LeBron sets important example

A video made its way around YouTube and various media outlets in recent weeks of a young basketball player getting a pep talk from his Dad after a game.

The 11-year-old (named Bryce) looked dejected, presumably disappointed for not scoring more points or making more shots in his youth basketball game.

His father pulls him aside and sets him straight — recounting a series of plays that Bryce made that were key to his team’s win — a rebound here, an assist there — but most importantly, this Dad told his son he was proud of him.

Of course the kicker to this story is that the Dad is LeBron James, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, so this advice may mean a little more than your average basketball-watching father.

As I watched the video, and the extensive commentary about it, what struck me most was the tremendous pressure this young man must feel to achieve. Talk about big shoes to fill — they don’t get any bigger than LeBron James.

Over the many years of covering high school sports, I have witnessed countless parents and others imparting their support and wisdom onto young athletes before, during and after their events. The scene is seldom as encouraging as the LeBron video; sometimes the moments are unfortunately hard to watch.

Certainly LeBron James isn’t perfect, no one is — but this particular moment, captured across a busy gym can be a teaching opportunity to young players as well as their parents. Hopefully these kinds of moments are happening in private all around the country — during car-rides home and across dinner tables.

We’ve all probably seen the parent who coaches from the bleachers, screaming at their own kids and others, as well as the coaches and officials. I’ve often wondered what the car rides home for those student-athletes would be like — how do those private moments play out if the public display is so extreme?

Everyone wants their child to be successful, to reach their potential and to be fulfilled in their athletic pursuits, among others. Some folks express their passion for their kids’ sports in different ways, and sometimes those ways can be hurtful, even destructive.

So on this first day of the New Year, my wish for young student-athletes is more moments like the one between LeBron and Bryce James.

My wish for those who play, coach, officiate and support scholastic athletics is an environment that fosters positive learning experiences and above all, sportsmanship.

I wish for all of us a culture that is filled with the good things that make athletics so special, and such an important part of young peoples’ lives: things like friendship, camaraderie, encouragement, personal growth, goal-setting, learning to overcoming obstacles and disappointments, being part of something bigger than ourselves, and achieving more than we could have possibly imagined.

Happy New Year!

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.