Teaching & Learning Lessons at a Middle School Basketball Game
“It’s not fair!”
“That was a foul! The ref shoulda called that!”
“That team is way bigger than ours!”
My younger two sons were droning on and on about what a stupid basketball game we were watching. My oldest was playing in it.
“You’re right. It’s not.” I validated their complaints.
Silence. Their eyebrows drew together as they frowned at the game.
I continued, “Does that mean our team should quit?”
“Are there other ways of measuring success besides the score?”
“Not in basketball, Mom,” my middle son said with disdain.
“Yeah, Mom!” My youngest matched his tone.
Ignoring the implied insult of stupidity, “Well, boys, what if we considered it a success every time we get the rebound?”
“What if every time we prevent the other team from scoring, we look at it as a success?”
More silence, but this time one pair of sky blue eyes and one pair of bronze eyes were riveted on me and not at the stupid, unfair, stinky game.
“Honestly, boys. We all know it’s not fair. The other team has seventh and eighth graders. We only have seventh graders. Everybody knows this.”
“Well, we’re not gonna win.”
“You’re probably right.” More than probably. The other team was up by 20 points and it wasn’t even halftime. “And I would think the other Middle School coach would let his seventh graders have more play time than the eighth graders, so it would be a more even match up. But that’s not up to us.”
“Hmmmph!” My middle son scoffed, and resumed watching the game.
“Yeah. Hmmph!” my youngest echoed, and followed his brother’s gaze.
“The only thing up to us is our attitudes. Even if they lose the game, each boy on our team could still have a personal victory.”
I know this is true for my oldest, anyway. They had lost every game of the season except the two games against other seventh grade teams, which they won. I asked him how he could handle all those losses. He had answered, “I just want to play, Mom.”
Meanwhile, my younger two were silently staring at me again.
I thought about all the times I had to remind the boys that life isn’t 100% exactly equal and you get what you get and you don’t get upset: with the box of donuts (invariably someone would think “he got the bigger one,” or “he touched the one I wanted”); there are three of them but only one of me (“you’ll have to wait your turn” and “no, I am sure your turn is not always last”); and the reason they don’t all have the same amount of homework is that they are in different grades “but it was the same when you were in that grade” (“okay, you’re right, I am sure it is not exactly the same since you had different teachers”) -- but instead asked them to, “Think about it boys. Our school has a seventh grade team and an eighth grade team. Our eighth grade team will probably beat this team. Next year when we’re the eighth grade team, we’ll probably beat them again. We’ll have paid our dues and it will work out fair in the end.” (I purposely omitted mentioning the part about how my middle son might possibly be on the seventh grade team next year, thus would be facing the same challenges his brother was currently.)
“We’ll show them!”
“And, we’ll be good sports about it, right?”
Silence, again, as they turned their attention back to the mismatched basketball game.
Caroline B. Poser <><