girls basketball

I sit on the accordion mat, biting my lower lip. I’m fighting the urge to scream out, sometimes unsuccessfully. I’m giving her pep talks from the sidelines during water breaks. No, it’s not a championship game. There’s no reason to be worked up, but something primal takes over when I watch my daughter play basketball.

Invisible Till It’s Time To Pass

She’s only nine and this is her first team sport. I had my reservations after the soccer fiasco when she was five. I have a timid child, but it’s made worse by the fact that she is a girl. I suspect that had she been a boy, she would not be as invisible as she is when the other players are scanning for a pass. But the only time she magically appears to the boys on her team is in those rare, but glorious moments she actually gets to touch the ball.

I’m all hopeful, heart in my throat, until the screaming starts. It’s not my voice. The bile starts to rise in my belly. “Pass it!,” they shout and it’s all she hears. She passes to the screaming boy EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Let Her Decide

The first few games I tried to tell her, “You can take a second and decide whether or not you want to try and take the shot.” But it barely registers on her face in those briefest of seconds the ball touches her delicate hands. The decision is made by her wonderful heart to give the glory away without ever trying.

Being my daughter I observed her for my own pitfalls. I worried that she inherited my fear of failure. I didn’t want her to suffer my inadequacies; being the girl in class, knowing the answer but too afraid of being wrong to open her mouth. But surprisingly that’s not why she doesn’t shoot it.

She got the ball twice tonight and made both shots easily. Nothing but net. There’s no fear of failure in her timid frame. She may not plow into others and try to wrestle the ball away like her teammates do, but she certainly knows what to do with it. It’s just the incessant screaming.

She’s Worthy!

You want your kids to be good teammates. You want them to learn to pass the ball. Being a team means deferring to others when it’s in the best interest of the group. But something sticks in my throat watching her. Perhaps it’s my years growing up as an invisible girl that has me screaming on the inside. I won’t let anyone make her invisible too. She is worthy of being seen. She’s worthy of the glory. She’s worthy of making the decision for herself.

Another mom told me she overheard a dad who had called his son over to tell him to pass to the girls on the team. Sadly there are only a few girls. I didn’t hear it and I don’t know the dad, but I want to high five him. I don’t want anyone to pass my daughter the ball just because she’s a girl. But his words made her visible, perhaps just by one child, but perhaps just long enough for two shots to be seen. His words may have just opened the door for her capabilities to make themselves loud and clear.

A New Chant For Change!

I think we need to teach our sons to pass the ball and our daughters that they don’t need permission to shoot it. Boys naturally go for the shot. They worry less about whether they’ll make it and how it’ll affect everyone else. Girls look for the pass before the opportunity to shoot really sinks in. They care deeply what their actions will mean for everyone else.

The season is almost over and I’ve thought about pulling her out MANY times, but she loves it. I keep waiting for her to get upset or angry. My beautiful Hannah doesn’t measure out the preciseness of justice the way my son Jayden does. She’s not concerned with how well she does or even how well the team does. She’s happy just to be there.

She’s happy simply to run the court, dribble and pass and occasionally make the shot that makes mommy’s heart burst with pride. I couldn’t care less if she misses. I find the victory in the attempt.

Little girls of the world, “shoot the ball.” That’s what we should be cheering loudly. Our words have the power to make them visible and I for one want to see all the many wonderful things they’re capable of when given the chance.

How do you feel about your daughter participating in co-ed sports?