Michelle Martin

Another sports career

Sunday, February 9, 2014

OK, see your team over there? Go get in line.” And without a word, Teresa runs across the gym to stand with all the other small people in bright green T-shirts.

And another sports career is born.

Seriously, biddy basketball (or bitty basketball, or whatever variation of the name is used at a school or park near you) for 3- and 4-year-olds doesn’t much resemble a sport, let alone basketball. Teresa’s 20-minute game this weekend ended with a score of 6-4 — I’m not really sure which team won — and plenty of wrestling over the ball by teammates (cut short by the coaches, who have the patience of saints), simply handing the ball to the other team, and do-overs on shots that came nowhere near the basket.

There was also time for the young athletes to sit on the bench, practicing patience until it was their turn to play, cooperate with teammates (those would be the people in the same color shirts, even if they are not your best friends from school) and get on with the game even when they are disappointed by a missed shot, or by someone else getting to hold the ball.

This isn’t Teresa’s first exposure to anything athletic — she takes swimming lessons and has taken hockey skating lessons — but it’s her first time on an actual team, the first time she gets to go and be the one we came to watch, instead of someone sitting in the stands, cheering her brother on. And while she doesn’t really know what to do in terms of playing basketball, she’s great at throwing us a smile and giving us a thumbs-up as she runs down the court.

I don’t know how long she’ll play basketball, or if she’ll choose another sport or take on some other kind of activity entirely. I know that her game this weekend came directly after Frank’s hockey game — (if Frank learned to read by looking at the maps on the L trains, Teresa is learning her numbers by picking out Frank on the ice) — and sandwiched between dropping off and picking up Caroline from voice and acting lessons, so I’m thinking she will find something she loves to pursue. I hope she does, for the richness that it will add to her life and for the fun we will have accompanying her.

In the meantime, she will learn some of those life lessons that sports are supposed to teach. Not the ones about perseverance or determination, at least not yet. Not about the profound relationship of sports to life and to faith, at least not explicitly. But about listening and taking turns and being considerate. About self-control and a little bit of sportsmanship. And about how much fun it is to run around, chasing a ball, with your friends.


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