816 North Opinion

November 19, 2013

Susan Vollenweider - Another ball, same bleachers

Noah was thrilled about starting basketball. It’s his first year playing the sport on a rec team. It is not my first year sitting watching a kid play a sport. He was excited about making the unknown known. I was dreading my part of that process. Another ball, another set of bleachers.

I did not want to go.

At all.

I began listing all the things I would rather do. “I could clean out the kid’s shower drain or help your mother with electronics. Maybe I could move the stove and get all the gunk that’s accumulated under it,” I offered. “I know! What if I… .”

“You’re going.” Brian said. “I’ll do things here, you take Noah to his basketball practice tonight. I have to get up earlier than you for work … I win every argument with this statement of fact. I don’t even know why you bother.” (That last part may have been implied.)

Noah was thrilled about starting basketball. It’s his first year playing the sport on a rec team. It is not my first year sitting watching a kid play a sport. He was excited about making the unknown known. I was dreading my part of that process. Another ball, another set of bleachers.

“Why do you always go to those practices?” One of my friends asked when I whined about it.

It’s a legitimate question with a multi-part answer but the primary reason is this: When he looks over and sees that I am watching, he smiles.

I do it because I know that he won’t always want me there, but right now he likes seeing me paying attention.

Which, of course, leads me to another problem: I have a hard time paying attention.

Following the action during a game is fairly straightforward and easy: Get ball, move ball, shoot basket, repeat.

But how do you pay attention at a practice?

It’s sort of boring. I don’t mean compared to anything with a high entertainment value like watching a movie or reading a book. I mean, it’s boring compared to most low entertainment activities, like the ones I volunteered to do instead of going.

But I slapped a fake grin on my face, snuck a book in my bag and hauled myself to practice.

Things were sort of exciting at the beginning — mostly because every place I sat down one of the three teams using that gym was doing a drill

right there

.

The bleachers were folded against the wall and offered only top-row seating. In my imagination I couldn’t create a scenario where I climbed up there even remotely gracefully. So, I settled into an empty spot on the floor.

Cue band of fifth-grade girls dribbling balls at a breakneck speed toward me.

Move. Quickly.

Repeat.

Finally I found a fairly large, out-of-the-way area on the floor, sat down and took out my book.

LOUD WARNING NOISE

Right. I was supposed to be paying attention.

Then I was joined by other moms.

LOUD WARNING NOISE

Right. Put book down, talk without looking at people and PAY ATTENTION to Noah learning how to, um I have no idea — block, guard, dribble, pass … it was a bit confusing. He concentrated on the drills, I concentrated on paying attention to him doing the drills.

And then it happened. One hour and 15 minutes into practice it happened.

He looked over at me.

And smiled.

And … then what? He came over! “Mom, can you cheer me on when we scrimmage?” he whispered.

So I did. My cheers were about as skilled as the play on the court, but it didn’t matter. I dug deep and cheered as loudly as I could for my son whose enthusiasm to try a new sport made me enthusiastic to be in a familiar position on the floor.

With my back cramping and my tush numb my heart smiled with my face.

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