It’s far too easy to fall out of basketball shape

Back in my hey-day of high school basketball, I clearly remember the dreadful feeling of running on heavy legs following just a one- or two-day break from practice during Thanksgiving or Christmas break.
Nate Thompson
Jul 20, 2012

Seriously, how can one piece of pumpkin pie make you feel so lethargic in the open court?

Now, about 14 years later, that “Jell-O legs” feeling is about 10 times worse, and unfortunately, the breaks between the times I can hit the hardwood are much longer.

Thank goodness I haven’t forgotten how to shoot a jumper.

Since I’ve joined this community nearly eight years ago, I’ve enjoyed playing pick-up games offered through the Northwest Ottawa Recreation Authority at Lakeshore Middle School on Saturdays at noon. Since I grew up in mid-Michigan, I’m kind of an outsider amongst the regular crew that typically plays on Saturdays. I don’t have any cool stories to share of playing at the Pit, or any other gym on the Lakeshore for that matter.

But by now, since I’ve been somewhat of a regular on Saturdays — and during the winter at pick-up games at Spring Lake Middle School — everyone knows me by my first name. If they don’t, they just call me “Big Man.”

That’s fine with me; I’ve been called much worse on the court.

I enjoy the roundball battles at Lakeshore because, for starters, it’s cheap ($3); it’s offered year-round; it’s competitive, with a lot of guys right out of high school or a handful with college experience; if there’s any trash talk, it’s done in fun; and it’s a good way to stay in shape.

Yes, to stay in shape: Now that I’m more than a decade removed from my actual playing days, that’s my No. 1 goal. But with babysitting responsibilities with my 1-year-old son and family vacation time eating up a lot of Saturdays, last weekend I found myself back at Lakeshore for the first time all summer.

Unfortunately, with Michigan in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave, playing basketball was like running in a sauna for two hours.

“I’m going to be rusty,” I warned Ron Peters, one of the “elder statesmen” on the court who was born in Hoosier-land and played college basketball at Ball State University. I’ve teased him on occasion that he probably learned to shoot on the old-fashioned peach baskets that James Naismith first used when introducing the game.

But that’s what makes the Saturdays of hoops special — age doesn’t matter. I’d estimate that there’s probably 5-6 guys who are 45 and older who play religiously every week. I can only hope that I’m still battling as competitively as they are when I’m their age.

Like I said, Ron grew up in a basketball-crazy state and that passion still burns. He doesn’t miss many Saturdays and he can still shoot the lights out. He’s about 6-foot-6 and runs through screens the way Reggie Miller did with the Indiana Pacers.

Of course, I usually get the chore of guarding him. Let’s just say I had marginal success, although my legs really felt the burn. But it would have been much worse trying to check Grand Haven graduate and current Eastern Michigan University guard Austin Harper, who was also in attendance and breaking ankles off the dribble.

I paid for too much summer leisure, as my legs ached badly that night, a reminder that falling out of shape is about as easy as finding excuses not to work out.

Although the weather has been on the verge of intolerable, if you can still put one foot in front of another there’s no excuse to list channel surfing as your only activity, myself included. There’s a reason why Ottawa County was determined to be the healthiest county in Michigan last year – there’s so many opportunities to get out and be active.

With hundreds of miles of bike paths, walking, running and hiking trails, beach volleyball courts, lakes for swimming, soccer fields, and even pickleball leagues, there’s literally something for everyone. Of course, the games are still going strong at Lakeshore and new faces are always welcome. Just don’t try showing up those who may be moving a little slower or breathing a little harder.

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