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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?

 

 

 

When leaving Luke’s basketball game with the organization Beautiful People last week, I had a thought that crossed my mind for the first time. Why do I do certain things for Luke that I don’t do for my other sons? I am like a walking advertisement for Beautiful People. I talk about it all the time, I blog about it, I raise money for it. I don’t do that for Shane’s basketball league. I mean, I rolled my eyes when I had to sell raffle tickets for this travel soccer!

I started thinking about further down the line and comparing youth sports for these two brothers to possible career scenarios. The word that kept coming to mind was opportunity. Luke will most likely not have as many opportunities as Shane or Cole.

I posted links to a couple of stories involving kids with special needs and sports. I love watching these stories. No matter how they come into my life, I always stop what I am doing and watch. They pull my emotions in different directions, but I love them. They force me to visualize my son scoring that basket, then cry to think he would be in that scenario, but I love them. If you look beyond the stories, you will look at the origins of what transpired. Like I mentioned in a previous post, it starts at home. Your kids are an extension of you. Teach them to be caring and that’s what they will be. Ignore them and teach them to be little you know what’s, and that’s what they will be.

In the first video, I would like to think that there are more kids in this world like the boy at the end of the clip. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know, but one could hope.
The second clip just gets me for obvious reasons. Recently, my son Shane wrote a letter to the Atlanta Hawks, basically just saying he loves watching them play and how he loves basketball. He wrote about his brother Luke and his disability and how he feels he plays ball for the two of them. We can’t control the cards we were dealt, but we can control how we choose to play them. When I hear my kids talk like that, I know we played a “Cool Hand”.

Growing up in Queens, playing basketball or any sport for that matter was just so easy to do.

  1. Friends come to the door
  2. You ask your mom if you can go out and play
  3. Grab ball, skates  or glove and head to the park
  4. Make sure you are home before dinner
  5. After dinner, repeat steps 1-4

Living in Orange County, getting your children to practice or games is like a part time job. This past Saturday we had a double header in our house. Luke had Beautiful People at 12:30p, followed by Shane’s CYO game in Goshen. The experience could not be any more different, yet they are tied by the one thing they have in common, Basketball.

Basketball with Beautiful People has Luke doing something that he knows connects us. The coach, John Hogan, with the help of volunteers, runs the court and does an excellent job of keeping all the kids involved and more importantly he keeps the hour we have organized. The kids start with some drills to get the feel of the ball and how to move as well as where to stand on the court. From there they slowly make their way to a game situation.  The atmosphere is calm until a child, any child scores. All the parents would cheer at that point. I mentioned all this before, but the opportunity for these children to play the sport is a great gift and a great time. Talking to other parents is a good thing as well.

Fast forward to 6:15pm, where our CYO game starts. From the moment the ball is tipped off, the gym is already 100 decibels louder than the BOCES gym we were at 5 hours earlier. We have these kids running plays, substituting in and out, there are referees, screaming parents and very, very energetic kids. We managed to pull out the victory this week and left the court as a happy bunch until we got back to my car.  Shane was upset that he didn’t score any points and didn’t really reflect on the team win. I understand the frustration of not scoring, but I feel like I failed as a parent and coach on the point of team play.Shane & Luke

This isn’t golf where you are a solo act. This is, as Coach K puts it, 5 individuals on the court acting like one. I bring up “the fist” metaphor where 5 is stronger than 1. I ask Shane if he remembers being at the gym to watch his big brother play earlier, and he says yes. I tell him that anyone of those kids would probably give anything to play in a game like he just did and he should be happy he can do what he does. I then remember that he is 8 years old and he is a really good kid. I’m not sure if I put this on him or if he did himself, but he plays for two. Everything he does, he does for himself and for Luke.

I grew up playing and loving baseball, but let’s face it; a baseball team is 9 players with individual assignments that need to be accomplished one at a time in order to succeed. On the basketball court, everyone has to work together at the same time. It troubles me that basketball is not very popular in Orange County and my son has to play in another town because my parish doesn’t have a CYO team for his age group.

I know there is a view of basketball by many that might be a little skewed. It’s a great sport where everyone gets to pitch in to accomplish the same goal. So if your child asks if he or she can play, think about it as more than what you see on TV. If you have a child with special needs and may be on the fence about getting them involved with sports, sign them up with Beautiful People. You won’t be disappointed.

And if I ever come into a windfall, I will build a basketball center where all our kids can play under the same roof!

 

 

So there wasn’t much positive to report from our trip to West Point. Our team left on the losing side, but it was a nice experience visiting the grounds where it all starts for many of our nations soldiers. Shane was excited to hear that this is where it all started for Duke Basketball’s Coach K as well, where he played point/shooting guard for ARMY from 1966-1969, and then returned as coach in 1975. Hopefully our next visit will have a better result.

For Luke, his basketball tip off was a success. Beautiful People started their second season of basketball with a stellar turnout. Since I was not physically there, I had my wife Amy fill me in.

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One of the great things about Beautiful People is the option of Luke running into a classmate outside of school. The fact that Luke doesn’t have the group of “friends” I had when I was 10 makes me sad and crazy at the same time. As much as I would rather Luke go to the park and get in on a pickup game of basketball, that isn’t an option right now, so the fact that he has this is awesome. When he does run into his classmates or when he sees them having the same interests, he gets very enthusiastic about what is going on.

blog5  When Luke came home he didn’t give me the guilt the treatment that I missed basketball, but instead went with the option of telling me what I was unable to see. We went through some photos that my wife took and Luke was able to commentate from there. I was happy to see Luke following through his shot the way we talk about as well as improve on his dribbling. As I mentioned before, Beautiful People gives these children the option of being a part of something that is theirs.

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It was also great to see the amount of volunteers who were there to help these kids along. There were many familiar faces who lend their time weekly as well as some new ones. It always helps when the volunteers are outgoing and know the sport they are participating in. Luke paired up with Lauren who plays for the CYO team here in Warwick.

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Looking forward to week 2 this Saturday!

I also want to take a moment to mention another organization called One Step at a Time, Inc. on April 27, 2014, One Step at a Time will be hosting their 4th Annual Bowl-A Thon In Memory of Daniel Fratto. All proceeds benefit Beautiful People. The event takes place at Colonial Lanes in Chester and I will be updating information as the date draws near. Last year we had a great turnout and are hoping for the same or better this time around. If anyone is interested in sponsor forms please let me know.

For more on Beautiful People go to http://www.beautiful-people.us/

For more on One Step at a Time, you can visit their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/onestepatatime.biz

 

When it comes to dividing my time amongst my kids, this upcoming weekend will mark the first of many dilemma’s, both physically and emotionally. Once again, basketball is at the center of it all. Luke will be starting his second season of basketball with Beautiful People, while Shane will be playing up in West Point with his CYO team (where I am the assistant coach). Choosing between my kids is on my list of least favorite things to do, but I will be with Shane and not Luke this weekend and that makes me very sad.

Doesn’t it always seem that nothing is going on, and then all of a sudden, everything is happening at once?

I am lucky, yes lucky that Luke is so awesome and understanding. He makes situations so much easier for me, where if the situation was reversed, Shane might not be as forgiving.  Talking to a child with special needs can be difficult in one sense, but if you are open and honest about things they tend to be more receptive to what it is you are telling them. In Luke’s case, not only will he be more receptive, but he will remind me all week that I missed his first game because of the reasons I stated, and I will be at the next one. He knows how much I love basketball, how much I love my family and how much I want to see my boys play. I won’t physically be at the 2014 Tip Off, but I will be there in spirit. Once again, I am grateful that he will be there with his mom and VERY grateful for Beautiful People and the opportunity Luke has to play basketball.

This is one problem…I still have a third son waiting to take the floor!

For more on Beautiful People go to http://www.beautiful-people.us/

PS – Kyle Korver’s streak of hitting a 3 pointer is up to 110 consecutive games.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I will repeat again since I feel it is important to drill in parent’s heads. A child with Special Needs requires your time. He or she will require most of it. Luke has my head spinning even when he is not with me. That being said, it is so important to manage your time with your other children so there are no ill feelings in the house. With my younger son Cole, he seems to be fine with time spent together at home, while Shane requires a little more work.  Since he loves basketball, I knew the perfect thing to do. Let me start from the beginning…

With 2.1 seconds remaining in the 1992 Eastern regional final, the Duke Blue Devils found themselves down 103-102 to Rick Pitino’s Kentucky Wildcats. Grant Hill had the inbound with the entire length of the court to go.  During the timeout prior to this play, Duke Coach, Mike Krzyzewski asked Grant Hill if he could make the pass the length of the court. Hill said “yes”. He then looked at Christian Laettner and asked if he can catch it. Christian responded “yes”. The result was a long distance pass, a catch, one dribble, and “The Shot” that gave the Duke Blue Devils a 104-103 victory and sent them on to win their second NCAA Championship. This was also the day that like most college hoops fans that did not attend Duke University became Blue Devils fans or “haters”. I became a fan. As I got older, I learned to appreciate their coach more than the team itself and will be sad when he retires in a few years. His life lessons on leadership, teamwork and family are words I share with my kids. By doing so, I persuaded Shane to root for Duke as well. Since flying to North Carolina isn’t an option this time of year, I thought I would try and see a Duke game when they play locally. Last year, I was able to see the Blue Devils play at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, NJ. Due to the convenient time and location, it was something, my son Shane and I were able to do together.

Former Hornet and NY Knicks analyst Kelly Tripucka interviewing Shane

Former Hornet and NY Knicks analyst Kelly Tripucka interviewing Shane

Shane with former Celtics PG and current GM Danny Ainge

Shane with former Celtics PG and current GM Danny Ainge

Shane court side at MSG

Shane court side at MSG

Based on the smile on his face, I thought this is something I need to make happen every year. Thanks to my brother-in-law TJ, we were able to continue that tradition when we attended the Pre-Season NIT Final on Friday at MSG. Unfortunately, the Blue Devils were unable to beat the #4 ranked Arizona Wildcats, but the time we had together was much more valuable than the game itself. From the train ride to the city, to Shane’s face looking up at the Empire State Building, to the courtside view and meeting some former NBA players, the game becomes history, but our memories will live on forever.

Who knows, maybe next year Luke will surprise me and say he wants to see this Coach K guy daddy is always talking about in person.

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My daughter Madison loves all sports.  Any sport she tries, she immediately declares it’s her favorite: football with Daddy, soccer with Apas, tennis with Uncle Kevin, baseball with Grandpa, running with Mommy.    When she was two, she won fastest toddler because she would run laps around the playground for hours; the girl has always been constantly on the move.  So, once she was old enough for Snoopy Soccer, we thought it was a no-brainer.  We could not have been more blindsided by her reaction.  Our fun loving, slightly overconfident four year old crumbled.  It was truly heartbreaking, and if not for my husband, I would have grabbed her up and whisked her home after the first five minutes.  At every water break she would crawl into my lap and bury her tears in my neck begging me to take her home.  Oh, the willpower it took to make her get back out there.  My husband insisted she give it an honest try, but by the middle of the second day, his heart couldn’t take it anymore either, and so that was that.  I was sad and disappointed, not in her but for her because I knew this was something she would love if she could just find her groove amongst the overwhelming crowd of kids.

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I really wanted her to see that she could do team sports and had heard positive reviews from a few parents that Primo Sports in Florida had been a lot of fun for their kids.  I hoped it would give Madison an opportunity to fall back in love with sports, so I signed her up for their preschool physical education class.  Every week they practice a new sport.  For Madison’s first month they did baseball, soccer, lacrosse, and basketball.  Each week they begin with warmups followed by drills, skills, a game at the end-usually tag, and finish with a cool down where they review what they learned for the day.

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It has been a redeeming and rewarding experience for Madison.  She initially did not want to go but by the middle of the first day, I could see her relaxing and actually having fun. By the second day she was telling Coach Tara her life story and showing off her skills.  The class is small and coaches Tara and Tom are approachable and encouraging.  They make the class all about fun, which is what sports are supposed to be about.   I’m so relieved to have my sports loving, slightly overconfident girl back and hope it lasts for as long as it possibly can.

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I have not given up on intramural sports just yet.  I think this exposure in a small setting is just what Madison needs to get back out there in the spring.  I have signed her up for tee ball, so we have five months to figure this thing out!  Any advice for this newbie soccer mom?!

The greatest gift you can give a child with special needs is a sibling. For Luke, that gift was Shane, followed up with his little brother Cole. This journey with Luke calls for much of our time and I have to say things would be so much more difficult if it wasn’t for Shane.

This past summer, we decided to do something that would show our appreciation. Shane loves Basketball. I had recently read a book entitled “The Contract” by Pat Forde, which is the story of the Fredette family, in particular, the youngest member Jimmer Fredette and his journey to the NBA. Last winter, I had seen a posting online stating that Jimmer would be hosting a basketball camp in Saratoga, NY. I immediately thought Shane will be a part of this. I won’t go into a full blown book review, but the Fredette family story was one of love, support, understanding and just living life the right way. What stood out most was the relationship between Jimmer and his older brother T.J. and the sacrifices and dedication that was made towards Jimmer achieving his ultimate goal of playing in the NBA. In addition, Shane has never met a professional basketball player and I knew this first experience could be life altering. Jimmer and his family did not disappoint.

Since really taking a liking to basketball, this Jimmer Jam Camp was the first time Shane was in a position to play with kids his own age. I have to say Shane made the most of this opportunity. I am smiling just thinking about all the compliments he received, from instructors working at the camp, to parents of children we’ve never met before. Watching Shane trying to get Jimmer’s attention was priceless. As a father, I was so excited to see Shane not only make a shot in Jimmer’s presence, but also receive a high five from the former NCAA Player of the Year and leading scorer at Brigham Young University.

Shane's jumper

Shane’s jumper

Jimmer showing the campers his shooting technique and range

Jimmer showing the campers his shooting technique and range

The camp was not all about improving your basketball skills. We also had the opportunity of meeting Coach Rich Johns who runs a program called Act with Respect Always. The camp would frequently break for talks by Jimmer and his dad, Al, as well as Coach Johns. At this time the kids would hear about character building, treating others with respect (starting with your parents) and paying things forward. At one point Coach Johns used an act of Shane’s as an example.

Shane w/Coach Rich John's of Act With Respect Always (Photo is courtesy of the Sartogian newspaper)

Shane w/Coach Rich Johns of Act With Respect Always (Photo is courtesy of the Saratogian.com)

Shane, Luke, myself with Jimmer Fredette

Shane, Luke, myself with Jimmer Fredette

Jimmer Fredette might not be a household name like LeBron or Kobe, but he will always be the first NBA player that watched Shane play basketball. As a parent I will always be grateful for not only his time, but the kindness and conversations we had with his parents Al and Kay, as well as Jimmer’s siblings, T.J & Lindsay and all of the instructors involved. At the time, there was no way of any of them knowing exactly what all this meant to Shane. I’m not sure Shane knew, but I’ve never seen him as appreciative of anything as he was for being a part of Jimmer Jam. Shane is a key part to the engine that helps us go on. This was just one way of thanking him.

I could go on forever about this camp experience, but I want to hear from you. Was there an experience that you felt changed your family for the better?

For more on the Fredette Family and The Fredette Family Foundation, as well as Coach Rich Johns’s program, check out these sites:

https://twitter.com/Jimmerosity

http://www.jimmerjamcamp.com/

http://actwithrespectalways.com/

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