Doing things because they’re easy doesn’t make you stronger. It makes you weaker.

My days as a high-school teen was consumed in sports. It was the life I had lived since I was a kid. I’d come to hate that life as time progressed, however. Not the sport, but those in command of the team. It was something about high school basketball that challenged the confidence in me.

Walking into the gym, I could only expect another tiring day of basketball practice. Being in school all day, the only thing on my mind was getting the ordeal over with.

Working hard wasn’t something I hated doing. But my reasons for not wanting to be there showed itself in the face of the coach himself.

I’d grown to love the game of basketball over the years. From second grade to middle school, I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to spend my time doing besides shooting hoops. That all changed when I met Coach Rob.

There was nothing else comparable to the old orange and blue. School spirit was important to me, especially since I had been homeschooled most of my life. But after my first summer workout as a freshman, I knew there would be some rough days ahead.

The man was absolutely intimidating. And I don’t mean that lightly. He would evoke this unique sense of fear everyone would feel even when they mentioned his name. It was crazy!

From the moment he stepped foot on that hardwood floor, every ounce of humor was sucked out of us. He was a man of many years, and he had a lot to teach us. At least, that’s what I assumed.

Practice after practice he was hard on me. I didn’t understand why he wanted to point out every little thing I did wrong. For some reason, my actions meant a lot more than everyone else’s.

It drove me insane because I was doing everything I could to make him appreciate my work ethic. No one worked as hard as I did then. I showed up early and left late, but he never seemed to notice. Instead, it just seemed to slip right past his recognition.

The issue wasn’t that I was new to the system of discipline. My dad made sure his youngins’ understood the value and benefit of hard work. If I think back as far as I can remember, there was never a moment when he could’ve been labeled as lazy. It was just who he was to me—and still is to this day.

So when it came to Coach Rob’s harsh words, I was used to the pressure (though my dad never cursed at any of us).

What bothered me was his consistency in letting me know how poor of a decision that was, or how awful I looked on that play, even when I didn’t have the ball in my hands.

One practice during my sophomore year, those words caused me to lose it.

As usual, everything seemed wrong to Coach Rob. I didn’t want to be there anyway, but the words that came out of his mouth made it even worse. This time, I answered back—in front of everyone.

I knew it would probably get me in a world of trouble. I just couldn’t continue on without voicing my frustration.

My teammates’ mouths dropped to the floor. The assistant coach, Coach D, wasn’t too thrilled with my reaction either. It was like a balloon popped, only words came out instead of air.

Seconds after that response, Coach Rob was inches from my face, reminding me he was the one in charge. We all ran sprints for the rest of practice until he was bored. I get sore just thinking about that night!

As I trudged out of the school’s gymnasium (dreaming of a hot shower and a soft bed), Coach D met me outside. He wanted to talk about happened during practice.

This guy was mellow as could be. He spoke softly and had this sneaky smile that made everybody mad for some reason.

“What’s going on, Kevin? Something’s bothering you,” he said.

Steam still rising from my head, I responded. “I’m sick of him talking to me like I’m no good. I work hard, just like everybody else.”

“Coach Rob is hard on you and your brother because he knows how good you guys are. He wants to see you reach your full potential. That’s all.”

Then he said something I’ll never forget.

“Try to think about what he says, not how he says it. I know it’s hard, but you have to believe in yourself, Kevin. Don’t put in the work to please Coach Rob. Put in the work because you believe in you.”

We exchanged a few more words before my ride showed up. Sitting in the car, I thought long and hard about what Coach D said to me.

While it was difficult for me to look past how Coach Rob spoke to me, I could see why he was doing it. I started to appreciate his desire to push me to be better.

Sometimes I concentrate so much on what other people say about me that I ignore the need to affirm myself. I’m not saying it’s always easy, but it is always necessary.

In the case of Coach Rob, he was saying those things to me with good intentions. Do I question his choice of words? Absolutely. Do I sometimes wish he would’ve gone about it a different way? Of course.

Still, I forget to encourage myself. I didn’t see the good in those practices because my mind was assuming the worst. He just being hard on me because he hates me.

When we remind ourselves of our own value in life, our perspectives will changes. Funny thing: I can still hear his loud voice while I do common tasks throughout the day.

I was learning to believe in myself through adversity. And that’s not something I take lightly.

I was stuck in the negativity of it all. But Coach D helped me see the meaning of it all. Ultimately, the goal was to get me to have the confidence to do what was hard because it made me stronger.

I can’t even begin to tell you how often I wanted to quit. Days at school were torture because I knew at 6:30 pm, practice would begin. But I made a choice to go anyway, as tough as it was to do so.

Our lives are no different. What I’m learning is this: scenarios in our lives point to the overall lesson we carry with us. These lessons aren’t meant to fade away. They’re meant to be used in a different situation, a different plot.

The key is staying on the road when the going gets tough. That’s easier said than done, of course. But sometimes we don’t realize what we’ve already done in life. We have our own lessons to keep us rolling along.

I never got a chance to tell Coach Rob how much I appreciate him. He left the school not long after I did. Yet, I can only imagine him doing the same as he was back then. Pushing. Teaching. Believing in the players he coaches.

Hoping that one day, they would believe in themselves regardless of what life throws at them.

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