I remember before “the boy” was born I read a quote by Sports Illustrated writer Rick Reilly. The quote stuck with me. I remember thinking “get ready for that day” and wondering how I would handle it. “That day” came this weekend. First the quote….

“We are here to be there for our kid when they score the game winning goal…and especially when they don’t”

This past weekend, “the boy” was asked to play in an AAU tournament with some of the other kids from the Hilliard Basketball teams. It was a good team and collection of players. He was out of town last week for the one practice that the team had so he was learning on the fly in their first game. As expected, the results were a little rough the first half of the game. The players were trying to figure one another out and run a brand new offensive set. By the second half of the game they had figured most of it out and were making a furious comeback.

In the final minute, “the boy” got fouled with his team down by two. He was in the act of shooting so he would step to the free throw line with a chance to tie the game. He is an excellent free throw shooter. If there’s one thing he would tell you I’ve always told him since the day he picked up a basketball, it is this…”you gotta make your free throws”. I’m not insane about it. I just know he’s going to get fouled a lot and moments like Saturday are going to present themselves…a lot. Back to the game….

He calmly stepped to the line and drained the first one. His team is now down by one point with one more free throw to go. For reasons I’m still not sure of, HIS coach called a timeout. Even one of the other 10 year olds said “what are you doing? You’re going make him nervous!”. After the time out, he stepped to the line, shot the ball and it bounced out. The other team rebounded it and headed down court. We fouled one of their players who made his first (we’re down 2 now) and missed his second. “The boy” rebounded and…get this..was FOULED by the other team!!! Back we go to the other end with seconds left on the clock and the opportunity to tie the game for overtime.

First shot…swish. Second shot rimmed out. They get the rebound, the horn sounds, and my man is crushed. After shaking hands, I can see that he is not taking it well. He begins to cry and says “it’s all my fault”. After their team huddle, the quote by Rick Reilly came thundering back to my mind. We took a walk and I put my arm around him. I reminded him that his team missed about 15 free throws (literally) during that game. His just happened to come at the end. I reminded him that this was a tournament and there would be more chances, more free throws and more opportunities to win the game. I did my best, but my heart was breaking for him.

I don’t know if he reads this blog, but if he ever does….I’m so proud of him. He plays with such passion and heart. He cares about winning the game. He wants to take that big shot. I know that he’ll make it and if he doesn’t, I hope he knows it makes no difference to me. His character and the core of who he is far outweigh anything that he could ever accomplish on a basketball court.

I’m proud of you son….