My 8th grade son has never been interested in basketball in his life.
Early on in his elementary years, some of his friends joined competitive basketball teams. Their love of the game fueled an interest my son didn’t have, and that never bothered him at all. It still doesn’t. As parents, we encouraged him to celebrate his friends’ enthusiasm and talent. Simply said, he likes to watch them play. They are his friends on and off the court.
Imagine my surprise when my son decided to try out for 8th grade basketball. But when I thought about it, why should I be surprised? He likes to play sports, especially soccer, and lots of his friends play basketball.
But inwardly, I cringed. My son has zero experience on the basketball court. His peers have been playing for years. Would he be teased? Rejected? Excluded? Would this create a chasm too wide for 8th grade friendships to withstand?
Before practice began, we had a simple conversation with our son. We’re proud of him for trying something new. We look forward to watching him play a new sport. I gently probed a bit deeper to speak the truth in love—some of your friends will play on the A team, while you might play on the B or C team. His response? “Oh Mom, that’s what I expect will happen!” Whew.
Practices began, and our son realized he really likes basketball. He was having fun! He brought home a packet filled with basketball plays, and he studied it. After two weeks or so, teams were assigned. There were a record amount of boys out for basketball this year–more kids than the staff was equipped to coach. But you know what? Our school decided not to cut kids. They created a second C team. 8th grade basketball, you rock!
Our son plays on the first C team. He’s a point guard, just like he hoped to be. In his first few games, he stayed on the periphery of the court. He dribbled and passed the ball, but never took a shot. Yesterday I watched him drive the ball to the basket with a confidence that wasn’t there a month ago. He’s a team player, passing the ball and taking shots. He makes mistakes and picks himself back up. He’s learned so much from playing the game.
I’ve learned a lot, too. There are parents of A team players who attend C and B games. Some of them comment to me on our son’s new talent and love for basketball. They shatter the image of a hierarchy within youth sports. When I am able, I stay and watch B and A games, cheering on those boys who also love to play the game. It’s all about respecting each other, with parents leading by example.
Another thing I’ve learned? Our kids are stronger than we think. If our son puts himself out there to try something new, he might fail. He might succeed. But he needs to be given the opportunity to try. It’s part of growing up and learning what he’s capable of—and what might surprise him along the way.
Thank you, coaches, for giving kids like our son the chance to try something new. You might never know the impact your efforts have made in these kids’ lives. However, in our son’s life, you’re boosting his confidence level. You’re patient with him as he’s had lots to learn in a short amount of time. In 8th grade basketball, you teach more than a game. You equip kids to succeed, both now and in the days to come.