December 2nd, 2010

d running

Learning to play on a team...

When my brother was young, he ended up on a fantastic community basketball team. The coach was wise and caring, and he not only taught them how to play the various positions and shoot baskets, but he taught they how to be part of a team.

I've been hoping that D would have a similar experience, and last night was his first basketball game. Wow -- I'm so impressed and grateful! His coach is a wonderful man, the dad to one of the boys on the team, and his goals are simply to help those kids become a team. They're definitely learning how to play the game, but more than that, he's teaching them compassion and awareness of the rest of the boys on the team.

One of the boys on the team has had a tough time of things. His mom teaches at D's school (in fact, she's a third grade teacher -- these are all third grade boys). The summer before J started Kindergarten, his father was killed in a car accident. The mom couldn't afford to take time off to grieve, so both she and J had to continue on with their lives. J retreated into a shell, barely speaking, never making eye contact. D had Kindergarten with him, and the students were told to treat him with kindness. They did, for the most part. In fact, D and two others on the team now had Kindergarten with J.

J doesn't have a dad to help him with 'boy' stuff. His mom (who's a wonderful woman) does everything she can, but there's still a huge hole in his life. You can see it on the court, and it's hard to watch. But the flip side comes when the boys -- all 8 or 9 -- banded together to make sure that J got the ball at every opportunity. He had a chance to shoot and even to try for a couple of free throws. Even though he struggles as an athlete, I'm hoping that feeling the support of these other boys will buoy him and help him build confidence. He may never be a great athlete, but he can still be part of the team.

I'm so proud of D -- he's a strong team player. He passes, he gets open, he hustles, he sticks with his man. He's doing everything I hoped. Plus, he scored a number of times, including his two free throws. He's one of the smaller boys on the team, so that was good to see.

Even more, I'm so happy to see his compassion, along with the compassion of the other boys. J isn't the only player who struggles, of course. He's the weakest athlete, but there are a couple of other boys who clearly have confidence issues. With their coach, I have a good feeling about how they'll all grow and learn to support each other. Truly, I'm delighted.

Happy Thursday :D
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