BERRY: Is basketball destroying polite girls' basic skills?

I've spent the better part of the last nine years trying to teach my children basic life skills like: be kind, respect others, share, don't push or shove, don't bully, and don't steal.
Mar 7, 2013


Then, my wife got them into basketball. Now they are being taught to do the opposite of all those things.

I'm glad to see that neither Evien or Maggie wants to push, shove or bully other children even when they're given permission. And, thank goodness, neither one of them wants to steal. 

They respect the other girl's space, they're kind, non-aggressive and they share — which means they are not very good at basketball.

My wife played basketball in college and held the school record for rebounds. She is mortified that her daughters did not genetically inherit her basketball prowess.

The woman who is always telling our children to say "please" and "thank you" prowls the sidelines of the basketball court on Saturday mornings yelling, "Grab it! Grab the ball, Maggie." Or she shouts, "Block her! Block her! Get right in front of her, Evien!"

Excuse me, but yelling at our children to steal and to invade other girl's personal space is not teaching them good manners. It's no wonder our children are not stellar basketball players — they're conflicted and confused; it's a new world order and they're not adjusting to the new climate.

I have to admit, I do admire the girls on Evien's team who excel at basketball. There are a couple of players who can block a shot, snag the rebound, dribble down the court on a breakaway, stop, shoot, and actually score ( I use the term score loosely because they don't actually keep score.)

Those young ladies look like they've been playing basketball for 10 years, and they're only 9 years old.  I'm guessing they have older brothers so they've had to fight for survival since infancy. Or maybe they were born a triplet and had to scratch and claw for every ounce of milk they could get.

At times, it's frustrating watching Evien and Maggie play. Evien hustles down the court and sticks like a sun-dried piece of adhesive tape to the girl she's guarding. If a loose ball bounces her way, she just watches it bounce into another girl's hands. 

I'm kind of reserved and non-aggressive myself, but I shout my face blue when Evien's playing. If I were to shout at her at home, she would cry and run to her room, and my wife would say something like, "You should go talk to her" — and I'd feel like a shmuck.

I kind of like it because I can let loose on my daughter and don't have to worry about her fragile emotions or her protective mother bear.

Maggie prances down the court like an hour-old fawn. Most of the time, she doesn't know where the ball is, or where the girl is who she'd supposed to be guarding. Maggie's more of a spectator than she is a player when she's on the court. She prances down the perimeter of the gym floor, stops and watches the other girls grab for the ball until someone shoots, then she prances to the other end and watches until someone shoots, and then it's back to prancing.

The first couple of games I watched, I'd yell at Maggie to grab the ball or guard her person, but she'd stop watching the girls play basketball and stare at me while I'm yelling, and all the other girls would run down the court and leave Maggie by herself, so I stopped yelling at her.

Basketball, like everything, is a social event for Maggie anyway. Her best friend, Nayda, is on her team, so she gets to sit on the sidelines and yack it up with her when she's not in the game. After the game, the team hangs out and munches Pop Tarts and sips juice boxes, and Maggie's all about that.

Even though my daughters aren't taking to basketball like otters take to swimming, I'm glad they're in it. For all the life skills they're unlearning, they are also learning some new ones. They're learning about teamwork, taking turns and being patient. They're also learning that you don't have to be great at something in order to participate in it and to enjoy it. And my girls do enjoy it.

I have to give the coaches at the Grand Haven Y a lot of credit for giving up their evenings and Saturdays to teach young kids with minute attention spans about the fundamentals of basketball. Many of the kids are not stellar athletes and never will be, but they're out there getting some exercise, having fun, and not just sitting home on the computer or playing video games.

Maybe Evien and Maggie will improve at basketball and win a bunch of awards and earn a college scholarship to a major university, but I'm not counting on it. For now, I'm happy just to watch them prance down the court, watch other girls play basketball, and let the other girls scoop up the loose balls. 

— By Grant Berry, Tribune community columnist



Well said! The importance of enjoying a game while learning a skill in the framework of friendship building and team work - priceless


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