To 17 year old Eric

Congratulations! Today is the start of your senior year of high school basketball. I’m writing you from a few decades future (27 years to be precise), and while I don’t want to ruin all the surprises coming for you, I’d like put a few things in perspective to help you on your way.

Being your senior year, you are going to feel a pressure that comes from thinking this might be the end of your basketball journey. It turns out that this is just the beginning…but you probably wouldn’t even believe me if I told you what comes later, so I won’t go into that.

This year will be have some huge ups and downs. You’ll feel like a champion:

  • Beating Richmond Colts in their home opener and getting your first dunk in a game
  • Beating a loaded Vancouver College team (including 3 of your future team-mates at UBC, John Dumont, Pat Inglis and Gerald Cole) in our home opener
  • Hitting a buzzer beater to win the Chancellor Classic and your first MVP award
  • Giving Steve Nash’s team a couple really competitive games (when I tell you what happens to Steve you’re really not going to believe me…seriously it’s INSANE!)

You’ll feel like a failure:

  • Losing in the first round of the provincial championships to West Vancouver (oh those tartan shorts will give you nightmares)
  • Breaking a bone in your foot
  • Playing so badly in the city finals and that we almost lost to a team we had already beaten by 25

It will always be like this during your basketball career. Even as you keep improving and move on to the next level, you’re going to have difficult, gut wrenching moments mixed in with the great ones. The key is that you have the RESILIENCE to keep going. You are a fighter Eric. While there are times you’re tempted to give up, you never do. You come back the next day and work harder than the day before. Resilience is the biggest reason why you will get to keep playing after this season and none of your team-mates will.

Speaking of that, make sure you enjoy and appreciate your TEAM-MATES. You’ve spent years training, playing and growing up with your high school team-mates and while you’ll see them from time to time, you’ll never be this close again.  You’ll have many great team-mates in the future at the university and professional level (including ones who are the best man at your wedding and guys you would trust your life with)…but there is something fundamentally different about your high school team-mates who you’ve played with since you were 12 years old. Cherish your moments together.

My final thought is to keep it all in perspective. It’s so easy to feel like every win is major triumph and every loss is the ultimate defeat because this might be YOUR FINAL SEASON OF BASKETBALL. However, whether it is or it isn’t, the sport of basketball isn’t what really matters…it’s the things that you’re learning and the person you’re becoming as a result of basketball that really matter.

You’re learning what hard work, focus, determination, discipline, mental toughness and grit really mean. You’re learning to compete, to lead, to follow, to fail, to lose and to win. You’re learning a formula for success that will serve you well in all areas of your life. The lessons you’re learning are bigger than the game of basketball, so keep it all in perspective, work as hard as you can and have fun!

Eric Butler

P.S. If you get a chance to put a few dollars down on Steve Nash becoming a two time NBA MVP, I think you’ll get some pretty good odds and a nice return!