Translating the Language of Basketball into Our Everyday Lives | The BridgeMaker

Translating the Language of Basketball into Our Everyday Lives

By on Mar 30, 2009


The idea is not to block every shot. The idea is to make your opponent believe that you might block every shot. Bill Russell

March Madness is reaching its crescendo. This past weekend the Sweet 16 was trimmed down to the Elite Eight which in turn has shaped the Final Four match-ups for next Saturday.

The Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament is like baseball’s World Series, but on steroids (no intended dig here baseball fans) in that it is an extended sporting event that is more about physical and mental endurance than it is the final scores. The three-plus week tournament is about the teams who overachieved and the ones that fell short. It’s about finding the courage to move forward regardless of the outcome. It’s about faith, hope and character.

After watching the tournament over the past couple of weeks, it has occurred to me how the language of basketball can be interpreted from its intended meaning and into something more important.

The following glossary of basketball terms are ones we will hear during the Final Four, but can still be translated to our everyday language long after the national college basketball champion is decided.

  • Assist. | The last pass to a teammate that leads directly to a field goal.
    Your positive actions can help someone else become successful. Don’t be afraid to pass the ball and allow another to score. Your unselfish, supportive act will carry as much value as whatever the other person is able to accomplish as a result.
  • Alternating-possession rule. | The possession arrow changes direction after each subsequent jump ball situation.
    In Kindergarten we were taught to take turns and to share. We sometimes forget these important lessons as adults, but when we remember their simple, but effective power then more peace and balance is restored to our lives.
  • Beat the defender. | When an offensive player, with or without the ball, is able to get past an opponent who is guarding him.
    To reach a goal we have set, often times we need to press a litter harder and be willing to do more than is expected. When we put forth this extra effort, things suddenly becomes a little easier.
  • Blind pass. | A pass from a ball handler who does see his receiver, but is estimating where he should be.
    Faith. A blind pass is about faith. When we trust the people in our lives, and believe they will be there for us, no matter what, our faith, like the basketball, will find them. And in turn, they will receive our message and respond.
  • Boxing out. | A player’s attempt to position his body between his opponents and the basket.
    Part of the responsibility of being a parent is protecting our children from the harshness that can exist in the world. We serve as buffers when we watch our children get on the school bus in the morning or when we hold their hand while crossing the street. Parents box out so our children can have a safer path to learn and to grow.
  • Double team. | When two teammates join efforts in guarding a single opponent.
    Mary Beth is my teammate. We are stronger together than we are apart.
  • Established position. | When a defensive player has both feet firmly planted on the floor before an offensive player can get past him.
    Knowing who we are and what we believe, no matter what happens, can help us stay grounded when we are being pressed to change our position or point-of-view. Growing deep roots under our beliefs can sustain our faith during the damaging storms that sometimes blow through.
  • Flagrant foul. | Unnecessary or excessive contact.
    Tempered emotions lead to better consequences in our daily lives. When we exert our force, we may achieve short-term results; but longer term, we have no chance of getting what our heart’s desire.
  • Full-court press. | When defenders start guarding the offense in the backcourt.
    Sometimes we just need to jump into life, press hard and see what happens. When our inner wisdom tells us to, “Go” and we feel His hand guiding our direction, then we need to press on with all of the energy and passion that is inside of us.
  • High percentage shot. | A shot that is likely to go in the basket.
    It would be wonderful if we always had a clear view of the basket. It doesn’t happen often. When it does, and you believe your chances are very good to get what you want, have the confidence to take the shot. Remember this, “We miss 100% of the shots we don’t take.”
  • Incidental contact. | Minor contact usually overlooked by officials.
    I believe most people really don’t mean to cause pain to another. Our baggage, life experiences or lack of understanding of the needs of others can create incidental contact. When you are the recipient, try to extend some grace. Sometimes the contact is not intentional; it’s just a by-product from some old wounds that are still healing.
  • In the paint. | Being in the foul lane area which is painted a different color.
    We live most our lives in the paint. This is where we work, love and believe there is meaning and the promise of something more. We have painted this area with the colors from a palette which has been given only to you – and only to me.
  • Keep away game. | A tactic used by the team leading near the end of the game to keep the ball and prevent its opponent from scoring.
    To prevent temptation, fear and regret from sabotaging your happiness or success when you are so close to gaining what you want, hold on to the belief you are worthy to receive the gift that is within your grasp.
  • Personal foul. | Contact between players that may result in injury or may provide one team with an unfair advantage.
    The fouls we commit cause pain and can damage our relationships. When that happens, we need to raise our hand, accept responsibility and ask for some forgiveness. If we commit too many fouls over a short period of time, we will find ourselves removed from the game and left to watch on the bench.
  • Playmaker. | The point guard who generally sets up plays for his teammates.
    My team is everybody in my life. My family, friends and co-workers all wear the same color jersey I do. My job is to find ways to make them successful. When I put the needs of others before my own, and surrender my wants to Him, then I find that more peace and success come into my life.
  • Scoring opportunity. | When a player gets open for a shot that is likely to score.
    Look for the success. Look for good things to open. When we see the opportunity we have been waiting for, we need to have the confidence we can indeed score.
  • Sixth man. | The best substitute on a team; usually the first player to come off the bench to replace a starter.
    Bench strength is important. Life can be tiring and at times we need someone to come in to relieve us so we can rest and recharge. Who is on your bench? It doesn’t have to be a person per se. It can be an activity, a cause or a project that will provide the opportunity to become reenergized.
  • Timeout. | When play is temporarily suspended by an official at the request of a team to respond to an injured player or discuss strategy.
    The need to rest and re-group is essential. Sustainability is best maintained when we take our own personal timeouts to evaluate where we are and how we feel. The need to pause and lift our heads in the midst of the busyness of our lives can give us the clarity to recalibrate and refocus our efforts.

Reference. The definitions for the basketball terms were found at First Base Sports.

One Shining Moment

The song One Shining Moment, by David Barrett, has become the anthem for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for the last 22 years because of its ability to stir the hearts and minds of those who hear it. The song can be heard after the championship game is played on Monday, April 6.

Perhaps the real power of the song is that its lyrics can be translated into our everyday lives as well:

But time is short
and the road is long
in the blinking of an eye
ah that moment’s gone
And when it’s done
win or lose
you always did your best
cuz inside you knew…
that one shining moment you reached deep inside.
One shining moment, you knew you were alive.

I will try to do my best every day.

I will look for ways to assist others. I will find the faith to make the blind pass more often. I will double team with Mary Beth so we can continue to face life together. I will ask for forgiveness when I make incidental contact or commit a personal foul. I will continue to box out for my children and live in the paint to create a life that is my own.

I will reach deep inside today and remember I am alive.

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The BridgeMaker Founder Alex Blackwell is the author of Letting Go: 25 True Stories of Peace, Hope and Surrender. Join the community to connect, share and inspire: Twitter | Facebook | More Posts

  • This was an absolutely fabulous post.

    Congratulations on an inspirational post and a job well done.

  • alex, i loved your email today. before my breast cancer, when my husband of 17 years left me, he and i played one on one every day for roughly 15 years. i loved it so much even though i was not great at it. every day, your words inspire my life. a while back, i wrote to ask you how i might find a way to use my own writing skills to also create and have a newsletter but i had no idea about what it is that i would choose to write. i do now. it came to me because of today’s newsletter from you. i have posted this newsletter of yours to my facebook page. i want others to read it. you are a brilliant writer and i really respect your love for your wife. i pray to find a husband like you who will love me in this way and never leave me as my husband did when i became unwell. thank you for being a daily inspiration to my life. even when you have hard days, you send inspiration. i admire you like crazy, alex, honestly. i pray to god every day to get to do what you do for a living, even though i have no clue how to do it. i just want to send to you my thanks for sharing your strength and your hope with me. sincerely,
    elise baracos