I'll be honest with you, until this week I was never a big Kobe Bryant fan.
However, the stories that have come out regarding the way he selflessly gave his time to help and encourage so many other people - family, basketball players and fans - has changed my view.
Most notably, the way he has mentored so many young basketball players and worked to teach them not just the game of basketball, but how to approach the mental side was what stood out most.
We can't re-create that experience here for your child, but we all can learn from a few of his more memorable quotes over the years. Here are a few that jumped out to me as being extremely valuable for younger athletes to hear.
"I have self-doubt. I have insecurity. I have fear of failure. I have nights when I show up at the arena and am like 'My back hurts, my feet hurt, my knees hurt. I don't have it. I just want to chill.' We all have self-doubt. You don't deny it, but you also don't capitulate to it. You embrace it."
Professional athletes are often seen as invincible, playing at an almost superhuman level that no young player could possibly live up to. Here, Kobe makes a great point that he has the same fears and physical pains that all the rest of us have, that elites athletes are in fact dealing with the same challenges as a 10 year old who thinks they aren't talented enough to ever succeed.
His lesson for those who think that way? Embrace it, use it as fuel to drive you to a higher level than you were at before.
"These young guys out there are playing checkers. I'm out there playing chess."
Here's another favorite, simply for the fact that Kobe sheds light on how important it is for younger players to think the game and not just rely on physical ability alone. Even at lower levels of sport, coaches place a premium value on players who can think one step ahead of their opponent and gain an advantage. Yeah, maybe another player is faster or stronger than you, but that doesn't mean you don't have other tools at your disposal to perform better than them.
"Sports are such a great teacher. I think of everything they've taught me: camaraderie, humility, leadership, how to resolve differences."
I like this one both for players and coaches, because it is so important to remember the value that athletics and training can play in a young person's future success in every aspect of their lives. Winning is great, but 20 years from now the scoreboard from today's game won't dictate how your life is going anywhere near as much as the lessons you were taught about the process of being successful.
"Everything negative - pressure, challenges - is all an opportunity to rise."
Failure is such a necessary step in future success that this point cannot be stressed enough. So many kids go to great lengths to avoid any situation where they might fail - an athlete who won't train out of their comfort zone, a student who labels themselves 'bad at math' and thus builds an excuse to not try - these are opportunities lost. Embrace the challenges, the tough parts. This is how a kid can grow up to be the next Kobe, the next superstar in their field, by taking an endless series of small challenges head on until they add up to make you far superior to those who stayed in their comfort zone all those years.
"I have nothing in common with lazy people who blame others for their lack of success. Great things come from hard work and perseverance. No excuses."
Kobe was famous for his 4 AM workout routine, which he followed throughout his 20 year NBA career.
The cynic would say that its easy to get up and train when all you do is play basketball for a living, but it is key to note that Kobe began this routine by getting up to train at 5 AM throughout his high school years.
How many kids do you know who have that level of drive? If you do, that kid is probably going somewhere.
Kobe trained in the off-season, in-season, whenever. He notoriously trained hard even on game days, in a sport that today has superstars focused on 'load management'.
If you want something bad enough, you have to work for it. It's never anyone's fault but yours if you don't achieve it, because there's almost always something you could be doing better or doing more of.