My son just completed a summer basketball league through our local Parks and Recreation.
Though Ryan is eleven years old, and now a middle schooler (gasp!), up until his request to play basketball this summer, he had never wanted to enroll in any sort of enrichment class or activity (either after-school or on weekends).
And that was always fine with me.
But that was then.
Ryan decided he wanted to play basketball, and play he did with one hundred percent heart and soul – at every practice and every game.
About half-way into the summer session, there was a major scheduling snafu. Only ten children showed up at game time. The other team Ryan and his teammates were scheduled to play, kids from a neighboring park, didn’t show. And the coaches didn’t show.
But we had 10 kids who came to play. 2 referees ready to work. And 1 park employee prepared to keep track of points, fouls, and timeouts.
The 10 kids were split into 2 groups of 5, and my husband and another parent were asked to serve as coaches.
My husband coached the way we parent. Not stressing the outcome, but praising the effort. Paul walked over to “his team,” introduced himself, asked each kid his name and gave each one a fist-bump. (And yes, Ryan was on his Daddy’s team.)
At each timeout, Paul shared fist-bumps and high-fives with his group of kids. He clapped while they played, encouraged them to pass the ball and communicate with one another. And for most of the game, he let these boys just run the court and play.
When the game was over, (Ryan and his teammates won), my husband had them all line up to shake hands with their competition. And while the other coach had begun to walk away from the court, my husband walked over to him, shook his hand, and congratulated him on a good game.
That’s a big part of the lesson I wanted Ryan to take away from this basketball experience.
Yes, it’s been great to see his layups improve.
Yes, I’m impressed with his defensive playing.
Yes, his long-range shots are dramatically better than they were when he started. (And he made a big shot in the last game of the season!)
But ultimately, I’m proud of his good sportsmanship and his wholehearted effort.
And the biggest takeaway is one Ryan provided himself. The ability to know yourself, to trust yourself.
It was Ryan’s choice to play basketball. On his own time-table. When he was ready.