Is it possible to "love" something other than a person so much, that one just cannot wait to be doing it? It is and it has happened for me with basketball in every aspect of the game. It just so happens that this "love affair" with basketball has blossomed, in of all places, New Delhi, India. It started with a connection to the American Embassy and the YMCA, both in New Delhi, and has grown by leaps and bounds into a full fledged "love affair". The feeling that I get from b-ball is pure joy, at all times, nothing less, total focus on the beauty of the game, and therefore there is nothing else, when I'm involved with it.
Strange? No, not really. It is all about the dance, the team work, the knowledge of the five people on the court and those on the bench being so connected that they could close their eyes and make a perfect pass to a teammate for a layup. It is about the joy of understanding how this is more than a game, how this is a lifestyle. Do we live as individuals? Yes, at times, but more often we live as part of a team, as part of a community. A well executed fast-break or a pass in the triangle offense that leads to two points, shows how we all can cooperate with one another, in fact, it is the only way to truly get along. Yes, egos play a large part in the professional sport, but as recently demonstrated, even with the skills of a Kobe Bryant, one has to play as a team to "win", to be at the very apex.
But basketball is more than winning a championship, it is about the smiles that readily appear on the faces of the Indian children that I've been coaching at the YMCA for the past three months. When they see me, prior to starting playing, they appear with a large smile and slap me a high 5, knowing that yes, this will be tough, as I make sure that we run a bit, but also knowing that for the next 1.5 hours we are going to have some great fun. The game at the Y is about children coming out of their shells and starting to find love for a lifestyle. I actually am seeing the 7-18 year old boys and girls starting to understand the rhythym and heartbeat of the game. I spend a lot of time talking to the children, espousing my love and what they can do to stay in shape for their entire lives, about the exercise and eating right that is needed to continue to live a healthy life. They respond with "yes, sir" and I constantly remind them to call me "Mike" which some are actually starting to do.
The Indian game has a tendency towards a "one on one" type of play with the best players gettting the rebound and sizzling downcourt, with no regard to teammates. However, this past Saturday, one of the boys, who really does have the skills, was slowing it down, setting up his offense, understanding the fact that he was part of a team. I "force" the boys and girls to be on teams together, always considering gender issues. It is slowly starting to work. I "force" the children to develop leadership skills by having them form their own teams. It is not something that comes too easily, but it is happening.
I've found that I do care, that if we are to play, to love, there are so many methods to consider. All that I can do is bring my love, my passion for this sport, way of life, to a few children in New Delhi. What else can I really do as the love is just bursting forth from me and has to get out.