By Lu Sweet
Western Wyoming Community College 

Lifelong Learning: Stay in the Game

 

September 12, 2019



I was reading an editorial by Tom Salvino in the Subaru Drive magazine of all places. (Yes, we have a Subaru as our home.) His article is titled, “The Best Kind of Teacher.” In it, Salvino talks about how growing up, his grandfather seemed to know everything from how to skip rocks to playing chess. His grandfather was his idol and he was always teaching. Salvano reminds us that we can always learn something new, even when we think we are already pretty good at something. Such is the case with what I call “gimmies” in basketball and of course, in life.

As a former basketball player and coach, and now as the WWCC Athletic Director, I know the importance of making every free throw and layup. As coaches, we refer to these as gimmies. Free throws are shot with no one defending you or standing in your way. Layups are called bunnies, freebies and gimmies because they are shot right at the backboard and should be easy points. Yet, it would be almost impossible to count the number of games that have been won or lost by missed free throws or layups. We are all human and we miss, mess up and make mistakes, however, in basketball and life, these “free opportunities” cannot be overlooked and it’s important to concentrate on taking advantage of them when they come along.


In life, I see many opportunities that people pass up because they don’t believe it’s “worth their time or effort for a small gain.” I disagree. I have been a lifelong learner forever really. Even though I have already earned more than my share of degrees, I continue to take one class per semester at Western, just to learn. I am fortunate that as an employee I am given a tuition waiver and therefore, I can take a class at no cost. This is definitely a “gimmie,” and while I feel like I am a fairly intelligent person, I am by no means done learning and definitely do not know it all-not even close. I absolutely love learning from those I am fortunate to work with and so I take advantage of the opportunity. I don’t have to be degree-seeking to seek out learning opportunities big and small. In the words of Napoleon Hill, “If you can’t do great things, do small things in a great way.” He’s right. It’s OK to cross several small things off my list and feel accomplished. It’s OK to take one class, or learn one or two new things every day.

It is also important to realize it’s OK to admit we make mistakes and don’t know everything, having room for growth. Have you ever been walking along on flat ground and simply stumbled on nothing…and then looked back at the ground as if to see if there is a way to blame the ground for your misstep? I have. But, instead, I really should just understand that we all stumble and fall, and I should just get up, brush myself off and keep moving forward again. Someone once reminded me that if we were all to act like young children do when they are first learning to walk, we would be great. Little children fall often. They stand up first, holding on to furniture, then get brave and let go a bit. During this process and as they take those first steps they fall a lot. But they don’t quit and just stick with crawling their whole lives. They get back up again, time after time, until they master it. And then there is no stopping them; they are off and running. And they are proud of their accomplishments as they should be. They don’t dwell on all the times they fell. Neither should we.


It’s rather simple: When we are given a free shot or opportunity, big or small, we should take it. In basketball, players DO miss the gimmies sometimes despite the fact they are supposed to be easy and they have practiced them a thousand times.

Win or lose, every game teaches us something, such as every shot at our goal puts us a little closer to accomplishing it in life. We just have to take advantage of opportunities presented to us, by working hard and stay in the game.

 

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