The Game Of Character

9:17 PM Theophilus Mensah 0 Comments


CHAMPIONS OF GABL D2 LEAGUE


FIRST QUARTER:
It was the first game of the season. The wait was over. The irreplaceable euphoria of playing in the 2015 Greater Accra division 2 basketball league was palpable. Coming off a strong pre-season, we were very confident going into this season. And why wouldn't we be. At the helm of affairs, we had one of the most confident people I have ever known. "You guys are the best team in this country", he'd often say. This may sound inconceivable to most, but he meant every single word of it. He only hoped that message could resonate to his players and that they would espouse that confidence and self belief. And we did. I mean when the man speaks, it's impossible not to believe him. We played the Reformers (junior team) in our first game. During our pre-season, our junior team gave them a good game and we actually beat their senior team. Hope this perspective gives you an idea about how big an upset it was when I tell you that we lost our first game to them. Yea, we did. 


SECOND QUARTER : 
And there it was. It was as though our demons of last season had reared their ugly heads again. To some extent, the seed of doubt was planted in our coach's mind and consequently that cascaded down to us. You see, self confidence is a good thing but an overdose of it sometimes engenders complacency and that has its concomitant problems. 

In the space of a 40 minute game, our minds which were hitherto filled with self belief and high expectations for months leading to the start of the league had suddenly been supplanted by self doubt and confusion. 

That loss reaffirmed the most important lesson we had learnt in our abysmal season last the year before; that NOTHING was going to be given to us. If we think we are the best then we should prove it every time we step on the court. After the game, coach reiterated that and threw a challenge to us and himself to simply back it up. We won our next game convincingly and then lost the next to the "Bad Boys Detroit Pistons" of our league (the Police team). However, in lieu of keeping our heads down and feeling despondent after another loss, we were proud of our efforts. To us, all wins and losses  are viewed in perspective. We don't necessarily judge our wins and losses by the scoreboard. How we play, how we execute our plays, how we communicate with each other, making reads, understanding why a decision we made is good or bad, how assertive players are, how players garner the courage to execute skills in game like conditions. To us, those count as wins and losses. Don't get it twisted, the final score on the scoreboard is not inconsequential to us,  however it's imperative to understand that winning the war ultimately, is contingent on winning these little battles. 

We lost our next game against Galaxy Basketball team and to be honest, it was a lackluster performance to say the least. It was a roller coaster season for us up to that point with highs and lows. But we knew we had to stay unflappable and focus on the ultimate goal. 

THIRD QUARTER: 
I joined DC Dynamics about five years ago. At that time I just wanted to play organized basketball. I loved this game so much, and It was all I could think about. It was pretty simple for me. I just wanted to improve and showcase my skills and hopefully make a profession out of it. As time went on I grew to understand that it wasn't that simple. It's not just a game. It's a powerful tool that can influence your life and the life of others. I learnt that there are so many aspects of the game that transcends into our daily lives. Hard work, team work, punctuality, confidence, sacrifice, passion,etc. And what better way than to use something that kids love to teach them these virtues. 

When I first joined, what I saw was in stark contrast to what I was used to seeing everywhere else in this country. I saw kids between the heights of 6'1 and 6'5 execute guard skills. This concept was alien to other basketball programs in Ghana who invariably taught them to basically live and die in the post. To some extent this is understandable considering the inherent lack of length in our basketball fraternity in the country. But these kids shouldn't be limited to some skills at the expense of others. That thought process alone epitomizes the culture of Dynamics. I was taught to challenge the status quo and push the frontiers of my abilities, as were my teammates. Mostly after our games people ask me why our "bigs" are always outside the paint. It's simple, our offense is predicated on every player being dynamic; being able to execute all skills that the game provides irrespective of their size or length. We needed to win our next 6 games to be crowned league champions and we braced ourselves for this prodigious task. 




FOURTH QUARTER: 
We gave coach Feranmi a Gatorade bath. Every player cut a piece of the net. We were jumping and jubilating all over the place. It was absolutely bedlam with players showcasing all their dance moves. Well, that's how it happened in my dreams the night before our championship game. 

Conversely, we were all kinda laid back after we won it all. The reticence was bemusing to say the least. We had won it all. We won our last six games and were champions of the league. It then dawned on me. We weren't laid back after winning the championship because we were not excited, but because we knew how good we were and we finally backed it up. It was about damn time! I felt like an entertainer making a crowd go wild and then just dropping the mike and walking off after a performance. Yea, we got it like that. I sometimes wonder how a group of working class men who are limited to one or no practice a week, be such a formidable and organized force.  It's quite the conundrum. 

As the years go by, our basketball hours are mitigated due to other commitments, but the love and dedication never wavers. In the course of our season, encouraging words were echoed repeatedly. "Brick by brick, good is the enemy of great, focus on the little battles, focus on the task". In the NBA teams have film sessions, players only meeting, etc. These intangibles are equally as important as what happens on the court. It calibrates the mind to focus on the goal. At the beginning of the season, after our first loss, we became the laughing stock of the league. The chatter was that we were underachievers. We were in an unsafe place. A place life presents us in different ways and in different times. But we knew all we had to do was to get rid of self doubt and more importantly be indefatigable in our quest to be great in any situation we find ourselves in.  At the end of the day it wasn't just a basketball game, it wasn't just a division two league, it was a story of character. The story never ends. It beckons for a next chapter. And the success of this chapter becomes a benchmark for the next. 

KAI KAI KAI - FUBAAAAAAAA!
Photos: Sena Asante.
Inspired by: Coach Feranmi, Dennis Boateng, Nana Yankah, Billy Mubarak, Sena Asante, Charles Fordjour, John Mensah, Nii lankai Mills, Nana Boakye, Patrick Obeng, Alwyn Bruce, Mingle Archibald, Reggie Boateng, David Maja, Emmanuel Mensah, Francis Okunade, Jayden Boateng(team mascot).

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