Friday, April 6, 2012

Struggling Basketball Players

It was a regular day at our homeschool basketball camp, until my son approached me to get a drink of water. "Guess where he put me?"
"I don't know..."
"Point guard."
"Point guard?"
I had to see this...
My son is in his third year of basketball. Well, his second year, if you take out the first year that he played and his teammates learned not to pass the ball to him. Even during practice, they would scrimmage, and leave him out. He ran up and down the court...for nothing. I stayed silent, though I felt the coach was making an error, because I knew his teammates would learn their lesson when they HAD to pass the ball to him during a game and he would not know what to do with the ball. He was eight at the time, and could barely make a free throw. The one time he did try to shoot, he was fouled, and missed the free throw.
The next year, he played at the Y. I drove an hour away to get him into a better program, where I hoped he would learn more. His fundamentals improved slightly, and he learned to be a great rebounder, because he had to in order to get the ball! He still needed work on ball handling, but that would come in time. I can't remember if he ever tried to make a shot that year. He certainly didn't make any.
This fall, he played his third year, and also played again in winter. He was now one of the tallest boys on his team, and his feet were probably twice the size they were when he was eight. He fell over them a lot. He made a lot of rebounds, and finally...FINALLY...made his first basket! He had a lot of close shots, certainly better than not shooting at all, but the anxiety he causes himself was definitely diminished after he finally got that first one out of the way.
So now it was time for homeschool basketball camp. They had seen him play for three Wednesday afternoons. Six hours all together. And they put him at point guard. Were they crazy? Or was this coach a genius who knew what would make him step up?
The scrimmage got underway, and I suddenly got it. No longer was he allowed to piddle around in the background while everyone else moved the ball. He did not just run up and down the court, hoping for a pass. He couldn't. He did forget, numerous times, to stay back and get the ball. "Oh yeah...I have a different job." And he didn't listen to me to keep the ball down and got it stolen from him as well. But as I watched, I couldn't help but wonder if the coach was really that smart, or if this was divine intervention? For weeks I had been trying to figure out how to make him understand that every player has a job to do, not just the player with the ball. On defense players would go right by him, even though I know he knows what he's supposed to do. He just gets so busy watching the game and forgets that he's IN the game! As a single mom, I knew I had to choose my words carefully. Nobody wants his mom teaching him basketball when he is almost eleven years old. But I never came up with any words. How do you teach a child to get IN the game?
You put him at point guard.
Afterward, he said he loved playing point guard. He has lots to learn, but now he has the motivation to work on the ball handling drills he has learned at camp. He may never play point guard again, but the lesson he learned will stick with him. It is difficult to become a great athlete when you only have a mom and a little sister at home. Thanks to good coaches who look past the surface, he is well on his way...

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