As parents, one rule of thumb that we try to follow is making sure that our daughters are consistently involved in extra-curricular activities. We keep them enrolled in individual piano and voice lessons year-round, and they have both been involved in an after-school youth choir program for several years as well. We also do our best to keep them active in some type of sport or physical activity throughout the school year and through the summer. Past activities have included dance, ballet, soccer, tee ball, cheerleading, swim, archery, and, most recently, basketball.
Not long after school resumed following their Christmas break, our youngest surprised us by coming home with a flyer for a local church youth basketball league and announcing that she was going to play. Aside from a 3-day summer hoops camp about 4 years ago, she had never shown any interest or inclination towards basketball, aside from interrupting our viewing of college hoops on T.V. We told her that we were happy to sign her up, but she needed to think about it to make sure she was willing to commit to the game. (Another rule of thumb we follow is a basic “You Can’t Quit Once You Commit” policy.)
Well, not only did she “think about it”, she essentially harassed me on a daily basis for about two weeks, haranguing me every afternoon as to whether or not I had signed her up for the league. Knowing how enthusiastic she was about the idea, we filled out the paperwork, dropped it off with the required check, and picked up her practice and game schedule.
We ordered her high-top basketball shoes and pair of basketball socks in bright green (her favorite color), and got her ready for her first practice the following Saturday. The league consists of about 30 total 3rd and 4th graders, both boys and girls. She was randomly assigned to one of the 5 teams (the Hedgehogs). Each week at practice, they make their way around a “circuit” of fundamental skills training (dribbling, passing, shooting, etc.) as well as short scrimmages run by a rotating crop of volunteer parents and college-aged kids.
How enthusiastic was she? After the first practice, we had to stop at the store on the way home and buy her a basketball (green and white, of course). And after we got home, we had to go to the park and practice. For three hours. The following day was (thankfully) a self-imposed day of rest for our budding hoopster, who complained of soreness in muscles she didn’t even know she had. By the following day she had fully recovered, though, and she was ready once again for practice on Monday evening.
After a few more weeks of practice, we fell into an easy routine surrounding the league: Monday evening practices and Saturday morning games, along with an afternoon or two of some ball-handling drills at home. While not the most aggressive shooter on the team, she is beginning to garner a reputation as a fierce defender and a willing rebounder, as well. The games themselves, which started off early in the season resembling something closer to a rugby scrum with an occasional shot towards an 8-foot rim, have actually developed into exciting, well-played contests featuring offensive strategies, defensive adjustments, and even a few moments of heroics and heartbreak.
It is a true joy to watch her develop an appreciation for playing the game and an understanding of the importance of solid fundamentals at such an early age. She is greatly enjoying the experience, at both practices and games, and is improving her skills by leaps and bounds with each passing week. She is also showing an impressive amount of enthusiasm towards her own involvement and is actively seeking out ways to become a better player. We are fortunate to have several local opportunities for continued progress in the sport and if she desires, we will certainly support it. We look forward to fostering her development in a game that she seems to have embraced as her own.