For the Love of the Game

We often think that the reason we played sports as kids was for the competition and the camaraderie. The fun of showing off our skills, going head to head with our friends, and challenging ourselves to see how good we could become. We don't often contemplate the deeper aspects of what playing sports really means or provides to each one of us either as kids or as grown adults.

For many, playing sports turns into the pursuit of some sense of perfection or completion in their minds. A pathway for those who are looking for the feeling of "good enough". It becomes an outlet for a number of souls searching for the ultimate sense of self-acceptance. We see this with kids and with adult amateurs and professionals. And of course, sports tends to be a great escape and release from the stresses of everyday life. It's a way to focus, connect with others, and get one's mind, for at least a moment, off any of life's troubles.

That is why, when I read an assignment the son of one of my good friends did for his 8th grade English class, it really caught my attention. A beautifully expressed object narrative paper from the perspective of the basketball that nearly brought me to tears. In doing so it gave me a whole new perspective on the depth of how important sports are for so many kids looking for a distraction from the many conflicting thoughts in their heads about life as they try to make sense of it all each day. The value of the connection in this paper unquestionable.

As I read this piece of work, and felt the emotions of this beautifully vulnerable and bright 13 years old, I thought there would be many who could also relate and truly enjoy this touching perspective.

Bounce Bounce Bounce

Bounce bounce bounce. The air whistles by. The sensation of perfection hits me. I fall down and he's there to catch me and bounce bounce bounce me again. I treasure the times we spend together. All the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into this. Every moment seems more vital than the last. And every moment we both know we will always be there for each other.

I recall a day when the boy needed me more than ever. The rain was pouring down. I became soaked within seconds of touching the pavement. Bounce bounce bounce. The tears became one with the water coming down. The boy's left knee was bleeding profusely. I felt his pain with every clutch. He wasn't satisfied with anything but perfection. Never stop, bounce bounce bounce. Never settle, bounce bounce bounce. The blood washes away. The tears wash away. The troubles that have been tormenting him slowly but surely wash away with every shot. Every shot better than the last. Every shot the next step to a recovery. Bounce bounce bounce. The air whistles by as the sensation of perfection hits me once more. The boy is satisfied. The troubles are gone.

Sometimes a girl would go with us to the place where the boy and I worked. He would let her bounce bounce bounce me too. He would smile and laugh a lot. He wasn't nearly as focused as that day in the rain. But the boy was happy, and that made me happy too. With every clutch I could feel that the boy's stresses were melting away even faster than the day in the rain. I could feel that her presence gave him something I could not provide. She gave him joy. I was simply glad that I could bring them together. I knew as he bounced bounced bounced me that he would never forget me, but I was not his sole purpose. The boy will always be my sole purpose, and I will always treasure the times we spend together.

Bounce bounce bounce. The air whistles by as the sensation of perfection hits me once more. As he puts me back in the bag, I smile. The boy smiles too as he waves goodbye to the girl and we ride home, I rest on his back and I feel truly, at peace.

-Steven R. Denver, Colo.

As a footnote, he got a B- on his paper. One can only assume from a teacher who may have never played sport in his or her entire life. It's an A+ in my book.

Howard Falco ( ) is a spiritual teacher and sports performance coach to college and professional athletes. He is an expert on mindfulness and embracing the creative power within. He is the author of 2 books on human understanding and potential; I AM: The Power of Discovering Who You Really Are, and Time in a Bottle: Mastering the Experience of Life (Tarcher/Penguin Group). Known for his powerfully clear and relatable style, Howard presents the wisdom regarding how to harness more of the creative power of the mind to accomplish any result or overcome any challenge you face in life, allowing you to achieve a greater sense of peace, understanding and fulfillment in the process. You can find him on Facebook at instagram @howardfalco or Twitter @Howard Falco