We were playing the NY School for the Deaf. They used sign language to communicate and they were pretty good at it. Still, every time the referee blew his whistle, their team would continue playing defense. We had to tap them on the shoulder to let them know: stop playing. When I came in, they stopped signing. They knew the game was over. We won by 30 points. It made me realize how important it is to always listen to what is happening on the court. Why else do coaches yell?

Still, when I stop to think about it, I too was deaf in a way – when it came to school. Because I thought my basketball talent would see me through, I thought I could get by without attending class.

For years, people tried to get through to me – my parents, teachers, even coaches. Sometimes they even yelled. But I didn’t listen. I thought that skipping occasionally wouldn’t mess me up. Then I began to do the math: Miss Too Many Classes + Arrive Late Too Often = Zero For The Day. Result: you fail that class. At the beginning of senior year, my GPA was woeful.

Then, Miss Latulippe, my English teacher, assigned a paper that reached me loud and clear:

Being an Active Listener

“Being a good active listener can take you a really long way,” I wrote. “You have to be able to show eye contact, ask questions, and show some interest in what they are talking about.

Not everybody likes a lot of eye contact when they’re talking. It’s a little weird. But when you are talking to someone important, like on a job interview, you need to show you are paying attention and are intent on listening to what they say. It shows you really care.

Now, when you are in a good conversation and you want them to know you are listening, start asking questions about whatever the conversation is about, and I guarantee that the conversation will be taken to the next level. When people ask questions during a conversation, it shows that they’re listening and they are very interested in what you are talking about – and vice versa. So don’t be scared to ask questions about your subject.

The biggest one of all is to show interest. You cannot just sit there, texting on your phone and chewing gum. No, you have to show interest and lean forward and listen carefully to let them know you’re here and alive.

Hmmm, I thought. “I never realized there was a connection.” After that, faithfully showing up for every class got easier.

I’ve always had a high IQ when it comes to basketball. I’ve even been ranked in the top 50 players in CT, both in the 2015 Elite Sports Spring Showcase and in the 2014 Fall Elite 50 High School Showcase. http://recruitthebronx.com/News.asp

My skill at basketball has taught me how to be a leader. This year, I led our team to our third straight championship. In my room, beside my pictures of Carmello and Jesus, are all my trophies: MVP…our three championships…all FCIAC. I help spur my less talented teammates to play at a higher level.

I’ve similarly rallied the kids, ages 8-13, I help at Chester Addison Community Center. I have them practice shooting and running suicides. They listen to my every word.

I grew up playing in the park with the older guys, so it was rough for me. I really didn’t have anybody train me but my dad motivated me. He gave long “boring” speeches about why not to give up. I always listened and it really helped.

I will continue to listen to my inner voice when I get to college…and if I find I’m fouling out? Like any good coach, I can always yell.