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The Bounce

The other day I took time to sit in a nearby park and enjoy the sun. A group of teenage boys arrived and began to shoot hoops. They were playing a follow the leader type of game, where one would shoot at the basket using a particular technique (twist-and-jump, howl like a wolf, distinctive facial expression). The boys laughed, smack-talked and challenged each other to match each leader’s style. I was thoroughly entertained, as were other observers of this unique game.

It was the smallest boy’s turn. Standing perfectly still he bounced the ball at an angle; the trajectory taking it in the general direction of the net, but not nearly high enough to make it through the hoop. “Harder!” a couple of the boys yelled as they threw the ball back to him for a do-over. The boy took a few steps back and bounced the ball harder, it went higher, but still fell short of the hoop. “Harder!! Harder!!” his friends encouraged him. The boy spit on his hands (I have never figured out why we do that) bounced the ball a couple of times and tried again. The ball headed in the general direction of the hoop, the boys seemed to hold their breath and as the ball missed the hoop again, a collective groan escaped from the group.

The boys started chanting “Harder!! Harder!! Harder!!” as an older boy retrieved the ball and walked over to the smaller boy who was looking pretty discouraged. He was trying something new, and it didn’t look like he was going to be able to do it. I found myself silently begging the smaller boy not to quit.

As the older boy handed the ball over to the shooter, he whispered something to the smaller boy while the rest of the boys continued chanting “Harder!! Harder!! Harder!!”

The small boy looked up at the older boy who just nodded at him and walked back to where the rest of the boys were standing and cheering. The small boy stood there for a few moments, looking down at the ground then he took a couple more steps back, eyeballed the impending trajectory, took another step back and this time he put everything he had into the shot. This time ball hit the ground so hard the bottom of the ball flattened, it flew upward and much to my amazement, sailed cleanly through the hoop. The boys went wild. I don’t think winning a gold medal could have resulted in louder cheering or greater exuberance.

I caught myself (and others) clapping and smiling openly at the smaller boy’s success and the support he had received from his friends.

I’m sure there are multiple lessons in what I witnessed. I took away two things. First, the boy did not quit. He could have changed his shot to something he could easily accomplish, but he didn’t. Instead, he accepted the support of his friends and guidance from someone who had more experience. He adjusted his plan more than once and continued until he was successful.

Second, I remembered that the harder the ball hit the ground, the higher it bounced. What if I adopted that image for a mindset: although I might fall hard, the harder (more difficult) the fall, the higher I will bounce.

Please share and tell me what you took from the story.

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