Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hoops for Moms My Boys and I Have Learned a Lot from Basketball

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hoops for Moms My Boys and I Have Learned a Lot from Basketball

Article excerpt

I stress manners with my sons, 5 and 7: "Don't grab," "Wait your turn," "No shoving." We were doing OK until they joined their first organized basketball league. But the problem wasn't the boys; it was me.

I figured my boys would play basketball eventually. It's in their blood thanks to their dad.

One of Joey's first baby gifts was a LeBron jersey for 0- to 3- month-olds. My boys watch basketball, decorate their walls with basketball posters and play NBA2K13 on Xbox. We've removed furniture from our basement for their Little Tikes hoop: "Reverse jam!," "Fade away!," "Buzzer beater!" When we shopped for a swing set, we left with a basketball hoop for the driveway instead.

I've used their passion for the game to my advantage: "I bet Dwayne Wade eats his broccoli," "Russell Westbrook probably goes to bed without a fuss," "I've heard Chris Paul cleans his room without being asked."

Teaching opportunities come from basketball: "How many more points did Phoenix have?," "List all the players who start with the letter J," "Show me on the map where the Nuggets play." I print basketball coloring pages because the boys create posters and make tickets for 'games'.

But I hesitated to let my boys join a team. Part of me wanted to keep them home, keep them mine, keep them little. They are growing up too fast. If they're old enough to play real basketball, how old does that make me?

Plus, so many of my friends, it seemed, had surrendered their lives to their kids' sports schedules. Sitting in a gym, on cold hard bleachers all Saturday, every Saturday didn't sound like fun. I complained to my husband, who was dying to sign them up.

But the boys begged. My husband begged. And eventually, like always, I caved.

*

As the first game neared, I got nervous. The boys bragged about the spin moves and lay ups and rebounds they planned. They practiced celebrations for imagined success, including exaggerated fist- pumping and finger-pointing. "No!" I scolded. "You'll do none of that!" I lectured about sportsmanship and the importance of being humble. "Nobody likes a show-off," I warned them.

To encourage their sensitive sides, I turned to books. I read gentle stories to them every night: Kevin Henkes' "Kitten's First Full Moon," Jon J. Muth's "Zen Ties," Philip C. Stead's "A Sick Day for Amos McGee." But they kept bringing home basketball biographies from the library. Finding Sports Illustrated for Kids in their covers made me worry even more.

The first game arrived.

When Joey swished a beauty of a shot, he did nothing to embarrass himself. I, however, yelled in a way-too-loud voice, "Money!" It took everything in me not to high-five the crowd. I cheered, yelled and went nuts the entire game. Where was Kevin Henkes when I needed him?

After the game, I started coaching my boys. I'm not sure what made me think I was qualified to dish out advice, but I said things like, "You need to drive with your shoulder," "Use your elbows," "Don't be afraid to stuff someone. …

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