By: Adam Hutchinson
Head Men’s Basketball Coach
I have a tendency to apply whatever topic I’m thinking about to the two things that most dominate my time: my children and basketball. Perhaps this habit is left over from my days as a student at a liberal arts college, where I learned to make connections between classes in seemingly disparate disciplines. Perhaps it’s a pattern of thought I developed previously, which then led me to choose to attend a liberal arts college, which would then force me to make connections between seemingly disparate disciplines. Whatever it’s origin, this application of thoughts and questions from one subject onto another almost always produces interesting and unexpected new thoughts and questions, but only sometimes produces conclusions. Some people may call this allowing my mind to wander, or even day dreaming. I call it thinking things through.
Lately, I have been thinking about cycles.
Prior to the birth of our first child, my wife and I enthusiastically attended LaMaze classes to learn about having a baby, from the signs that labor is beginning, to making sure you have a car seat at the hospital so you can drive the baby home. Ok, to be accurate, my wife was enthusiastic, and I attended, but we make a great team, and before we knew it, we were pulling into our driveway with a 3rd member of our family. It was at this point that we realized what we hadn’t learned: WE HAD NO IDEA WHAT TO DO WHEN WE GOT THE BABY HOME.
All was quiet at casa de Hutchinson for about a week, and then Baby Jason started telling us, quite loudly and insistently, exactly what we were supposed to be doing. In not so many words “Feed me, change my diaper, rock me, I have gas and you will make it go away now” became our orders. Ok no words were used, but the boy effectively communicated his demands. As we settled into this new routine Erin and I talked about the day when Baby Jason could actually talk. Then he could communicate the sophisticated thoughts such a bright child was surely having, like the meaning of life, and how best to guard a pick and roll. Not so. Certainly I’m imagining it, but after Ma Ma and Da Da, it seems his first words were “Me! Mine! And Gimme!” (From his high chair he would get my attention by calling Da Da, point at my food and say “Mine!” A limited vocabulary can go a long way.) The long philosophical talks about the meaning of life would have to wait.
It was like this little tyrant dropped into our home, started following us around, and demanded that we feed him! And we had to do it because he looked just like us, so we couldn’t get rid of him. Ok, so I’m exaggerating, but only a little. In time the little fellow shifted his avaricious eye from food to money. His vocabulary was much improved, so his requests were more sophisticated than pointing at my wallet and saying “Mine!”, but the underlying theme of the conversation was the same.
And then a funny thing happened. One day last month my son asked me for $5. All I had was a 5 dollar bill, so I told him to take it out of my wallet. When I picked up my wallet the next morning it contained a note from Jason, and $2 worth of change (including a bunch of pennies.) The note basically said thanks for the $5, but he did not want me to be broke, so please accept all this change. I laughed long and hard at that one, deposited the change back in his piggy bank (where I’m sure he got it from), and kept the note in my wallet.
Anyone who has or observes children can relate to this story. As children, we all go through a stage where we are most acutely aware of ourselves and our desires. Gradually we become aware of the needs and feelings of others. This developing empathy is a step in our developmental cycle as human beings. It may even be THE POINT of our developmental cycle as human beings. Maybe as we mature the urgency of our personal desires fade, and we learn how to work in harmony with others around us to accomplish the things that need to get done. In any case this most recent step in my son’s cycle of development delighted me as it would most parents; now we could start talking about the really important stuff like the meaning of life and guarding a pick and roll!
As the 2010-2011 basketball season approaches, I often think about our 3 seniors that graduated last spring: Andrew Payne, Ben Goetsch and Zach White. Anyone who has spent any time with me has heard me say that the winning started when those guys got to W&L. This is not an exaggeration. In their first game as freshman against Denison University, Andrew Payne stole a pass late in the 2nd half, made the layup, drew a foul and converted a free throw to put us up 2 in a game we would go on to win. It was the first time (at 1-0) that we were over .500 in the previous 4 years. That game (and play) set the tone, and we would spend the next 4 years winning. All three guys would have highlights, from Payne coming off of the IR to take 3 charges in the open court in a road win against Averett College, to Zach White’s game winning layup at the buzzer on the road against nationally ranked Roanoke College, to Ben Goetsch’s dominating performance against Guilford College and their All-American center to fuel our upset in the ODAC Tournament and spark our run to 2009 ODAC Championship game.
Ok, so I took the liberty in most of that last paragraph to celebrate three guys whose effort I greatly admire and appreciate; back to cycles of development. I see similarities in my son’s development as a person and Andrew, Ben and Zach’s development as players. When those guys started as freshman, all three were pretty much focused on establishing themselves as players. This is typical of most first year players. By the time they were seniors, all they were concerned about was winning. Now they were winners the day the set foot on campus, and started winning immediately. But at that time, they mostly contributed to winning by making the steal or shot themselves. As they developed and matured as players, they also learned to do the little things that allowed their teammates to contribute to wins. Whether that was denying the ball into the post, holding the leading scorer in the ODAC scoreless, or taking a big charge, they gave unselfishly of themselves in ways that allowed their teammates to shine.
So babies are self centered and so are young basketball players. Does that mean young basketball players are babies? I sure hope not, because our team will be made up of mostly freshman and sophomores this season! It may mean that human beings learn about the world most viscerally from a first person perspective, and will behave in a less self centered fashion as we gain enough experience to learn how facilitating others helps ourselves. This is one of those lines of thought that led to interesting new thoughts and questions for me, but no definitive conclusions. But it is a line of thought that I will keep in mind as we begin this season.
While writing this, I learned that our youngest son (5 years old) peed in the bathroom garbage can. Wish me luck relating that to basketball, and thanks for reading.