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Pass The Ball, Son

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1st grade basketball games on Fridays a the YMCA are bittersweet. My son Sam, who is enthusiastic about most things, loves the game and is one of the better players (I promise that’s not just a proud dad talking). He’s also a ball hog. If he has the ball, he’s looking to shoot; if he doesn’t have the ball, he’s yelling at the top of his lungs to whoever has it: “PASS! PASS! I’M OPEN!”

It doesn’t matter what we say, what the coaches say, or even what his teammates – some of whom are his friends – say. Sam, one of the more generous and thoughtful people I know, will not pass the ball. In fact, he appears incapable of doing so.

Thoreau said “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm,” and while Sam’s enthusiasm is actually contagious, he hasn’t yet learned how that enthusiasm can affect others. When you’re part of a team, you’ve got to share the burden and the glory.

After talking to Sam about this after a game in which he shot 5 for 23, I began to draw some connections with our Eagle Scholars and their endeavors. While one student proudly announces after class that she has a 4.3 GPA, a student next to her just barely made a 3.0. As a senior erupts with joy after reading an acceptance email from his dream college, another silently laments a rejection from his safety school. A parent posts on Facebook how her senior just received a full scholarship for college, while other parents are still scrambling to fund the first semester. The ball hog analogy might be a stretch, but you see my point.

Sometimes I wonder if our students are so used to overachieving that they forget how much harder it can be for others. They’ve been told for so long to keep their eye on the ball and they lose sight of the fact that others might want to be a part of the game too. This is not to say that we shouldn’t celebrate success, but it’s wise to remind our students there’s a fine line between enthusiasm and self-aggrandizing.

A new round of games starts next week, and I’ve spent the last several weeks explaining to Sam that an assist is just as good as a basket. I don’t know if he’s listening. In fact I don’t even know if I believe that. Maybe that’s the real problem.

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