Life Lessons

As parents, we want to teach our kids many things. We want them to be good people who are kind and think of others’ feelings and needs. We want them to be respectful, but assertive. We want them to speak up, but to also listen. We want them to be aware and active.

We can tell them all the the things we want, but we all know that experience is the best teacher.

Eddie loves fun. He loves to be social and try new things. He has eagerly tried soccer, baseball, swimming, discovery camps, scouts, and this year he wanted to try basketball.

Eddie is also not a natural athlete. Thankfully he is not like me–a complete disaster when it comes to any sort of sport that requires coordination (so everything but running). He could be good if he practiced and stuck with something, but he really just wants to be good enough to not suck and to have fun.

And that is about where he is, but when things get competitive and tough rather than just fun, he tends to quit.

Soccer got too serious–and had way too much running for his liking. He really loved baseball (and had an excellent coach one season), but once he was in Little League and not just rec ball where everyone got a chance to do everything, his interest waned. Swimming was fun until he got to the point where he had to work on strokes and do laps.

The past couple summers we have had a basketball hoop in our driveway, and Eddie enjoyed shooting hoops. He mentioned interested in learning how to play on a team, so we signed him up for 4 on 4 rec basketball this winter.

From the start it seemed like a good fit for him: there was lots of running, but only for 5 minutes of a 10 minute quarter because then they would sub out. He was willing to go hard for 5 minutes knowing he would get to rest after.

He admitted that he was not the best on the team, but that the drills were fun and he liked the kids on his team as well as his coaches.

His coaches pushed Eddie to learn the game and get better.

After the first game, it was evident than most of the boys needed some more practice, and that Eddie didn’t know much about the rules of basketball. Let’s just say there were a LOT of calls for double dribbling.

Each game after, though, we watched the team come together. They encouraged each other. They passed to each other. They dominated the court not because they were miles better than every team, but because they truly learned to work together and include all four boys on the court.

Eddie continued to do his best, but he was not the most talented on the team. Nonetheless, the coaches and team continued to included him so he could get the practice he needed.

Last week, after leaving Eddie in a little extra long after subs were called, he finally got his first basket. Everyone in the gym realized what was going on: the team continued to pass to him over and over. And when the ball went through the hoop, you would have thought he got the game-winning shot!

The gym erupted.

My eyes teared up not just because Eddie’s dimples were showing all the way from the court, but because everyone–the coaches, the team, the parents–were on Eddie’s side. The players were slapping him on the back like he won them the game.

After the game came another surprise to all of us.

The head ref gave out a “character” award for the most improved player on both teams playing that morning, and Eddie was the recipient for the yellow team.

Again, when his name was called, the gym went crazy. And I openly cried.

Eddie learned more about teamwork and supporting people from his basketball team than anything Cortney and I could ever tell him. Experiencing what it feels like to work hard and be recognized for doing your best and improving–even if you aren’t the star of the team–is something only experience could teach him.

I’m proud of Eddie because he is so willing to try new things. It’s not ever without whining that he wishes he didn’t sign up for it (he is a bit of a homebody and doesn’t love to have to give up couch time to go to practice or a game). Once he gets to practice or the game, though, his mood usually changes and he gets into it.

Basketball taught Eddie that he can do hard things. He can grow and improve with practice. And just because you are not the best on the team, does not mean that you are not an important part of the team.

This is what youth sport and activities are all about.

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.