Proverb – California

“A tree falls the way it leans”

Kelsey told me she learned this proverb from her basketball coach, when she was seventeen and the captain of her high school basketball team in Mountain View, CA. Kelsey heard this proverb one day talking to the coach about how to motivate the team after a bad practice. The coach said that the girls were not practicing at game speed tempo and therefore were performing poorly. Kelsey interpreted that to mean the team must bring the same intensity to practice that they brought to the games.

Kelsey also says that she thinks this proverb’s meaning transcends basketball. I think from a human standpoint, this proverb is really addressing the importance of our individual choices. Each choice we make, no matter how small we perceive it to be, affects the way we grow and develop. We set goals for ourselves, straight paths that we want to follow. We try to make decisions based on the premise of which choice will bring us closer to our goal, but inevitably we sometimes stray from the path by choosing to compromise our goals on fleeting whims. We have to avoid choices that cause us to bend our metaphorical trunks so far that they break, and instead resolve to make choices that transform us positively.

I certainly agree with Kelsey, this proverb reflects the fact that our choices dictate who we become as we grow up. When I see this proverb I’m also reminded of the other proverb “You play the way you practice,” meaning if you are too relaxed during practice you will perform poorly in the game. This proverb matches up well with Kelsey’s original sports oriented context. I also have heard this proverb from coaches during practice. I always interpreted to mean that if you want to be successful in reality you have to put forth a great deal of effort at all times.  I feel this proverb discusses how our actions reflect who we become in life.

Annotation: de Lay, Gerd. International Dictionary of Proverbs. New York: Hippocrene Books Inc.: 1998.