As I look back on memories of my life, I can think about personal accomplishments as a youth both on the track and on the field. I’ve been part of championship teams (little league). I’ve had personal accomplishments in school (student body President, Scholar-Athlete of the Year). I remember the feeling of opening the acceptance letter from Tulane University. I can look back at promotions and salary bumps in the fourteen years since I graduated from college. I recall taking a cruise with 500 of my closest friends and rocking my butt off. I’ve even jumped out of a plane.
Still all those memories and all those feelings pale in comparison to the feeling of being a dad. These past two days, I’ve been so blessed to see the culmination of two of Daniel’s activities. Monday night saw him graduate from a Tiger scout to a Wolf scout. It was really just a formality as all other Cub Scouts also crossed over to their next level of scouting. Still, I felt a sense of pride as I looked back on all of Daniel’s accomplishments in his first year as a scout, and all the wonderful memories we shared together. I am excited at the idea of being more involved next year, and I know the overall scouting experience will continue to get better as Daniel gets older.
This brings us to Tuesday and the championship game for Daniel’s basketball season. What started out as my stumbling into an assistant coaching position – I was helping out the first night and the coach asked me if I wanted to formally help him out – turned into a 7-1 season record and a fairly convincing first round playoff win. That lead us to the championship game on Tuesday night against the team that handed us our lone loss of the season; a loss that came in sudden-death overtime after the game ended in regulation with a tie.
Coach Darrell and myself have been on the same page since day one, and in addition to teaching fundamentals, we’ve also tried hard to make the overall experience fun for the kids on the team. We’ve also done a good job in getting everyone involved, and that is evident by the fact that every player on our team scored at least once this season. Tuesday night was no different and we had five of our eight players score a basket. Still, as it was 2 weeks ago, the game ended in regulation with a tie.
We actually had to come from behind to tie the game, and we did so with a set play we had worked on time and time again in practice. DJ, coach Darrel’s son, dribbled the ball down court, allowed his teammates to setup offensively, and made a solid pass into the post to Brandon. Brandon, as we instructed him to do all year, turned and made the shot for the 2 points and tied the game. It was great to see it executed so well, and Darrell and I knew we had a play to which we could turn on the next possession.
We never got a chance to set that play up again and we found ourselves tied 10-10 as the final whistle blew. This game would also be decided in sudden-death overtime. We won the tip and immediately instructed DJ to setup the play to Brandon in the post. The opposing coach, however, made the necessary adjustment and had assigned a better defender on Brandon, thus preventing DJ getting the ball to his desired teammate. However, the defensive adjustment left Daniel covered by a different player, and as DJ dribbled worriedly in hopes of finding Brandon wide-open, there was Daniel all alone in front of the basket.
“Pass it to Daniel” I shouted out to DJ, and he did just that. “Shoot it! Shoot it! SHOOT IT!!!!!” That’s when everything slowed down. The next couple of seconds played out in super slow motion as Daniel pivoted to his left, looked up at the hoop, and let the ball fly. All I heard was my heart beat. THUMP THUMP …… THUMP THUMP …… THUMP THUMP. The ball hit the front of the iron, took an excruciating bounce upwards and found its way into the basket and through the net.
Back on May 3rd, I wrote about my experience with Daniel’s first ever basket in a game. I mentioned how it took everything to keep me from running out on the court and hugging him. Well, we had just won the championship. Daniel, with his soft shot, had just won the championship, and run out on the court and hug him is exactly what I did. I picked him up, his smile competing in size with mine, and gave him a big kiss. My heart just wanted to burst and I was just elated with pride and joy. It was amazing and inexplicable, and it was a feeling I will never ever forget.
And as I look back on the many, many high’s in my life, I know they will always take a back seat to the high’s of watching my kids succeed and the absolute and blessed pleasure that comes from being a dad.