My two oldest boys play on the same school basketball team. It’s a small school, so several grades are represented on the team – 3rd through 8th. Also, they are not a very good team. They haven’t won any games this year, and in one game last week they were defeated 34-6, and that was *after* the other coach had told his players to stop stealing the ball.
Obviously, the lack of success doesn’t bother me very much. I’m more concerned with the boys effort and learning to work with teammates than I am with on-court success. As I’ve tried to explain to them many times, you actually learn more from losing than you do from winning. At some point, though, you’d like to see the kids rewarded for the work that they put into the sport.
Last Friday, we were playing a team that was much larger than ours (I counted 17 players!) but about equal skill level, on their home court. If ever there was going to be an opportunity to win a game, it was this one. My 6th grader starts at shooting guard and my 4th grader comes off the bench, usually for a defensive boost (he’s kind of a tenacious little defender). The kids were getting tired, but as the 4th quarter began to wind down, we were only down three points. My 4th grader came off the bench, and was placed into the guard slot (as usual). What was unusual, though, was that he was bringing the ball up the court, for possibly the first time all season. While his dribbling has improved greatly, he’s still not a good ball-handler, and with only about 1:30 left in the game, the other team was pressing at half-court to try to ensure their victory. As my boy brought the ball across the line, he turned to try to get the ball into the corner and encountered a defender coming straight at him, He turned back and made a large arc back toward the middle – and, of course, crossed back over the half-court line.
Over n’ back. ball goes to the other team, who ended up winning the game by 10 or 12 points (I don’t remember. At this point in the season, does it really matter?). It was the most pivotal point in the most winnable game of the year. As soon as the turnover happened, our coach pulled my boy back to the bench and explained the rule to him. He nodded, and kept his head up, but I’ve seen that before. He puts on a brave face for the team and then unloads after the game is over. I give credit to the coach, he was trying to get everybody involved in the game, and that was more important to him than the final score. He’s a better ‘life coach’ than I probably would be.
After the game, I met the boys on the court, and as predicted, my 4th grader was downcast. I put my arm around him, fully expecting to have to spout one of the fatherly cliché’s that I’m sure he’s tired of hearing. What he said next took me completely by surprise.
Somewhere in the wavering mumbles I caught the phrase “I got a B”.
I was shocked. Grade cards had been issued that day, and my 4th grader had just received his first ever “non-A” grade. Actually, I wasn’t shocked by the grade at all. Thanks to our online grading system, I was already well aware of his grades. However, I had completely brushed it aside considering that it was a single B buried among nine A’s. I wasn’t the least bit concerned about it, but here he was, trying to figure out how to tell me about it with his eyes watering up. No thought about the game, about the over and back, about the turnover or the winless season.
What do you say to that? I just gave him a little smile and said “I know. You’ll get it next time”. I guess fatherly cliché’s work for report cards, too.