I 'Kneed' Some Help-- Training to be a better Dad


I 'Kneed' Some Help-- Training to be a better Dad

Text Box:  
Dad warming up for two on two 
Circa: May 2015

" Zero--Zero, check ball"... It's  Ross (my youngest son) and I VS Chad and Matthew (the two older boys).  Playing two on two on an outdoor court at Balboa Park in L.A., going to 11 by ones--with a 13, 12 and 11 year old needing the 'old man' only because they were short one. History would be made on this day: This would be our first real two on two game of basketball EVER played.

The game starts out innocently enough, a few coachable moments where I can teach them the game... defense, rebounding, spacing, how to set screens etc... Then in an instant it gets serious, Chad grabs a rebound out of nowhere over me and lays the ball back up!  I'm stuck flat footed on the concrete.  Two minutes I later I'm chasing a loose ball out of bounds... my mind says sprint but my three time surgically repaired knee says otherwise and buckles after a semi-sprint for the ball.  I catch up to the ball, but well out of bounds.  I grimace and slap the ball the ball together between my hands, so loudly that it startles Matthew.

"Dad, who are you mad at?  Are you upset with us?" He asked cautiously as a he tried to gauge my level of frustration.

"I'm disappointed with myself Matthew.  I want to enjoy a simple game of two on two with my sons, and my knee just won't cooperate.  It is really depressing that I can't even sprint after a ball some days, or jump," I said intensely.

As we continued, I had a few bright spots with Ross.  I showed him how to run the pick and roll, play better defense on Matthew and threw him some nice dimes (passes for you non-basketball people reading this) for easy layups, most of which he either missed (because he was surprised to get the ball in his hands) or he took off balanced shots that were rushed.

"It's okay son, those were good shots!  I will keep feeding you the ball, and you will find your rhythm--you just need to get your momentum going towards the basket and square your shoulders."  Truth be told, I was marveling at the way he was able to change direction and contort his body--things that I used to be able to do but now only dream of doing.

The remainder of the game--involved me hobbling around, half guarding Chad and barely being able to box him out on rebounds when he missed (which wasn't often).  Even though they were winning--Matthew was also getting upset at Chad for not passing the ball more, even though he was killing me every time he touched the ball.  Matthew also played well, and accounted for almost half their points, but I guess his brother did not make it fun for him.

When they scored their final basket, and closed the game at 11-2, it was a relief for me... as well as my knee which had now swollen and stiffened up.  But more importantly than that, it gave me a chance to talk to Matthew about team work.

"Hey man, why are you upset?" I asked right after the final point was scored.

Text Box:  
Two on Two with my sons at Balboa Park 
Circa: May 2015
"Chad doesn't make it fun, he doesn't pass the ball that much!" He responded in a stern and angry voice.

"Well son, has it ever occurred to you that he dribbles with his head down?  When you do that you have no court vision and you put yourself in a bad position where you cannot pass the ball," I said patiently.  "More importantly you guys won, it's really not about who scored the most points or who touched the ball more.. The objective is to win."

"I know Dad, but I want to have fun too! I want to touch the ball and score too!" Matthew's face was as serious as when we were playing, although the game had been over now for at least five minutes.

"Look Matthew, I know you are frustrated.  You have a right to be frustrated, but I'm telling you he didn't do it on purpose. I'm gonna work with him and help him better understand the game.  I promise next time he will do a better job of passing to you.  Be patient my son," I told him firmly as we walked to the car.

"Well next time, it can be him and Ross VS you and me," he said cheerfully.  "That way I don't have to play with the ball hog."  Upon hearing this I cracked up, and Matthew finally smiled too.  I had finally broken through to him, and helped him let of go the whole thing.

The next morning at the gym, I reflected on what had happened the day before as I stretched and prepared to workout.  My inability to function after three knee surgeries on the same knee (one ACL reconstruction, and two Arthroscopic Meniscus repairs) had gotten the better of me, and I was now prepared to incorporate more rehab exercises into my weight workout.  I now realized that "I need some help training be a dad."

This dad that I need to become is not the same dad as last year, or the year before.  I need to continue to evolve and grow just as my boys evolve and grow. Change is a constant in the universe, and since we are one with that universe it's no different for us at the human level. What happened on that court magnified my physical limitations to do what I have always dreamed of doing... playing a competitive game of hoops with my three sons.  So in order to do that something has to change: knee rehab, knee surgery or ultimately knee replacement.  I cannot continue to miss out on these once in a lifetime moments, so Text Box:  whatever sacrifices I must make to enjoy these last vestiges of their childhood--then so be it. So if that means more knee extensions, hamstring machines or squats--then that's what I have to do.

I can draw on what my college Coach Don James used to say-- 48 hours prior to kickoff: "It's time to get your Mental Weight Up!  Time to get your game faces on!"  Well in my case, these next 5-7 years will be my "Final 48".  It is time for me to "get my mental weight up", get my "game face on" while I'm training; and create the life I want to experience as a father. 

I will get the help I 'kneed' to evolve into the Dad I 'need' to be for my children: Ultimately leaving a lasting imprint deep in their hearts and mine--- 'pickup games' for all eternity.


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