Winning Essay by Kennedy T. from Iowa attending University of Iowa

"Learn the fundamentals of the game, that’s when you’ll achieve victory."

I would always dread going to practice with my dad. Truthfully, because I knew I’d have to give all of myself to the workout ahead. Basketball didn’t come naturally to me. I wasn’t fast. I wasn’t strong. And I had little interest in the sport itself. But, my dad’s happiness and approval trumped all of those factors. My dad’s expectations for me have always been high. So it didn’t take long for me to attempt to reach them. At one specific practice, I had just completed 100 layups, 100 jump shots, 100 crossovers, and more. I was sweating uncontrollably, breathing heavily, and completely worn out. My dad subtly asks, “Are you tired?” Something I can’t help but laugh at; something I’d never admit too. Each practice when I felt I had reached my limit, he’d ask that sarcastic question, and I’d always respond “No, let’s go again.” My dad enforces that sarcastic notion in all his lessons for my sister and I. That cunning question of have you had enough? Is that all you got? It’s what pushes us to be our best selves.

My dad is a lifelong athlete who excels in basketball. There is nothing he wanted more than for his daughter to value the game. More so, he wanted me to learn the life lessons that accompany basketball. We often practiced and trained together. He built my stamina with jump roping. He encouraged me to dribble faster and work harder. At times it seemed hard to reach my goals. However, he taught me patience is essential for growth. He would often remind me: if it were easy, everyone would do it. He taught me ball handling skills and techniques to improve my shot. Ultimately, he taught me practice is the key to success.

Early on in my life he exposed me to my own potential and showed me that I am unaware to all of which I am capable of. He established the meaning of hard work. The importance of effort, and the beauty of being your best. Most importantly, that if you learn the rules to life you can succeed. Most importantly, he instilled in me the rules of life: give 110%, do not give up, and make smart decisions. If you apply those fundamentals, that’s when you will win the game.

When I think of the most influential person in my life, I imagine the man that awakes before the sun is up to accomplish a day’s work. My best teacher is a brilliant and motivating man. He is gifted, accountable, and resilient. He enjoys life and loves to laugh. Through his guidance, I have learned to persevere and strive for excellence. This man is my dad.


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