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Larry Banman: We could all learn from lessons of sacrifice

Larry Banman
Without a Doubt

People in general and children in particular never cease to amaze me. It is easy to find fault with our fellow humans. The majority of the time, watching or reading the news would lead one to believe that very little is right with the world. It seems to be human nature to look for what is wrong and what we think needs to be corrected.

It is much harder to seek that which is good and commendable. One of the hats that I wear is that of a high school basketball coach. I also help broadcast high school football games and, for many years, I have written about high school sports.

There is still something that baffles me. I have asked and watched hundreds of athletes sacrifice time, effort, emotions and their own self interests for … and that is where I get stuck.

It isn’t that there aren’t worthy goals. Virtually every athlete is in a particular contest to win a particular battle. By extension, every athlete participates in little battles in hopes of winning the ultimate battle. Whether it is an Olympic gold medal, the World Series championship, a state championship or the intramural ping pong championship, winning is a goal. Notoriety can also be rewarding. Being known on a large or small stage is often a gratifying experience.

This past weekend, while wearing my coaching hat, our team took two road trips.

Although the weather was somewhat inclement and the roads sometimes frightful, the trips were uneventful. It gave me time to think. A ride on a school bus is an exciting time … for a kindergarten student.

For an adult with a rapidly-aging body, a school bus ride feels like something invented by the Marquis de Sade.

As I watched the sea of humanity known as the boys and girls basketball teams from West Grand High School, I started to think about what each of them could have been doing. Each had spent more than 20 hours of what could have been their weekend to play a basketball game, which, for any one individual, lasted no more than an hour and a half. I thought of the things they could have been doing, and all without the pressure that is an inherent part of performing in front of parents, friends and community members.

I asked myself the “why” question again. To make the question even even more perplexing is that there are no guarantees of individual or team success. For each individual, a particular night can be uncomfortable or even distressing.

And yet, they continue to place themselves on the line for something I just can’t quite describe or completely grasp.

Throughout the weekend, I was able to observe a variety of things that helped me as I grappled with the dilemma. Kids want to see their family and friends pleased with what they do. Teenagers aren’t always the most expressive about this desire, but it is a powerful motivation. At both sporting venues, I saw the players continually rewarded with applause, well-wishes and congratulations. Comraderie is also a powerful influence. Working together toward a common goal builds a powerful bond.

Repeatedly, I have watched people with little else in common forge strong relationships just because they have the same mission. There is also the satisfaction of seeing the fruition of something that was forged by hard work. Success can be defined in a number of ways. Improving at a difficult task can be just as rewarding as achieving the ultimate prize on a scoreboard.

When talking about my role as coach, I have often said that the least important thing I teach is basketball. Lately, I have been the most

impressed while watching the sacrifice of kids who have no guarantee that their immediate goals and wishes will be fulfilled.

And yet they strive onward. Even though I may not completely understand why it is happening, the fact that it is happening stirs my emotions. Perhaps it is not meant to be defined.


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