Courage

If more leaders had the courage my 8-year-old daughter recently displayed the world would be a better place. And not just by a little bit.

A few months ago, as I was researching recreational basketball sign-ups for my 13-year-old son I randomly, impulsively and somewhat jokingly asked my daughters if they would also like to sign-up. One said yes and one said no. I had no expectation of a “yes” from either of them as their single, previous foray into team sports was not a rousing success. Not in the winning/losing sense of it but more in the “I don’t like soccer because there’s too much running” sense of it. We chalked it up as a new experience, reminded ourselves it’s not for everybody and got on with life.

But something, as I was doing this research made me issue the invitation and no one was more surprised than me to get that “yes” from my 8-year-old. In the weeks between signing up and waiting for a coach to call we occasionally played basketball together in the driveway and it was clear that this was something she was genuinely interested in doing. I was thrilled, and not because I see her in the WNBA someday but because this daughter of mine is an expert solo practitioner – an awesome reader, wonderful piano player and possessed of a rich and vivid imagination – who I think will benefit enormously from the social, collaborative and competitive necessities of a team sport.

What I failed to anticipate is that she equated basketball with hanging out one-on-one with dad in the driveway and not with some noisy, musty gymnasium full of other kids who were all “better than her.” In her enthusiasm I failed to remember her fear.

And so it was that when we arrived at her first practice and the girls were goofing around and shooting baskets before getting started she was more than content to sit with me on the sidelines. When her coach finally called the kids and parents over and had the girls sit together on the court and the parents listen in as he covered his basic philosophy of teaching basketball to kids (“I just want them to learn to love the game”) her anxiety was gradually increasing.

Finally, parents dispersing to the sidelines and girls lining up on the baseline, my daughter’s moment of truth had come. She was actually going to play basketball. And, she was crestfallen; so sad and so alone. She was doing her best impression of bravery, quivering lip and all, discreetly wiping away her tears.

But she didn’t run to me. She stood in her spot, felt her feelings and, as things got underway, joined in quickly and actively. She excelled at the various drills, took instruction well and realized quickly and clearly that she was neither the worst nor the best one there. She had a great time.

She felt the fear and acted anyway. She displayed courage to learn, courage to try, courage to fail, courage to just show up and be counted. And, finally, the courage to recognize that her feelings – aloneness, sadness, vulnerability – were a real and necessary part of the experience; companions that remind us that we are exactly where we are supposed to be.

One thought on “Courage

  1. Nice piece Dave, I love that little girl, she sure is special……….there is a Vietnamese girl her age I want her to meet, as she reminds me so much of Davis. She too is bright, plays piano, speaks very well and loves to read. She is a student at St Francis and the daughter of the couple who own the place I get my manicures. They are obviously intelligent people, also catholic and very well mannered. She was there yesterday and we talked about getting them together, they are interested. Maybe during Christmas vacation or are you gone the whole time?

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