by A.C. Green
So much of high school is about growing. Growing physically…mentally…emotionally. I was 5’10” when I walked in the doors of Benson High School for the first time and 6’8-1/2” when I left! But I went through even more changes as a person.
Decisions I made in high school helped shape who I am today. Many of these decisions had to be made in the face of peer pressure. Peer pressure had the potential to be a powerful force when I was in high school. It still does, for both me and you. It’s true that peer pressure is very strong in high school, but it doesn’t end there. Throughout your life there will be people around you who want you to do what they do. Even in the NBA, I faced peer pressure. It’s a battle to do the right thing; it’s easy to do the wrong thing. But here’s the secret. Peer pressure is outside elements that you allow inside. Once they get inside they expand, almost like they explode in you. Something that is very small and insignificant can grow into a big obstacle if you allow it in your mind. So don’t. If you don’t allow it inside, it will not become a big force. The way you respond to peer pressure will determine the person you become.
Finding a Leader
A defining moment in my life happened when I was a skinny 15-year-old sophomore. I had just finished a morning basketball game and was leaving the gym when I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Dick Gray, the varsity basketball coach. And not just any basketball coach. At that time, Dick Gray was the winningest all-time high school basketball coach in Oregon’s history – meeting him was like meeting a legend. “You stick with it. You might have some potential,” he said.
With those words, I had found a leader. There was someone I wanted to follow. A positive role model who could help me achieve my goals. Peers don’t make good leaders. You can follow your peers, or you can follow a leader. Peers have a different agenda than a leader. Here’s an example: If my teammates and I only looked to each other in the NBA, we would not achieve the same measure of success as we did with a coach. The coach has a different perspective than the players and tends to have more experience and knowledge behind his decisions. Also, they are more likely to be motivated by what is best for the team, not just individuals. Remember this as you look for a trustworthy person who is reaching their goals.
Coach Gray came into my life at a crucial time. I was impressionable and hungry for direction. The advice he gave was sure to carry a great deal of weight. That’s why it’s so important to choose leaders wisely. Fortunately, Coach Gray was a great leader. He challenged me to reach my potential. Coasting in the classroom was not acceptable. Embracing mediocrity was not an option. Coach Gray affirmed the value of discipline and hard work.
I will say this again, as you look for a leader, it’s important that you find a trustworthy person with a track record of success. If you can’t find someone right now, it’s okay. Wait. Be patient, don’t settle. Also, know what goals you want to achieve. Look for a leader that will help you develop the strengths you need to achieve that goal. This doesn’t mean that aspiring athletes need a coach to be their leader. A truly great leader will teach you discipline and decision-making skills that will carry over into all areas of your life. You don’t want to grow up one-dimensional.