Monday, August 31, 2009

Jake's Thought for the Week

Each Monday I will be posting Jake's Thought for the Week which he sends out to all the parents of the players in his Kingdom Hoops program. Here it is for this week:

Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

As we begin this new season there will be so many lessons to be learned. Not just lessons on the basketball court, but lessons that will stay with your child for a lifetime. Your sons and daughters will learn how to shoot the basketball, will increase their basketball IQ’s, will go back to their communities and probably become the best players in their schools; but the most important skills this upcoming season will not be the ones that translate into success on the basketball court. Rather it will be the skills that will help them become successful off the basketball court because of the guidance you provide them.

Lesson One:
As I was getting involved in athletics as a 9 year old I quickly found out that I did not like to lose, I did not like to strike out, I did not like to miss a shot, and I did not like when a teammate screwed up. For the most part I did not like when things did not go my way. I suffered from something called lack of self-control. This was something I struggled with while growing up especially as I began to play at a higher level. It all came to a fold one day when I was 12 years old and completely lost my composure in a traveling basketball game against a team in Minnesota called the Osseo Orioles. We lost the game by 30 and I was sure that night my life was going to end. Not because we lost the game, but because my Dad was the coach and I had to get into the car and ride all the way home with him. I thought I might be better off hitchhiking home but I never had time to even make that an option. Let’s just say the ride home was not real fun or exciting; especially as my brother sat in the back of the minivan being highly entertained by the speech I was being given with my life dangling in the balance. I went to bed with large tears in my eyes and I was sure I was never going to be a good basketball player. The next morning when I woke up and headed down for breakfast I found a poem by Rudyard Kipling called “If” sitting on my spot at the table. My Dad had highlighted the first sentence of the poem which started this way; “If you can keep your head when all others about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, you will be a man my son.” I had this poem on my bedroom door for the next 7 years until I graduated high school. Of course I still had a few more long rides home over those next 7 years, but that simple lesson has helped to carry me over these past couple of months as the split with the All Iowa Attack occurred and things were being done and said that did not always seem fair.

Lesson Two: I was 17 years old and it was my final year of AAU Basketball. I had decided to stop playing with Minnesota Select where I was clearly the best top player, and went to play for Howard Pulley where I was just one of the guys amongst the best players in the state of Minnesota. It was April 1999 and we had just arrived in Virginia Beach, Virginia for the Nike Boo Williams Invitational. Our team flight landed at 1pm in the afternoon on that Friday and we were scheduled to play The Family out of Detroit at 9pm that night. The Family had players like Ricky Paulding and Arthur Johnson who played at Missouri, Maurice Seawright who played basketball and football at Michigan and the list goes on and on. That night we showed up at the gym and I had all the butterflies that occur when you are in a new situation. As we finished warming up and came to the huddle the coach announced the starting line-up and for the first time in my career I was not in the starting line-up. As the game went on I was substituted in about 6-7 minutes into the game and played about 6 minutes in the first half and then only about 5 minutes in the second half. We lost by 7 and I finished with just 9 points.

As we arrived back at the Best Western in Virginia Beach I immediately went into the bathroom with my cell phone and I can still remember laying on that cold green tile floor. As I dialed the phone home my Dad picked up and could tell something was wrong. I told him the story and he said the following, “You can’t change the coach’s decisions, but you can be ready for your opportunity and when your opportunity comes you can’t give him any other choice but to play you.” The next night we were playing Boo Williams which featured Jason Williams who went on to become an All-American at Duke. Jibrahn Ike who was the shooting guard starting ahead of me got into early foul trouble that game and I had my opportunity. That night I finished with 37 points and we lost in overtime at the buzzer as Williams hit a shot from half court to win the game. However, that was the last game that summer I did not start!

When I arrived at Iowa State for my Freshman year there was a Sophomore named Brandon Hawkins who was ahead of me on the depth chart. As the season began he was named the starter ahead of me and again I found myself in that same position as I was just in a year and half earlier. However, this time I could hear my Dad’s words over and over in my head.

Well, my opportunity came about one two months into the season when Brandon Hawkins decided to transfer and his starting spot was now open for competition. My opportunity was there again and as it was before I started every game for the rest of my Cyclone career.

Now as Kingdom Hoops kicks off its inaugural season another opportunity is available and the question still remains like my Dad said many years ago 'Will I be ready to make the most of it?'

"HOW CAN YOU EVER MISS A FREE THROW? NO ONE IS EVEN GUARDING YOU." :) I shot 89.6 percent for my Cyclone career because the 10.4 percent of the free throws I missed I could hear my mom in the midst of Hilton Magic yelling “MAKE YOUR FREE THROWS!”

The lessons are numerous that can be learned through a game such as basketball. Even though the lessons will not always be easy it is important to know as parents the lessons you will teach your child throughout the season will stay on their hearts and minds always as it has with me!

Jake Sullivan

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