Now that basketball season is well underway - we're actually nearing the end of the season with only a couple of games and practices left on the schedule - both Tom and I know we were right to hesitate. Will's small stature, along with his intense fear of the ball and less-than-agressive style of play, have been significant challenges for him on the court. We also discovered that when Will's larger, more aggressive, and more skilled teammates dominate the game, he tends to "check out". (He doesn't actually leave the game - he stays in the game but doesn't pay any attention to what's going on around him.) During one particularly awful game about a third of the way through the season, Will could be found twirling in a circle on the opposite end of the court from where the play was happening. I shared with Aunt Sara shortly after the game that it looked like Will was ice dancing instead of playing basketball. I felt terribly for Will's awesome coaches, who, while trying so valiantly to motivate him, must have been extraordinarily frustrated. I certainly was, to the point that I actually told Tom I might not be able to attend any more basketball games.
After that awful game, Tom and I had a major sit-down with Will, during which we went over - in great detail - what we expected from him when it came to sports participation. We explained to Will that it didn't matter to us if he ever made a basket or even touched the ball. We did care, however, about effort. Will had made a commitment to his coaches and his team and HIMSELF, and we expected him to give 100% every single time he set foot on the court. He cried, but since he's kind of a crier I wondered whether or not we'd actually gotten through to him.
The following week I held my breath as Will took the court. But as play started, I was delighted to see that Will had listened the week before. He was no taller, no less afraid of the ball, and no more aggressive, but he tried as hard as he could that evening - he even touched the ball once. The next week, though still no taller and no less afraid of the ball, he started GOING FOR THE BALL and actually dribbled TWICE. Just like when Will finally rode his bike without training wheels, I nearly cried with pride.
Basketball will never be Will's sport, but he's now making the most of this experience and simultaneously making his parents proud.
Goofing off on the sideline. (Ms. Amy is a teacher at Will's school - as well as the wife
of Will's Brett-Favre-look-alike coach and the mom of one of the little boys on the team -
so when the boys started acting up on the sideline she "took care of it".
I'm certain Will took her much more seriously than he would have taken me.)
Playing defense. Will's specialties are throwing the ball in to a teammate after it's
gone out of bounds and remembering to put his hands in the air when he's on defense.
At the ready. See the wrist band he's wearing? They use colored wrist bands to
help the kids remember who on the other team they're guarding. (One kid on each
team wears a blue wrist band and they guard each other, one kid on each team wears
a red wrist band and they guard each other, etc. It works surprisingly well.)
Pretending like he might catch the rebound. I say pretending because if the ball
were to actually bounce off the backboard in Will's direction, one of two things would
happen: either one of his taller teammates would catch it over his head or
he would cover his face and duck.
More to come as the season bounces on!