Coaches told me I had a quick first step. If a defender played me tight, I could take a dribble back step, cross over from right to left and create some space with my feet. Although I’m right handed, I could go to my left but not my right. This was before the three point line was painted in gyms around the country, and my job wasn’t to score as much as it was to find the open teammate when the defense collapsed.
Keep my dribble alive. Keep my head up. Deliver the pass.
So when I showed up for the Dick Motta basketball camp I was surprised to find a player from a rival school I could not beat off the dribble. Not only was he quicker than I was, but he could go to his right and left.
It bothered me all summer. But as basketball camps turned to baseball clinics I didn’t give it much thought. Until I met him at a football game. I told him I was looking forward to a summer full of baseball, basketball and football.
He played basketball. Only basketball. All summer long.
And then it started to make sense. While I was becoming an average player at three sports, he was becoming a very good player (he went on to play in college) in one sport.
I’ve thought back to this memory often when I’ve felt our children are being pulled in different directions. Part of me would like them to immerse themselves in many different activities. Luca enjoys playing the piano. We feel she has a talent for music. But should we focus her limited time and attention in that direction at the sacrifice of dance or soccer?
Kim and I talk about how much time our kids should spend in activities outside of school. Currently it feels like a gut decision. And it could vary from child to child. We change our minds a lot. What feels like the right amount one month may feel like too much the next. Nothing is written in stone.
Our approach has been to encourage our children to try various activities within reason. We don’t believe it’s in their best interest (or ours) to be running ourselves ragged toting the kids from one activity to another. That might mean this summer is for soccer while swimming waits till the fall.
Would we better off finding one activity per child like my friend who only played basketball?
But for now, they still have a lot to experience. If they decide to focus their efforts on a single activity at some point, we’ll address it at that time. No rush.
I think back to how much fun I had and how much I learned by playing baseball and football. The friendships and experiences, at least for me, outweigh whatever chance I might have had to improve my skills as a basketball player.
And had I only played basketball I wouldn’t have known how satisfying it feels to patiently wait on a curve ball and then pound that sucker into right field.