Basketball for Muffin-heads
November 2, 2011
© Kathryn Thompson
I’ve never been great at sports, not even a little. I had a short period of dominance in junior high ping pong but it ended quickly and I headed back to the band room with my flute. But I always wanted to be an athlete, always believed it was a dream just out of my reach and that with the proper training and an awesome pair of running shoes, I’d be ready for the Olympics. Maybe this is why I enrolled Magoo in first grade basketball through the Boys and Girls Club, a sport that has more to do with cuteness than actual athleticism.
In first grade basketball, the main coaching objective is to get the kids to dribble. They know how to dribble, in their way, a way that involves a big flat palm bouncing the ball high repeatedly. But that’s when they’re focused on dribbling. When they’re playing basketball, dribbling becomes a nuisance. It’s much easier to grab the ball tightly with both hands and run down the court to the basket. It doesn’t really matter which basket.
When Magoo talks about basketball, he talks about making “goals”, which I like. It makes more sense than making “baskets.” I think all sports should standardize their language. No more of this “points,” “goals,” “baskets,” “runs,” nonsense. We need to get some government regulation and oversight.
One of my favorite skills they’ve learned so far this year is how to pivot on one foot so they can move around while holding the ball without traveling. The coach told them to plant one foot firmly on the ground and then demonstrated pivoting in all directions without moving that foot. Then he asked the boys to give it a try. Magoo planted the foot on the ground and then pivoted and limped around. As far as he’s concerned, it counts as planted as long as you drag your foot lamely behind you and don’t use it for propulsion. So he holds onto the ball and inches his way down the court with one useless appendage slumping along behind.
Another part of the pivoting involves seeing how far you can get your free foot away from your pivot foot. Magoo can stretch down almost into the splits, thus beating the system and covering a ton of ground without even moving the lame foot. The only problem is that he then needs to drop the ball in order to pull himself back up to standing. We’ll have to work on that.
What we won’t have to work on is defense. Magoo rocks at defense. Even when his team has possession of the ball, he rocks at man-on-man defense. Magoo stays glued to his man at all times. He seems frustrated about how hard it is to get the ball and score a goal (see how good that sounds?) while staying glued to the guy he’s defending but I think that kind of multi-tasking can definitely be learned.
Most everything he needs to know to be a great basketball player can be learned. What can’t be learned is adorableness and awesomeness. Luckily, he’s got those traits oozing out of every pore.