My wife is the love of my life and my best friend. However, she wasn’t my first love. My first true love was the game of basketball. I fell head over heels at a young age and my relationship with the game grew over time, resulting in an unyielding love that remains to this day.
My four children are all very active kids who love playing sports. As my older two boys began playing organized sports and gravitated towards soccer and baseball, I encouraged them to also play basketball. Their interest in hoops could best be characterized as lackluster and their standard response to me was something along the lines of “you only want us to play because you did.” Sound familiar? I didn’t press the issue because I knew that’d only cause them to dig their heels in even deeper.
A couple of years passed and they reluctantly joined basketball leagues to pass the time and stay active in the winter. They seemed to enjoy it, but you could tell they weren’t as passionate about playing basketball as they were about soccer, baseball, and flag football. Like any good parent, I try to support all of my children’s interests and not project my own on them, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hopeful they’d fall in love with basketball.
The tide started to turn a few years ago when my oldest son joined the 4th-grade town travel team. The competitive nature of the team and games unlocked a passion for the game in my son which hadn’t been present during the basketball clinics or casual YMCA leagues he’d participated in before. His brothers joined in-town teams and also began to demonstrate a greater interest in and enjoyment of basketball. The three of them frequently asked to be driven to the YMCA to practice and play and soon began lobbying for a hoop in the driveway. I started seeing that familiar sparkle in their eyes. They would bring a basketball and dribble around the neighborhood while we walked our dog and they were constantly asking us to move our cars out of the driveway to give them room to shoot and play.
Fast forward to the next year and we suddenly found ourselves with three full-fledged hoops junkies on our hands. Our 5th grader was playing on 3 basketball teams (his school team, his travel team, and an in-town rec team), our 3rd-grader was playing up on the 4th-grade travel team in addition to the in-town rec team and our 1st grader was limited to in-town play but often scrimmaged with his big brothers’ teams. In February of 2020, I introduced them to the magic of the Harlem Globetrotters. They started playing basketball CONSTANTLY, including intensely-contested games on Nerf hoops in their bedrooms which test the structural integrity of our house. Lastly, they began to exhibit the telltale sign of a kid utterly smitten with the game of the basketball – mimicking dribbling, faking, and shooting wherever they are, without a ball in their hands (I know my fellow hoopers are nodding in recognition).
Last year, our 5th and 6th graders were able to play their town travel seasons, albeit with significant covid logistics to navigate and the added challenge of running up and down the court while masked. Unfortunately, all three of our boys were missed out on the school and rec league teams, and my daughter was denied the opportunity to start her basketball journey because the programs were all canceled due to covid. I coached the 6th-grade team which presented some unique obstacles during the pandemic but was a rewarding experience. Having a front-row seat to watch my older son’s talents on display in a sport where we have a shared passion was a lot of fun, especially given his evolution as a player.
I love watching all four of my kids on the various courts and fields where they compete and I’m proud of their various accomplishments but I take special pride in their successes that didn’t come easily. Three years ago my son started playing travel basketball and was one of the worst players on the team. He scored a total of 6 points the entire season. He discovered a new passion though and was determined to improve. He worked diligently and his skills grew dramatically. The next season he was a starter and often the leading scorer. Last year, especially during quarantine, he ratcheted things up a notch, constantly doing drills and often spending hours in the cold garage working on his dribbling. He was the leader of his travel team, scoring 15 points a game. Since then he’s continued to seek advice and tutelage from older players and coaches and asked to play AAU.
He tried out for 3 AAU programs, ultimately accepting an invite from the “select” team from a competitive team; the best 7th-grade team in their program. He quickly earned recognition from the coach not only for his skills but in particular for his basketball IQ and coachability and has been getting a lot of playing time early in the season despite being one of the only new players on the team. Needless to say, I’m tremendously proud and love watching him on the court.
I’m hopeful that all programs will resume this season so that all of my boys can play and my daughter can get in on the action. I have no idea where their basketball journeys will take them but I’m one happy hooper sitting on the sideline as a spectator at their games. I’m glad I played the long game and didn’t press the issue about them giving basketball a try. It worked out much better than I could have possibly imagined.