Another Saturday morning, another hour in my basement spent on my bike. I was hoping to test drive an epicRIDES DVD which arrived in the mail this week, but in trying to keep the peace with my neighbor, who shares the basement with me, and avoid a potentially weird interaction with my landlord (who was at the house today) I decided to plug in my iPod and pedal away while catching up on the podcasts of the NPR radio show Only A Game.
A few weeks ago, the broadcast did a story on women’s basketball player Elena Della Donne. She was the best girls high school player in the nation a few years ago and signed on to play for UConn — the powerhouse of all that is women’s college basketball, particularly in the last two seasons. But Della Donne was in Storrs, Conn. for only about 48 hours before she left and returned home Delaware. At the time, she said she was burned out from basketball. In hindsight, she was blaming basketball for taking her away from her family and her older sister, who is both deaf and blind and whom she achingly missed.
What? The best recruit in the country, potentially the next best thing in college basketball was walking away from the best program in the country? Really?
After a year away from basketball, Delle Donne returned to the sport, playing for Delaware. And while the Blue Hens are getting more fans and a bit more attention, the program is merely hoping to make to the NCAA tournament field, not contend for a title or second undefeated season, like UConn.
It reminded me of the story of Bob Starkey, an assistant coach for the Louisiana State University women’s basketball team. In 2007, when the head coach resigned amid a controversy, Starkey took over as the interim head coach, helping the Lady Tigers to the Final Four. Asked by reporters (including myself) if he was going to lobby for the job on a permanent basis, he routinely said no. He didn’t want to be a head coach.
This was confusing for many. What? Not want to be a head coach? Why would you be in basketball, be an assistant coach for years, if you did not aspire to run your own program one day? Did he lack ambition and drive?
No. Starkey simply was one of the best basketball minds in the game (men or women) and wanted to do what he loved — develop, tweak and teach the motion offense. Being a head coach means lots of other drains on your time — fundraising, meeting with boosters, media commitments, university commitments. He didn’t want that. He wanted to coach basketball.
Both Della Donne and Starkey provide a great inspiration in authenticity.
If you base your life, your decisions, around what other people value, you set yourself up for misery. People may wonder and criticize and even call you names for taking the unexpected route.
But the less traveled road is always more interesting — especially if its the one which calls to your soul the loudest.