m 14.”

I went on, “Good work. Work on your left. Keep it up!”

And I walked off. I could’ve said more but my coaching was the actions on the floor. His dad was working with him and I only wanted to leave him with one coaching remark. More importantly, I wanted him to know how old I was. I figured he was around 14 but I knew for him (and his dad) to know how old I was would help boost his self-esteem. Sometimes you have to know your place. Know your lane. Know why you are doing something and do it for the right reasons. Sure, I could’ve gone into it thinking, “This is about me and I’m going to beat up on this kid.” Be intentional with your day, your actions, and thoughts. Understand it’s not about you. Parents know this all too well but those of us who aren’t parents it’s important to play selflessly sometimes.

In life, when you are the big kid on campus… think… how can I make everyone else feel bigger than me.

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