When kids get to a certain age they start quitting—they drop music lessons, sports, extracurricular activities. It happens around grade six or seven, and I know this because that's when our oldest daughter stopped running cross country, quit the school band and stopped playing softball. She tried to quit piano too, but by then my wife and I had caught on and insisted she continue.
Our other two girls are now reaching that same age and so my wife and I are vigilant. Just as school started this year, we sat each of our three girls down for a brief talk about the sports and extra curricular activities they were going to do this year. We pulled them aside, one after the other, closed the family room door for some privacy and discussed what each wanted to do this year.
Along with hip-hop, cross-country, piano and swimming, our nine year old, Vivian, told us that she wanted to play basketball. This was a surprise because after the Women's World Cup, she'd become obsessed with Hope Solo and I'd imagined she'd want to play soccer—almost every day throughout the summer, she'd pulled me into the back yard the moment I came home from work and I'd take shots on her using a make shift goal we'd set up. When it came time to choose though, she wanted basketball.
My wife had tried to get Vivian into night league basketball last year, but it's not the easiest sport to join. We weren't able to simply register online or contact someone to get assigned a team, we had to find a team on your own. It felt like some kind of secret society where you have to know someone to get in. We phoned and emailed, we contacted the league, contacted coaches but last year all the teams seemed to be full and Vivian didn't get to play.
This year, we started early. My wife made a few phone calls, and soon enough Viv was on a team, but that team never got enough players. They ended up folding into another team which was going to practice a half hour drive away. My wife started again, a campaign this time--emails and phone calls until we found a second team. They'd already set their practice schedule: 3 o'clock on Wednesdays at a gym ten minutes drive from Vivian's school. Unfortunately, none of Viv's classmates wanted to join which meant we had no carpool options. It also meant Vivian wouldn't have any friends on the team, but she'd been out dribbling a basketball at night and we'd made a big deal of insisting our kids each play a team sport this fall. I asked if she'd consider soccer. She said no, she wanted to play basketball. We signed her up.
On the days I have to take Vivian to practice, I leave my office for a late lunch, hop on my bike, ride home, pick up the car, collect Vivian, drop her at Oaklands School, return the car so my wife can get it to pick her up, jump back on my bike and peddle into to work about an hour later. It's one of those juggling acts that's become common in our world of highly organized play.
Fortunately, Vivian's loving basketball—she loves her team mates, she loves her coach and she loves the game. So far she's scored one basket and her team's won one game, but the best part of any game I've seen had nothing to do with either of these things. Last week after Viv finished one of her shifts, she ran around the side of the court, came over, hugged her older sister, her mother and then me and without a word ran back over to the bench to wait for her next shift.
I've watched all three of our kids play a lot of sports over the years, but that's the first time anyone's stopped mid-game to give out hugs. Maybe there's something different about basketball.