basketball woes

We like our kids to play sports. Don’t get me wrong, I do not aspire to the soccer mom status. I like to wear inappropriate heels to athletic functions and read my book when my kid is off the field. Soccer and baseball are usually painful seasons for me because I know there is no way to avoid taking up residence on the sidelines. This probably makes me a mostly awful parent.

I grew up in a family where we were raised to chase balls and shoot hoops and aspire to athletic greatness. Considering my crooked arm and overall inablility to excell at anything involving courts, fields or balls in general, it was best for everyone when I finally turned in my sneakers in high school and focussed my energies elsewhere.

But somewhere deep inside is a vast well of athletic knowledge that routinely threatens to spring forth and coach the world.

The real problem with Harrison’s sporting events isn’t that I’m bored, it’s that I can’t control myself. Somewhere inside me a screaming, bossy coach is sitting dormant on the end of a bench just aching to join the fray. With my mild-mannered husband and easilly embarrassed kid I find it’s imperative that I practice keeping my trap shut.

I don’t know how much longer I can keep up the charade.

“Son,” I heard Jason say a few weeks ago as we made our way to his first basketball game, “Just remember that when you get the ball, look for someone who is open and pass it, ok?”

It took everything in my power to refrain from correcting Jason. See, my kid is already hesitant in basketball. He already passes the ball and avoids coming in contact with it or anyone else on the court unless it’s necessary. He’s actually a great shot, and outside of a game scenario he really likes basketball, he’s just got no confidence on the court.

My husband isn’t necessarily a ball player. He loves a good pick-up game but he did not grow up in a small, athletically-minded town with a family that is feverishly obsessed with early childhood basketball careers. He doesn’t know from personal experience that the worst thing you can do for a child who is naturally hesitant on the court is to encourage them to keep being hesitant.

Jason pulled into the gas station and jumped out to pump gas. I quickly turned around and zeroed in on my child. “Harrison,” I said, “Look at me. Do not listen to anything your father is telling you. He knows nothing about basketball. I am your mother and I know everything about basketball.” He looked a little frightened and slightly awe struck. It didn’t stop me. “I’ve been playing basketball since I was six years old, trust me here. When you get the ball look for a shot and shoot the ball. Dribble and shoot, turn and shoot, I don’t care. Do not pass the ball. Ignore the rest of your team and just shoot the ball!”

He stared at me open mouthed. “But Dad said–”

“I don’t care what your father said, do what I say!” I saw Jason approaching. “Just don’t tell Dad we talked about this.”

The car door opened and Jason got in. I turned and gave Harrison one of those overly covert and slightly frightening looks that made him slink down in his chair in fright.

And from that moment on, the game was afoot. For the rest of the season this charade continued. My husband would tell our kid one thing, he’d leave the room and I’d quickly tell him another.

“Pass the ball!”

“Shoot the ball!”

“Look for someone who’s open!”

“Don’t trust anyone!!”
By the last game of the season our poor kid was so confused and bewildered with his two opposing parents that he would spend most of his time on the court hiding behind his opponents so he could avoid any contact with the ball whatsoever.

I think I need to send him home to America to play with his cousins for the summer. They’ll teach him how to shoot a ball.