Shoot Your Shot: Lessons in Basketball, Business and Adversity

I have never been more proud of my son than the day he was kicked from his eighth grade basketball team.

A year later, when I look back on that day, I vaguely remember his tears and the disappointment in his voice when he told me he wasn’t on the team. But what I remember more clearly is how later that afternoon he grabbed his basketball and asked to go to the park and practice shooting. The sting of getting cut only made him want to try harder and be better prepared next time.

If it had been me at that age, I would have spent the afternoon venting my disappointment on the pages of my diary, convincing myself that the whole system was rigged and I would have sworn never to touch a basketball (I had a rush for drama at the time).

But that’s not how my son reacts to adversity.

Another disappointment came over the summer during her ninth grade eye exam. We already knew he had amblyopia, more commonly known as lazy eye, and we’ve already attempted to treat him with vision therapy. But this was the first time an optometrist had clearly explained to both of us how the condition affects depth perception and, therefore, certain career paths and certain sports.

On the way home from that date, we talked about basketball. Yes, depth perception is a big factor in basketball, I told him. But I was also clear with him that didn’t mean he couldn’t play basketball, he just had to work a lot harder than everyone else.

Trials for the freshman team proved to be much more intense than college trials. The high school basketball program begins two months before the official tryouts with a rigorous program of physical conditioning and skills training. But my son rose to the challenge and more.

Throughout September and October, he worked harder at basketball than he had ever worked before in his life.

On the occasional nights or weekends when he didn’t have a workout, he spent hours at the YMCA working alone as well as with upperclassmen who took the time to give him advice and encouragement. And he soaked up every moment of it, knowing that every word of advice and every minute in the gym counted. Knowing that he would need all the help he could get during the trials, which took place last week.

All day Wednesday, I braced myself for the heartbreak and disappointment that might come through the door after school. I thought of all the ways I could show my son how proud I was that he gave it my all. I could take lessons from the business world on fail fastand all the adversities faced by all start-up entrepreneurs around the world.

Because essentially his experience with basketball was a bit like starting a startup. He lacks the experience of other players, many of whom have been playing the sport since kindergarten. And it had to overcome its depth perception challenges, just as a startup has to work twice as hard to compete against bigger, more experienced players with more resources at their disposal.

But startups have something large caps rarely have enough of; call it driving, call it courage, call it innovative, call it what you want. It’s intangible Something that sets successful startups apart from all others in their industry.

It was this special relentlessness that led NeuroOne to stay focused and persevering in pursuit of its most recent FDA clearance after failing its first attempt.

And it was that particular relentlessness that led to an elated 14-year-old walking through my front door on Wednesday afternoon, his face practically beaming as he said, “I made the team, mum.”

Pedersen’s POV is released every Monday. If there’s a medical technology topic you’d like her to consider, email [email protected] (please put “POV” in the subject line).
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