My 11-year-old son has never been fond of playing team sports. Or any sports for that matter. So, I was a little surprised when my wife said she had signed him up to play in a winter basketball league.
“He asked to play?” I asked my wife.
“Not exactly,” she said.
“So, he agreed to play?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
I had a hard time believing my son playing basketball was as simple as my wife asking him if he wanted to play and him agreeing to it. I figured there had to be a bribe involved.
But there wasn’t. Apparently, my wife sold him on the virtues of team sports. She told him that playing basketball would help him learn to be a member of a team, teach him the value of hard work, and (most importantly) it would help him understand why I’m such a big fan of the movie “Rudy.”
As intrigued as I was at the prospect of finally having a kid who played basketball, I had my doubts this whole basketball experiment was going to end well.
“Are you going to play basketball this year?” I asked my son.
“I guess,” he said as he shrugged his shoulders.
It was not exactly the ringing endorsement I wanted. On the other hand, he didn’t say he hated the idea of playing basketball. So, I convinced myself everything was going to be fine and dandy.
A couple weeks before tryouts, I took my son to Barrett Park to shoot baskets. I thought he might feel better about himself if he knew something about the game before the season started.
Being on the court at Barrett was fun for my son for about 5 minutes. After that, he became frustrated at how little he knew about the sport and his inability to sink shots.
“I don’t want to play basketball!” he shouted. “Let’s go home!”
“We can leave as soon as you shoot 5 more layups,” I said. “You don’t have to make them, just shoot them.”
“I don’t want to shoot any stupid layups,” my son said as he punted the ball out onto the soccer field.
“That was a nice punt. I tell your mother about this and guess what sport you will be playing next?” I joked.
Despite that melt down, my son kept going to Barrett Park with me. Most days were great, but occasionally, usually when he was struggling to do something, he’d complain about the game and vow never to play again. The next day we’d be back at the park.
My son’s love-hate relationship with basketball reared its ugly head during a team practice last month. The coach was imploring the team to try harder. To get the boys fired up, the coach asked, “Who doesn’t want to play basketball today?” My son raised his hand.
At that moment, I think I was instantly branded the dad who was forcing his son to play basketball.
Now, I realize there are fathers who seek to relive their glory days though their sons, but I’m not one of those guys. I would never seek to relive sports glory through any of my kids, but especially not the one who raises his hand to answer a rhetorical question.
As we head into the final weeks of the basketball season, my son is still one of the most inexperienced players on the court. But his attitude about basketball has improved and he continues to want to learn more about the game.
In fact, my son playing basketball is paying dividends in other ways. Recently, he joined me in watching The Ohio State University men’s basketball team beat Michigan. It was the first time he’s ever watched a game with me. In some ways it’s hard to believe that the boy who punted a basketball 2 months ago now wants to watch college basketball games with me.
Now, if we can get him to stop answering rhetorical questions, I’ll be the happiest dad on the Peninsula.