Please, Shoot The Air-Ball

Erik Cooper —  January 16, 2014 — Leave a comment

My daughter had one of her strongest games as a high school JV basketball player this week. She blocked a shot, stole a pass, pulled down a few tough rebounds, scored two big buckets, almost drilled a half-court buzzer-beater, and….

…threw up one horrendous air-ball.

I was so proud.

Of the stats? Of course. But mostly of the moment she would probably call her most embarrassing. I’m surprised at how my perspective has changed since I went from player to father. Players despise mistakes. Fathers know they’re essential.


She needed that air ball. I’m 100% convinced. It was her greatest fear. Now she’s shot one in the midst of competitive play, and she’s still alive. She’s still part of the team. She’s still playing. That’s an important milestone.

Embarrassment, fear, and shame paralyze us, and that ends up being the real shame. Nothing good can happen when nothing is all that’s happening. Even the leading JV scorer had an air-ball on her way to 17 points, and so did three of the most talented players on the varsity squad in the game that followed.

Scoring isn’t the absence of missing. Ask any great shooter and they’ll tell you, missing is an element of the equation. And in our non-basketball playing worlds, success isn’t the absence of failure. Failure is actually part of the formula.

Which brings me to the primary problem with my sagely fatherly advice: I never listen to a word I say. Time to lead by example dad.

  • What shot do I need to take today?
  • What motion has been stalled by fear?
  • What decision keeps getting pushed to the next day on my task list?
  • What conversation am I avoiding?
  • What idea do I keep rambling on about that needs some action?

Listen, we certainly don’t want to start irresponsibly chucking up wild shots while calling it bravery. We need a game plan. Wisdom. Plays. Discipline. Team. A strategy to execute. (Prayer). But when the opportunity comes to go to the basket, we’ve got to learn to put the ball in the air.

My daughter finally did. And she’s teaching her dad some really good life lessons on her way to the rim.

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