Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Youth Basketball: One Very Special Game

I write about select youth sports. Actually most of my stories are about premier level select sports where the the best players in the area, region, state or even country compete against each other. You would think that the parents of these select athletes would be completely and consistently proud, yet many, way too many, are completely frustrated and never satisfied. These parents have lost perspective. I have asked my dear friend Ann and fellow blogger to give us some perspective. Ann writes the Intramuralist.

Ann is a mom of three boys, an avid lover of sports and a blogger. While at Purdue in the late 80's, she competed in every possible intramural competition. Winning slow pitch and fast pitch softball, basketball and racquetball championships. Her blog is not about sports specifically, it's about life and life differences,  but she never forgets that we ultimately all play for the same team.

As an avid sports fan, I enjoy multiple seasons via my three young sons.  To date, my favorite game this year was the hardwood season opener, played in by Josh, my youngest.  Both he and I thought it was wonderful.
Prior to tip-off, the teams proudly donned their new uniforms — Carolina blue for the Spirit, a roaring red for the visiting Firebirds.  After weeks of at times, individually grueling practice, it was fascinating to me the unique amount of hope the new uniform instilled.  The boys — and girls — were eager to play.
As my youngest son took the floor, his countenance was seemingly new.  It was a unique combination of confidence, excitement, and toughness.  This was a moment Josh had long waited for.  Tip-off came and off Josh immediately went.
Allow me to humbly share that Josh is an accomplished inside shooter; hence, he plays near to the basket, thereby increasing the probability of a successful shot.  The challenge with our enthusiastic young man playing basketball’s “4 spot” is that Josh is approximately, only 48” tall.  While might often comes in compact packages, Josh guarded and was guarded by players 12-24” taller.  As Josh gasped during an initial time out, “That is one big dude.”

 The game remained fairly close and was full of stereotypical hard court action.  There were a few 3’s, blocked shots, fierce rebounds, and solid team play.  There were fast breaks, efficient defense, and even some jaw-dropping, notably unselfish assists.  We chuckled on the sidelines at Josh’s most creative assist...
He received the ball just past mid-court and was quickly surrounded by 3 defenders.  The coaches yelled for Josh to pass the ball.  (Inside I wonder if he thought, “Sure. Great idea, guys.  Any thought about how to get it past 3 men way huger than me?”)  After a rather pregnant pause and then a seemingly internal light bulb going off, Josh glanced around, shrugged his shoulders, and proceeded to use his height to an extreme advantage by quickly rolling the ball through a defender’s legs.  It went straight to his teammate, heading for the basket.
What was not stereotypical about this game was that each athlete had a disability.  The range of physical impairment was wide.  While none utilized a wheelchair, one had no use of his left hand; the left leg of another didn’t function; and cognitive challenges covered a wide span.  Yet each of the basketball players seemed thrilled to be there... thrilled to play... and thrilled to find a place where they were generously affirmed.
The Main Point

For those of us who live with a special needs individual, there are days when you question if his or her experience is somewhat lesser.  There are even moments where people strongly suggest that it is... moments where you feel the world looks down on the disabled.  But on this day — via Spirit basketball — there was nothing lesser.  It was a wonderful game.

The Cincinnati Swish Spirit program, affiliated with Cincinnati Swish Basketball, is a non-profit organization based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Their mission is to provide every kid (6 - 16) regardless of disability the opportunity to learn and play basketball. 

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