Barefoot basketball and development

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Since relocating to Nicaragua, I traveled to Corn Island, located on the East coast and far away from Nicaragua’s government center. The entire coast is notoriously remote and poor. The island I was on, whose main industry is tourism, had no cars or roads, just footpaths going from one end to the other. The nearest city (Bluefields, population 50,000), is not even accessible by passable roads.

In the center of this island, there’s a small town, and I found a basketball court and pick-up games with locals every evening before dusk. One hoop was busted, so we played half-court three-on-three.

Amazingly, many players didn’t wear shoes; they were either barefoot or in sandals. Personally I don’t like to walk around hard surfaces barefoot. But running, jumping, and sliding on concrete in a 3-v-3 game without shoes? Unimaginable. These players were remarkably agile and tough given the circumstance. I landed on more than a few toes. No one got hurt.

Although there were some good players (both with and without shoes), I was one of the best on the court. Upon reflection, this is remarkably predictable. Shoes are an incredible advantage for changing direction, jumping, accelerating, etc. The shoes, however, are the tip of the iceberg, emblematic of a whole series of my basketball advantages/opportunities: organized leagues, coaches, camps, weight training, instructional drills, doctors, surgeons, food and nutrition, indoor courts, public courts, invested parents, trainers, etc. These people don’t even have shoes! It’s not surprising that my game is comparatively refined.

And my life and business skills are also refined. Computer skills–Excel, PowerPoint, word processing–are like shoes; they are powerful tools that represent the tip of the iceberg of training, learning, and cultivation on offer for me.

Given this realization, it’s not surprising that I have the opportunity to make thousands and thousands of dollars, while many in rural Nicaragua live on less than $1 per day. The earning differences are stark, but so are the qualities we bring to the table and our opportunities to grow, learn, and compete.

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2 Responses to “Barefoot basketball and development”

  1. Building a better prostitution ring « The Invisible Hand, in your pants Says:

    […] in Ecuador and 72 consecutive hours of econometric analysis and review of possible options (all barefoot), Sam and I have formulated the following growth […]

  2. Why they are poor « The Invisible Hand, in your pants Says:

    […] Barefoot Basketball for more intuition on why the education gap […]

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