Posted by: jrd34 | October 22, 2012

All of Life Can be Compared to Basketball


By Jeanine Delaney on January 11, 2012 in Articles

My mother’s name was Galina. She was a Russian Ballerina, and so naturally graceful and beautiful, people always looked twice. Small boned, light on her feet, she danced throughout her life. Her posture was always straight, her backbone and core were strong, and so was her incredible spirit. Our moral compass, our Rock, was, and still is in spirit, Galina. Ironically, although our mother was only 5’4”, my brother and I stand 5’11” and 6’3”, and we chose basketball over dance. We trained with weight vests for strength, we did plyometrics for our core, and we ran for endurance. Yet, through it all, Galina was there, to train our mind and spirit, and give us true ”core strength” to carry us through life.

A friend once told me that the exact definition for the term To Thrive; It is “to move forward despite obstacles.” This is what my mother did, it is what she wanted for us, and it is what the game of basketball has trained us to do – as athletes, fans, coaches, parents and professionals.

Galina was born in Russia, to a very educated strong woman, my Grandmother, Irene. As a three-year-old child, my Grandmother Irina and my great-Grandmother, Katerina, put Galina in a horse and buggy as they fled out of Russia ahead of the German’s who were coming to burn down the homes. After sleeping in barns, and fleeing for weeks, they were captured by the Germans and put in displaced person’s camp. Galina’s father, my grandfather, was killed in the war. Irene, Katerina, and Galina spent seven years in the camp, in what many would call deplorable conditions.

Finally, they were rescued when the Americans liberated the camp. Galina spoke Russian, she had learned German, and was then put on a boat to America -where she needed to learn English in order to go to school. She danced on the boat, and she continued to dance with a Russian company as she achieved straight A’s and earned an academic scholarship to nursing school. One can definitely say she thrived!

In 1969, Galina was widowed with two young children. She was brought to her knees by a tragedy that occurred in the air when my father was a marine fighter pilot. She stood up – while grief stricken, and took care of my sister and me. She carried on, and moved forward, and loved us through the adversity, one day at a time. Galina fell in love again, and married the most wonderful man in the world, my stepfather, who is always referred to as my Dad. Never was the word “step” used – he raised us as his own, and soon my brother was born. Not my half- brother, he is my whole brother – our family has always been “whole”.

Galina left this earth far too soon. She had so much more to give and teach – she had many more dances to enjoy. It was not meant to be, and so my sister brother and father escorted Galina to heaven, with Father Mike at our side. It was on her terms, in the end. The disease was not her choice, but she took control and thrived – moved forward to heaven despite the obstacles of the disease. She wrote us each a letter, she planned her mass in Russian, and she left a special gift for each child and each grandchild. She left an indelible impression on each of our souls – and everyday of my life, I feel, hear, and remember Galina.

Less than two years after Galina left this earth, I faced my own tragedy that ripped my family and three children apart, and brought me to my knees. I struggled for months – fighting to breathe, eat, sleep, and take care of my children. Several things helped me get up off my knees, and helped me to thrive: My children, my family, Galina, and Basketball.

I guess anyone reading this would wonder how I could give so much credit to basketball. After all, it is a round orange ball going through a rim… It is a game!

However, a game that bonded, and still bonds my family together. A lifestyle that creates fun, enthusiasm, toughness, resilience, and teamwork, and a game that demands perseverance, focus, respect and dedication.

As a player, I was barely aware of these life -altering lessons. As a coach, I hope to make some of these lessons stick with my players. As a professional educator, I lecture that these are the building blocks of success. As a mother, I know that these are the virtues that I want to leave in my children. To raise happy, enthusiastic, resilient, team oriented kids, who have perseverance, focus, respect and dedication. Every once in awhile, I take my kids or students into the “locker-room” and they have to listen to my pre-game or post game speeches. Most of them begin with “All of life can be compared to a basketball game…”


With lines to keep us in bounds and referees to blow the whistle when you break the rules. There is the ultimate goal of “winning”, but the journey towards that goal is where you will learn the most and have the most fun. The rules are simple: Work together, be prepared and give your best effort. Sometimes the game will be easy, but more often, difficult. You will always have loyal fans and supporters, as well as several critical observers. We have to remember that it is during the lonely times and during failed attempts that we will develop our true character. Often times, players need to labor through a tough stretch, where nothing is going our way, but keep in mind there is a second half to play.


The pressure is on, the clock is ticking, and someone is always keeping score. The challenge is to lead, follow, or get out of the way – knowing everyone has a role to play.


There is nothing more energizing than finding your way – when all of your work has allowed you to thrive despite obstacles and lead the fast break. However, as athletes you must always prepare for the unfair whistle, the bad call that comes and takes the ball out of your hands… It can be excruciating to get up off your knees and move forward. Sometimes all that remains is for you to get up and play tough defense, gather your teammates and move forward with unity, discipline and loyalty in your game. And when the final buzzer sounds, you will know that winning was the goal, but not the end result, and the journey was most important. 

Galina, a petite ballet dancer from Russia taught me what basketball later defined:

Move forward, with teammates, with grace, and despite obstacles.

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