I drove 3 hours to the game. With only two games left in the season this was my last chance to see The Boy’s team play. When I got there the local Y lobby was full of people of all ages and sizes. Not a single seven-foot guy was in sight amongst the kids and parents.
Finally two teams gathered in Court A. They scrambled around the floor, playing with smaller-than-regulation basketballs, shooting baskets and mostly missing, and running around the gym. Their jerseys hung to their knees and slid off their shoulders. The youngest players were four years old, the oldest and tallest were five.
I had to see this game, between the 76ers and the Spartans, because I just couldn’t imagine such young kids actually playing a basketball game. Beyond all the physical skills required, the concept of playing as a team and following the rules must be a serious challenge for them.
The parents were a well-behaved and enthusiastic crowd, sometimes coaching their kids from the sidelines, but mostly cheering for baskets tried and baskets made.
While I understand basketball basics, I’m certainly no expert. As I watched I figured out the rules of their game:
- Pay attention to your coach.
- If you can’t dribble, just hold the ball and run down the court.
- Don’t wrestle the ball from your own teammate.
- Don’t hand the ball to your opponents.
- Guard the opponent who has a wristband the same color as yours.
- Only shoot the ball into the opponent’s basket.
- If you’ve got the ball — and you’re close to the opponent’s basket — shoot!
- Take the game wherever you like — outside the base lines or behind the basket is fine.
- The score doesn’t matter. We’re here to have fun.
Quite often I saw a coach or the ref put his hand on a boy’s head, gently turning him around to go in the right direction. It’s difficult to remember which basket to defend and which basket to shoot at. I’m sure that’s why they didn’t change directions and goals for the second half. Above all, their game resembled basketball. Amazing.
Here’s what I learned from this experience:
- Beginners can’t play like professionals. Learning takes a long time.
- Learn and apply a few rules at a time. You can add more later.
- Practice your skills outside the game. When you’ve learned them well enough, use them in the game.
- Enjoyment of the game is more important than winning or losing.
Sometimes we adults forget what it’s like to be a beginner. We want to accomplish our task perfectly on our first attempt. We often berate ourselves for our inability, our incompetence, and our failures. We have no patience for slow learning. We often quit before we’ve practiced enough or before we’ve learned the project details.
We could all benefit from being coached by the coaches I saw on Saturday:
- Simplify so you can be successful.
- Ask for help to get ready (to get your jersey on frontwards and right side out).
- Check your direction, make sure you’re headed the way you want to go.
- Identify skills you need to work on.
- Practice. Practice. Practice.
- Do your work with friends who will cheer your efforts.
Until next Tuesday . . .