A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again*

Just got back from substitute coaching My Beloved Offspring's 1st grade basketball team.

I can feel the sympathy oozing from you already, dear friends. Yes, I have passed through the fire, and I am now tempered steel, baby!

Let me try to sum up the indescribable. When you were a kid, did you ever break a thermometer and watch the little balls of mercury scatter all over the floor, evading all attempts to impose any sort of collection?

That's how 6- and 7-year-olds play basketball. They're allowed to travel, they can't steal, they really don't keep score, and they're much more likely to stare off into space and get whacked in the head with the ball than to actually be able to control a pass.

Now, I know very little about basketball. When I was at college, we often had a pretty good little team under Nolan Richardson, who was certainly a colorful coach. Sometimes we were even nationally ranked, and I was in the Pep Band, but I'll admit I often brought a book along since I was an English major and I had to read about 30 books each semester. My mother was a pretty good basketball player in her day, but softball was my thing. I have not watched pro ball since Latrell Sprewell was allowed to choke PJ Carlessimo. However, I do know about rebounds, passing, man-to-man and anything else one would need to hopefully deal with little kids. It's not like we were going to be running post patterns, or anything. My goal was to have no one cry or get hurt, and to get every kid to take at least one shot at the basket.

We had just five kids show up, so no substitutions. There was the one kid who would NEVER pass, and would run all over the court with the ball clutched to his chest the way a Marine hangs on to his M-16-- unless he had a chance to bowl over a hapless opponent and crush him or her like a protester before a tank at Tienanmen Square. When I asked him very nicely to pass to someone, he stalked off the court with his hand over his mouth and pulled his jersey over his head while his father glared at me.

The rest of the kids just swirled around the court like leaves in a whirlwind, clumped up around the ball as if it were a magnet. But they were having a good time, for the most part. They eventually started trying to get the rebounds and get open for passes by the second half of the game. In the end, I think I was sweating more than anyone else, and the other parents weren't muttering behind my back or setting up boiling vats of tar to dunk over my head, so I guess it was a success. Every kid did take at least one shot, and we did manage to sink a few.

But now, I want a nap. And I'll be buying the regular coach a big gift card at the end of the season.

*Title of a book of essays by David Foster Wallace


At 1/27/07, 1:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah. I saw the same thing on my kids' hockey teams years ago. I always thought that those little puck-hogs and their starry-eyed parents would get their just desserts in the end, but now some of those little buggers are receiving athletic college scholarships. Life is not fair!

At 1/27/07, 5:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You rock! I helped coach a kindergarten soccer team where the kids were most interested in watching the planes fly overhead or picking daisies out of the grass! The fact that any of them didn't get killed by a stray kick astounds me!

At 1/28/07, 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reminds me of the time I covered a class of first graders in a tiny school where the children knew me because I was there twice a week with the pull-out gifted program. They were delightful little people. This is when I learned that seventh grade is about as young as I can stand to teach.

Now you should go and lie down in a dim room with a cool cloth over your eyes. Play soothing music and put a nice glass of wine somewhere nearby. You'll want that, too.

At 1/28/07, 6:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Daughter was involved with Upward Basketball when she was younger. Later Dear Hubby coached 5th and 6th grade boys for three years. Through that experience he got a small taste of what I go through every day and his respect level went up a bit for me.

I'm glad you made it through the storm.

At 1/28/07, 8:51 PM, Blogger MommyProf said...

My uncoordinated Offspring is playing Upward B Ball this year. The games feature no fewer than 4 adults on the court (2 refs and 2 coaches) directing the action (ok, now you are defense. Get over the red line! Don't forget to dribble!) and 8 1st and 2nd graders running around cluelessly. That is nothing compared to practice and watching them try to run a coordinated shooting drill. I'm thinking a certificate for a spa day is in order for the coach at the end of the season.

At 1/28/07, 10:50 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

I like the way you all think. Good Gad!

I still startle at loud noided, and it's more than 24 hours later....

At 1/29/07, 7:47 AM, Blogger graycie said...

The comment from anonymous up there? The one about covering a first grade class? And the recommendation of a cool cloth, a dim room, and a glass of wine? That was me, graycie. I don't know why this new Blogger-thingie doesn't always like who I am. Humph.

At 1/29/07, 8:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To combine your movies and coaching basketball, maybe you should watch "Hoop Dreams" sometime of video.

It is a great documentary and goes along way to explaining where the "ball hogs" end up.


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