In 2012, Katryn and I decided to challenge our oldest son: Gonzalo. He was finishing up his Jr High basketball season and he was pretty proud of himself at the time. As parents, we listened to his frustrations of being a leader for his 8th grade team and then we gave him our point of view. Clearly he towered over his opponents and this made the game easier for him, but his lack of basketball skills was evident in his time on the court. We asked him if basketball was something he wanted to pursue in life. This would be one of his first serious decisions of his life. Like anything else, life is a series of compromises, you end up choosing what to do with your time and in return you give up on something else. In this case, basketball to a 14 year old means giving up time with your friends, video games, and other hobbies. It is a commitment that changes your life dramatically.
Do you really want to spend your life on a basketball court?
Katryn and I could not make this decision for him. On the way back from a basketball game, in the minivan, Gonzalo chose basketball. And so his journey begins…
I think back to my own adolescence and wonder at times what lessons I learned from the people that took an interest in me and ultimately contributed to my success. For a long time, I have considered that doing things on your own and failing is what makes you better, but perhaps Katryn is right and things do not have to be done the hard way always. For Gonzalo, the first thing to do is get him a basketball coach. After some convincing we were able to get Coach Acie Earl to provide weekly skills training for Gonzalo. At first Acie was hesitant to take on an older kid, but Gonzalo’s height was a distinguishing factor. When you are six foot four and only fourteen, people take notice of you. In addition to having skills training, a friend of mine is a personal trainer and agreed to provide Gonzalo with physical training.
Initially Gonzalo struggled. It was as if he had been walking for a few years now and all of a sudden he was told he was doing it all wrong! He had to start all over again. Mentally he had to discipline himself to learn to move his body as Acie commanded. The frustration quickly set in. We could see him getting pissed off and feeling defeated at times. Acie demanded more from him and he had to push himself to perform.
At the same time, in between Diego’s baseball games, we had sparring matches to see if the son could defeat the father. The son was now taller and heavier. I ultimately had to accept defeat in most of our matches, but I did manage to win a couple of games this Summer.
It was decided that with Gonzalo’s size and his progression, that Acie could use him as a backup player for his Club team: Venom Sports. This meant at first another day with Acie at the gym and eventually, we all had to hit the road for a Summer filled with basketball tournament weekends. For parents, this means we have to give up our weekends and support the players on the road, not an easy task for those of us with other kids. Scheduling becomes essential to making sure everyone knows what is happening this weekend and the week after that.
For Gonzalo this meant he would have to play with high school kids, mostly sophomores and juniors that would be about two years older than him. His first lesson is that high school kids hit hard regardless of how tall you are. In the center position, he became the object of abuse and he had to learn to defend himself against the onslaught of his opponents. Often Gonzalo was asked to block out the bigger players and unknown to him at the time, he managed to frustrate and tire out his opponents.
At last, a worthy opponent. Our battle will be legendary! (-Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda)
With each tournament, he progressed and started to come into his own identity. He still has a lot to learn, but his time on the court this Summer has solidified him into the man he will become. At this time he is still a kid, but he is now a basketball player.