After a credible high school basketball career at McCann Technical School in rural western Massachusetts, I was invited by Coach Steve Atkins to try out for the Springfield Technical Community College basketball team. Seemed like a no brainer.
It was 4:00 PM at the old Springfield National Guard Armory and time for tryouts. This was different and the start of a life-changing experience. The players at this session could shoot, jump, block shots, dribble like the ball was part of their hand and see everything happening on the court. What else was different for me? I was the only white guy to make the team.
When you play with players more talented than yourself, you find that you can make up for certain things by working harder, being more intense, focusing on fundamentals, studying the completion and demonstrating leadership skills. These efforts earned me a solid sixth man position and the role as team captain. Not only was I learning valuable diversity lessons that would be carried far into my career, I also learned firsthand that leaders can be recognized and appreciated by being one of the starters.
This life lesson formed many of my long-term beliefs about diversity and the value of hard work. Have you ever been the talent underdog? How did you overcome it?