Athletes That Never Made It

You think it would be easy to move on from something, especially if you didn’t go the distance and experience the success you once imagined. Dreams you’ve envisioned, and it feels like your heart was shattered the second you have to move on. That is, after years of procrastinating the inevitable, fighting for the only thing you know and love.

Perhaps an injury detoured your path, or you just weren’t in the right environment and the high school coach held you back. See, nobody likes different or unorthodox, nor do they have the patience to groom adolescents. Of course you have to hit the books to participate in school athletics, but in the process many get lost in the fold. Beyond skill level, the marginal players with good attitudes get overlooked for above average players and results. Sure, we all want to win as much as the next guy, especially if you’re reading this. We thrive on competition, only to reflect on those special moments pushed into the back of our minds.

Our stories are important, unfortunately, few want to hear the details. Not everyone wins the championship or goes professional, but I know a plethora of phenomenal athletes and that’s just in my city.

The world is full of favorites and politics, it is what it is. That may be the way the cookie crumbles, but the countless hours of dripping blood, sweat, and tears, well let’s just say I have leather skin and the heart of a champion that keeps my spirits sky high. I was thrown into basketball at 4 years old because a doctor prescribed Ritalin for ADHD. My parents didn’t approve, so they put their energetic child in a basketball league and I’m writing this 21 years later. Reminiscing, basketball was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and my parents did right by not advocating medication.

Basketball, to me, was more than a sport. It taught me respect and work ethic. It helped me shape my perception and correlate real-world situations to welcome challenges. Over time I developed thick skin and the ability to accept criticism, as well as communicate with others. The sport gave me an ice breaker to communicate with my elders, females, and strangers, it was the crutch an outsider needed to make friends and do something that made me happy. Throughout my middle school and high school playing days, I participated in referring, score-keeping, and assisting local instructors at various camps and clinics. At one point I thought that’s what defined who I was.

Dedication. My father always told me to work when no one is watching. That’s what I continue to do in other aspects of my life. You aren’t alone, you’re not the only one that sacrificed everything to make it. I remember those countless hours in a gym. My dad (who has his own story as an all star in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and wrestling) was there all the time, training me and so was my brother, training with me and helping each other. We would tally thousands of shots in one night, play pick-up against older guys, play one on one full court until we couldn’t stand anymore. That’s actually a reference to all my friends and teammates, you know who you are and I hope this article finds you well.

To make a longer story shorter, I played the game until community college alluded my services.

One coach told me I was too short (5’7). Another coach declared me a red shirt, after his assistant coach notified me that I would be the starter. At the time I was filled with rage, and was bitter for several years after leaving the team. Perhaps I could have been more mature (19 years of age) and bite the bullet, but as a red shirt you are expected to attend every practice and game without playing a single second all season. So I was going to class like the rest of the team was, but refused to collect towels, make the road trips, and record the games.

A couple years out of high school, my father was named the new boys’ varsity basketball coach at my Alma Mater. I grew up a coach’s son, and was known as an extension of a coach on the court as the floor general and point guard. The Athletic Director agreed that I was a mature student and individual, and I joined the staff as the assistant varsity coach. For 3 years I served my father and school with passion and professionalism. It was a great experience, we also coached my younger brother and he can share his story. I know it wasn’t easy for him to be coached by his father and brother that recently graduated.

We were very close, and basketball is something we all would eat, drink, and sleep. Including my mother (she played softball), one of the biggest and knowledgeable fans you could find in the crowd. Those chapters of my life, I will forever cherish and my future kids will get have their own fan base. Some kids play to get away from everything because their home is broken, others because they love the games, and those that have talent but it’s merely a hobby to them. Whatever you are or were, I want to thank my parents for always being there no matter what. Not everything was peachy, and today there are challenges, but they always supported my brother and I. I just want to take this opportunity to encourage those that were lucky like myself, to simply carry that on. And if you didn’t, hopefully you can feel my joy while reading this and recall those instances when you wished there was a familiar face cheering…so you can also pay it forward!

The program wanted to control playing time according to seniority, and as basketball die-hard aficionados, we disagreed and departed for a new school to instill a foundation. For that one season at a new high school, we won the first game for the boys’ basketball program and followed that with a successful freshman team that finished in second place. The father-son coaching duo that we were, choose to abide by our strong ethics and morals. We may be coy and politically correct, but our actions manifest our firm stance against political nonsense.

There was a wide belief that I would be a head coach myself sooner rather than later, and possibly a college coach. In the back of my mind I have that dream of coaching in the college ranks, recruiting players, and running a program.

Just the other day I spoke to a colleague at work, and somehow the topic of my basketball past came up. I had the beginning of this article written months ago, and decided to put it on the back burner for another time. My break from this was indefinite, without a timetable, and I realized that it was both painful and a relief to get it out of my system.

I play pick-up basketball every week, whether it’s at my gym or a nearby recreation center. It’s not the only sport I’ve ever played, I’m an even bigger football fan and only participated in spring ball. In fact, I could have been a pretty good wrestler and I had some success playing tennis. We’re athletes, that’s what we do! Nowadays, I play football with a fun and competitive group of friends every Sunday morning, before NFL Sunday begins! Those guys had their fun on football teams and other sports as well, and it feels great to play and talk about it. Then we go about our business, which consists of watching football all day and following our fantasy teams.

Nobody told us to start playing football once a week, or to wake up at 7 AM on a Sunday after a late Saturday night. Nobody told us to get up and play some pick-up games anywhere, there’s no coach or cameras around. We do it because we love it, even if that’s all we have. Life isn’t fair but it’s what you make of it. If you want to play, don’t let anyone stop you. If you want to coach, get involved even if it’s volunteering because you have to start somewhere. Whatever lessons and characteristics you picked up from being an athlete, use them to your advantage whether it’s in the sports world or the real world.

If you were wronged, immature, blinded, etc…athletes are already motivated, but we can learn from yours or my situation to make a positive impact on ourselves and our surroundings. You can: write about it, call into sports radio, coach or ref, give game commentary, play recreational…just because we didn’t make it to the pros doesn’t impede our progress to make it period. Whether you only played in high school or even played at the collegiate level…Maybe overcome the fear of thinking about the past and associating it with failure, but in all reality, we have to move on.

We can achieve victory and your time was well spent…it was all worth it!

Here are some links to higher-profile athletes, some you might have heard of and many more not documented: