As an Englishman born in the 70’s, it is unusual that my first love was basketball. Playing and watching ball is still my happy place, although after 4 surgeries on my right knee, my game is now spent entirely below the rim.
I was lucky to work with some great coaches. One in particular had a significant impact on me through his down to earth style and stories of how the world worked, during long coach rides on a mini-bus not made for 6 footers. His name is Paul Ambrosius (or Ambo, as he is affectionately known).
As a far from a naturally gifted player, I had to work hard to stop riding the pine and make the starting 5. Ambo came from the school of hard knocks and I fondly recall a firm, but fair coach that tried to get the most of his players no matter what their level of natural talent – he never gave up on anyone. Maybe this was part of his calling in life as has been Youth Social Worker for longer than I can remember.
I was trying to break into the starting 5 (and failing) when Ambo pulled me aside to chat. I can still remember the moment clearly and the sound of dribbling in our home arena – ‘The Rec’ in Brixton. “Why not” were his words – and do you know what? For the love of money, I could not think of a decent response. He helped me paint a picture of options and possibilities that seemed endless, as well as in my control.
Over the coming weeks and months, I knuckled down and trained hard, but more importantly Ambo constantly brought the ‘why not’ to life. Ambo believed in doing, not just saying, and this has had a permanent mark on my life as I carry the mantra that ‘actions speak louder than words’ everywhere I go.
This was never more evident than when our team was selected to play in a tournament in France. This would be life changing experience and the first time on a plane for many of us. I had not made the starting 5 yet and in all fairness, it was dubious if I should make the tournament squad at all. When my name was called out to attend, I was so surprised that I thought I must have misheard and raised my hand to question it, to which Ambo replied you heard right, why not?
We often hear that the power is in the question or to ask bigger questions – this is something I continually do with my team, my family and myself – What do you want to learn? How much do you want to earn? Who do you want to build a relationship with? How can you improve? Ultimately, I have found no bigger question than: why not?
This question has led to an Englishman writing a blog whilst living in Chicago, surrounded by a great team and thoroughly enjoying a very rewarding life, full of rich experiences.