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I usually start off with ball handling when I'm doing personal training. Outside, at the courts behind the local school, I'm training one of my mentor's son. He played for me in a recreation league, then again for AAU, which is where I created a relationship with his father. We talk periodically and he helped me set up my first website for my AAU team Northern Legacy of Warriors, which I turned into a Sole Proprietorship.

The wind lightly blowed and the sun sat at its peak, giving warmth against the cool breeze. The young talent shot and the wind carried it enough to cause the ball to clank off the rim.

It was a nostalgic scene. Remembering a time years ago when the same rec center I coached at gym was closed, and my dad and I were planning to get up shots. I called to tell him that there wasn't any open gym, and that I would see him at home. Still wanting to get up shots, I grabbed my shoes and my outdoor basketball setting off on foot for the outside court about a mile from my house.

On the way dribbling up the steep hill heading towards my destination, I see my dad and he pulls up next to me asking where I was going. I told him I was headed to the outside courts behind the Catholic church, where I've been to basketball camps and later played in adult leagues.

I reached my destination, the court was painted over an uneven parking lot that rose and fell like the ocean. Sticking to one half of the court hoping the ball didn't roll towards half court, then I would have to chase it downhill. I donned my shoes then started to get warm, footwork, ball handling, and then shots.

As I finished up my ball handling I heard a car enter the parking lot, I recognize my father's car hoping he wasn't coming to scold me for not putting up the dishes before I left. Parking and getting out he walked up to me and said, "You took the initiative to come out here and put in the work, I'm going to meet you halfway," and started rebounding for me.

Every child deserves to have the feeling that I experienced in that moment. Every child deserves to have a father willing to meet them halfway. I will forever relish that day, I began to think about the memory on a different level. Somewhere deeper in me believing this was a pivotal point in my life, laying a foundation for not only fatherhood, but love, coaching, and relationships.

It's truly unfortunate that some people grow up without someone like my father in their corner. At points in my life I've wished my dad, my parents period, could somehow spread the love and lessons learned when I was young to all the children who lack that direction. It's one of the reasons I want a lot of kids, knowing that they'll receive the adequate love from a father that every child needs.

Out there mimicking my dad, saying things he said to me when I was young like "Don't worry about the wind, just work on your form." It was as if, for about a minute, I was a kid again. In the comfort of my dad's confidence in me, the anticipation for the future, the persistence to be a Division I athlete and NBA All Star.

I wondered could I turn the player I was training to be all that he dreamed of, like my dad did for me. My mentor's son reminds me of myself when I was in 9th grade, still growing into his body trying to figure out his signature game. Barking a command and puffing my chest out I told myself I can, and I will, help him reach his ultimate goal.

As long as he's consistent and takes what I teach him and works on it everyday in his garage. That's the key, a parent can get their child trainers and coaches but if they are not putting the extra work in when not around said trainer, then it's almost pointless. One can't get better at anything in life by practicing once or twice a week. It has to be everyday.

Ending off with a speech similar to that, we parted ways after walking back to the front of the school to our cars. Looking at my phone I saw that my youngest, Amara, was acting up and they needed me home ASAP since they were trying to prepare for an event.

Driving to my parent's house, my mind wandered back to our father son time on the court. I began to hope that I could amount to a father like my own, the fortitude, the wisdom, the implementation of discipline and hard work. I want to give my children that feeling that I'll never be able to forget. A sentiment like the weight of the comforter in the middle of the night, an autonomous relationship holding you tight until you fall asleep.

Will I have that parental instinct to know when another child is not good for my own? How did my parents know? Intuition? Maybe it's another extension of parenthood, accomplishing another level and subsequently receiving a package and it's this ability. Like in a video game, it's an asset needed to accomplish the next phase.

Unlike video games, there isn't any do-overs in real life. There could be consequences for failing to properly assess the peers of your children, but sometimes, certain situations are inevitable. When those happenstances occur, do I take the blame as a father or is my faith in the foundation that I layed for him.

Hopefully my parents found serenity in that thought, because I know I've messed up more times than I can count. Some with reverberations that will last for the unknown future, but at the end of the day I've done more good than bad. Which I hope accounts for something, at least in God's eyes.

Nearing my parent's house where my sister brought her friend over and my daughter awaited my arrival. I thought about the impact my father has had on my life, from visibly setting the example, to the love and compassion he showed, and the hearty laughs. He used to wear his class ring on his pinky due to his hand growing, but me wanting to be like him got my high school class ring fitted to my pinky.

I wondered why the person who sized it gave me a funny look.

It's a possibility that my need to want to measure up to the great before me, like Kobe to MJ, became an obsession leading to overcompensating and self appointed pressure. Along with the need to be perfect torturing my mind as I tried to will my body to play to the higher level I know I'm capable of.

By the same token, that same determination instilled resiliency and an impeccable work ethic, that will and has carried over to every facet of my life. The same mindset that potentially held me back is the same thought process that fueled my desire to be and do more. The fire in me that rather die than quit, the flames nipping at my heels as I run threatening to burn me if I slowed down or stopped. The inferno waiting to be ignited by electing to choose to negate ball handling or free throws for that day.

A consistent voice in the back of my mind barking at me not to quit, to keep going, to outwork everybody. It played on the depths of my weaknesses. Reminding me that if I failed, if I succumbed to the pain, if I didn't chase my dreams, that somehow my deepest fear of never emulating manhood would come true. I truly believed, that if I didn't keep running, my ACES would take over.

Literally and figuratively. Looking back on my childhood I asked myself, what was the true engine behind my drive to be great? Frankly, I'm not positive if it was the passion to be a great player, or if I was running from my past fully submerging myself into the task at hand to get away. My two favorite activities growing up were basketball and reading, and in both instances, when I was engaged, I didn't think about anything else.

I remember thinking on multiple occasions how I enjoyed the break from my head and life in general when I step on the court or smell the fresh pages of a newly opened book. My Freshman year at The Citadel, our starting point guard from Texas asked me a question that really jump started this thought process and that I still mull over til this day. He asked, "Do you love to win more than you hate to lose? Or do you hate to lose more than you love to win?"

If I had to answer to the best of my ability, I feel like I lived my life hating to lose more than I loved to win. Spending my life worrying about losing or the adverse affects or what cold happen, instead of focusing on winning and making it happen. I've struggled mightily, these past eight years, between my two ears contemplating that question.

So far, the best conclusion I've come up with is that when you love to win, you have a fixed focus on that goal doing everything in your power to ascertain the exhilarating feeling that comes with a victorious finish. When you hate to lose, you're always on defense protecting yourself from failure focused on what you did wrong and scrambling in hopes to rectify before time trickles down to the infamous zeros.

Through self analyzing and excavating my previous mindset, I've come to the understanding that a winner's mindset values the win over fear of the loss. When you have fixed focus, regardless of the situation, just like reading and playing basketball as a kid.

Nothing else matters.

Amelia and Amara, daddy loves you.


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