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My daughter is playing 4th grade basketball this year. It's her first foray into team sports, and she's learning all of the really important stuff — how to dribble with one hand, the virtues of boxing out, the bizarre randomness of the 3-Second Rule. This is a girl who won't watch anything on TV that doesn't involve teen rock stars, and I actually caught her paying attention to a Mizzou basketball game the other day.

Here's the deal, though, and I mean this: Some of life's most important lessons are being taught to 4th grade girls' basketball players.

  • This game's not about you. There are a bunch of other folks who have a stake in this thing, too. Work together and you can perform miracles. Work alone, and you'll die.
  • Learn the fundamentals. Dunks and no-look assists might land you on SportsCenter, but you won't get there unless you learn how to dribble and pass first.
  • Improvise. We all have set plays that we like to run. Our opponents want to stop us. Sometimes we have to ditch the game plan and try something else. Don't be afraid to do that. Life is all about rolling with the punches.
  • Be aggressive. You won't get what you want by sitting around watching someone else drive to the hoop. Go after the ball. Give and go. Set the tempo, or it will get set for you.
  • Cheer on your teammates. A little encouragement goes a long way. This is a team, after all: When one of us wins, we all win, right?
  • Be a good winner … and a good loser. A few nice-games and way-to-go's will go a long way. You're going to be on the other side of every result eventually. How you react in every situation will define you.

Finally — and I can't stress this enough — plant that pivot foot. I don't care if you are in 4th grade. I will call you for traveling.

What am I missing? What's the best lesson you learned in grade-school team sports?

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