The Love of the Game: Himalayan Hoops

Nestled high in the Himalayas is one of the most fascinating places on earth: the Kingdom of Bhutan.  Over the last number of years, it was our honor to serve these amazing people through basketball.  We had the incredible privilege of not only meeting His Majesty but also some of the finest people on earth, and among many things that stood out to us, one is their incredible love for sport including their passion for basketball!  Even in the winter, whether in the brisk mornings or the bone chilling evenings, players would show up and have a friendly match or two in what is called the swimming pool complex gym.

We partnered with the Basketball Federation and helped launch hoops at the grassroots level launching a youth basketball league, and once again, our understanding of the significance of sports in people’s lives was underscored.

 I was reminded of my youth as a welfare kid raised in a single family home, how a “Big Brother” with the YMCA named Doug Hulcher signed me up for basketball.  He taught me to pass, dribble and shoot, and put me in a game in the Youth hoops league.  And when I put on that little players bib for my team and made that first basket and chased other players around trying to steal the ball just for another chance to score, I fell in love with the game!  Without knowing it, this diminished my love for other things that could have taken hold of my soul, and it taught me about team, discipline, following a leader (coach), and working hard for a goal with insights into how to celebrate a win and how to deal with loss.

What a game!  What a gift sports was in my life, and Bhutan gave us the gracious chance to pass on what we had been given.  And I could see myself in the child or youth that showed up to learn and play.

One of these players was a little eight year old lefty named Sangay.  He showed up bright-eyed and hopeful, and because of the hard work of Coach Jatsho and our partnership, he had the chance to be coached and play in his first organized game.  I had the honor of coaching him along with my sons and some other amazing kids. 

As the smallest guy on the court but filled with energy and hope that made him a giant, he went into his first game excited although a little uncertain.  And as he got that ball and took off racing, we reminded him to dribble or pass and shoot if somehow he could break free.  Then it happened…the ball was loose, and he grabbed it.  And with one big heave the ball went up from the little lefty, and it sank through the hoop!  The whole team stopped and cheered; I cheered, and he turned and looked my way shocked with a proud smile almost in disbelief.  He ran back down to play defense but something new was in his heart: confidence, a goal accomplished, a sense of being a part of something greater than himself – a team of which he was a contributor.  And it’s this that fills the soul with a hunger to do it again, to keep pressing, to keep believing, to commit oneself to develop further reaching toward the goal.  This is the power of sports, the birthing of the love of the game!

Thanks Doug Hulcher for signing me up, for giving me the chance to live and learn through sports.  Thanks Bhutan for giving us the chance to serve your youth and pass on what was given to us so long ago!