“If you want to play basketball so much, join a men’s league or something!”
August 2004. I had just come home to Philadelphia from college after graduating that May, and spending time in Altoona afterwards playing in leagues, working out and attending tryouts of some minor league clubs in the area. A couple days after moving back into the bedroom I had grew up in, my parents wanted to know what my life plans were. My mom made the above statement when I told her I planned on being a basketball player. This was after playing ball in college.
I know many of you may be younger and a few, older than the 22 years I had at the time of that story. But for what I’m going to discuss here, the principles, tips and plan apply across the board.
When you’re aiming to do something unorthodox and unusual — being a person that earns money playing a sport is, literally, a one-in-almost-a-million proposition — there will be strong opposition. Peers who don’t believe in you. Peers that see your potential but also see their own failures in looking at you, and wish to pull you down to their level. People that are further ahead than you and think you’ll never reach their level. People that know how long of a long shot your dreams are and just want to be “Realistic.” They will all show up on your path, if you’re on the path long enough.
But even all of that opposition dims in comparison to feeling the resistance of your own mother or father. They birthed you, clothed and raised you, and, if this is your situation, probably still provide for you. It’s easy to tell a schoolmate to fuck off when they’re trying to belittle you, but most of us can’t say that to our parents. Especially when we live in their house, eat food that they bought, and wear clothes that they paid for (and are reading this post on a computer or phone that they pay the bills for). For some of you, it’s like walking carefully through a land mine filled with bombs that could detonate if touched ever-so-slightly the wrong way.
How can you get your parents to see what you see and support you, or at the very least, let you do what you wish to do with your life?
Many of you, I theorize, have the same paradigm friction with your parents that I had. My mother’s idea of an ideal life (for her and for my sister & me) went something like this:
1. Study hard
2. Get very high marks in school
4. Pursue higher learning (college/university)
5. Graduate from university
[I pretty much followed the plan to this point. My mother is an educator and (along with my dad) made sure her kids were well-read and intelligent. We had a ton of books in the house and my mom had us reading early. I was often the smartest kid in class through elementary school, before later discovering girls, sports, being bad in class and other general teenage-boy stuff. My sister went to the best high school in Philadelphia, an Ivy League university on a full scholarship, got a Master’s and is close to a PhD. So she followed the pan just a little better than I did.]
6. Get an even higher degree to increase your job options
7. Get a safe, secure job. Get a place to live, a nice car, and live happily ever after. Don’t take risks, especially financial ones. Evaluate your decisions based on how safe you will be in the aftermath.
Following this order of operations works for a lot of people. And that’s fine with me. But I always knew I was meant to do something other than the traditional, average life (it should be noted that my parents had two kids by age 22, while I am 30 with no children. Their children were the priority, while my priority was (is) myself). And your parents probably see a good plan for life as one that is pretty close to the path they themselves followed. If you mom or dad was a golf pro or football player, they could easily see your visions of being an athlete. But if your parent is a 9-to-5-er or 8-to-6er and only knows sports from TV and magazines, you may have to work a little harder to get their understanding.
What works when you are trying to relate to another person, whether it be a customer you’re selling a refrigerator to or your father, is that you can show them something from within their own frame if reference.
For example, I once trained a lawyer that wanted to improve his basketball skills. I asked him if, when having an initial conversation with a potential client, if his mind automatically started mapping out the options, based on his vast knowledge of the law. He said he definitely did do that. So, I told him, basketball players do the same thing. I told him I could tell how I would attack him in a game, just based on watching him dribble the ball for 15 seconds. The parallel was that we both unconsciously sized up situations quickly because we knew our respective fields well. That parallel made it easier for me to train his bball skills because he understood that his weaknesses were obvious to the trained eye, and in a competitive situation those weaknesses would be preyed on. We trained him on those exact weaknesses. And from the reference I made to his own work, he understood why we did things the way we did them.
The “Why” part of you playing basketball is easy for any dummy to relate to. Basketball is fun. It’s easy work relative to the “Real World”. You could make great money and be famous. We all know “Why”. What you need, to have your parents’ support and backing,is not to explain why you want to play. They know why. What you need to do is relate to their principles.
Your parents probably understand:
• Hard work and Commitment. Are you really putting your full effort into it? Your parents go to work on 100 degree days and in the snow, when they’re sick and when they would rather be at the beach — they don’t get paid if they don’t show up. And if they don’t get paid you don’t eat. Are you showing up every day like it’s your job? Do you do what you’re supposed to do even when you hate your boss (coach)? Do you sulk if you didn’t get that promotion (playing time)? Your parents couldn’t sulk — they’d be fired. Do you pass on training when you don’t feel like it? How many bad days in a row will it take to break you? What’s you IQ (“I Quit”)?
• A Person Serious About Their Work. If you’re serious you take yourself and your vocation seriously, and you demand others to do the same. Not in words. In actions. Do you go to bed early and get up early to train, or do you just do it “whenever”? “Whenever” is the term if a hobbyist. Your parents won’t support hobbies but for so long. Ask yourself, When are you practicing next? Where? With whom? Why? If you asked your parents those questions about their work, they would know. Do you know what you’re doing? If you’re serious you would.
• A Plan of Action. You want to play basketball. How? When? Where? What, of the things you’re doing now, will help get you to where you’re going? Why do you need those shoes? What is this program for? Why does your parent need to pay for you to attend this camp? Is this a phase you’re going through or are you for real?
If your parents have been raising and taking care of you, they worked hard to do it. Your life depended on it, literally. Think about that. Is your commitment close to that level? Don’t say it –prove it.