Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

A new high school basketball coach has just been hired. It’s day one of practice. He walks into the gym and sees the group of kids that he has to work with. He sees players of all shapes and sizes. Chubby kids. Skinny kids. Some kids still look like puberty hasn’t yet hit. Some kids look like 25-year-olds with facial hair. Such is the world of high school athletics.

You can tell the true athletes right away. The way they move and carry themselves shows that they will be the ones in charge out on the floor. They will be the leaders. An experienced coach can tell which ones will be passive and sitting on the bench all season. They’re the little guys who just kind of wander around the court staring at their shoes instead of chasing after balls during the free shoot-arounds before practice and games. Their parents probably strongly suggested (forced) them to join the team. They would be better off in the library or joining the academic team… but here they are. Good coaches recognize their different abilities and find some way to bring something positive out of them. At the very least, this will be a good way to build up their social skills and get in better physical shape.

Then the coach sees somebody who makes his mouth drop. This kid has to be close to seven feet tall. He’s not a skinny “his bones are about to snap at any moment” seven feet tall, either. He’s an athlete. Muscles popping out everywhere. Watching him run and jump around on the court… this kid is REALLY something special.  He’s dribbling the ball like a point guard. This will be one REALLY good year.

The coach calls the team over and introduces himself. The kids are all attentive and respectful. Good. The less time he has to discipline and play dad/drill sargeant, the better. Now he tells the kids to do some running drills to get warmed up before they break up into groups and work on specific skills. The “warm up” is also an opportunity to get an even better look at who the athletes and non-athletes are.

Much to his surprise, the seven-footer is routinely leading the group in doing the “suicides” drill up and down the court. He sprints like a gazelle. The tallest kid on the floor AND the fastest? Wow. This kid is something special.

After the running drills are done, half of the team is bent over at the waist, grabbing their shorts, and gasping for air. John, the seven-footer, is not even breathing hard. He looks like he could do this all day. The coach smiles and fist-bumps the kid. “Okay, everyone. Let’s split up into groups.” He points to all the big guys. “You four, come down here with me. The others I want you all to go down to the other end with coach Bradley.” Now it’s time to see how this John kid does in some one-on-one drills in the post.

The coach pairs John up with the next-tallest kid on the team. They take turns on offense and defense, working on their footwork, turning and shooting the ball, learning when to pass out of the post, etc. John seems to be doing pretty well and seems somewhat familiar with all the terminology. He knows how to keep the defender behind him, he knows how to post up, he can shoot close range with either hand pretty well. There is A LOT of positives to work with here. This makes the coach even happier.

After about 15 minutes of drills the coach blows the whistle. “THREE ON THREE DRILLS!”. Coach gathers the players together and explains how they will be running up and down the court for the next 20 minutes playing against each other. He wants to see players cutting to the basket, he wants to see good passes, he wants to see players going for the steals… and he wants to see it all done fast. The more repetitions they get up and down the floor, the better. Most players seem eager to actually “play” together and show off. John looks a little anxious. This is the first time coach has seen John look less than completely comfortable out on the floor.

Coach splits up the players into teams of three.  John’s team is up first. The small point guard dribbles down the court. John makes a quick spin move, leaves his defender standing still and cuts  to the basket. The point guard sends John a leading pass. John grabs the ball and has an open lane to the basket. He drives, elevates, and gently lays the ball above the rim… and the ball rattles out. No basket. Coach blows the whistle. “JOHN! In a situation like that, you don’t want to finesse the ball in there. People are going to be coming hard at you so you need to go hard to the basket and dunk it. If you try to lay it in like that you have a higher chance of missing… just like you did just now with nobody on you. Alright??” John nods and steps to the side to wait his turn.

John’s team is up again. This time he cuts to the basket, plants his feet, turns and faces the point guard. He wants to post up on the defender. Coach likes the energy. He likes that he’s trying different things.

The defender has no chance. He’s only six feet tall. It’s like watching a dad take on his little son in driveway basketball.  Players can’t help but laugh at the mismatch.  John gets the ball down low. He makes one move that sends the defender stumbling to the ground. John turns his body, elevates, and tries a baby hook shot that banks off of the back board. Another miss. The coach, again, blows the whistle. “JOHN! Again… you lost the defender. He’s on the ground. You’re a foot taller than him. There’s no need to keep that far away from the basket and try a hook shot. Turn right up to the basket, elevate, and throw it down! You’re right there. Next time, a defender is going to swat at you so you need to be ready, go hard, and get the two points. Got it?!” John nods. He looks defeated as he hangs his head and walks to the sideline.

John’s team is up one more time. Once again the point guard gets the ball and John takes off for the basket. He runs directly to the basket with no defender in his way. He’s way too fast for them to keep up with him.  The point guard gives him an arching pass right to the rim. An alley-oop. Here comes the thunderous dunk they’ve all been waiting for. All the players that were sitting on the sideline stand up in awe as the pass leaves the guards hands. John jumps, catches the ball in mid-air, he’s easily twelves inches above the rim… and he lets the ball go. The ball drops, bounces around on the rim for what seems like 10 minutes… and finally falls in. It’s two points, but not the way the coach wanted it. A kid on the sideline beats coach to the punch and yells, “DUDE! JUST DUNK THE FUCKING BALL!!!” Coach blows his whistle and yells towards the sidelines. “WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE! I’LL BE THE COACH OUT HERE, OK?!” The team gets quiet.

Coach blows his whistle again. “Water break! Hustle back.” The kids start jogging towards the water fountains on the other side of the gym. Coach grabs John by the arm. “Hold on, John. We need to chat.” He motions for John to sit down. “Okay, look. That’s three times now that you’ve had the ball right at the rim, with no defender. You’re one for three… and that last one was just dumb luck. That shouldn’t have gone in. You would be three for three if you’d just dunk the thing. You’re already above the rim. Why not just throw it down? Son, if I was as fast, as strong and as tall as you… I’d be dunking that ball every chance I get. I used to have dreams about dunking the ball when I was your age, but I never got past 5’11”. You’ve been given a gift here, and you need to use it right if you want to play on this team. Understand what I’m saying?” John just nods and looks a little teary-eyed. Coach sighs. “Alright… talk to me. What’s going on? Everything good at home?” John explains that yeah, everything at home is fine. He doesn’t know why he can’t dunk it. He tried before and he missed and everyone laughed at him. He tried a couple more times last year and never could do it. He gave up on it. He loves basketball, but he sucks at it and he doesn’t know why.

Coach sighs. “Ok. You just have a mental block, right? It’s all in your head. I’m telling you… if you just get ONE dunk down, it will all click for you and you’ll be dunking ALL the time. Then you’ll get more confident and the sky is the limit for you. You are absolutely the best player out there. No joke. You just need to tell yourself that and believe it. Can you stick around after practice today? You and I will work on it together. I promise you will make this happen for you.” 

The other players return from their water break and several of them start right away asking John why he’s not dunking the ball. John does a good job of ignoring them. Coach blows the whistle and they get back to working on drills. For the rest of the practice, John continues to refuse to attempt a dunk. His fellow players continue to yell at him. Coach eventually steps in and tells them to cut back on the chatter and play hard. He knows John is fragile, but he also knows it’s good for him to hear this from his peers. Plus, once he DOES dunk it, he will feel that much better about rubbing it in his teammates faces. The thought puts a smile on coach’s face. Now… how to get John to believe in himself and get him to do something as simple as throwing a ball through a metal hoop…?

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The analogy should be pretty obvious at this point. I’ve been in this DSO game for years now, and I can tell you that SO MANY of you are John the seven-footer, and you don’t even know it. You are RIGHT THERE at the hoop, and you just need to take the next step of throwing the ball down.

You stick around an abusive, cheating, borderline spouse… and the rest of us sit back and say, “WTF? WHYYY?!” Just dunk the fucking ball. Leave her.

You’ve been divorced for three years but you’re too afraid to ask the cute gal at the coffee shop out on a date. Just dunk the fucking ball. Talk to the girl.

You started dating a gal, she makes you feel amazing, but you just found out that she cheated on her ex-husband and she’s been lying to you for the past three months. Just dunk the fucking ball. Break up with her.

You caught your wife cheating for the second time, but still want to try and make it work. She refuses to go to counseling. She refuses to stop texting her lover. She doesn’t want to talk about it. Just fucking dunk the ball. Call an attorney tomorrow. Divorce her.

You hate your low paying night shift job? Just dunk the fucking ball. Put a resume together and start hitting the streets and get a better job.

Don’t have the right job skills? Just dunk the fucking ball. Go find out what skills you need and talk to people that will tell you how to get them. Don’t take no for an answer. Failed? Try again.

Your ex has threatened you and says she won’t let you see your kids? Just dunk the fucking ball. Call an attorney today and find out your rights. Don’t play the nice guy roll anymore. Get mean. Put her in jail, if it comes to that.

Upset that no women will give you attention? Mad that your dream of living happily-ever-after with one woman forever may not happen? Just dunk the fucking ball. Recognize that you can make YOU your priority for once. Make it a game. Improve a little each and every day. Become a guy that your kids, your peers and your community can look up to. When you become an undeniably great guy, your perspective on life changes completely. Suddenly you don’t NEED a woman to complete you any longer. Then guess what happens? Yep, they come out of the woodwork. Then you find that you’re suddenly picky about who you let into your world. Funny how that works…

JUST. DUNK. THE. FUCKING. BALL.

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