Pick-up Power

Derek - San Luis Obispo, California
Entered on March 2, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: sports

Different cultures, religions, genders, and the value of Pi are widely considered to be universal constants that exist no matter what part of the world you live in. I consider the game of basketball also to be something one can put into the category of universal constants. Cultures, religions, and math use different formulas and methods to equate success, and I feel that the same could be said for basketball. Young and old persons, having never met before, regardless of skill levels and knowledge of the game can converge to share their opinions and talents toward the game. I believe that pick-up basketball teaches valuable life skills can be learned from the game, despite ability or agenda.

I grew up playing organized basketball. I was fortunate to find success early through an abundance of natural talent and ability; however peers encouraged me to pursue new challenges. Seeking higher-levels of competition, rumors held that these spontaneous opportunities existed at Central Park. The first few times my peers and I had gone to Park, I was overly anxious. “Central” was where the older kids and adults played. My youthful posse and I were amongst the few overconfident adolescents who deemed ourselves worthy to test our confidence. Unfortunately, our abilities were negated by the exploitation of our obvious deficiencies. Flashes of promise were shown; however superior opponents dominated us as if we were wounded prey fleeing from starved wolves. In the end, we were seen by the Park veterans as mere liabilities that they did not want on their teams. The painful lessons endured, humbled my arrogance. The modesty attained at Central Park transcended far beyond pick-up basketball, resonating fittingly into my persona today.

The unique transgression from organized to pick-up basketball ascertained my affection. Unlike the official enforced system and rules associated with organized basketball, pick- up basketball is more individually oriented. Absent is a coach screaming instruction from the sidelines; instead five strangers artistically create ways to score. When transitioning to pick-up ball I predicted the more talented players would influence winning outcomes. While the correct balance of individual skill is necessary to prevail, various egos do not often translate too much, if any, success. Trash talking or vocally mortifying an opponent is commonly used to create reckless duels, and to this trap, I am no exception. When taken personally, it is easy for me to get lured into a one on one battle; however I’ve learned that individual glimmer never exceeds the pleasure of collaborating in victory. I now understand how to contribute effectively in groups and with that come the values of trust and respect. These values reveal identity and character in players and have made lasting impressions on me. The strength in unity provides an outlet to cope through hardships and works to alleviate stressful situations with mutual aid.

I have learned a lot from pick-up basketball, and I apply its principles to my everyday life. Like someone who is devoutly religious or a part of a thriving culture, people could use pick up basketball as something to lean on and learn from. Pick-up basketball provides me with many life lessons that help me cope better with the demands of society. Each time I lace up my shoes and enter my sanctuary, I subconsciously reflect on different scenarios and use them as tools for troubling circumstances. In a larger scope, we as a society are facing a large deficit, poverty, and inadequate health care. Tackling these problems with the same perseverance, intensity, and determination as my teammates and I do in pick-up games could prove the difference.