The last time I mentioned dribbling, it was because my baby son’s salivary control was practically non-existent. Actually, I don’t think I was blogging yet at that point, so I probably didn’t mention it. Consider yourself fortunate.
Now, it’s all about repeatedly bouncing a basketball, slobber not included.
Benjamin is eight years old for about another month, and his favorite school playground pasttime this spring has been hanging out, playing one-on-none. He shoots, he scores, he dribbles around nobody, and then he shoots again. Other boys ask him to play, but he declines and develops his skills in solitude.
For two of the past three nights, he and I have escaped the house for about a half hour to shoot baskets together on the same spot. His school is an easy bicicyle ride from home, and its four goals almost guarantee availability in a time when most children seem to prefer video games. Honestly, he has chosen me as a playmate those days because he could find nobody else, but it has been a great time for us. I love just shooting baskets as much as he does. We are content to shoot until we make it (with a recently added limit of 10 tries) and then hand the ball back to the other guy for his shots. There are many passes after rebounds, and some dribbling.
Before that, I hadn’t shot a basket in more than a decade, if that recently.
The bad part? We did it all with a cheap, lopsided soccer ball he got for participating in Jump Rope for Heart. The issue of receiving a reward for altruistic activities aside, it was not a quality ball in the first place, and it was a poor substitute for a basketball.
Our plan was for my brother to give him a basketball for his birthday, but by that time the weather in Texas will not be very conducive to doing anything outdoors that doesn’t involve getting into a pool, lake, or river. So, Thursday, as a sort of reward for such a great third grade year, Shannon took him to a local store and they picked out a basketball the appropriate size and weight for his age.
That night, he kept the ball by his side anywhere he went. We were easy on him a couple times when he dribbled it in the entryway, but made it clear that was not allowed inside the house. Somehow he left it in the living room at bedtime, and I pressed in on it to test the pressure. Not full enough.
I took it into the garage and pumped it much tighter. A test dribble produced that signature “ping” that comes from inside a bouncing basketball — exactly what I wanted. The next morning I handed it to him.
“Go try it just real quick in the entryway. Listen to it,” I said.
When he did, he snapped his head back a bit when the ball bounced higher than he expected. His face lit up. “Cool!”
Writing this now, I’m upset with myself for not carving out a few minutes that night to go test out his new ball on the school’s hoops. I didn’t get home until 5:30, I had an update to do at 6 p.m., and then we had dinner. Still, I feel I could have made time had I considered how much it would have meant to him.
I made up for it a bit when we went there Saturday morning with his new ball, and took turns for almost an hour. When his shooting skills improve and I have finished knocking off the rust, I hope he will be up for a friendly game of HORSE. We could start now if we limit the range, and he just might beat me. (click image for larger version)