Building Character in Children: What a Single Mom Learned from Her Daughter About Sports

6a012877a00f84970c0120a905953a970b-piThe Long Green Mile: Some of us get there faster than others. The important thing is to get there.

As a single mother there were many things I regretted and one of them was not realizing the potential that high school team sports could have in developing the character of a teenager. Chalk it up to my growing up in upper-crust San Francisco where it was the de rigueur sport of tennis—not football or basketball—that took center stage for my parents. (Team sports like football and basketball didn’t seem to merit their consideration.) Worse, in the 60s any sports were thought of as too establishment for the “make love not war’ generation in which I was unfortunately thrust. The only baseball game I ever attended was a SF Giants game that my nanny (Yes, I had one)  took me to because she happened to be dating Willie Mays.  I kid you not.

Fortunately, my eldest daughter must have sensed that need in herself to find that missing piece in her development, because she joined her high school basketball team on her own initiative and continued with it until the day she graduated.  She wasn’t the best player, but neither was she the worst.  More important, she showed up (even when I didn’t) and learned early on in life the value of two things: discipline and team work.  (Did I mention her team was first runner up in the state high school basketball championship?)

I truly believe that is also where she developed—at least partly—her pliable nature, her determination to forge ahead despite adversity, and especially the value of working together as part of a team. Last, but not least, she learned to push herself through to that place of faith where natural ability alone wouldn’t take her. Today, at the age of 26, my daughter is a budding entrepreneur, poised on the edge of phenomenal success in the fashion world with her line of jewelry from her aptly named company, Many Will See. Just recently, she was interviewed by a top writer at Vogue about her stunning creations.*

The amazing thing is where many entrepreneurs seem to have to suffer many failures before they find that one success, my daughter has somehow bypassed that school of hard knocks. Why? First and foremost, I believe it’s because she’s enjoying the kind of favor that comes with a strong sense of her “God identity,” aka, how her Heavenly Father sees her vs. a pumped up (ultimately false) humanistic sense of self esteem.   Thankfully, she was spared that Greek mythology twisted view of God that plagues too many believers—that He kind of likes us, maybe even loves us, but half the time He’s ready to smash us with a iron fist, while the other half of the time we inexplicably become the benefactors of His benevolence (in either case, we manage to tie God’s perceived changing moods towards us with our own behavior).

There is no such double mindedness with my daughter. She know she is precious, she is valued and that with God, “nothing is impossible.”  Coupled with this core belief, is her faith that if “chance favors a prepared mind,” God favors it even more—causing doors to open that no man can open and bringing those who honor him before kings. Or put another way, “Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:33).”

This is not to say that my daughter has never had her faith tested, trust me she has. I can’t tell you how many times I was tempted to rescue her from the pain that life inflicts;  thankfully, her father (my ex) would intervene and in so many words tell her: “Stay the course and you will see your reward.”

I said all that not just to share my justifiable pride in my daughter’s stellar accomplishments at such a relatively young age, but also to explain why I believe everyone should see the documentary, The Long Green Line. It embodies everything my daughter was taught when she was a high school basketball player. The lessons are universal (it doesn’t require a ball)  and can be learned at any age.

The best way to sum up this jewel of a film is quote the director’s own words:

In this day of iPods, cell phones, and the Internet, anyone who can inspire 220+ teenagers to run up to 20 miles a day must have an extraordinary and essential gift to share with young people. Coach Joe Newton imparts life lessons that transcend all disciplines – business, sports, the arts, education. He espouses the discipline of being a stellar human being, always striving to do the absolute best one can do—whatever one happens to be doing:

• Always do your best.

• Show up on time

• Treat the little guy that always comes in last as well as you treat the best guy

• Show tender loving care to your athletes every day

• Believe in the team

It’s this last one—”Believe in the team”—that finally, after decades of trying to fly solo, I’m beginning to learn.   Regrettably, unlike my daughter, I’ve had to learn this critical lesson the hard way. After all, one can only go so far on a tank with slow leak before they simply run out of gas. Yet I believe God’s grace is there to accelerate that learning process and thanks to wonderfully inspiring films like The Long Green Line, that task has been made a whole lot easier.  I’m determined to reach that finish line, to “run with endurance that race that is set before me”—even if I come in dead last.

Thanks coach, I needed that.

[*Update: Since launching her own jewelry line, my daughter moved to NYC where she is enjoying similar favor with a top designer boutique line of clothing. She’s also on her way to becoming a published writer with a top magazine—garnering their attention after only one blog post.  That is favor!]

About seekandfind

I'm a strategic storyteller/copywriter who is divinely wired to be idea-driven, strategic minded & cause motivated.

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