One of the great benefits to feeling better after my surgeries is to be feeling good enough physically to want to get back involved with basketball again. It was such a huge part of my life for many years and I have really missed not being more involved the last couple of years.
My recovery from surgery has coincided with starting a new basketball program at the Arbutus Club. I have really enjoyed getting back into coaching and working with young kids. Although it adds to an already busy schedule that keeps me away from home a few nights a week, I feel great to be able to help some kids and be back doing something I spent such a large portion of my life studying.
I spent far more time and energy learning basketball than I have anything else in my life. I am not sure I ever sat down and thought about the merits or consequences of pursuing this course of life.....but regardless, it is what I devoted the majority of my life to, from my late teens until my thirties.
I've always thought of life as a game....and my goal....to win this game. For one reason or another, some time near the end of high school I decided that excelling at basketball constituted winning the game for me. I lived and breathed it for about 15 years. There was rarely a day that I didn't do something in my quest to be a better player. Although there were many lows and hard times along the way, they were greatly exceeded by incredible moments of feeling fulfilled. I loved the physical challenge of pushing myself to train harder and the mental challenge of getting around what felt like an insurmountable barrier. In fact, I think the key to my success in basketball and the most important lesson I take from my journey, is that with persistence and hard work, there is always a way forward.
There were so many times I felt stuck in my development as a player, not sure if I could improve any more, let alone what I needed to do to get there. Probably as much out of ego and stubbornness as anything else, I never let myself quit during these times.....and this made all the difference to me. I also got really lucky get some good situations on teams that let me develop at my own pace. I was lucky to have the opportunity to make basketball pretty much a full time study for 13 years of my life.
I quit playing professionally in June 2005 and almost completely stopping playing a couple of months later. Becoming a better basketball player had stopped being my definition of "winning the game" and quickly dropped way down my list of priorities. Luckily I didn't even have time to miss it because we had so many other priorities. Molly and Finny were both under 3, we didn't have a place to live or a single item of furniture of our own, we didn't have a Canadian bank account or credit card, cell phone or car. We didn't even have enough of a Canadian credit history for Bell to trust Les or me with permission to make long distance calls from our cell phone. Neither of us had jobs, and I had many months and thousands of dollars to spend getting more training for fire fighting.
However, we did have a couple of big advantages that we were very grateful for. First and foremost was the support of our families who helped us get through this period. Second was the nest egg we had carefully grown while in Europe. Third was the lesson we had learned about never giving up or letting any roadblock throw us off course. This was particularly valuable during some really frustrating experiences going through fire fighter applications like I wrote about in this post back in 2007.
I got off track describing the long list of to-dos we had......but my point is that I barely had time to miss basketball. I enjoyed having a new focus and more energy left for other things in my life. I enjoyed not aching every day from basketball. I went into overdrive trying to make up for many of the things that our peers had spent their 20's doing and that we had blissfully ignored. Much of the challenge and push that basketball had provided for me was replaced by the challenge of making sure my family was going to be well taken care of.
By the time a lot of these housing, transportation and career challenges were taken of and I might have gotten back to missing and wanting to play basketball, my hips really changed things again. The hurt and lack of mobility that my hips caused made basketball a painful and frustrating experience for me. Although I continued to play occasionally, I can't think of a time in the last couple of years before surgery that I actually enjoyed being on the court. I didn't even enjoy being on the court in a coaching capacity.
It's with this in mind that I am really excited to start running my own basketball program at the Arbutus Club. It's a place I love to spend time, the facilities are great, I'll get to work with the same kids for many years and I am coaching with friend and former team-mate John Dumont. Also, I get to coach my own kids. Finny, who is in the class, doesn't love basketball yet but also never hesitates to go even though she is one of the youngest there. Molly has decided not to play but hopefully Lucas will want to start with us next year.
Here's a picture of the board from our first term of basketball.