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Foul shots in the wind…

Image courtesy of arturodonate on Flickr

Sunday I spent about an hour and a half at the local basketball court shooting by myself. I have spent hundreds of hours at that court alone and with many others. When I was young, years ago, I would go there and try to hold my own against the older players. At my small stature (5’8”) I would try to prove my worth on the court. Fortunately me sports have always come naturally for me, and basketball is my passion. It wasn’t long before I was accepted there as a player. It was a real boost to be to my ego to be accepted as one of the guys by men older than I was. Most of the time there was a fair amount of people watching. Other guys gauged themselves against the players, as they waited their turn . There seemed to always be plenty of young women watching. I am not sure what they were thinking as they watched, but they were always friendly and willing to talk after games. I have always been at home on a basketball court. Courts in Columbus, Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, Charlotte and other places have had the feel of home to me at one time or another; but there is something special about the court at the local park. Not only has it been a great place socially for me, it has been a place to get my head straight. I have spent hours upon hours shooting and thinking. I have made decisions and dealt with problems there. I remember spending all of my free time playing ball there when Steph and I had a break up while dating. I’d get off of work and head to the park. I’d stay there until almost midnight. On the weekends it was not unusual for me to spend eight hours there. Time passed and wounds healed. I decided to ask her to marry me. That was the best decision I have ever made, and it was made at that park.

Given this history, it should be no surprise that I spent time at the park yesterday. It had been many years since I spent time there thinking. I spent my time shooting during the small family gathering at my house to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. I wanted to be there, but it seemed wise to allow Steph room to breathe. I got my ball from the car and walked onto that familiar place. The court was empty except for me. The weather probably kept people away. Hurricane Ike sent strong winds to Ohio as it had to much of the country.  As a matter of fact about twenty schools in our area are closed today because of downed trees and power lines. To say the least, it was not really ideal for shooting a basketball. I cleared my mind and went to the foul line and started to shoot foul shots. I made an effort to not force any thoughts, but to let them come as they wanted. I concentrated on shooting, the wind made it impossible to rely on muscle memory. After a while thoughts started to come to me. I thought of all the times on this court. I thought of being 16 years old and trying to prove myself. I thought winning Summer League titles, and of pick up games. I thought of those nights spent under the lights just shooting around. I thought many of the people that have been part of my life at this park. I remembered so many of them, it seemed that they would show up. As I shot it came to my attention that court has not changed in all these years, but the park has. There was a once a huge huge oak tree that provided shade for so many. It had been struck by lightning a few years back. All along I kept shooting I would occasionally misjudge the wind and the ball would blow too far right, but for the most part the shots were falling. I kept count in my head, but didn’t restrict the thoughts from flowing. I thought about old friends, old times, and family. I thought of the future and wondered if I would be here on this court, twenty years from now. I wondered about the last time I would ever shoot a basketball.

I had decided to shoot 200 foul shots to access my accuracy. I picked that number because it would also take long enough to soothe any uneasy feelings that tried to force their way into my heart. When I reached 200, I stopped to let the numbers sink in. I had made 143 our of 200 shots. Not bad at all considering the gusting wind. It is honestly not bad under any circumstances. When I realized that I had shot such a high percentage in the bad conditions, I also realized why I had been able to do so. I had concentrated, adjusted my aim, and had been confident and determined. I had applied myself and made it happen. I felt very proud that I had been able to succeed despite the odds against me. Then I wondered why I had been having such a hard time in my life lately. I wondered why I have been spending so much time feeling sorry for myself. I had just proved that I could overcome. That made me feel confident that I would hit my goal if I applied the principles that I had just used on the court.

Another lesson was learned at that park…

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