It was perhaps my third year at the last high school where I coached basketball before hanging up my whistle. There was this kid, Dan. Friendly, but reserved compared to others on the team. Respectful. Man, could he shoot. Pretty good defensively, too. There were others who were better athletes, but there was a place for Dan on my team.
One day after practice, he wanted to speak to me. Dan and I sat in the bleachers by ourselves. He had tears in his eyes when he told me he gets nervous. He didn’t want to play in pressure situations. He felt he couldn’t play in pressure situations. He didn’t know whether to stay on the team or quit. He mentioned his father had this “condition” and Dan thought he did, too. When he’s nervous, he loses his hair. His father was already bald. Dan had a fairly thick head of hair worn in the style of the mid- to late-80’s.
I was stunned. I had already slated for him to be part of a seven- or eight-man rotation. I definitely had a role for him. I convinced him to stay on the team, to be a part of the team. The guys liked him. My coaches and I liked him. We wanted him. He agreed.
One night several games later, he again asked to speak with me. He said he needed to quit the team. I asked him why. He said he didn’t like sitting on the bench. He said he wanted to play more. I reminded him of our previous conversation, and he said it felt different sitting and watching. He didn’t like it. I told him the guys and I wanted him to be a part of the team, and I asked him to sleep on it.
The following morning, I walked into the social studies planning area where my desk was, and in a brown paper grocery sack was Dan’s uniform and warm-ups. Washed, neatly folded. There was a note that said, “Thank you, Dan.”
I was reminded of that incident when Simone Biles, arguably the best gymnast in the world, withdrew from Olympic events except for the beam. She said she needed to do that for her mental health. Some in the world didn’t understand and bashed her. Others who didn’t understand accepted it and praised her for coming forward and advocating for herself. I was in the latter group.
Biles stated she had the “twisties.” From what I understand, this occurs when the gymnast loses track of where he or she is in the middle of twists and turns and every other gyration before landing. It’s dangerous. For as skilled as she is and for what stunts she performs, for her to lose her sense of place could be dangerous and devastating. Serious injury can occur.
Simone Biles, like Dan, advocated for herself. Both advocated for their mental health. They had a higher purpose, and while Dan never had the world platform Simone has, he, like she, did what he had to do to help himself. Both had pressure. Both had expectations- from themselves, and from others. We had crowned Simone a gold medalist in the Olympics, before she ever boarded the plane to Tokyo. Dan had been my choice for game situations where I needed a gun from the bench to score some points. Both different situations, but in reality, both similar situations.
I was a counselor for eleven or twelve years. I was a teacher and coach and administrator for many more. I have been a father for twenty-seven years and counting. I understand pressure. I placed it on my players. I know, unfortunately, I placed it on my kids. I saw, and see, the results of pressure from the counseling office, the administrative office, the classroom once again, and from the kitchen table.
Some kids can take it, while others can’t. We purposely put them in those situations, don’t we? We praise them. We urge them. We whisper in their ear, “You can do it!” with an arm around their shoulder. And with a pat on the butt, we send them out again to go conquer . . . themselves?
At what cost?
We don’t know what kids around us carry on their shoulders or in their heart. We don’t know the burden, the expectation, the pressure they place on themselves, or the burden, the expectation, the pressure that is placed on them. To succeed. To perform. To be the best. It’s no different for adults than it is for kids. But I ask again, at what cost?
I’ve seen kids in their later years walk away from the sport they “loved” and played from little on and seem happier for doing so. I’ve seen their parents shake their head as they wonder, “What in the world? Why?”
Whose world? The child’s or the parent’s world? Dan’s world or Simone’s world? Who is it that needs to be happy- the performer or the spectator? Something to think about . . .
Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!
I have an author’s website, besides my Facebook Author’s Page. On it, I talk about writing. I introduce characters from my books, and I introduce readers to other authors. I also release snippets from those books. Mostly, it is my way of reaching out to you so that you get to know my author side of life. You can find it at: https://jrlewisauthor.blog/
Other ways you can connect with me on Social Media:
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor
Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author
Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI /
My new book, Blaze In, Blaze Out, is now available for preorder. Use the promo code: PREORDER2021 and order it at the publisher’s website at: https://www.blackrosewriting.com/mystery/blazeinblazeout
Book Blurb for Blaze In, Blaze Out: Working with a joint multi-law enforcement task force, Detective Pat O’Connor infiltrated a Ukrainian crime family, headed by Dmitry Andruko. O’Connor and his control, Detective Paul Eiselmann, were the linchpins in the guilty verdict. The two detectives thought it was over. Eiselmann planned for a quiet weekend with his family at home. O’Connor planned on attending a high school soccer game, and then head to Northern Wisconsin for a fishing trip with another cop, Detective Jamie Graff, and four teenage adopted brothers: George Tokay, Brian Evans, Brett McGovern, and Michael Two Feathers. But Andruko is ruthless and vindictive. From his prison cell, he hires two contract killers to kill both O’Connor and Eiselmann and anyone else in the way. The killers can be anyone. The killers could be anywhere, and the killers could strike at any time. The quiet weekend and the short vacation turn into a deadly nightmare as O’Connor’s and Eiselmann’s lives and the lives of the four boys are in peril.
The one- or two-line promo for Blaze In, Blaze Out:
Eiselmann and O’Connor thought the conviction of Dmitry Andruko meant the end. They forgot that revenge knows no boundaries, vindictiveness knows no restraints, and ruthlessness never worries about collateral damage. A target is a target, and in the end, the target will die.
Betrayed: A Maxy Award Runner-Up for Mystery/Suspense! A Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read Award Winner!
Betrayed is Now
Available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback! https://amzn.to/3AfUUpS
A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, but no one is talking. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. Seeing is not believing. No one can be trusted, and the hunters become the hunted. https://amzn.to/2EKHudx
Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!
He blends in. He is successful, intelligent, and methodical. He has a list and has murdered eight on it so far. There is no discernible pattern. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, do not know they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement. https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm
Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner! Named “One of the Best Thrillers of 2018!” by BestThrillers.com
Caught in a Web is Now Available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback! http://bit.ly/2WO3kka
found the bodies of high school and middle school kids dead from an overdose of
heroin and fentanyl. MS-13, a violent gang originating from El Salvador,
controls the drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors. They send Ricardo
Fuentes to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach
them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old
boy, George Tokay, who had killed his cousin the previous summer. Detectives
Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs,
shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else, especially
George or members of his family. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696
The Lives Trilogy and Prequel are now available in both paperback, kindle and nook through both Amazon and Barnes & Noble! The links are below! I appreciate all the texts, requests, and messages I have been receiving. Thanks for your support and interest. I edited and revised each book. I am pleased with the results. I am thankful to BRW for their continued belief in me and in my writing. I hope you will rediscover or perhaps discover the Lives Trilogy and Prequel.
The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they live in separate parts of the country, the lives of Kelliher, 11-year-old Brett McGovern, and 11-year-old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The two boys become interwoven with the same thread Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their futures grow dark as each search for a way out. https://amzn.to/34nXBH5
Book One, Stolen Lives:
Two thirteen-year-old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they will end up like the other kids they found- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. To make the investigation that much tougher, Kelliher suspects that one of his team members might be involved. https://amzn.to/3oMo4qZ
Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
The boys are home, but now they have to fit back in with their families and friends. Their parents and the FBI thought the boys were safe. They were until people began dying. Now the hunt is on for six dangerous and desperate men who vow revenge. With no leads and nothing to go on, the FBI can only sit back and wait. A dangerous game that threatens not only the boys, but their families. https://amzn.to/2RAYIk2
Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
Three dangerous men with nothing to lose offer a handsome reward to anyone willing to kill fourteen-year-old Brett McGovern. He does not know that he, his younger brother, and a friend are targets. More than anyone, these three men vow to kill George, whom they blame for forcing them to run and hide. A fun vacation turns into a nightmare and ends where it started, back on the Navajo Nation Reservation, high on a mesa held sacred by George and his grandfather.
Outnumbered and outgunned, George will make the ultimate sacrifice to protect his adoptive father and his adoptive brothers- but can he? Without knowing who these men are? Or where they are? Without knowing whom to trust? Is he prepared for betrayal that leads to his heartbreak and possible death? http://bit.ly/SplinteredLives
Photo courtesy of Kelly Sikkema and Unsplash