JR Smith is going to college — and it matters.
Professional sports in the United States are designed to keep us entertained year around. When baseball season ends, basketball begins, when basketball ends, pre-season football is on the horizon, when hockey season comes to a close, MLS is heating up. This doesn’t even mention all of the other professional sports leagues that are constantly filling up the news cycle. As a sports-based youth development organization, there is a never-ending list of topics and stories we could be sharing that involve sports and athletes.
However, as an organization designed to use sports as a tool for fostering positive peer and mentor relationships, life-skill development, and a positive sense of self rather than building professional athletes, it is important for us to tell the stories that go beyond wins, losses, and trophies. It is our hope that these stories give our kids and families a different perspective on what it means to be an athlete, and that the limitations and stereotypes that society places on athletes do not have to apply.
Each season with our KING Hoops basketball teams, we host academic and life-skill sessions before or after each practice with the hope that we are not only providing resources to be successful academically but also creating an environment that encourages a positive relationship with academics. The harsh reality is that many high-level athletes are told from a young age that if you are good enough at basketball, you don’t need to prioritize school. We’ve even seen this trickle into college athletes with nationwide reports of academic fraud at NCAA institutions.
Now, you are probably wondering how JR Smith factors into all of this? And if you don’t frequent Twitter, you may be even more confused. Let’s start with who JR Smith is. Smith is a former NBA player and 2X champion who grew up just across the Hudson River from us in Newark, New Jersey. He was a first round NBA draft pick right out of high school, never attending college… until now.
This fall, JR enrolled in North Carolina A&T State University to pursue a college degree, and he was granted a waiver to play golf for the Aggies. JR has been documenting his journey on Twitter, proving to not only himself that there is no age limit on education but also inspiring people of all ages to reevaluate their own relationship with past challenges.
Utilizing his own contents, here are just a few lessons we are learning from JR Smith.
1.Continued growth and development: Just because you didn’t enjoy something as a kid, doesn’t mean your journey and relationship with the subject has to end.
2. Share your goals and celebrate your successes: Research shows that you are more likely to follow through with your goals if you tell people what they are. In JR’s case, he is sharing his journey with the world on Twitter, and we are here for it!
3. No shame in asking for a little help: we could all use a little help from our friends (and tutors!). Having the humility to know when to ask for help can make all the difference and help build relationships along the way.
4. Keep going, even when things get tough: For a multiple-time NBA champion who has reached the peak of his sport professionally, it would be easy to throw in the towel and rest on his laurels when things get tough. JR is proving that perseverance is a part of success and being a good teammate along the way is just as important.