Basketball with kids
feature contribution by Jeff Brower
On Sunday a few weeks ago I went to play basketball at central park in Garland (fairly short drive from work, not far into Garland). It was an incredibly nice day for Jan 5, I thought I would play on the outside court, there would be nobody there, and I would put in a good workout and practice long jump shots -- always a valuable skill when you're 5' 8" :-)
After about 20 minutes, three 12-to-13 yr. old boys (brothers Jake and Nicholo, and their friend Kyle, plus their younger sister, Annie (age 7), showed up and ask if they can play, too. They had no ball, and they didn't seem particularly skilled, so my first thought is "there goes my well-planned work-out as we will now run all over chasing the ball and watching out not to step on Annie." What to do? Well, I just cannot say no to kids, so that was out of the question. So what I did was say "sure, but all 3 of you guys got to play against me in a game of 1" (for the playground unsavvy, 1 means play by ones in playground lingo, i.e. each basket counts only as 1 regardless of distance). Of course these being 13-year olds, trying to show off to each other and full of bravado, they immediately got riled up and started trash-talking me "hey, you're too old, you don't have no hair. The 3 of us can kick you, we're going to wipe you out, we're so fast we're gonna run circles around you" yada yada yada. Back came the response from the (evidently) old man; "Ok, nice to see that you're so confident, so let's play."
Before we started I designated Annie the scorekeeper. I had a hunch this would be valuable at some point. I figured Annie would be on my side, seeing as how her older brothers weren't treating her too well, telling her to stay out of the way, leave the ball alone, she's just a girl, etc.
Of course they couldn't play very well, had no strategy, wouldn't stay spread out and work the ball around, and they followed me around like a pack of wolves on defense, which makes it easy to score. Soon I'm way ahead, and now the trash-talk is reversing: "hey, I could be your Grandpa, what's wrong with you guys anyway. Man I could play you when I'm 52 and still win." And my favorite "Thanks for that late Christmas gift" (that one after I stole the ball from them again) and yada yada.
After awhile, I started giving them some strategy pointers, like how to make a triangle and move the ball and make me work a lot harder, how to stay in front of me better on defense and play a zone to save their energy. And to their credit, they accepted that advice, and in fact they did starting doing better, managing to throw a few in the basket.
I was having so much fun! I just love to challenge kids, and make them work without realizing they're working, and help them learn something new. And the challenge and competition was enjoyable. Just way too much fun.
Eventually their Mom shows up and says "kids, got to get back to the table, time to eat. Come on." The boys start telling her "wait just a few minutes Mom, we're doing good now. We're beating him now, Mom". But Annie, bless her heart, pipes up and says "no way Mom, he's ahead 19 to 5. He's killing them". Ha! I about fell over laughing, and so did Mom. I slapped hands with Annie and told her what a great scorekeeper she was and she just beamed. Cool, best part of all.
P.S. I ended up winning 21-7. I do believe those boys have new respect for the 40-and-over set now :-)
Note from editor:
This article has been generously contributed by a new Bon Journal reader. It is obvious from reading this article that this contributor is ready for fatherhood. Or rather, the kids are ready for him.
26 February 2003 Wednesday