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10,000 Hours of Perseverance MAG
My dad claims that when I was two, I told everyone I was going to be the next Michael Jordan. I told the clerk at the store, my aunt, I even told a stranger I met on the street. I'd never actually played basketball, but I'd seen Michael Jordan on TV, and that was enough.
At first it was cute. My mom made me a basketball birthday cake and my uncle bought me a small pair of Air Jordans. It was my dad alone, however, who took me seriously.
One day when I was three, he sat me down at the table and looked me straight in the eye.
“You want to be the next Michael Jordan, huh?”
I nodded eagerly, squirming in my seat.
“And you're willing to do any amount of work to do this?”
I hesitated, feeling the weight of his words, but then smiled brightly and nodded.
“All right.” He produced a sheet of paper and handed it to me, warning, “This will be one serious, serious commitment.”
He gestured for me to sign my messy signature at the bottom of the page. Even without the ability to read what he'd written on the paper, I sensed the gravity of the moment.
The next morning I had completely forgotten about the paper until, at the crack of dawn, my father shook me awake. For once he wasn't wearing a suit and tie. Instead he had on a baggy T-shirt, shorts, and a ratty pair of gym shoes. I wrinkled my nose.
“Get up,” he ordered. “Basketball practice begins today.”
I groaned, squirming out from my warm alcove of stuffed animals, and followed my dad, still wearing my pink pajamas. We headed out to the driveway and he took out an old, beaten basketball. He tossed it to me and I clumsily grabbed it with both hands, its nobbly bumps feeling foreign to me.
“First,” he instructed in his lawyer voice, “we will learn the art of dribbling.”
I looked at him, unsure if he was serious and threw the ball back with both hands, as he instructed. We practiced for three hours that morning, and never had I felt more exhausted in my three years of life. Every time my attention wandered, my father would harshly drag me back to the present.
My father worked me until my pajamas were drenched in sweat and my wrists were aching from bouncing the ball. The neighbors out mowing their lawns had begun to stare at our strange scene – my father, the lawyer, standing in the driveway, domineering in ancient gym clothes, and me, a toddler perspiring in pink pajamas.
Tired and voraciously hungry afterward, I went inside and devoured breakfast. My mother shook her head disbelievingly. Already, I was beginning to regret my decision to be the female Michael Jordan.
The next morning my dad dragged me out to the driveway again. This time I was prepared, dressed in shorts and a jersey. It was same the next day, and the next, and the next. I began dreading the continuous lay ups, shooting, dribbling, and one-on-ones. My only hope was that soon, when winter came, I could take a break.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
Once the first snowflakes started falling, my dad dragged me to the local gym to practice. I complained, dreading each practice, but he never gave up. Every time I screamed that I would never touch a basketball again, he'd take out my signed contract and wave it in my face, explaining that I couldn't take back my words now.
In my dreams I tore up and burned that dreaded paper that bound me to four hours of practice seven days a week. Years passed, and I began to accept basketball practice as a fact of life. Even on days when I slept in, guilt would soon overwhelm me, and I would head out to the driveway where he was waiting for me, knowing all along I would come.
By the age of 10, after seven years of practicing (and approximately 7,350 hours) my dad predicted my skill was higher than any varsity player's in the state. He continued to coach me, day after day, from the sidelines of our driveway, pounding knowledge into my brain about fakes, crossovers, and tactics. Our only days off were holidays and my birthday, which seemed way too far apart for my liking. But my dad kept a chart, calculating how much I practiced, and every 500 hours of practice time we would celebrate by heading to Dairy Queen.
Dad told me about his days as a star basketball player in college. He had dreamed of being the best player in the world, but at the time, did not have the perseverance to practice enough to achieve it. He claimed that in order to be a world-class expert in something, 10,000 hours of practice is required. Whether you are a writer, an ice skater, a guitarist, or a chess player, this is true. He said that one day I would be a true expert in basketball.
It was a fateful day, at 14, when I finally reached my goal: 10,000 hours. I could feel something different that morning as I met my dad in the driveway. A strange feeling of sorrow hung over me.
We practiced our usual four hours, and for once, I felt like I may have learned everything there was to know about basketball. At the end of our session, my dad hugged me and said “Congratulations” before handing me that old ratty basketball from 11 years ago and saying, “It's yours now.”
That evening we had a party, with a gigantic basketball-shaped cake, and local newspaper journalists. On top of the cake sat five candles that read “10,000.” I had never been so proud. My dad made a speech about perseverance, and even his old coach from college came to congratulate me. It was only when the cake's candles were lit that my dad finally handed me the contract I had signed on that fateful day at the age of three.
I felt tears well up as I traced the letters on that paper, each word engraved in my heart. “I, Christine, hereby agree to practice basketball for as long as my father requires, until I have reached my goal of 10,000 hours.”
Those powerful words that had bound me for 11 years seemed pointless now as together Dad and I held the paper to the candle's flame and watched it slowly fold and burn. The crowd of family and friends cheered.
“So, are you going to quit now?” a journalist asked.
I looked around, staring at the many pictures of Michael Jordan, and of me playing basketball over the years. Then, without hesitation, I smiled and shook my head.
“Never. WNBA, here I come.”