The score is 53-11, and my oldest son is playing on the Brown team, losing to Red. His team of twelve and thirteen-year-olds are still putting all efforts into the game, playing hard. But this isn’t what I’m admiring from the stands. What makes me grin? That they are having fun. Amidst their awkward, too-big-for-their-bodies-heads, their beginner’s acne and new body hair, they are managing – finally! – to have a good time. They are laughing and being supportive – not too raucous, not rudely, just right. From the bench they smile, cheer their teammates, laugh and jostle.
Until a dad behind me marches over to yell at them. “Want to know why you’re losing?” he screams not only in his son’s face but in the son’s teammates’. He goes on to chide them about their performance, how idiotic they’re being. “Want to know why you’re losing? Cause you’re goofing off.”
Actually no. The Brown team is losing for one reason only: the Red team is better. They have, on average, four inches of height more per player. They have better coordination, more skillful passing, more competent shots.
So our team – my son’s team – isn’t goofing. They are coping. They could, quite easily, be tearing into each other for missed plays and faulty shots.They could be bitter. They could be cracking on the other team. But instead they are rising above it, findings the humor and camaraderie that will sustain them later in life when they have disappointments large and small.
Where is the fun these days?
My daughter’s basketball hour the same day spent the first 20 minutes wondering where the extra coaches were, then another ten sitting in a circle doing introductions meant to make the game friendlier. Fine. But then we segue from names to asking what everyone’s favorite fruit is. “My name’s Lily and my favorite fruit is strawberries but sometimes I like kiwi, too.” What? How about a few drills, sprinting from one line to the next, still being supportive and friendly with names, but….fruit?
Where is the balance? It’s as if fun is competing with parental need to succeed. And the fruit? That just doesn’t help motivate girls who might hesitate getting in the game in the first place.
These muffins compete, too. Bran vs Banana – who will win?