Life Lessons Learned from the Free Throw Line

241 days ago I left Rexburg, Idaho in a moving truck bound for Texas.

The details of what brought the Lemon family to the Lone Star state have been lost in the 7.91786 months we’ve been here, but we’ve been dealt a hand of life lessons since we got here. Really. Really. Tough. Lessons.

To understand some of these lessons means a quick trip back in time to Thanksgiving of last year. A neighbor across the street from our new Texas home moved and left us their basketball standard. After putting the hoop in our backyard, it sat there for weeks without much wear and tear on the net. After Thanksgiving dinner, the boys and I went out to play a game of ‘Pig’ (It’s like ‘Horse’ for guys with really short attention spans). We all stunk at basketball, which meant the game took almost an hour because nobody could hit a shot!

After realizing that the vertically-challenged gene pool at our house (I’m the tallest at 5’8”) might not be the best place to find the next NBA all-star team, we gave up our dreams of basketball stardom and went back inside to stuff our faces with pie.

A few days later I was feeling pretty lousy after an unsuccessful day of job hunting. After realizing I was home alone, I went outside to get some air. In an unspoken challenge, the basketball hoop stood there looming above a lone basketball. I picked it up and took a shot. I missed the entire standard! I chased the ball down and took it back to try again to similar results. A third time netted me a superhuman bounce off the rim that shot into the neighbor’s yard. After an irritating quest to track it down from a yard with a dog and locked fences, I was ticked. I wasn’t going to let the hoop beat me. I played church ball when I was a kid, so I knew I had it in me…

…it just wasn’t going from me into the basketball.
Somewhere during the walk over to the neighbor’s yard to retrieve another botched shot, I decided I was going to keep doing this until I had made 25 shots.

And after another hour, I did it. During those 3600+ seconds, I decided I needed to do that every day until I had made 25 shots. I would get so good at shooting a free throw that I could win the next game of [insert farm animal here] with my boys. I got my tape measure, drew my free throw line at exactly 12-feet, and I was ready to go!

It wasn’t as glamorous or as exhilarating as it sounds and some days took longer than others. Even on the short days, however, I had a lot of time to reflect and think about the turmoil that was our family’s world. What turmoil, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you, random reader!

As mentioned somewhere up there, we had moved to Texas with a job offer that ended up not happening once we got here. We had multiple jobs offered and then withdrawn for some really weird things (I’ll fill in those details sometime down the road). As a result of this and crazy unexpected emergency expenses, we have struggled like crazy to make ends meet. Coming from small town Idaho a place where $80 for a field trip was normal…we were struggling with our new home. We were fighting some intense medical battles, offering up fervent (read: desperate) prayers, experiencing a few minor successes and a boatload of major setbacks. It had been a brutal adventure for every one of us. This time trying to find a measure of success was an essential part of my daily routine. During my hundred-day relationship with the hoop, I found quite a few similarities between life and shooting baskets. Until I write a book on the matter, this summary will need to suffice:

1. Practice does NOT make perfect, but it does make pretty good. You never get worse when you practice something.

2. Saying we can do anything we put our minds to is only partly true. We can definitely do anything we try, but we may not do it successfully or even do it without embarrassing ourselves.

3. You know whether a shot is going in the hoop or not as soon as the ball leaves your fingertips. We all have moments when we know something is going to work out as soon as we ‘take the shot’.

4. Sometimes that perfect shot from #3 doesn’t go in. It is these times when that sure shot instead bounces at a funky angle and into the dog-filled neighbor’s yard.

5. Telling yourself you have nothing to lose by taking the long shot doesn’t mean you should take it. When in the aforementioned neighbor’s yard of dogs, taking a fifty-foot shot towards the basket in your yard might seem like a good idea, but if you miss that shot you might be visiting the dogs in your other neighbor’s yard.

6. When you’re on, you’re on. You can hit one shot after another without even thinking about it (in life and on a backyard basketball court).

7. A bunch of small successes make for a big success and a huge boost to your self-esteem. Even a few failures don’t carry much sting when they follow a string of successes.

8. If you do something enough, it becomes a habit. This applies to good things like going outside to shoot baskets every day at 6:00, as well as…less effective stuff like #11.

9. Even when you don’t realize it, others are watching you and WILL IMITATE YOU! For weeks, my youngest son watched me from upstairs when I was shooting up in the backyard (I bet you never thought you’d read something like that and not be shocked). After a few weeks, he started doing exactly what I had been doing with 25 shots/day…without me saying anything. For those who wonder where their kids picked up such colorful language or such short fuses, take a look at how we react to things.

10. Hitting a perfect shot just feels good, doesn’t it?

11. Do your homework. I learned after a month of shooting free throws that a free throw line is actually 15-feet from the basket.


At least I know now that I can hit a shot from just inside the free throw line and I’ve got an experience I can use in countless conversation and training meetings for years to come. I could add one more (call it 11.5?) and say that once you find out you’re doing something wrong, learn from your mistake and fix it…


…or just keep shooting 80% from 12-feet away and wonder why those numbers are reversed whenever you’re on a real court.




Written by Bryun Lemon

Bryun believes in having fun. Whether it's a date with his sweetheart, a trip to the grocery store, a walk up the road or a post about one of his eight crazy kids, this crazy dad likes to have fun.

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