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A Life Lesson
The game of basketball taught me my first very valuable life lesson. It served as more than an extracurricular
interest for me. Basketball was a lifestyle. I watched
players like Michael Jordan, Shawn Kemp, and
Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway dominate the college
and professional ranks, and they became my first
childhood heroes. I studied the game more than my
favorite subjects in school. I memorized statistics
and cited them in trivial arguments I started with
anyone who’d lend me an ear for longer than a minute.
However, my passion for basketball did not lead to a playing career of
any significance. In fact, it’s quite clear to me now that for many of the first
few years I played the game I lacked the requisite aggressiveness and confidence to make a significant impact on the court. I was always present and
accounted for at games and practices, but that presence was rarely felt and I
struggled to turn my time and effort into any amount of measurable success.
One Saturday afternoon following a third- and fourth-grade YMCA
game, my father sat me down at our kitchen table and confessed he has seen
enough to determine his 9-year-old son didn’t need to spend so much time
on an extracurricular activity if he was never going to take the proper steps
to develop or improve. He cited the fact that I hadn’t scored a single basket
all season long.
“What’s the point?” he asked in an exasperated voice that suggested what
he was about to say would hurt him as much if not more than they’d embar-
rass me. He then issued a challenge that I’d never forget. “If you don’t score
a basket in the next game, that’s it. It’s over. You’re done.”
This memory came flooding back to me when I saw the results of a recent
study regarding surgical residents and laparoscopic procedures. It showed
that for six common laparoscopic procedures, resident participation result-
ed in the surgery lasting from 20% to 47% longer. The study concluded by
saying “additional work must be undertaken to identify strategies to opti-
mize operating room efficiency and to develop alternate strategies to prepare
participants for the performance of the procedure.”
I disagree. They should continue to participate in surgical procedures, no
matter how knowledgeable and passionate they are about practicing surgery.
There isn’t any “alternate strategy” for preparation that would be nearly as
beneficial to a resident’s development and confidence.
That’s because there is no substitute for learning through doing. Though
my father’s words hurt, they led me to realize all the stats I could recite and
the passion with which I could talk about the game would not be enough to
make me successful as a basketball player. I needed to use that knowledge
and passion to my advantage on the court. I needed to play.
That next game I scored four points.