Lifting Up Our Friends
by Jay Fadden
This week, I write you during my vacation. Every year, I take a week off to volunteer at a basketball camp for 4th- through 8th-grade boys. It is an experience that I always look forward to every year. The children get dropped off, and many of them have hopes of becoming better players. The talent levels are very different. Some players are very skilled, while others need a lot of improvement. At the beginning of the week, most of the players stay close to their friends. By the end of the week, there are new bonds and a great camaraderie among most of the players.
I take great joy in helping the players develop their individual and team skills. I am also a softy. Every day, I will seek out the kid who is by himself and try to talk to him. Along with the other counselors, I try to inspire and help him enjoy the experience. I think I do this because I am always reminded of the day I was angry at my daughter, Amelia, when I was coaching her as a 6th-grader. Later, in the 7th grade, Amelia would blossom into a very good player, but at that time, she was a bit slow and could not play defense that well. On the sidelines at one game, I was riding her pretty good, pointing out everything she was doing that was wrong. Amelia kept looking at me, but never faltered. She just kept trying hard and playing. During this particular game, my assistant coach, who is a close friend, stood next to me, and in a soft and calm voice said, “Amelia probably knows she is struggling and it hurts. You are not helping her.” He was right, and I have never forgotten that moment.
Now, these many years later, I use that experience to help me try to understand the players who are struggling and how they feel. I try to focus not on pointing out what they are doing wrong, but on how I can help them improve. In life, it is easy to point out others’ mistakes. But we need to realize that in most instances, they know that they are struggling at something. As friends, we need to inspire and lift up that person and not pile on and add to their anguish. In those moments, we need to be a friend!