Yo Readers ! It’s been awhile. I had been really consumed with the end of my basketball season, end of my basketball life and the pursuit of a national championship.
“Say It Aint so” !!! I’m done and it’s a very different place I find myself after 43 straight seasons and 9 national championships. The place I am camped in after my last dance with wheelchair basketball is a beautiful place. I am surrounded by family. I get to do so much more with my wife, we are leaving on a vacation for 2 weeks tomorrow. We are going to have our first grandchild in September. I am at such peace with the finality of my love affair with basketball, mind you I played from the time I was able bodied at 6 years old through high school, added to the consecutive number, ends up to be 57 straight seasons. Daaaaaang !
Above I mentioned the championships but they are not what really defines this guy’s career. Victory loves preparation and from an early age, back when I was 6 I loved and worked the game in a gym on a team or mostly by myself at any hoop that would have me. This was a fabric of my path that never changed. Hard work always yields results but was it really hard? I loved training right up to my last day and these last 3 months were the best training I had ever done. Within a player this is what defines. The passion you have for work when no one is watching. Just you and the ball or you and ball chair. I trained outside in the rain, in the snow, at midnight under the moon at the oceans edge. I knew whether anyone had outworked me and I knew if they had not on a given day.
The game paid me back by allowing me opportunity after opportunity. World travel, World Championships, 3 Gold Medals, Coaching at the USA National team level. Brought home the first World Championship in 24 years as head coach of the USA women’s national team which to this day I cherish that Journey more than the outcome. My junior Bobcat team brought home a national championship after starting out in first year or two without winning a game. I promised them it would change some day and it did. Again the Journey !! in my prime my team the Casa Colina Condors of which blessed me with 8 national championships also gave us a 98 game win streak without a loss. I could go on and on but I have forgotten more than I probably remember.
One of my favorite musicians Dave Mason wrote a song I love to this day, called ‘You Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave. God always whispered this to me,’ To he that much has been given much is expected’!! Giving back has been an integral part of the Journey. My career in rehab as a therapeutic Recreation Specialist allowed me to give back to the newly injured and to this day so many after so many years recall the impact I had and don’t remember ? Its humbling. I have coached kids for nearly two decades in wheelchair basketball and in this environment it was a natural as I received so much more than I gave. I will not let go of our youth and will keep trying to be a good coach to great kids in our Rollin Hornet organization.
Now giving back at the NWBA leadership level not so easy not so fun. I was Commissioner of the league for two years and president for 4 years. A thankless job most of the time but with the help of many we opened the first door to divisions. D1 and D2. With help I negotiated the NBA/NWBA All-Star game, the first being in New York. I created a logo contest with in NWBA to change an old stick figure logo with what we have today. Trooper Johnson submitted his silhouette and boom baby he is the logo. Give back or Go home is my motto to all !!
As far as our equipment in the sport goes it was fun to be there first with my friends at Quadra and Quickie Wheelchairs. Here is the link to the Quadra Revolution story. I was the test pilot and sponsored athlete for Quadra the first custom basketball chair. The push button axels, seat adjustment, center of gravity adjustment started with the boys in a garage and I was one of them. Then onto Quickie sponsored silly with Hall of Famer Randy Snow at my side we came up with the 5th and 6th wheel center of gravity adjustment. I sat in my office at the local rehab center and a great designer Jim Black sent me two ankle straps for a snow board and said see what you can do with this. I attached the two together with a friend of mine and boom the ratchet strap was born, now on almost every chair worldwide. The path, the Journey, the footprint or wheel print one leaves makes a last day as a player much easier to handle.
It was not story book in Louisville at the nationals we ran into two young and fast teams and it was their time. I hate to lose I mean more than I like winning. The outpouring of respect given by ABC Medical at a half court ceremony was emotional and I am so grateful. When friends, players, Hall of Famers and players I had coached got wind my team was losing and it looked to be my last game they were all there on court right after my loss and last moment as a player stretching across the full court. They surrounded me and put their arms around me and I cried like a baby. It was over. The day and moment had come. Father Time had been knocking for a while but I fought him off by throwing more training at my game. Every athlete hits this place some more ready then others and rarely does someone get to really play until 62.
I look forward to these next times and the unknown intrigues me. I know for sure with a degree in recreation, whatever I do and who I do it with its going to be a fun ride into the sunset. My wife and kids sacrificed so much for so long for me. I missed so much. Now is my time to be better husband, a great dad, a great father in law and most of all a kick ass grandpa.
I wonder what I am going to do with all my spare time? What to do?